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.