Today an all day meeting was held between adoption agency reps and the Ethiopian adoption court judges.
Outcome is that the deadline for 2 trip travel has been pushed back to May 9th. Anyone with a file into the court before May 9th will not have to make 2 trips.
Just FYI for those of you still waiting for referrals.
In other news, I have been invited to join in a little get together about an hour from my house on Friday. I will finally meet two adoption blogger friends face to face!
I know I've said it before, but I'll say it again. I cannot imagine my life without the internet and the huge community of fabulous women it has brought to me. From the outside looking in I will completely admit that I assumed all adoptive families to be the same. I won't go into the details of what I assumed that meant, suffice it to say that it was a very ousider perspective.
I was, for the most part, very wrong. My preconceptions and my way of thinking are so challenged and enriched by you women who write the truth about your life, about adoption, about parenting a child of another race. I benefit from those of you who share about your marriage, your struggles with infertility and depression, your questions to God or about God, and the choices you've made for good or for bad. I have learned things about myself and prepared for Baby D in ways I didn't even know I needed to before I "met" you.
I can see this post is turning into a love fest for fellow bloggers.
I would be remiss not to say that I am also equally grateful for my friends and family who have not once given me cause to feel concerned for Baby D and the way she will fit with us here.
Recently a woman emailed me and she mentioned that she's had really mixed reactions from friends and family about the race of her child and her special need. She cautioned me about this.
I was so taken aback and so sorry for her experience. We must just have the greatest family, friends and church community. Because you have exceeded my hopes for love and acceptance and enthusiasm in so many ways. It just fills my heart up with joy and that light pushes out all the twisty dark stuff inside that started to grow this past year.
I think, in my 33rd year of life, I have had the revelation that the greatest gift one can receive is pure, unadulterated happiness on your behalf. We are swimming in it. We are wrapped up in it. And it is the best gift, better than anything I could have imagined.
Thank you. All of you.
One month ago right this minute I was on the phone with Cindy poring over every detail of the referral paperwork.
It was just one tiny moment in life. That moment between "before" - when I was still agonizing and torturing myself through every minute and day of waiting and the moment I realized we were at "after." The peaceful sweet of knowing that the worst of the wait is over and life is about to be changed completely and irreversibly.
Four weeks of living in the after and I am really content. Anticipation has moved from painful to sweet. J and I are committed to fully enjoying our last days as just two. Just us. We're also coming to the end of our 10th year of marriage. On June 13th we will have been married 11 years. I like the idea of Baby D coming home in June. A neatly tied up 11 years of marriage as two.
Everything feels so...right. I didn't expect this. I didn't know that the sky would look bluer and songs would feel more true. That I would find flowers blooming to feel like small miracles or that scrubbing toilets to raise money for our travel would be easy. Pleasurable.
We have received several new photos every week. The photos show an absolutely sparkly baby girl who lives with laughter in the corners of her eyes and mouth. She has many different faces that we are getting to learn through pictures.
There is the scared baby owl of the early days (bottom lip sucked in and heart shaped upper lip looking like a tiny beak. Head tucked down.) There is the "I love the world and everything in it" face where her eyes snap and sparkle and she gazes into the distance with great anticipation.
There is her "head cocked to the side Baby Gap model smile designed to charm the pants off of anyone looking" face. And lately she has added the signature, "I can lay on my back and hold my bottle while raising BOTH legs up over my head" move. She has also added a "who the heck are you and why did you put me on tummy time without any toys in easy grasp?" disgruntled look.
And last but not least this week we received sleeping angel face and waking up from naptime with happy grin and reaching arms photos. Sometimes I actually have to remind myself that she is not looking at me in these photos.
Court group D was assigned..................April 8th!
We are next, court group E. Hopefully we will hear in the next week or two.
Thanks for humoring both my baby D adoration and my new court date obsession.
Wouldn't it have been so much more alliteral (my adjective creation out of the word alliteration) if she had been submitted in group D on the 4th??
When we were referred Baby D on the 1st of March we heard there was a group being submitted to court that week. I would have to go back and read the emails but I thought that we were told she would go with that group. I didn't hear otherwise so I've just assumed we would be in that group and hear our court date late this week or sometime next week.
Nope. We were just submitted yesterday. So now we begin the two week wait. (That's optimistic me talking. It could be a 3-4 week wait to hear a court date.)
For those of you not in the adoption obsession and therefore blissfully unaware of how the next steps work, here you have it:
1) Referral (check! March 1, 2010)
2) Baby's case submitted to court (check! March 15, 2010)
3) Baby is assigned court date (waiting to hear court date - usual wait is 2 weeks after submission)
4) Court is held in Ethiopia (on average 6 weeks following submission to court-April 26th?)
5) Baby's case either passes or fails
6) If case fails we get assigned another court date a few weeks later and they try again (on average 60% pass first try and 40% take more than one try)
Note - we are not worried that Baby D won't pass court at some point. We just know that anything can cause her to fail on the first try. Holiday in Ethiopia. Missing letter from Ministry of Women's Affairs. Sick lawyer. Endless possibilities.
7) If case passes we wait for court documents to be produced (court decree, birth certificate, etc)
8) Case is submitted, with court documents, to US State Department in Addis Ababa
9) Case is investigated by State Department (special new step as of last month)
10) State Department hopefully decides that Baby D is not being trafficked and is legally ours (which she is in Ethiopia as soon as she passes court)
11) US embassy in Addis Ababa issues embassy visa appointment (impossible to know when this will be - average is 6-10 weeks after passing court...so if all goes very very smoothly, June?)
12) We travel to pick up Baby D and attend her visa appointment at the US embassy in Addis Ababa (we are interviewed and issued visa)
13) We come home!
Some families slide right through this process in about 12-16 weeks. Other families get snagged at every step and it takes them 6 months. We have no way of knowing how it will work out for us until we make our first attempt at court. If we pass on the first try I think we can continue working on a more optimistic end of the timeline. So please pray that we will be assigned a court date soon and that every piece will fall into place on that date.
I would love it if you would leave your referral-homecoming timeline in the comments. It would satisfy a lot of over-anxious curiosity! Thanks!!
But so many friends and family have been asking the whys of the recent changes to Ethiopian adoption regulations that I wanted to say a few words.
We still don't know if we will have to travel to be present at Baby D's court hearing and return later for her pick up and embassy appointment. But what we do know is that some families will amost definitely have to make these two trips.
The question is when the cut off date will be. The first news out of Ethiopia on speculative blogs was that this regulation was effective March 1st and would effect families with court dates beginning this month. Last night some agencies and blogs were reporting that the effective date has been moved to May 1st.
Our agency still has not said anything definitive. I think they are wisely holding off until all details are secured and the Ethiopian law has officially been changed.
Whether we are talking about March or May there is little difference for us. We don't expect to be in court until end of April at the earliest so there is high likelihood we'll be traveling twice. If the effective date is changed again then I will let you all know.
Now for the whys.
I can only share what I have read to be the reasons. (But I might speculate a tiny bit as well.)
There have been instances of families arriving for their embassy date to bring their child/ren home, who for one reason or another end up choosing not to bring their child/ren back to the United States. The new regulations would require that families come to Ethiopia, meet the child, formally agree to the referral in court, and then return to pick them up when a visa is issued. No surprises. No abandonments.
If reason 1 sounded like I was putting all of the blame on adoptive parents please read further here!
One of the reasons that there are instances of adoptive parents leaving their child/ren in Ethiopia is because certain agencies have not been detailed? honest? thorough? in their medical examinations or background investigations. Corruption corrupts thoroughly. And it effects everyone.
Non-specific example a) Family arrives to pick up sisters they have been told are ages 6 and 9. They are malnourished in photos and appear small so the family does not question. Upon arrival children are seen demonstrating behavior and developmental skills that appear to place their ages much higher. On questioning of the children, children state that they are ages 10 and 13. The family is not prepared for this age discrepancy and it becomes apparent that the agency either knew or suspected and did not alert the family prior to their passing court.
Non-specific example b) Family arrives to pick up brothers they are told are completely developmentally on target, well behaved, no problems, reading/writing, speaking, etc. Family meets the children and find that one has severe learning disabilities and the other is exhibiting extreme behavior issues like smearing feces, hurting other children, etc. The agency would have known about these issues but chose not to share the information.
I want to stress that these above examples are NOT real life examples. But they are the type of situations some families have found themselves in with unscrupulous agencies in Ethiopia.
Many families have brought their children home despite the surprises. Some families have chosen not to. A simple visit to accept a referral in person and attend court could ensure that families have met and agreed to their child before making a legal and binding committment.
Reason 3 which is pure and complete speculation:
Traveling families bring a lot of revenue to a country. Right now only one parent is required to travel once - for the embassy date. They are not allowed to travel around the country with their child/ren and must stay in guest houses with them. A new law requiring both parents to appear in court certainly would bring revenue to the country as families travel, sightsee, stay in expensive hotels, etc. They cannot take custody during that first trip so they will be much more likely to eat out, visit other parts of Ethiopia, shop in the markets, etc.
So there you have it. The general reasons for the change in adoption regulations along with a speculative reason.
Many other countries require two trips or a very long stay in country between court and embassy appointment. It is not unusual and it will certainly help to bridge the gap between adoptive parents - the agency - the child.
I want to add one other thing. Some bloggers are publicly blaming this change on families who share their experiences of feeling deceived publicly-on blogs, in articles, or on newscasts. I hope none of you will engage in this. What if that were US? At any point any one of us could find ourselves in a difficult situation. Adoption is not all rainbows and unicorns. Being realistic, sharing challenges, and calling out corruption where we see it are part of our duties as a community. A duty we have to our adopted child/ren and to those who have yet to be adopted. And while I do not agree with leaving your child in country or with bringing them on the news, I think we need to try to avoid putting blame on any one party.
Adoption is all sorts of corrupt. If you don't know that yet then you just haven't been in the adoption process long enough. You'll get there. We do our best and try to choose agencies based on the least amount of complaints and concerns. We struggle through and pray and plead with God a lot. In the end we have to support any measures that Ethiopia wants to take to protect their children and try to hold the triad of bio familes-agencies-adoptive families accountable.
30 minutes before take off yesterday I checked my email on the phone.
An in progress update from the agency in my inbox.
First, they announced that all adoptions from Oromia regions of Ethiopia are indefinitely suspended. Effective immediately. For all agencies. As in, if your child is from Oromia good luck getting him or her home to the States (ever.)
Well that is how I read it.
Second it was announced that Ethiopian courts have decided to require two trips for adoption. 1. Both parents are being requested to appear for the court hearing. 2. A parent must travel to pick the child up and attend the embassy/visa appointment. Effective immediately.
What do you do with information like that when boarding a 4 hour flight?!
Baby D is Oromo!
Baby D is in Ethiopia!
We have not passed court yet! We don't even have a court date yet.
Many many urgent emails later I had to turn off the phone, buckle up, and attempt something close to calm. I prayed and prayed and prayed all the way home. All for number one. I made a deal with God - give me D without indefinite delays and I will fly to Ethiopia as many times as is necessary without complaint.
So I just want you all to know - I AM NOT COMPLAINING!
The agency sent an email that I read as the plane was touching down. (I figured my innocent little cell phone couldn't possible cause signal problems so severe that we'd crash off of the runway.)
Baby D is safe. She has the right paperwork. She's been submitted to court. Children affected are those from Oromia region without their local court paperwork. Now I wonder if they will ever get that paperwork?
We got so so so lucky? blessed? gifted? We squeaked by barely.
So no complaints. Just a few financial concerns as you can imagine...An additional trip will add at least $4,000 to the overall cost. Sigh. We will never own a home or take another vacation I guess. But seriously no complaints. I would go 100 times over to visit Baby D if that is what is needed to get her through court.
We are still waiting for confirmation from our agency. It's always possible we'll be allowed just one trip since our case was submitted already.
I'll be driving somewhere (I'm at a conference so have been really busy driving around) and this bizarre heart pain (not actually physical but still in the heart area) will start.
It builds up. I ignore it for awhile but I know what is coming. It grows and moves up my chest into my neck and eyes and head until it takes over and I MUST STOP whatever I am doing and LOOK IMMEDIATELY at all of her photos.
I actually pulled the car over tonight because I couldn't wait until I got to my friend's house. I must gaze at her shiny dark eyes and pretend she is looking at me. I must notice again her perfect heart lips. I must examine every curl of hair and touch her fingers and toes.
I fill myself up with it (sometimes I can do it in 2 seconds but other times, if I haven't looked for a few hours, it takes at least 10 minutes.) I am gorging myself on baby D. I am addicted and gorging. I have a disorder! I don't know what I would do without her photos.
I worry for the sanity of other adoptive parents who don't get photos. What do they do? How do they survive? Do they have this addiction but can't feed it? Awful! It is so good to look at her that it is physically painful.
J has her photos on his phone and sometimes I see him looking too. Although he is a little too manly to admit to actual baby photo gluttony. I never imagined it would feel this good. Never imagined it would be like this. Never imagined I would be so lucky to have found this little person with sparkling eyes. She of the perfect smile. I had lost all faith completely. I am like a new person, reborn completely.
I have not read any of your blogs. I have barely read status updates on f.acebook.
If something super important is going on I need you to email or call me please!!
I have not asked about how you are doing or commented on your posts.
I will be better. I will be back. I am still interested, I promise!
Please give me leeway for last week's excitement and this week's work-related travel.
More emails, phone conversations, blog comments, and being a good friend to come in upcoming weeks!
has an upper lip shaped exactly like a heart
looks like she watches closely and and forgives easily
has almond shaped dark brown eyes
has brown curly hair - not a lot, just a little
can wave goodbye
has perfect ears that point just a little at the top
looks like an owlet when she's serious
She has feet that will fit this tiny shoe:
From la la land,
I was sleeping off an emotionally draining visit to my grandparent's assisted living home in California. And after weeks and months of spending the first few hours of every morning willing my phone to ring and hitting refresh on my email, I just felt like giving up and sleeping in.
For two weeks I lived in anticipation. Painful, tense, anticipation waiting for that call.
First delay involved some kind of problem with reading baby's labs. So they had to be redrawn. Then an Ethiopian holiday prevented the agency from getting the second set of labs. After 2 full weeks of this I confess I lost some hope.
Last Friday, in California, my cell rang at 7:30am. Unfamiliar number. I SHOT out of bed with my heart pounding. Cleared the sleep from my throat, grabbed my mom's arm and mouthed "this is it!" and answered very sweetly "helllooo?." And on the other end was a stranger (ok, I met him once at a conference) who had my cell number from my email signature (may be time to remove that) and was calling to ask a semi-work related question. From Costa Rica. Poor man didn't know what time zone I was in or that I was waiting for the referral. (Although shouldn't the entire world know we are waiting for a referral by now??) But I am sure I was rude. I cringe to think how quickly I got off the phone with him. And then I lay in bed cradling the phone and willing it to ring for another hour. It didn't. Irritable does not adequately describe my mood that day.
Fast forward to Monday. Sleeping off the trip. No alarm set. Cell phone woke me up. It was The Call. And I was half asleep! And confused. And running and stumbling to get to the office so I could write things down. I remember our coordinator asking if she should call back! All I kept thinking was "send me the information by email because I don't want to do this on the phone." It was too anticlimatic. I just didn't have the sobbing/wailing/shaking referral feeling I have read about on the blogs!!
And I felt so so guilty about that.
J was at work. So I sat in my office with the shades closed and opened the attachments by myself. Very C.I.A. Three attachments: 1 photo, 1 medical report, 1 coverletter.
I wanted my heart to leap... but it didn't. I looked at each piece and then called my dear adoption friend Cindy to talk about the referral for TWO hours to kill the time since I had a full day before J would come home. And he made me swear not to call my mom. (Downright torture.)
On Monday night we called J's uncle who is a doctor. And he flagged some concerns over baby D's bloodwork. We googled and we panicked. I went to bed on Monday night almost in tears. It just seemed like one thing was extremely "off" and we weren't sure what that would mean.
This was our Monday night conversation right before bed:
me: "This is more painful than I imagined it. The referral isn't supposed to be painful - seriously, I swear! I read the blogs. It's supposed to = champagne toasts and cake eating."
J: "Let's just wait for the CHIP clinic's thoughts before we get overly excited." (He forgot who I was for a second when he suggested not getting overly excited.)
me: "Sad. I am so sad. This isn't how it should be. I am worried about this baby. What if we bring her home and she DIES? OR what if she dies before we get to Ethiopia?"
J: "This is what it's going to be like. Worrying about her health. Worrying about her personality. Worrying about her future. Welcome to parenthood reality."
me: "Not like. Want to buy cute baby clothes and celebrate. Want to eat chocolate cake."
Ok, I didn't actually say that last line. But I thought it. Why can't reality just get it's nasty little claws off of me?
I spent Tuesday sending off baby D's labs to pediatricians and nurse friends. I spent many hours on the phone with all of you. I engaged all over the message boards and yahoo forums. I did everything I could think of. Including sending a pitiful email to a woman I knew to be in Ethiopia volunteering asking if BY ANY CHANCE she knew baby D...
And in the end, medical consensus was that she probably has an infection or at least had one recently. But we won't really know. I continued to look at her and continued to feel flat and scared. In her photo she looked hollow and lonely and very very thin. My heart stayed quiet. I remained guilty feeling.
Then two things happened that I would consider divine intervention. (AND YOU KNOW I am not all about divine intervention this and that on this blog.)
First, Michelle called and told me this: fear is not from God. She and many others shared their referral stories and I began to realize that every referral story is different. Many people take huge risks. Normal people are scared. There is no perfect baby and there is no one way to celebrate or appreciate that moment. Not every heart opens at the same time in the same way.
Second, I went to bed telling God that we would not make the decision with our eyes but that we needed a sign for our hearts. We needed our hearts to leap.
Prepare yourselves now....
When we woke up on Wednesday my inbox held two emails. From Morgan (the woman I wrote to) in Ethiopia. I think that Morgan's story is special enough for a different post. But briefly I will say that by incredible serendipity and divine intervention Morgan knew baby D very very well. And loved her. And Morgan also knew me. Even though I had thought she was a stranger.
Morgan wrote the words we were waiting to hear. Words that are so precious I will save them for that other post.
We were excited, and obviously we had received our sign. But as the weak humans we are we still were hoping for one more medical evaluation. It never came. On Wednesday night we stood in the kitchen doorway and had this conversation.
me: "So...fear is not from God I've heard." (Yeah, I'm all theologically deep you know.)
J: "That is very deep." (mmmhmmm.)
me: "Should we keep waiting?"
J: "What do we think the other evaluation would tell us? It's just opinions. So far no one has a final answer. We may just have to take a risk."
me: "We are sort of risk adverse. We like calculated risks."
J: "I am leaning towards yes. I like what Morgan said."
me: "Me too...You ARE? Ok, I think I am too." (Heart beginning to emerge and tap dance a little...)
J: "Ok, let's do this thing!"
me: "Ok! Ok! I will send the email. Oh. my. goodness." (Insert sort of leaping flying hug ala 1980s Dirty Dancing lift practice in the field only picture it more like I run and just plaster myself onto him and don't actually get lifted very high. Very awkward maneuver in small kitchen with man who has never seen Patrick's Swayze's signature move.)
I sent the email accepting D's referral.
Immediately after hitting send 5 messages popped up back to back. Photos of baby D, sent by Morgan, who (more miraculous than anything else) had found a way to upload on the slowest internect connection in the world. (No offense Ethiopia.)
And My. Heart. Leapt. !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I asked for a sign. And I got it - the first email from Morgan. I asked for my heart to leap, but God asked us to take a leap of faith FIRST. When we obeyed My Heart Leapt. He filled us up with love for her after we accepted.
Now...don't you want to know what she looks like??? I wish I could post photos but I can't until we pass court. Ethiopian rules not mine.
But don't worry! I can describe her perfectly. In my next post. :)
I saw your face for the first time on March 1st, 2010 at 10:21am.
All these months I was so scared - would I know you? Would I recognize you?
I was looking for you with the wrong eyes. Now the eyes of my eyes are opened and I have seen you with my heart. That is where we fit.
You were born not too far from Addis Ababa one day before the rains fell last year. You were there in your first family's arms while I was here walking around the lake telling your daddy all about Ethiopia. You opened your eyes and looked at the world on a day when I was gathering that huge stack of papers from the adoption agency. You smiled your first smile as we showed the social worker your waiting baby room.
How you made your way to us is a question we may spend our lives trying to answer.
How we made our way to you is a story I will freely give you forever.
This blog is for you little bird. It has always been for you, I just didn't know it. I didn't know so many things.
I will not be perfect. You will not be perfect. Daddy will be close, but still not perfect.
But I promise that we will always see you with more than our eyes.
- 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.
- Two Court Trips Extended to May 9th
- It was already one month ago...
- Today was a special day
- Court Finale
- She wears her heart on her lips
- Some court discussion and a toes photo
- Because You Asked...
- Deal with God
- Photo Glutton
- Confession From the Road
- Baby Owl Transitions
- My Heart Leapt
- On The Wing Of Luu uh uuve.....!!!
- Me. Us. She. or WE SAID YES!
- ▼ March (16)