We’ve been on a journey over the last three weeks. Parts of it have been shared. Others we needed to keep mum about, if anything just to save our own sanity, but more so because we had no answers and weren’t prepared for the questions that would inevitably come. This is the part that we couldn’t share until now.
This is the post that was supposed to follow the amazing skill testing question.
Yes, there was some motivation behind the skill testing question. Motivation other than starting a debate over order of operations vs. good plain math. See, the answer to the question that I posed was 3. On the afternoon of Thursday, January 31 that number became a significant one around here. 3 is the start of a story, and even as I type this I still don’t know the outcome. I wish I did, but God has us in a holding pattern. So, what you are going to get is the progression of the story, as it unfolds. I won’t be posting until it has some sort of conclusion, but thought I would write as its parts came to be so that the details and moments that are so fresh for us don’t get missed in the mix.
The story really starts on Wednesday, January 30. It was like many days before it. I was still feeling lousy from my “cold” and wondering why it was so much less fun here than it would be back in Canada, not that having a cold is ever a good time there. Chris had gone to St. Marc to do some errands and I was making good use of my time by reading a blog. The blog was written by an adoptive mom whose family initially was planning on adopting from Haiti, but after a series of events they went the domestic route. This particular post was a recap of what happened in the days leading up to them bringing home their new son. I was in tears in parts because I could relate to the waiting.
As I was finishing the post Chris walked in the house. I had heard him come home, but it’s not abnormal for him to go and talk to our workers before coming in. It didn’t really even blip on my radar to be frank. When he did come in the first thing he said to me was, “Are you going to be feeling good enough to go to Port au Prince tomorrow?” I’ll be honest, my response was, “Um, how am I supposed to know? Why?” In my mind I was thinking that he wanted to go get another load of blocks or something and Jean didn’t want to go because he had other work planned. I wasn’t really into the idea. As Chris leaned over me to plug in his phone he casually said, “I just got off the phone with John and we need to go to Port au Prince tomorrow morning to meet our baby.”
I had wondered for so long what I would do when the call finally came. What would I feel like? What would I say? How exactly does a person react to that? I looked at Chris and said, “Are you serious?” The other time I looked at him and said those words was the night he proposed to me. When he said he was I had a few tears trickle down my face. As he stood behind me and put his arm around me I began to sob. It just came pouring out of me. I couldn’t stop it. There I was, smiling and sobbing. It was this amazing feeling of joy and relief.
We didn’t get much sleep that night. For me it was that I was up hacking and coughing for most of it. Chris was up and out of bed before 5 am. We were on the road by 5:30 to be at John’s at 7 so we could head over to the crèche and meet the baby. We arrived on time, John gathered up his stuff and we headed over.
When we arrived at the crèche Jessica, the young woman who’s living there and helping out with cases just like this came down out of her apartment and handed us this tiny, little bundle while she tried to get her contact lens that was folded in her eye all straightened out. John headed out to go do a couple errands and said he’d be back in a little while for us.
Chris and I found a place to sit and then just spent time hanging out with this little wonder. She really is a wonder. Weighing in at 5 lb 4 oz she was definitely a wee one. We spent time holding her and just being together. We both noticed how alert she was. How perfect she really was.
John came back a little while later and whisked us off to meet with the lawyer where we learned a bit more about the new adoption laws coming down. After we made a plan we headed back to get our truck. Chris dropped me back off at the crèche so I could spend a couple hours with the baby while he did a couple errands. She slept most of the time, but when she did wake up she would send all four limbs into the air as she stretched. She’s a good eater. She’s a good sleeper. She whimpers in her sleep. When Chris came to get me we put her back in her car seat and she cried until I picked her up and said good-bye. We were just waiting to get her medical test results back, something that’s routine, and then we could take her home. The results were due that afternoon and we made plans with Jess to come back the next morning to get her.
The whole way home I kept playing out various scenarios in my head. The one where we would put her in the truck and drive away. The one where we would call our families. That would be a big one because we had decided a long time ago that we wouldn’t tell them anything was going on until the baby was home. We know how Haiti can crush people and we didn’t want dashed hopes and dreams or have to go back and tell people we jumped the gun. It was better to wait. When we got home Chris told Jean that we had to go back to town the next day and why. Jean, John and Jess were the only ones besides us that knew what was going on. We put the car seat in the truck. Maybe not the *right* way, but it was in and secure. I put the diaper bag by the door. Then I went to lay down for a nap. I was still feeling crummy and the lack of sleep and emotional morning had taken its toll.
Later that evening we got a call from John. We were expecting it to just get confirmation on the medical results and firm up plans. What we didn’t expect was the news that John gave us. The baby had tested positive for HIV anti-bodies. John was grieving for us. John told Chris he would call us sometime in the next couple days. It’s Carnival weekend so there isn’t much that can be done right now.
We spent the night crying and processing. We were angry. We were confused. We were tired of this place. Tired of it always taking more from us. Wanting so badly for just one thing to go right, to not be a long, drawn out process. To not be full of sacrifice and pain. The next morning (Friday) brought more of the same. As I prayed over breakfast I did it through sobs of grief and confusion. We prayed for wisdom and for God’s heart in the whole thing. What on earth were we supposed to do?
There are so many questions. Do you knowingly walk into a situation like this? Do you say no? Can you live with that decision? Who will love and look after this child? What does God want us to do? What would he do? What’s best for our family and the mission? Do we trust God enough? Do we believe that he has a plan for us? Do we believe that he knows what he’s doing? Is he asking us to knowingly sacrifice our hearts with the possibility of raising a child that may never get to see its first birthday? Is that what he’s really asking of us?
I think in our minds we all want to be martyrs, but when the reality of that hit us in the face we didn’t know if we had it in us.
We took the car seat out of the truck. I put the diaper bag away again. Chris went outside and spent most of the day out working on various projects. It’s how he processes. I went back to bed for a little while, then got up to get the accounting done. I found some worship music that my brother had given me, loaded it on my iPod and plugged myself in. I had nothing left in me and just needed to be in it. To listen and see what God was trying to tell me. As Yonese tried to clean around me there were several moments where I hid tears. Others, when she was in another part of the house, I just let them fall. I prayed for wisdom. I prayed for peace. As the day progressed both came.
Chris and I talked more as the day wore on and we kept asking the same questions. Chris called Troy to see if he could talk to Dr. Jen to get some more information on what it means to have anti-bodies. A bag arrived for us that was sent with a visiting team by Chris’ parents. It had car parts and baby stuff. It was hard to look at but it gave me hope too. I put together the baby bouncer and went through all of the clothes.
As the day came to a close there were some things that I knew. I knew that God had a plan for us. I knew that we met this baby girl for a reason. I knew that whatever decision we made I would be able to live with it because I would know that we sought God in it and that he was giving us the answers as we went along. If it meant walking away, I believed that there were lessons in this for us, but that God still had a baby out there for us. If it meant taking this baby, I knew that he would give us what we needed to get through. I also believe that God works miracles, and I started to wonder if in the midst of all the pain and confusion he was trying to do that for us, to work a miracle. I don’t know. As I write I still have no idea what his plans are for that, I just know that I believe he could do anything he wanted. I believe that if he wanted he could completely take any indications of HIV from that little body. If that’s his will.
Today is Saturday the 2nd.
Chris and I still had a lot of questions when we got up this morning. Not many answers, but we were feeling like we were getting some direction. We’d done some research and learned that the anti-bodies that show up in the basic test are actually the mother’s anti-bodies. Over the next 18 months the mother’s anti-bodies will work out of the baby and if it’s infected it will develop its own anti-bodies. There is another test that needs to be done to confirm whether the virus itself is actually present. If that test comes back positive, then the child is infected with HIV and there isn’t anything but maintenance treatment that can be done.
If an infant tests negative on that test there’s a good chance that they aren’t infected, but not 100% certainty. The child needs to be retested again at between 3-6 months.
Chris had a chance to talk to Dr. Jen, who had spent the last 24 hours doing research for us. She even told us where this test could be done. We were starting to feel a sense of hope that maybe there were more options for us than we thought. Chris and I talked more and were both feeling led to say yes if we got a negative on that test, even knowing there was still a chance that the re-test a few months later could come back positive.
We talked to our families, finally letting them in on what has been going on for us over the last few days. There were more tears, but it felt so good to share with them. To know they knew. To know that we weren’t in this alone any more.
Then God gave us a divine appointment. We went out this afternoon with friends on their boat, and headed down to Club Indigo. We were trying to meet up with another friend, the one that bought our boat more than a year ago. We found him and got introduced to Anna and Louis. Anna works for CDC – the Center for Disease Control. Many people had been trying to connect us because of the filters. We talked about filters for a while, but as we learned more about Anna I could see Chris wanting to ask the question. He finally explained what had been going on for us and asked her what her thoughts were. Anna went to med school when she was 41 and is essentially an internist who specializes in HIV prevention, but has a heart to work in places where information can make all the world of difference. Places like Haiti.
As we talked to Anna she reaffirmed everything that Jen had said. She told us about how far HIV treatment has come, what progress they’re making, what kind of resources we would have here in Haiti. She told us what tests specifically we need to get and gave suggestions for going about doing that. She’s going to try and make a few phone calls and see if she can be of any help. It just turns out that she knows one of the head people at the place that we would need to get the testing done at. She was an incredible source of information for us and we both walked away feeling much better about the whole thing.
Today is Sunday the 3rd.
Last night as we were crawling into bed Chris told me that he wanted to talk. As I lie there listening he told me that he thought that regardless of how the tests turned out we should adopt this baby. He had completely done a 180 from three days before. I was a bit shocked, but as I listened he shared his reasons. He said that we could give this child a home and love that it wouldn’t otherwise get. We could take care of it because God wouldn’t give us a situation that we couldn’t handle with his help. And most of all, that God tells us to love unconditionally, not to pick and choose when we love based on what’s easiest at the time. We talked about it for a while. I still wasn’t sure. He said it was my say in the end and that if I said no he would be fine with that. We went off to sleep. It’s wasn’t really restful sleep, but it was sleep.
In the morning I told him that I agreed with him.
We called John later and he was very happy to hear our decision. We made plans to go get her tomorrow morning and we’re absolutely thrilled. Tomorrow Olivia comes home.
Today is Wednesday, Feb. 13.
Today we took Liv to GHESKIO. It’s a clinic in Port au Prince near Carrefour, not too far from Cite Soliel and one of the saddest parts of Haiti one can witness. We were there to have Liv tested for the HIV virus. We had made an appointment. We were amazed when we walked in to see the size of the clinic and the number of people that were coming and going. After checking in with security we were met by Dr. Banna on behalf of Dr. Dechambes. Dr. Dechambes had been contacted by Anna and was all prepared to walk us through the process of finding out Liv’s status. Dr. Banna took us to the part of the clinic where we would sit down with the woman that would start our file. After that Olivia was weighed and measured, and had her temperature taken. Each time we were pushed to the front of the line. That still weirds me out here because I don’t want special treatment, but with the whole nerve racking process I was grateful for it today. After the preliminaries we were told to sit on a bench and wait to be called. The next call was to meet with a pediatrician who checked Liv out. She said she was healthy and asked about all the normal first month questions. She started to make another appointment and we had to explain that we were there to get the test done specifically, not for a check up. She signed the appropriate forms and sent us to the lab.
As Chris held Olivia and comforted her with a finger to suck on I held back tears from across the room while the lab tech took her blood and she screamed. I realized that it won’t be the last time I experience that feeling of helplessness as a mother. The whole day overwhelmed me at that point. The thing that we hadn’t been talking about was staring us in the face. It was doing it in a place with hundreds of other parents. Hundreds of other people. They were all there for different reasons, but we were all there for the same reason. We needed help. We didn’t have answers. I felt set apart because we were white and the people that everyone stared at, but so much a part of everything because we were all there for the same reasons. Different but equal.
We left after that with the promise that we would get the call with the test results on Monday or Tuesday.
Today is Tuesday, Feb. 19.
I just nursed her and put her down for a nap. As I sat there holding her and watching her sleep I prayed a prayer of thanks over her. Thanks for letting her be a part of our family. Thanks that Chris and I were able to go on this journey. The journey that took us to places as people that we didn’t know we could go to. Places of trust and submission, obedience and patience. I prayed a prayer of blessing over her, that she would become the woman of God that he has her set apart to be. She is special. She is marked. We know that already. Then I prayed a prayer of thanks that God is a god of miracles even today.
You see, today we got the call that Liv has tested negative.
I don’t know how God chose to work this miracle, all the intricacies of it, but he did it. I don’t know if he chose to protect her little life all along and keep her free from HIV, or if he removed it from her. When I get to heaven maybe I’ll know. What I do know is that my beautiful daughter is healthy.
We will still need to get her tested again in a few months, but her risk factor has gone down to less than 10%. It’s very rare that a child will test positive after testing negative. But we will wait and pray and hope for the best.
And that is Olivia’s story that had to wait to be told.
Thank you to all of you that have been praying for us and probably not even knowing why or for what specifically, but just that God had put us on your hearts. We firmly believe that God was in that and that he was moving mountains through and because of you, his people. Thanks for being a part of our journey and for welcoming our wonderful baby into this world. What a testament of the love of God that we’ll be able to share with her when she’s old enough to understand her beginnings. How God hand picked her and used her in our lives before she even knew what was going on.
We are going to spend the rest of the day rejoicing and enjoying our last evening with Grandma and Granddaddy.