Following the fashion of many great novelists before us, the chapters of our adoption story are not flowing in chronological order. This is quite fitting, however, because the journey we are sharing with you didn’t unfold as one, long procession—not remotely. Many adoptions follow a pattern of paperwork, paperwork, paperwork, then waiting, waiting, waiting, and then, finally, the family gets to meet their new child. One way in which our adoption was very different (and wonderful!) was the very unique opportunity we had to spend time with Jonathan and Miguel long before the adoption was final. Chapter VI illuminated part of our “paperwork and waiting” phase, leading us up to November 2012. Now we’ll step back quite a few months to our first encounters with our soon-to-be children. Chapter V details that at our first meeting with the social worker, in June 2012, she encouraged us to begin spending as much time as we wanted with Jonathan. We asked if we could begin keeping him each weekend, and his mom readily agreed. She also agreed to let us keep his brother, Miguel, on these weekends.
This meeting took place on a Monday, and we were to pick the boys up Friday afternoon! We were so excited, we were so happy, and we were so desperately unprepared! We had no idea how to take care of a 13 month old, and we had no clue what to expect from the quiet 6 year old we had only interacted with for several hours! So, the frantic scramble began! We had four days to get ready; we most assuredly needed help! There wasn’t time for our families to send supplies in the mail for this first weekend, so we turned to the amazing families at Ross University School of Medicine. They came through with flying colors! We were so very blessed, and we are still so grateful to each one of them for helping Nic and I through our very first weekend with children.
- Kent & Naomi gave us a heavy-duty stroller their kids no longer needed, as well as toys. This stroller held up for 11 months over broken sidewalks, dirt roads, and potholes.
- Erica sold us a pack-n-play and booster seat for the amazingly low price of $40 EC, which is $15 US—and rather exceptional deal.
- Delon & Brianna and Doug & Bree gave us more toys.
- Whitney and Rob, owners of The Tomato, told us to stop by for a free meal. The Tomato is a major treat when in Dominica! It’s got a menu full of American foods that one can really start to miss when out of the country—so we were pretty excited.
- Then, we were given an immense blessing in the area of diapers. As we began preparing for the weekend, we discovered that diapers in Dominica were outrageously expensive. With all the adoption costs, we were pretty bummed that we’d have to pay so much for a product we could get far cheaper at home. Then, on Wednesday afternoon, Nic received a call from Amy, an amazing mom of 5 kids whose husband also attends Ross. For several months she had been praying that God would bring her someone who would truly benefit from her supply of cloth diapers. When I say supply, I am referring to the hundreds of dollars worth of cloth diapers she had accumulated with her 5 children. God had encouraged her to give these away, free of charge, and we have been overwhelming blessed by her generosity. The diapers were in great shape, and we are using them to this day! Some of you may be totally unaware of how amazing cloth diapers have become over the years. I am now a huge fan of these economical and eco-friendly wonders! If they pique your interest, check out this site.
With all of the “equipment” needed for Jonathan and Miguel in place, it was then time to consider other pertinent details: What on earth should we feed these kids? How often should we feed them? Though we had seen Jonathan eat a small amount of solid food, he was primarily breast fed at the time. We weren’t sure if he would eat for us at all, so our primary goal for Jonathan was to not starve the poor dear. We prepared with formula and fortified baby cereal, knowing that if he would eat one of these he’d be getting a decent helping of calories and nutrients. As for Miguel, we knew we couldn’t prepare food the way he was accustomed to, so we stocked up on some typically-kid-friendly food—hoping he would like something. And it didn’t stop there–we had endless questions! When should we put them to bed? How many naps does a 13 month-old need? How long should he nap? How long should we keep them at the beach? How much water should they drink in the island heat? Any experienced parents are probably rolling their eyes at us right now—but seriously, we were clueless!
Next we considered behavior. How would these boys react to staying with perfect strangers all weekend? How would they react to a relatively foreign environment? Would Jonathan cry endlessly once separated from his mom? Would he cry all night? Would he sleep? What about Miguel–would he be scared? Would he speak to us? Would he be rude or belligerent? Having watched Shawshank Redemption one too many times, Nic was worried that he’d end up being shanked in the kidney. Fortunately, I was able to talk him down from this fear.
It was such an odd weekend to walk into, because we truly had no idea what to expect and no child-rearing expertise to back us up. To best prepare for whatever this first visit brought our way, we mentally braced ourselves for the worse. Basically, we didn’t want to imagine that we had a fairy tale weekend ahead of us—we had to throw some reality in there. I pictured Jonathan fussy and crying the whole time. I couldn’t imagine he’d react differently to his first extended separation from his mom—with perfect strangers. Then we got ready for some trying behaviors from Miguel. At that point, we were prepared to face this new adventure without preconceived notions. Now, we mustn’t take credit for this idea–we were taught this lesson by an amazing woman we met while working in China, Jody. Her theory was, “Low expectations, high happiness. High expectations, low happiness.” Incidentally, we heard a man share this exact sentiment in a TED talk, obviously confirming that Jody and her idea are pure genius.
As we faced this weekend of the unknown, not only were we given all of the material help listed above, we also had 2 more incredible blessings. First, we didn’t have to face this weekend alone—we had full-time reinforcement! Our dear friend, Whitney, spent several months with us that summer. She was with us for this first visit, and many after. No matter how crazy the weekend might end up, we figured the three of us HAD to be able to handle two kids. Knowing that we had an extra set of hands on board was very reassuring. Blessing number two—I had the weekend off. In my ten months of med school so far we had not yet had a single weekend off. For those of you not familiar with he insanity of med school, weekends are not for resting. Weekends are for long hours of uninterrupted study. You need those two days of study to catch up with all the material covered during the week. But, in God’s perfect timing, this was my very first free weekend. Our tests were usually on Mondays, but on this one, magical, highly-anticipated weekend in semester 3, we had a test on Friday. It was truly an amazing gift that I could put all of my attention and time into our first days together—the very first days of The Fantastic 4.
As I began writing this blog, I was overwhelmed to see how thoroughly and incredibly God prepared us for that weekend. I was overcome at other’s generosity. I was powerfully reminded to be thankful. Additionally, I was reminded of how unbelievably well God takes care of us. Our adoption was full of unexpected delays, expenses, and frustrations, but there was no end to the encouraging reinforcements we received. Recently we have been presented with a need–a need that we would whole-heartedly like to meet. However, it appears to be an impossibility in more ways than one. In the face of this current challenge, looking back at how God has taken care of us in the past is helping us be more open to this seemingly impossible situation. In fact, one of our hopes in blogging about our lives is that you wonderful readers out there can be encouraged and filled with hope in regards to the seemingly impossible situations in your lives!
Friday afternoon finally arrived. Nic, Whitney, and I hopped in the van to go pick up the kids. However, I’m sure you’ll agree that this post is getting long.
…to be continued…