Sunday, August 11, 2013

Nothing That's Worthwhile Is Ever Easy

Have you ever deleted a document from your computer to only realize that a few days later that you still need said document and you now have to completely re-write the document from scratch? Or, have you ever deleted a post or several posts on Blogger thinking that the topic of discussion was no longer relevant and did not apply to your life only to find out several weeks later that yes it does?  I love Blogger, but there is a slight draw back to using it for those of us who like me rarely save my posts to draft before actually posting them.  I also do not write them in Word or any other word processing program and save them before posting them on Blogger. And, yes, I know as an editor that this is bad form.

You are probably wondering why does any of this matter. A few weeks ago, things with our adoption of a little girl from Albania went terribly wrong. So terribly, that the adoption process was ended. I am not going to go into details about what happened, but our hearts were broken.  The loss of our daughter was profound.  In order to begin dealing with the reality of the loss, I simply deleted any mention of the impending adoption from my blog, including all the posts related to the adoption.  The words were deleted, but the imprint that she had made on my life was not.

Several weeks passed, and I was still grieving. Rob and I were discussing possibly going with another agency and pursuing a child in Hungary or Lithuania, but nothing felt right. I could not go forward nor could I go back and change what had happened. I simply could not move on. I knew in my heart that THIS little girl in Albania was our daughter, and that no matter what happened I would always love her.  I could not even bring myself to speak about her in any other terms except for "my daughter."

I also had not been able to pray since the adoption had ended. I tried, but for once, the words would simply not come. For three weeks, the words would not come.  Then one morning, I was driving my usual 35 to 40 minute commute into work, and I began praying out loud.  I asked God to give me direction. I told Him that Rob and I were hurting, and that nothing felt right. I asked if there was any way to turn this situation around with our little girl to show us how. I told him what he already knew, which was that I had no idea what I was supposed to do.  And, then I went to work.

The next morning, I began checking my emails on my phone as I always do after I wake up. That's what you get when you use your cell phone as your daily alarm. In my email, there was a message from someone at our agency's home office - someone that knew us during our adoption of Yuli.  This person stated that she wanted to help us and knew that we belonged with a certain two year old little girl in Albania with dark brown curly hair and big brown eyes. She asked if we would be open to the possibility of beginning the process again with new people working on our case as she was starting the process to move our file to another branch. The door was opening...a door I thought was closed shut and sealed tight. I could not help but think of this verse: "The Lord will open doors that no man can close, and close doors that no man can open!" (Rev.3:8)

For the next five days, that verse was a part of my daily and sometimes hourly prayers. I asked repeatedly for the doors to remain open and for no man to be able to close them. On the fifth day, the phone call came. Our case had been officially switched to another branch and the agency was ready to proceed with the adoption if we were.  When Rob and I received the call, we were on our way to lunch in the car. I looked over at Rob and asked hesitantly if he wanted to move forward with the adoption using the new branch. He said, "Yes." 

And, in an instant, our world had changed. We were parents again to a sweet little Albanian girl.  It was almost too hard to believe, but it was real. Our little angel was going to be coming to home to the family that God had always planned for her to have. I still sit in awe at all that transpired to make this happen, especially in the tenacity of the one person at our agency's home office who fought so bravely and willingly for our daughter and for us. We will be forever grateful to her.

So the statement is true..."Nothing that's worthwhile is ever easy."  But, don't we always appreciate the things more that we have to work so hard for?

Oh, and about those deleted blog posts.....I think Lady MacBeth had it wrong when she said "What's done cannot be undone."  As you can see by looking at my blog, they are all here again even though I never saved a draft copy. With a little fortitude, I was able to find a cached copy of each post on the internet by googling the title of the post and a few words that I remembered from each entry. I copied the cached posts into a Word document and saved them to be added back to my blog when everything was more concrete. After that happened, I simply copied and pasted the deleted posts into my blog and added the original date of the entry to the post's title.  Simply put, Lady MacBeth did not count on Google. With Google, anything can be undone, even deleted blog posts!

June 9, 2013 - Easy Like Sunday Morning

Do you remember the song by Lionel Richie entitled "Easy"? Basically, the song is about Richie leaving a woman who has made his life difficult in many ways. Richie says in one part of the song how he has paid his dues, and he just wants to be free. He then croons his way into that famous chorus, "That's why I'm easy. I'm easy like Sunday morning."

That song's chorus has been playing in my head all day today as I have reflected back over the last week. It's funny though. Sunday mornings are never easy at my house. They are anything but easy. Have you ever tried to get a ten year old and a six year old up from their slumber on a Sunday morning, get them showered and dressed in their church clothes, and then get them fed and out the door in time for the worship service, which starts promptly at 9:00 a.m.? The ten year old is almost impossible to wake. She has spent the last six hours on the floor of the master bedroom because she came into your room at midnight and you were too tired to take her back upstairs. Once you have finally lured that the ten year old out of her slumber and into the bathroom, she decides to take a forty minute shower and wonders why you glare at her in disbelief every fifteen minutes when you walk back in the bathroom to see if she is finished. After all, mom needs a shower too.  The six year old take forty minutes to eat one biscuit with a small amount of jelly on it. I often find him staring out the window or playing with some random object that he has found near the table as I go back and forth from the kitchen to the bathroom checking on his sister. Where is the man of the house you might ask? He has gone upstairs to the ten year old's bed to steal a few more moments of sleep. No one will look for him there. So, I don't know what Lionel Richie's Sunday mornings were like when he wrote those famous lines, but they are never easy at the Pachciarz house.

As I begin this new week, I am hopeful that it will be easier than the last. Remember my last post where I mentioned that international adoption is not for the faint of heart and how you must have an overabundance of fortitude? This week was one of those times when I needed to remind myself of those words. I became increasingly discouraged as the days went by. Sometimes, you just need to see movement when you are in process to keep that fortitude at its highest level. You need tangible evidence that you are closer to holding your daughter and seeing her face to face for the first time. I was getting discouraged because I felt that instead of getting closer to finishing our home study, it appeared that we were actually moving farther away from it. Things were happening that were in many ways out of our control, but these things also affect when our home study will be completed.

One of these issues has to do with the physicals and TB screen that are required for both of our kids. Rob and I had our physicals several weeks ago, which included a TB screen, drug test and an HIV test (all required for our adoption).  However, I had waited until Julia was out of school for the summer to schedule the appointments for her and Yuli.  Apparently, this was a mistake. Our pediatrician who normally can get the kids in on the same day I call when they are sick did not have an opening for a well visit until late in the month. Oh, and by the way, Yuli cannot have a well visit since it will not be covered by insurance. Why you might ask? Because, Yuli had his last well visit in September of 2012 so a year has not lapsed since that time, and our insurance will only cover one well visit per child per year. Now, all of you adoptive parents out there know this is a big problem in terms of our paperwork and the home study.  The medicals cannot be over twelve months old when they are sent to Albania with our dossier. Since we have not completed the home study yet, we are probably looking at early fall before our paperwork will be sent to Albania, and you guessed it. By that time, Yuli's medicals would be at least a year old.

Did I also mention that our agency came to us on Friday with some additional requirements that they want to add to our home study that are not on the check list that we currently have?  These additional requirements could take us several weeks to finish.  Yes, I said weeks! Then there were several other setbacks in regard to paperwork, but I shall not bore you with the details. Time was definitely being added rather than taken away.  Too bad that I don't have a time-turner like Hermione in the Harry Potter movies. One of those could prove really valuable right about now when one is needing to be in two places at once.

As I said earlier, I was getting discouraged. For a brief moment, a little negative voice came creeping into my head asking me did I really have what it takes. Then I logged onto Facebook, and what did I see? Exactly, what God knew I needed to see at that moment. It came in the form of a post from an adoptive mom who has a great blog that I read a lot. She gets it. She really gets it.

  “When you say YES to adoption, you are saying YES to enter the suffering of the orphan, and that suffering includes WAITING FOR YOU TO GET TO THEM. I promise you, their suffering is worse than yours. We say YES to the tears, YES to the longing, YES to the maddening process, YES to the money, YES to hope, YES to the screaming frustration of it all, YES to going the distance through every unforeseen discouragement and delay. Do not imagine that something outside of “your perfect plan” means you heard God wrong. There is NO perfect adoption. EVERY adoption has snags. We Americans invented the “show me a sign” or “this is a sign” or “this must mean God is closing a door” or “God must not be in this because it is hard,” but all that is garbage. You know what’s hard? Being an orphan. They need us to be champions and heroes for them, fighting like hell to get them home. So we will. We may cry and rage and scream and wail in the process, but get them home we will.”–Jen Hatmaker

So I will cry and rage and scream and wail, but I will get it done my sweet little Albanian angel. I will start digging another tunnel through this mountain because you need me to do so.  I will call the Take Care Clinic down the street and get my children in this week for their well visits and TB screening rather than waiting on our pediatrician. I will call my agency tomorrow to discuss these new requirements that have been added. And, I will remember the successes that we have had this week such as finishing three of the five Hague online training classes and obtaining our local criminal background checks. It may not be easy like Sunday morning, but there is an old adage that says nothing worthwhile is ever easy.

May 24, 2013 - All In!

About six or seven months ago, I began contemplating the idea of our family growing through adoption again. I casually mentioned this to Rob one day, and at the time, I remember that he sort of laughed nervously at the idea as if to say, "Are you serious?" The truth is, at the time, I was not sure how serious I was. There was about to be a battle brewing inside of me in regard to the answer to that question. Our son Yuli was doing great, and I wondered if bringing another child into the family would derail any of his progress. Yuli and Julia were finally acting like brother and sister, playing together and enjoying each other one minute and then arguing the next. And, most importantly, I was not sure of the depth of my own desire or if my husband really wanted another child.

I kept remembering a conversation that Rob and I had with the family therapist at our adoption agency after our first trip to visit Yuli. Her words kept repeating like some recording that was stuck playing on a loop in my brain. We had been discussing with her a lot of the issues that we thought we were potentially going to be dealing with when Yuli arrived home, such as the possible sensory issues, feeding issues, surgery to repair his cleft palate, and things we were not sure we were prepared to deal with such as institutional autism. She had  just watched several videos of Yuli from our visit to the orphanage. She said she saw potential, but it was going to be a hard road ahead for us. She looked at us both squarely in the eyes and said, "You both have to be all in. If one of you is not, then the other person must respect  that decision and you should not continue the adoption." She went on to say that adoption, just like the birth of another child into the family, can cause stress in a marriage. However, if the couple is not on the same page in regard to the adoption, it could tear a marriage apart. Rob and I decided that we were "all in" and that Yuli was our son. Needless to say, we have not looked back, and we feel very blessed to have Yuli.

So how did we get here to this place where we are in the beginning stages of our home study, the paper chase for all of the documents for our dossier, dozens of trips to have our paperwork notarized, certified, and apostilled, and the endless nights of waiting to meet our daughter? Like many journeys, ours began with lots of bumps in the road, lots of twists and turns, and at times, lots of uncertainty. As I began to reconcile all of my doubts and become more resolute in my decision to grow our family again, Rob also started slowly warming up to the idea. Rob and I decided to start talking with adoption agencies, of course, in the most general of terms. He still was not 100 percent. The first agency we decided to talk to was our agency from our last adoption process, Bethany Christian Services. We hit our first bump almost immediately. We had emailed our local Bethany office to inquire about a little girl from Bulgaria that was on their Waiting Children's list. We were stopped in our tracks with a double whammy.  The little girl that we were interested in had a family already pursuing her (they had just forgotten to take her off the portal), and our local Bethany office was no longer doing international adoptions. Was this a sign that we should not continue the pursuit or was it something laid in our path to see how serious we were about the adoption? I decided it was the latter.

I began calling and emailing other adoption agencies, which had Bulgaria programs. Rob and I both felt that if we did this again we should return to Bulgaria. We even went so far as to sign a preliminary contract with one of the agencies. In the mean time, I would go almost daily to the Waiting Children's list on Bethany Christian's website and look at files of all the precious children that needed a home and a mommy and a daddy and wonder if I was looking into the eyes of my daughter or my son. We had such a good experience with Bethany that it was hard for me to imagine going with someone else. I could tell that Rob felt the same. We were comfortable with Bethany. But, it seemed that using Bethany again was not within the realm of possibility. Then I got an email from Bethany's corporate office stating that we could still do an international adoption through them. The intake would be done through an office that was over two hours away and the rest would be handled by their main office in Michigan. Rob and I decided to send in a preliminary application. Please keep in mind that Rob was still on the fence at this time, but he was also willing to keep an open mind.

As I said, we felt that if we pursued another adoption that we would definitely be going back to Bulgaria. We also knew that if we pursued adoption again that we wanted to go with a waiting child.  However, Bethany groups all the Eastern European programs together on its Waiting Children's list and sometimes it is not clear that the file you are looking at is from another country besides Bulgaria. One day in January, I was looking at the files of all the kids between two years of age and five years of age in Bethany's Eastern European programs, and there she was with big brown eyes and dark hair. There was even a video. I played the video over several times and then again the next day I watched it several times. For a couple of weeks, I kept going back to her file and reviewing the information. Her file even contained contained a recent assessment from the in-country team that was only a few weeks old. She was precious! I also began to feel that sense of urgency that only an adoptive mom knows when she has seen her child and knows that the picture is without question her child. Now to show the pictures to my husband. Our little girl was in my heart, and there was no going back. Did I mention that she was in Albania!

Rob and I had a date night scheduled for the following Friday night and Rob's parents were letting the kids spend the night so I decided this would be the best time to test the waters. After we got back home from a wonderful Cajun meal (Rob grew up in New Orleans), I asked him if he was ready to watch the video. I showed it to him, and he smiled. He then looked at me and said, "She's very cute."  It wasn't the "all in" that I had hoped for, but it was a good start. Over the next few days, Rob began looking at the video on is his own and reviewing her file. Our daughter Julia also began a campaign of her own to convince her daddy that she was ready for a little sister and this little girl was it.

In the mean time, I contacted Bethany to let them know that we were interested. The Michigan office began sending me more updated information and a ton of new pictures. I shared all of this information with Rob. Then without warning it happened. Bethany notified us that the precious little girl that I had so hopelessly fallen in love with was being pursued by another family. The other family was in the process of writing their letter of intent and had already finished their home study. I was devastated. I cried all day and then the next. And, then I prayed. I thanked God for the family that had chosen her, and I thanked God that she would now have a mommy and daddy. I asked God to give me direction. Were we supposed to continue to pursue adoption with Bethany or was this a sign that we needed to find another agency.  Or, were we simply meant to somehow help other families with their adoption journeys?

I prayed continually over the next few days. I truly feel that God had laid it on my heart to adopt again and this was one of those unforeseen setbacks that happens in the world of international adoption. I have a close friend who has adopted two children from China. She has often said that international adoption is not for the faint of heart. Indeed, this is true. The road to an international adoption is constantly being blocked by some seemingly insurmountable object. One must have the fortitude and the faith to move the mountain, go around the mountain, or dig a tunnel through the mountain and continue the journey.

I decided that we would go around the mountain. I began talking with another agency who had a Bulgaria program, but the coordinator was sure that we might also be interested in their Hungary program. She explained to me how things had changed in the Bulgaria program, specifically the waiting children program, since we brought our son home in 2011. The seed of possibly going to another country besides Bulgaria was planted. At the same time, Bethany began emailing me files of children that they thought Rob and I would be interested in pursuing from all three of their Eastern European programs: Albania, Bulgaria, and Lithuania.

While I was busy interviewing potential adoption agencies, God was busy working on Rob... slowly and surely. God was breaking his heart until it was open and willing.  I can only describe it by quoting the lyrics of Hillsong United's "Hosanna." "Open up my eyes to the things unseen / Show me how to love like You have loved me / Break my heart for what breaks Yours."   Rob was ready to proceed, and we decided that Hungary was our destination.

But, as you already know by reading the title to my blog, God had other plans for us. The very next day after we had made our decision to go to Hungary, I got an email from Bethany. Our little dark haired girl was available again. Bethany wanted to know if we still wanted to pursue her. To say that my heart leapt for joy would be an understatement. Rob and I could not get our letter of intent to Albania quick enough.

Less than two weeks later, we learned that our letter had been accepted and that the nuns at her orphanage had already been told that our sweet angel has a family in the United States. How do I get through the mountains of paperwork, doctor's appointments, and background checks required for our adoption? I keep looking at her sweet face, and I start digging my tunnel.