(Bang Niang boatyard-J helped on the larger boat)Three years ago today I was packing to move to Thailand for 5ish months. I remember the suitcase and hiking pack lying open in our bedroom in DC. I was determined not to forget a thing or end up feeling rushed with the packing. Bit by bit the bags filled up with with essentials for life in southern Thailand: flip flops, cotton skirts and khaki pants for work, sunscreen and bugspray, lots of books to read, immodium AD.
Snowstorms kept sweeping through the east coast and my February 14th departure date was pushed back to the 15th. (It was a nice Valentine's Day gift.)
I had been to Thailand before. I taught ESL in Bangkok for a summer between my Sophomore and Junior years of college. I knew that it would be hot, uncomfortable, smelly, crowded, and did I mention HOT? But when I arrived for this 5 month consultancy I quickly realized that I was having a new and improved, adult, Thai experience. I was staying in a lovely air conditioned hotel with international buffets. I was traveling by air conditioned taxis. I was treated to great food in premier restaurants for the Chinese New Year. Mmmmm. So good to be back as an adult.
(Thai junk food that I lived on in college - cha dam yen cold tea and sticky sweet rice.)
It was a life-changing five months. I was operating in my dream job. Working for my dream organization. I was trusted, allowed to manage the pilot project in the way I saw fit, manage my staff (and let some go when I needed to!), and live independently but with enough money to make it very comfortable.
And did I mention that this job was located in rural southern Thailand? Otherwise known as Paradise.
After a few days of meetings in Bangkok I flew with my new team to Khao Lak. The area one hour north of Phuket (world class tourist destination) that was hardest hit by the tsunami two years earlier.
I remember my first night in Khao Lak. Living in a guest house near the beach with my team - before we found our own local housing. I walked down the sandy road to the water. It was still tourist season and the resort terraces were filled with laughter, twinkle lights, and the smell of cooking seafood. I stood down on the endless sandy expanse and threw my head back to stare at the stars. It was glorious. I had never felt so lucky.
It was lonely at times but it was exhilarating. It was the most beautiful place I have ever been. I was fully alive. I spent sunset walking on the beach almost every evening. When I needed a break from it all I took my scooter down the road to Le Meridien resort and drove in pretending to be a guest. These solitary breaks with a beach chair, soft towel and fruity drink kept me sane.
I went to a Burmese wedding. I made two friends that I will have for life. I learned how to order gas for my car in Thai. I drove a manual (giant) truck on the left side of the road with gusto. I became tan and thin and warm. I learned to open coconuts on my house gate and drank a lot of fresh juice. My tongue became strong enough for red chilies. I got stung by a jellyfish and laughed it off. I learned the subtleties of managing Thai and Burmese staff when you are neither subtle, or Thai or Burmese!
I did not save any children as the name of my organization would suggest I should have been doing. But I did a good job on the project and left knowing that we had accomplished what we set out to do. And I saved one small golden puppy who is sitting by my side right now.
(Top-the puppy lost. Below-the puppy saved.)
But I can claim a tiny piece of Khao Lak/Bang Niang as my own. And I miss my lifestyle there. I miss watching J (who took 6 weeks leave of absence to join me for awhile) create pieces of furniture from bamboo rods in our little covered driveway. I miss my tiny Shangri-la and my view from my office window.
Life was lived so fully that year. There was nothing more I wanted and I miss that feeling. I miss the wild drive weaving through the hills and jungly countryside between Khao Lak and Phuket. I miss the challenge of navigating Bangkok for my monthly meetings. I miss the ease with which I could hop on a plane to anywhere in southeast Asia.
(An awe inspiring trip to Angkor Wat in Cambodia with J.)
I remember the last flight. The last flight from Phuket to Bangkok and the taxi ride I took to my hotel for my last round of meetings. The song on the radio "take me home, my country road, to the place, where I belong..." It was ironic. It was nostalgic. But the consultancy was over and I was no longer needed. I was desperately ready to go home. But desperately wishing to stay forever.
I didn't know I would be back to Bangkok exactly one year after I had first arrived, but that is a story for another day...
Do you want to know how I know we are ready to be parents now?
I know because last night we (and by we I mean J was fully on board) became a certified emergency foster home.
When you are truly ready to parent and nurture and deal with all of the difficult details of caring for a child and loving them through everything...when you become ok with the idea of your cream colored living room rug being destroyed and puke possibly ending up on your beautiful couch...when you know that dinner will now need to be served at a regular time every evening and that you may be consigned to 2 minute showers...then you are ready.
J noticed the news about Haiti 2 weeks ago and had concern about the orphaned children very early on. We know that children will probably not be brought to the U.S. for foster care. And we know that children need to be processed through tracing and reunification efforts now in Haiti. We support the international community in following well established guidelines on caring for children after complex emergencies.
But I think something about the entire situation struck a nerve with both of us. So many people in our country are so very willing to care for Haitian children if they were to come here. But there has always been a huge need for foster homes. If everyone interested in fostering Haitian children would become certified as foster homes for kids in their areas, well, wow! that would be amazing for the foster care system.
We didn't have to do much to turn our international homestudy into certification for foster care. It was easy! Next week we will sign the final papers, take our first aid class, and then we will be put on a list as foster parents.
We offered to be an emergency home for either gender up to age 3. Our area has a very large Spanish speaking population so my Spanish might come in handy.
I feel a great sense of peace and calm about this. Why struggle and struggle to overcome the desire to nurture and have a child in our lives when we can easily offer ourselves in this way while we wait for our daughter from Ethiopia?
I don't know if we will get a placement. But it could happen at any time day or night. Children come into foster care for all types of reasons. We would be the first home in an emergency and a placement could last 1 week - 1 month, or more if we chose. Ideally the child would be united with extended family or placed in a long-term foster home (with a family willing to adopt if needed after the whole process of reunification or termination of parental rights took place.)
I am eager to see what happens.
I think there are a lot of what ifs and contingencies and possibilities involved but for now we're answering a call we feel strongly about. And for me this is an answer to years of prayer about J's attitude towards fostering. I was a foster care caseworker for the first 2.5 years of our marriage. I know what a difference a good foster home, even a temporary one, can make.
I went to visit projects that promote and enhance family or community-based care for orphans and vulnerable children.
It was an honor, really, to see the amazing work of Ethiopians caring for children.
It was an honor to create relationships that keep me connected to Addis Ababa.
I looked at the calendar tonight and I can't believe one year has gone by. I can't believe that I have been to Ethiopia twice in 2009 and that next time I'm there it will hopefully be to meet our daughter.
When I whine and complain about the dripping of time I forget sometimes to take into consideration the way that one year has flown by. That this time last year, as I packed for Ethiopia, the thought of adopting from Africa had not even crossed my mind....
If you are confused by why please refer back a few posts to drip drip drip.
Yesterday two more people announced their referrals on facebook. Seriously?
Not comparable of course. Just because you are #1 at one agency doesn't mean you will get a referral as quickly as someone who is #1 at another.
But I can no longer muster enthusiasm for others. It's over. My enthusiasm is lost in a wallow of self pity. For myself. Yes, I know that is the definition.
I just don't think we are getting a referral. I am feeling very very pessimistic about it happening. I am also very curious about these rumors that Ethiopia is going to begin requiring two trips to adopt. Is that true? Where do these rumors begin?
ALSO, here is a little whine to go with the cheese.
WHY do those of us with our agency have to deal with a 4-5+ month wait after referral? I thought that was "normal" until I was chatting with our local homestudy social worker today. She was shocked! She informed me that every other family they are working with adopting through Ethiopia get to travel between 6-12 weeks after referral. I don't get it. Is there something I'm missing?
On the up side, I am going back to Africa for work in late spring. I previously had avoided that discussion with my employer because I kept assuming we'd have baby here by then. But when we were working on the 6 month work plan last week I realized that it is unlikely I'll physically be in baby's presence in that time frame. Can you believe it? SERIOUSLY?
So I scheduled myself on a work trip to Africa for May. At least it will keep my mind occupied. I'll be in southern Africa - not Ethiopia - in case anyone is wondering.
Well, that is Friday's wine and cheese. :(
No call. No call coming. Here is the weekend.
Jeremy is picking up ta.co be.ll.
Can you believe I have become so paranoid about crazy marketing software that I now have to use periods in my "bell" obsession?
Maybe a little meat free soft taco will cheer me...unlikely but I am willing to give it a try.
A letter from Satan
Dear P.at R.obertson,
I know that you know that all press is good press, so I appreciate the shout-out.
And you make God look like a big mean bully who kicks people when they are down, so I'm all over that action.
But when you say that Haiti has made a pact with me, it is totally humiliating. I may be evil incarnate, but I'm no welcher. The way you put it, making a deal with me leaves folks desperate and impoverished.
Sure, in the afterlife, but when I strike bargains with people, they first get something here on earth -- glamour, beauty, talent, wealth, fame, glory, a golden fiddle.
Those Haitians have nothing, and I mean nothing. And that was before the earthquake. Haven't you seen "Crossroads"? Or "Damn Yankees"? If I had a thing going with Haiti, there'd be lots of banks, skyscrapers, SUVs, exclusive night clubs, Botox -- that kind of thing.
An 80 percent poverty rate is so not my style. Nothing against it -- I'm just saying: Not how I roll. You're doing great work, Pat, and I don't want to clip your wings -- just, come on, you're making me look bad. And not the good kind of bad. Keep blaming God. That's working. But leave me out of it, please. Or we may need to renegotiate your own contract.
I saw this on another blog and thought this was funny.
So close to us, our neighbors really.
The poorest country in the Western hemisphere.
Why? Seriously, WHY has this happened to them?
It brings me flashes of Thailand and the tsunami. When I worked there, almost two years after the fact, still people were scared. Still there were homes covered in vines, rotting homes and boats, traumatized children and elderly people who would never look at the water in the same way again.
For all of these years studying and working in development I've been able to distance myself. My mind goes immediately to emergency shelter configurations, sanitation issues, how to track separated children and begin reunification. Practical. Because the world needs practical and emergencies require cool thinking and planning ahead.
But there is nothing I can do in development terms in Haiti right now.
So I watch CNN and read blogs and begin to realize that I KNOW a lot of the people on the ground responding. I also KNOW adoptive families here waiting and watching and praying.
Ugh. Haiti hits too close to home for too many reasons.
First of course it makes me panic with a mother's heart that something could happen in Ethiopia. Anytime. You never have a child until she/he is in your arms on the way home. So I feel for the families who want their children brought to the U.S. NOW. I so feel for them. In a way that I never would have imagined had I not been adopting too. I think that if a disaster came between me and my child in Ethiopia I would walk across glass, climb mountains, and illegally cross borders to get to her. I'm scared by the depth of anxiety and protectiveness this has brought out in me. For a child I don't know with my eyes but know already with my heart.
Second I worry about the proliferation of the use of the word orphan to describe children who have been separated (not always orphaned) from their biological family and what that tends to mean. Orphanages. The never ending push and pull between orphanages and disaster. Unfortunately in crisis and natural disaster families get separated. Kids end up in institutions. Resources and interest dwindles as the disaster gets less attention. Permanency plans are never made. Families don't always get reunited. We've seen it happen time and time again in Africa and I'm sure we'll see it happen in Haiti too. Because the call to care for the orphan is strong. And Biblical. And completely understandable. But our ability to see it through back to permanency and family for every child is feable, under resourced, not talked about enough.
So Haiti is ripping me apart personally and professionally. I just can't stop watching.
Should we change our request to two?
TWO? Are we insane?
But two...hmmm...then baby would have a sibling that looked like her.
WHAT? Life as we know it would immediately be over. OVER.
But two...hmmm....then we'd never ever have to do this horrible wait ever again.
(J) WHAT? I don't ever plan on doing this ever again!
(A) WHAT? Don't you want baby to have someone she can relate to? I definitely see us having this horrible wait again. Unless we adopt two now...
(J) What if we had two adopted children and one biological child? Then would you need to have another biological child so things were "even."
(A) Um....do you want me to be honest?
(J) No. No! I don't want you to be honest because you are insane!
Waiting can make a person lightly insane I'll admit. But I don't think these questions are one of insanity. I often think about baby and how life would be easier for her with an Ethiopian sibling.
Today we are sane again. We are adopting one. And in my opinion this means short term ease but long-term we'll be waiting again someday. Just my opinion. Glad J doesn't read this blog!
I am pretty sure I left you all hanging since I never did report back on the big doctor's visit. Have you felt like that was a real cliffhanger?
It was surprisingly fun. As fun as those things can be. Got the ultrasound and had those weird little vibrating shocks (like tiny pulses) in the ovary area for the rest of the day. Is that normal? Nothing extreme just zippy.
And the good news was that things weren't looking weird. No polyps or fibroids or chains of cysts dancing Greek wedding dances around in there. Little well behaving follicles just hanging around in early cycle mode.
Saw a new doctor. Like her. Operating word here being HER. I just don't get the male ob/gyn thing. I have tried now. Twice. Ew. I really question what kind of man chooses that specialty. yick. I can never look a male ob/gyn in the eye.
I told her that evil man doctor who called on my birthday week and told us not to come back and to go to a specialist had hurt my feelings and I didn't like him. She was properly sympathetic and kind and willing to let me set forth my new treatment plan which will involve her treating my side of the infertility issues while coding my insurance forms as amenhorea (sp?) or whatever words she wants to use to denote anything other than fertility treatment since that could not possibly be covered.
No. I mean of course not. It is totally ELECTIVE to have children. Our society depends on each person basically being able to produce a human replacement in order to continue moving forward (ok, a little extreme but you get my point) but God forbid we need a bit of help doing so and suddenly it's like we are asking the insurance company to give us a brazilian butt tuck or something.
Anyway, she and I were all "FSH levels" this and "hysteroscopy" that and it was really nice to finally be speaking the right language. Why do they lock you out of this club for so long with stupid platitudes about trying for a year first. Yeah, meanwhile I am trying myself right into advanced maternal age! Honestly if we had gotten to the bottom of all of this before we even started "trying" I would have never gone to the crazy edge of crazyville with all of my ugly crying and confusion.
Our current plan for anyone still interested in this side of the discussion is that we have a consultation with a nice fertility center located off the shores of the United States where prices are much more reasonable and a good friend has had great success. And the beach is involved. And I like the beach. Going to talk to them by phone (actually the consulting fertility specialist (RE) is named Juliet Skinner. AND the clinic is located on an island. LOST anyone?)
So "Juliet" will tell us what she recommends. For free she will tell us this! The local RE here wants to charge us $250 to tell us what she recommends. I really think good things come from those who go to islands for their answers.
Then we will follow instructions on this end of things. And THEN hopefully we will get baby from Ethiopia. And THEN at some point we will hopefully be able to afford to visit Juliet in person.
I realize it is a lot. In one year. It is ambitious. And I don't know that it will happen so don't hold me to it. But it gives me something to do with myself as I wait for our referral. A goal - to understand my fertility options inside and out and have a plan mapped out for later if it is needed.
I guess I want to end this post like this. No matter when and where and how I talk about fertility it is not more important to me than our adoption. I dreamt of my small Ethiopian for a long time. (Well, sometimes she was small and Asian before we chose a country... and sometimes she was a he...but that is besides the point.)
We want to adopt. We can't wait to adopt. We are honored to adopt.
AND we want to experience conception. And delivery. And a teeny weeny newborn who carries a crazy bag of our potentially bizarre gene combinations.
I don't think it is wrong and I don't feel concerned about talking about fertility on an adoption blog. So you'll continue to get some ovary talk here along with the "where the H is our referral???" discussion.
It is what it is. All I know is that since I started blogging about it all and reading books and taking charge of our options and refusing to consider 33 or 34 as "old" and started getting proactive about trying to raise some money I have felt a million times better.
I have not had an ugly cry since the event-which-shall-remain-nameless. And that was almost 3 weeks ago!
- Me. Us. She.
- J and I have been married for almost 15 years. We have shared many adventures and a lot of watershed moments. In 2009 I began blogging and in 2010 we adopted our daughter from Ethiopia. In March of 2012 we began the process to adopt a little boy from Haiti. This blog follows the many twists and turns on the road to our two children and beyond.
- ▼ 2010 (106)