Waiting to Exhale

Yes, it was the name of a Whitney Huston album back in the day. It also, I think, hits the nail on the head of how we’re feeling right now.

Yes, we are thrilled that our adoption is legalized, but there is still a waiting process. Chris has told everyone here that has been passing on their good wishes that he won’t truly be excited until we have a passport in hand. I know him better than that though, and I know that he won’t truly be excited until we’ve gotten through the airport and we are in fact leaving. At that point I think both of us will finally be able to exhale the breath we have constantly been holding for over three years.

When you have a baby you wait 9 months or so, depending on how quickly the little bundle decides to show up. The point is though, there is an end point. And at that end point you are parents in every sense of the word – legally and emotionally. No one can say that child is not yours.

In adoption, from the moment you decide to adopt you step into a waiting room that you won’t step out of until your kids are legally yours, and maybe not even then depending on where you’re adopting from, citizenship issues etc. So many variables. From the time you say, ‘yes, we’re doing this’ you are put in a que. It’s waiting for documents to be ready. For approval from home studies, psych evaluations, criminal record checks etc, all so someone can say that you are fit to parent. After that it’s waiting for a child, waiting for that match to be made. In our case, we started meeting with our orphanage in June of 2007. We spend the following 6 months getting our part of the dossier ready. We told them we would be ready to take a baby in January of 2008, and we were. But we waited. I remember sitting in Olivia’s room, when it was all set up and ready to welcome whoever it was that was going to be our baby, and thinking that I didn’t know how long I could wait. It wasn’t long after that that we got the phone call and Liv was home. We got the call on January 30, so it was only a month, but it was waiting none the less.

From that point on it was more waiting. Waiting for a judge to sign a paper. Waiting for documents. Waiting for birth certificates. Waiting for our file to go into IBESR so we could officially start the adoption process. Waiting for news that things were moving, and finding out repeatedly they weren’t. We waited 14 months, and then the earthquake happened. Then it was waiting to see if we would be evacuated. And then finding out we couldn’t. Waiting to see if anything was going to happen in IBESR. Waiting to see if we could get meetings with people that could help. Waiting for signatures. Things finally moved to the next stage, but that led to more waiting. More signatures. More waiting to see if someone would find favor on our stuff and actually make it move forward. Then on to the last stage and the anticipation was building, but more waiting. Waiting while politics and corruption played their parts. Waiting for this and waiting for that. Waiting and praying that we wouldn’t have to start all over.

And now we wait for a passport. And then we will wait for a visa. And then we will wait for a plane.

Yes, we’re excited, but until we are on a plane flying out of Haiti I think it’ll be hard for either of us to truly let out the breath that we’ve been holding for the last three plus years. If we have learned anything through our adoption, and living in Haiti in general, things are never done until they’re truly DONE. Even if you make progress today, you will probably be set back tomorrow. It is the way things work here, and if they work in a different way you have this sense that you should run while you can, before someone figures out that something actually worked right for a change.

Until we can step foot into the door of the plane, please keep praying. Pray that Olivia’s passport comes soon. Pray that everything goes smoothly with getting a visa. Pray that all the last details come together too. We are looking forward to the day we can tell you we are home, but until then, we wait.

Would you also pray for some friends of ours here? Laurens and Cheryl are also Canadians and ministering at a larger mission about an hour from us. Last summer they felt led to adopt twin girls. Because of the earthquake they were able to see their process go a lot faster than ours and they too are waiting for one last passport to come, then will need to go through the visa process etc, just like us. The waiting is hard!

Dear Olivia

Yesterday your dad and I got the news that IBESR had finally signed off on your adoption. It’s been 16 months and a lot of run around, but they finally did it. We are still feeling hesitant that it’s real, but I know it is. I expect there will still be some run around, but the bottom line is that Haitian social services has approved our adoption. They have said that we can legally be your parents. The relief we are feeling is indescribable. Many times, in the last two months following the earthquake especially, your dad and I have stressed out that someone would take you away from us. We know that won’t happen now.

Your Dad and I are feeling like there is finally some hope. 16 months since we submitted the dossier and we finally have some progress. Yesterday your Dad just about raged at the director of IBESR when she told him he needed to relax because your birth mother had done all the hard work of bringing you into the world and all we were doing was some running around. I know your birth mom made the hardest and most loving decision to place you in an orphanage, I won’t ever say opposite. Baby girl, if you ever doubt our love for you I hope you will know and remember that we have fought for you. We have fought so hard because we love you so much. Not only have we loved you with everything we have in us since the day we met you, but we have stood in front of people and refused to participate in corruption. We have met with people in offices that we would never normally be allowed into. We have asked friends to make phone calls on our behalf and have accepted the assistance of people that don’t even know us but want to help because they believe in what we are doing. Olivia, people all over the world have been praying along side us that we would see our dossier move forward without participating in corruption and God has answered those prayers. I hope that not only will you see the love we have for you but also the love of those that love us, and most of all, the deep love that your Father has for you. He loves you so much, and he loves us so much, that he made us a family and he is moving systems that don’t normally move so make legal what we have known in our hearts for a very long time. God still moves mountains that seem unmovable. Yesterday we crossed that threshold from feeling like we had met the end of the road and exhausted all possibilities to the place where everything is a possibility.

I don’t know how long the rest of the process will take, but we know God is big and he is in control, and we are hopeful that maybe, just maybe, sometime this year your Dad and I will experience the joy of seeing you set your feet on Canadian soil for the very first time. Maybe sometime this year you will get to visit your grandparents in their homes. Maybe sometime this year you will get to hug your aunties and uncles there, not here. Maybe sometime this year you will get to meet all those people that have been praying hard, hoping hard and walking right along with us and anticipating, probably just as much as we have, the day they get to finally meet you in person and come to know themselves the wonderful little person that we have been telling them you are.

For the last two years your Dad and I have stuck it out and stayed here. We have each made trips home individually but we have stuck with our commitment to never leave you here and go home together. We have sacrificed our freedom to come and go, and it was a sacrifice that we have made because we love you so much. We never wanted to leave you in the care of someone else. In the last year we have gone through a lot. People have told us to leave. We have had times where we would have loved to take a break. But, always in our minds was the fact that we couldn’t, not without you, because you were more important than anything. We are tired, we want a vacation. Last night your Dad told me that the fact that there is an end in sight is an indescribable feeling. Yes, the last year or two has been hard, and we have lost some freedom, but it has all been worth it. The commitment to our family has been worth it. And, God has used these difficult times to show your Dad and I the resilience that He has put in us that we didn’t know was there.

Baby girl, we love you so much I don’t even have the words for it. I hope as you grow up and read back through these letters that you will be reminded of that. I also hope you will always carry the knowledge that your Dad and I will always fight for you. We will fight for you until the day we die.

Love Mom

Latrine Babies

This crisis has really gotten to me and I’m having trouble putting thoughts together in a way that makes sense. I’m going to do my best, but please give me a little grace if I seem like I’m raving. I realize I’ve already gotten off to a bad start with my title “Latrine Babies”.

I haven’t been involved with Orphanages very much. I have visited a number of them, have various missionary friends who run them and volunteered in a small one in Jamaica for about two weeks. Jamaica is of course very different from Haiti. By comparison with Haiti, Jamaica is a filthy rich country, although pit latrines are common in both. Jamaica is transitioning away from pit latrines to toilets as they progress towards becoming a first world country. Haiti still mostly uses latrines, although in the countryside it’s might be more prevalent for people to use bushes or banana fields.

At the orphanage I worked at in Jamaica there were two latrine babies –  as in, the mother decided for whatever reason to drop her baby down the latrine and leave it there. In Haiti the social and economic problems are far worse and latrine babies are much more common. I can’t say how many of them there are, but I once visited an orphanage here and mentioned about the two latrine babies in Jamaica. The response: “We get a lot of those.” I suspect they are very common indeed, although there aren’t statistics taken on that kind of thing here. I also shudder to think of how many latrine babies aren’t discovered and rescued or are suffocated before being discarded.

Babies are discarded for many reasons, but I believe the average mother would far rather give her baby up for adoption if she had that option.

The best way to deal with an excess of orphans is to have a healthy social and spiritual  environment and a vibrant economy. Any unwanted children are easily absorbed domestically. The United States and many other countries actually have more parents who want to adopt than orphans. Haiti is a long, long way from becoming socially or economically healthy. In the meantime, the first world nations are ideally situated to rescue orphans from a horrible situation. Why not do everything possible to make it work?

Well, according to Haiti’s prime minister, “There is organ trafficking for children and other persons also, because they need all types of organs.” I think if a statement like that is made then it should be backed up by data. For example, this number of orphans purportedly adopted by families in the United States were later killed when they had their orphans harvested. If anyone has actual statistics recognized by the UN or a first world government about illegal organ harvesting, whether for orphans or not, please share them in the comments. If nobody corrects me, I’m going to keep on believing that organ theft from live people is an urban legend. I have no doubt that it’s happened a few times, because the world is very big and this is 2010, but there if there is any trafficking in Haitian organs, the problem pales in comparison to that of the latrine babies.

Haiti’s Restavek problem could also begin to be ameliorated if more unwanted children were adopted into loving homes abroad. I have no doubt that the Haitian government’s rantings about a non-existent live-donor organ trade are partially to distract from Haiti’s very real child slavery.

Adoption Thoughts

I haven’t written a post about adoption thoughts in a very long time. I like to update about Olivia and what she’s been up to (and oh, is she up to a lot these days), but not much about my feelings around the whole subject or updates about where things are at. I think the biggest reason for that is that we just get into the rhythm of our days and before I know it another month has gone by and Olivia is another month along in life. Would you believe that on Friday she’ll be 17 months old?!? I wonder where those days have gone?

Before we brought Olivia home, actually before there ever was an Olivia, I would spend time sitting in what would eventually be her room. There was a chair in the room and I would just sit and get lost in my thoughts. I would find myself thinking so many of the things that adoptive parents think about. Things like whether I would love her enough. I had no idea what it was like to love a child of my own. Would it be different that she didn’t come from my womb? Then again, I had nothing to compare it to. I wondered what it would be like for her to grow up in our family. I wondered what attachment would be like and if we would struggle with that.
Then we got the call and life turned upside down and now here we are almost a year and a half later and I marvel at how far we’ve come. I’m guessing most first time parents have those moments. You know, the ones where you realize that you’ve managed to keep your kid alive for the last x number of months. And not just alive, but they seem to be alright
We brought Olivia home when she was 15 days old. We’ve felt so blessed that we get to have her living with us during our adoption process. There are so many adoptive parents out there that don’t have that and seeing what we have makes my heart ache for them. I know how much you’re missing out on and I wish you didn’t have to. It sucks. I wish adoption would go fast because that truly is in the best interest of the child.
Before we adopted I got some parenting books, but nothing really specific about adoption. I did borrow a few from friends, but I’ll be honest, I really only got through a couple all the way. The others just totally turned me off. I realize they have probable been really great resources for many people, but for me they just rubbed me the wrong way. As I read and we talked we realized that it would be very easy for us to label our child just because a very high percentage of adoptive families have had these struggles. We didn’t want to do that, but rather feel it out as we went. I put the books away and instead we just focused on loving Olivia and chose to deal with any issues as they arose. When I look back at how we’ve grown as parents I am very grateful for that one decision. It really was a big one for us I think. We have always kept in mind that we were very fortunate to be able to bring Olivia home when she was so newborn and that it isn’t the case for so many families.
Over the last 16.5 months of watching Olivia grow we’ve been so blessed to see how attached she is to us. This girl knows we are her Mommy and Daddy and there is no denying that. She is turning into an incredibly loving girl who smothers us with hugs and kisses and just today returned an “I love you” in her own way (we just taught her how to say it yesterday) along with a hug. She needs lots of cuddles and smooches, but also needs to give a lot of them. Many times throughout the day she’ll come up to me and hug me tight, or climb up on my lap and wrap her arms around my neck and give me a smooch and a hug. It makes me melt. I think the biggest thing that we’ve seen in regards to attachment is when we discipline. Almost always when Olivia has been disciplined she’ll turn to the disciplining parent for comfort. Seeing that has giving Chris and I confidence that we’re making good decisions and balancing love and boundaries well. Olivia is naturally more needy of Mommy, but because of all the involvement that Chris has had she has a very special bond with her Daddy too. She will go to both of us for fun, comfort and nurturing. 
One thing that we’ve been sensitive to right from the beginning is letting Olivia set the pace for building relationships with others. If she felt comfortable then we let others hold her, love on her, play with her etc. Right from the start. Olivia never went through a phase of “stranger anxiety” which actually surprised me because I had read about it being part of natural development and was anticipating it. In fact, I think it was just the opposite. In most cases she is a very social child that will wander around a room making friends with people of all ages. I have noticed that in some situations she’ll be more cautious and needs time to just observe, but when she feels ready she’s off and running. She has some very close attachments to certain friends here and we’re grateful for that. In the end though she knows Mommy and Daddy are her “home base”.
I know that as Olivia gets older and understands her adoption more there will probably be things that come up that we’ll need to deal with, but until then we want to just experience her one day at a time. Taking that approach, for us, has allowed Chris and I to be “all in” all the time. Not a day goes by where we’re not saying to each other, “Did you see her do such and such?” or “Okay, when did she learn that word?” We’re having so much fun with her, even though there are plenty of trying moments. 
Speaking of developmental issues, I feel like we’re on a high speed ride right now. I have no idea if all parents feel this way, especially first time parents? I can only assume so. Isn’t it crazy to watch your kid learn so much every single day? When I think of just recently these are the things that come to mind…
  • Olivia was able to say “1, 2, 3,” after she heard me count the clothes pins as I was putting them back in the bucket. She was counting, just like Mommy, as she put them back in. I know it was more of repetition than cognitive understanding, but WOW. Counting!
  • Yesterday we taught her how to say “I love you”. When she says it it sounds like “I lul lu” but she gets that it’s a way of expressing affection. 
  • There were a whole slew of new words. We always laugh because she’ll pick out the funniest words in a sentence to repeat, like “pants” but she’s repeating all of it and storing it away.
  • She has an Old MacDonald’s Farm book. The book goes through all the parts of the farm, like the barn, the pasture etc and talks about the animals that live in those areas and that Old MacDonald looks after them. Olivia now knows all the sounds of the animals. You can ask her, in any order, what sound x animal makes and she can tell you. 
  • She knows most of her body parts if you say, “Where is your…” 
  • I see her motor skills improve every day and I see her challenging herself with things like using small items and trying to do it correctly.
  • She loves to dance. Any kind of music and she’s moving somehow. I love to see how she moves her body to try and find the rhythm. 
There’s so much! It’s such a fun stage. 
As far as where we are in the adoption process, our file is still in IBESR, but it’s only been there for about 6 months. There are a lot of families that have been there for much longer. I like that we’re able to go about our days and get distracted by life. It would be great to take a family holiday and we’re very much looking forward to the day when that can happen, but we’re trying to keep moving forward until it does because it might be a very long ride.

16 months

Um, can someone please tell me where the last 485 days have gone? I mean, 470 days ago we brought home this ity, bity, tennie, tiny thing of a baby and now we have this:
When did that happen? How did she go from being big enough to fit in my purse to wanting to take everything out of my purse? 
Life with Olivia these days is FUN. She’s constantly the life of the party. This kid has personality with a capital P. The other night we went out for drinks with friends at Club Indigo. The kid was dancing around with new moves never before seen by her parents. I mean, we’re talking Interpretive Dance 101 at it’s finest. There was also a considerable amount of crawling and screeching and running around and I found myself thinking, “If it was any other child people would be looking at us like we were those parents – the ones with the unruly toddler that runs around leaving a wake of chaos. But we’re not because our kid has the ability to charm every single person in the room within a nano second. I saw one of the biggest Haitian men I’ve ever seen stop and have a little dance part with her. I saw complete strangers showing her their pictures on their digital camera. Lauren, the restaurant manager loves to take Olivia for walks with her when we’re there. It’s actually pretty funny to realize that no one else cares that Chris and I are there, but they LOVE hanging out with Olivia :)
There are so many times when Chris and I find ourselves looking at each other and saying, “Um, where did she learn how to do that?” This kid is vivacious. Loves life. Is very curious. Wants to know how things work. She’s impressionable and remembers  things after seeing them once. In recent weeks I’ve watched her figure out how to plug the speaker system we have into the tv without anyone showing her. She’s learned how to climb up onto chairs all on her own. She gets that taps need to be turned on even though she’s not strong enough to do it herself (she puts her hand on it and turns her hand back and forth). Yesterday we started looking at an alphabet book and she was able to repeat almost every letter, that is until she got bored and wanted to move onto something else. 
Her vocabulary is expanding and for the first time today she used a two word sentence – “please down”. She sounds like a little parrot all day long as she repeats sounds and words in English and Creole. It all leaves me amazed at how much toddlers are taking in and absorbing and processing all the time
I love watching Olivia figure out what her body can do. The funny walks she has, the times she squats and stands, squats and stands. Her enthusiasm with being able to walk down small stairs at a good clip. The joy she has with being able to run away from Mom and Dad. It’s so fun.
Olivia is one of those card board box kids. Meaning, she has a good amount of toys, but is much happier with random house things. And books. By far her favorite thing to play with is books. She even likes to try and read them herself and I love listening in as she flips pages and gets totally lost in it. She loves music and can’t stop herself from moving to it. The minute she hears any kind of music she drops whatever she’s doing and starts busting a move. 
We’re in such a fun stage right now :)

One

Baby girl turned the big 1 on Monday. We had a few friends over for dinner and had a little celebration. My mom brought a “birthday bag” with her at Christmas. She had put a birthday table cloth, birhtday napkins, balloons, a “1′ candle and the hat in it. She felt it was important that we had the necessities to celebrate in style :) Little Miss O wasn’t really sure what was going on, but as always she seemed to enjoy being the center of attention. 

For the Fan Club, this is the hat. I was told I would recieve hate mail if I didn’t post a picture for you. (For all of you not in the loop, this is the ridiculous hat my mother bought to torture our daughter with on her birhtday)

Daddy, the birthday girl and the cupcake “cake”.

Banana icecream face.

This is what you get when you give a child who pretty much never has sweet stuff a ridiculously sweet cupcake. 
I kept thinking back to the day we brought Olivia home and how much she’s changed and grown over the year, and how much of a blessing she’s been to us. We love being her parents. I love to see how she interacts with us now compared to even a month ago. I get way more cuddles and snuggles now, she’s super chatty and is just taking in so much everyday. She’s also so incredibly curious and active. Seriously, this kid doesn’t sit still. The only time she’s not moving is when she’s sleeping. She’s a bit of an escape artist and often likes to adventure into the yard, so she keeps us hopping. I can honestly say that it’s a really fun stage to be in right now.