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Chapter 7A: Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep

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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 Shawshank Redemptionabout 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, Jim Jody Jacelyn Nichigh 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,Jacelyn and 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.

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…

VI: A Journey of a Thousand Journeys Begins With a Single Journey

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So far we have detailed the first steps of our adoption in Chapter’s I – V.  Little did we know that this seven month adventure turned out to be a sort of preamble.  It really only brought us to the starting line of what would be the “official” adoption journey.  Remember how terrifying it was when Frodo was chased through the dark by the petrifying ring wraiths on his way to the Prancing Pony–but that this distressing pursuit occurred before he even started his journey toward Mount Doom?

(That’s how it was for us)

We were now at the point where it was clearly established that Jonathan’s mother wanted to move forward with the adoption.  This is when our true journey began.  One by one we contacted the necessary people and agencies, and one by one they gave us tasks to complete.  Over the following months, the tasks kept coming . . . and coming . . . and coming . . . Now, get ready, folks!  I’m going to start using the word “journey” a whole, stinkin’ lot!  I’ll spare you every once in a while and use some lovely synonyms like saga, expedition, odyssey, pilgrimage, quest, and the oddest synonym I found, peregrination.  (Yes, peregrination is really a word, and yes, Peregrin Took is a character from The Lord of the Rings [he’s the lovable hobbit better known as Pippin])  As you read on you’ll find that excessive use of the word journey is very appropriate, because that is precisely what our adoption experience has been.  The journey hasn’t been along just one, straight path, either.  It’s been a journey of constant detours—again similar to what the Fellowship of the Ring faced.  As we progressed through the adoption, our journey forward would periodically be halted until we completed the quest at hand.  Then we could progress a little closer to the destination, but only until an entirely new expedition halted our progress once again.  So, pull up a chair, grab a piece of lembas bread, and join us as we recount this insane journey and remind ourselves that the incredulousness of the journey is actually what speaks most of God’s miraculous, unlimited abilities and the strength He provides in grueling pilgrimages.

Journeys:

  • We needed to find a lawyer who practiced in Dominica to oversee the legal aspect of the adoption.  God provided us with a wonderful, Christian lawyer who was supportive and encouraging through the whole saga.
  • The first thing our lawyer required was signed consent from Jonathan’s mother, Estelle.  Obtaining a signature sounds like a simple task, but even this turned into a quest.  Her signature had to be accompanied by some form of identification, and Estelle didn’t have any.  This called for an extra trip to the capital, Roseau, which is an hour drive.  Once there, we were sent back and forth between several government buildings until someone finally knew how to help her get a government-issued ID.  There was still a hold-up; Estelle was only eligible if she had employment, which she didn’t.  We called our lawyer in a panic, wondering if we had hit a brick wall already.  Thankfully, we had one more option.  Our lawyer took the time to personally visit the government office and vouch for Estelle; this won her the ability to get an ID!  One month after beginning this quest for the consenting signature, another trip was made to Roseau to pick up that ID and have Estelle sign the form.  With detour number one completed, our lawyer was able to begin taking real steps.
  • We also needed a Dominican social worker.  This person’s most important task was to complete the home study on Nic and I that would be reviewed by the judge in the Dominican court.  In the two months following our first visit, we had FOUR rather useless meetings with this social worker where nothing new was discussed and no directions were given.  Of course, these meetings were an hour away in Roseau, necessitating four expensive trips with Estelle and the three children.  Finally, one of those meetings provided some useful, albeit frustrating, information.  Turns out this social worker wouldn’t begin her Dominican home study until we could give her a home study completed by a US adoption agency.  That was going to hold up the process in Dominica significantly.  So, we didn’t see our social worker for three months and the adoption process in Dominica didn’t move an inch while we attempted to complete the colossal quest before us.
  • The first step in this side journey was to choose an adoption agency.  We have been very happy in our selection of Adopt Abroad, Inc.  And, just as God provided an excellent attorney, the social worker assigned to us by the agency was so helpful and generous with her time.  She answered our endless questions, and did everything she could to expedite our process.  The most expensive part of this journey was, oddly, the easiest.  We had to fly this social worker to Dominica to complete the home study.  This meeting ended up being scheduled during the one week I had to study for my third semester final.  There really isn’t a week more stressful for med students.  This was bad timing, but it was our best choice.  So, believe me, it is no small miracle that the hours I lost to this home study didn’t affect my performance on the final.  It’s likewise a miracle that I was able to present myself coherently during our interviews, because we med students are ridiculously exhausted and frazzled by the end of a semester.
  • Next came the process of obtaining the information that would build our dossier with the adoption agency; I believe this warrants the title of an odyssey.  It is a massive undertaking.  We’re talking references, bank statements, birth certificates, tax returns, marriage licenses (how do we keep misplacing that thing?!) autobiographies, background checks from every place we’ve lived in the past 10 years (darn our habit of moving!), a background check from none other than the Federal Bureau of Investigation, something I’ve never heard of called a social security statement, and even shot records for our Chihuahua.  Looking at that list always made my head spin.  Yet, step by step it was completed.
  • With pride and a sense of accomplishment, Nic and I turned in the last piece of required information!  We felt like someone out there should congratulate us!  Instead, the adoption agency replied with, “We’ll look at this for review and acceptance in the next two or three months”.  We sputtered in disbelief, “We’ve already been working on this for two to three months!  It can’t possibly take longer!”  She replied by informing us that the turnaround is usually 6 months. Now, here is one process that worked in our favor. Due to the fact that my fourth and final semester on the island would soon finish and we would need to move, the agency kindly reviewed our dossier in record time. This was partially due to some kind “nudging” by our amazing social worker. Three weeks later, a copy of our certified US home study was on its way to Dominica.
  • With intense excitement, we delivered a copy to our Dominican social worker.  Finally the in-country process could proceed!  Our social worker did not share our enthusiasm.  She calmly scheduled an appointment for 6 weeks later.  What?!  Another six weeks?  We first met with her in June, and she did not begin any official processing until November.  Yes folks, we’re into November now.

We were getting dangerously close to the end of my last semester in Dominica.  More important to me, we were getting dangerously close to Christmas.  For those of you who don’t know, I pretty much love the season of Christmas with all my heart.  I can’t even tell you how excited I was to have our first Christmas as the Fantastic Four at my parents’ house, surrounded by family with all the wonderful trimmings of the most blessed season of the year.  However, timing was starting to get really tight.  The Battle of Christmastime had begun.

Ah, yes.  Nic and I liken these home study journeys to the first steps of the Fellowship of the Ring.  When these nine attempted to pass the mountain Caradhras, they were stopped by Saruman.  Resourcefully, they detoured beneath the mountain through the Mines of Moria.  This path seemed to promise deliverance . . . until Pippin unwittingly alerted nearby Orcs.  A new battle began.  Then, as if the Orcs weren’t bad enough, the Balrog appeared.  I’ve seen this creature described as “an ancient demon of fire and shadow”.  Most of the group finally escaped, but they suffered a devastating casualty.  See the resemblance between our stories?

Join us next time for, “A Sentimental Journey”.  The battle of Christmastime was indeed a desperate one, but it pales in comparison to the Battle of Miguel that shall next be told.

Not up-to-date on our previous blogs?  Check them out here:

Chapter I   Chapter II   Chapter III   Chapter IV   Chapter V

Chapter V: Miguel

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Chapter I:  It took 7 months to figure out how adoption works in Dominica.  Most importantly, we learned that we needed to identify a child in need of adoption on our own.

Chapter II:  Nic walked into a coffee shop and heard the words, “I found kids for you!” Two days later we met two women in need of a home for their children.

Chapter III:  The next morning, both women said they would like us to adopt their children. We were faced with a rather impossible choice: two sisters or little Jonathan . . .

Chapter IV:  In the end, however, that decision was made for us; the father of the two sisters made it clear that they were no longer interested in pursuing an adoption.  However, the mother of that dear little boy named Jonathan was interested, and we immediately began scheduling appointments . . .

Chapter V: Miguel

The first step in the adoption proceedings was to meet with a Dominican social worker.  We had confirmed this meeting with Jonathan’s mother on a Monday, and we waited on pins and needles all week until the Friday appointment.  We had only met her one time, and we couldn’t yet be sure how interested she actually was in this adoption.  We didn’t even know if she’d show up for the meeting.  A Thursday night phone call reassured us that she was still coming, but the flutter in my stomach couldn’t relax until we actually saw her on Friday.  Nic and I had so little control over the how the next steps of the adoption would progress—it was greatly dependent upon Jonathan’s mom . . . But, to our great joy and relief, Friday morning brought Jonathan and his mom to our house right on time!

In addition, amazingly and unexpectedly, their arrival brought us far more than relief; it brought us another little boy who was to instantly occupy our hearts.  Sitting in the van with Jonathan and his mother were two other children.  One of them was Jonathan’s three-year-old sister, whom we had met along with him last week.  The other child was six-year-old, Miguel, whom we had never even heard of.  The mother simply said he was one of her children.  Immediately our attention was piqued!  After all, we’ve always wanted to adopt siblings, and we couldn’t help but think this might be a possibility with Miguel . . . With exciting new prospects in our minds, we made the one-hour drive to Roseau (the capital city, where all our appointments were held), holding Jonathan in our arms and sitting next to Miguel.  Miguel climbed into the front seat with us to get a better view.  He had never made this trip before, and was absolutely mesmerized.  He pointed out every big truck we passed as well as every boat, by shouting in his thick, Dominican accent, “Look dee boat!”  Though we dreamed of it, this process was just in its infancy, and we truly had no idea that this moment was a snap shot of our future.

First Ever Christian

Our meeting with the social worker was very introductory, as she spent most of the visit gathering background information on the mother, whom we’ll refer to as Estelle.  We learned that she was poverty-stricken and of a slightly low IQ that made her unable to hold a job.  This rendered her completely unable to provide for the six children she has had.  She has never been married, and only one man she has been involved with has ever even claimed one of the children.  And, though Estelle has sisters on the island, no one offers her any help or support.  Her extreme poverty, coupled with her personal inability to care for so many children, had already forced Estelle to place three of her children with various families.  Her only means of livelihood is a very meager sum provided by the government, and consistent supplementation from the one man who has remained in her life.  He is the father of the three-year-old we mentioned previously, whom we’ll call Sadie.  On one occasion, we had the pleasure of meeting him.  It is because of his involvement that Estelle was not looking for a home for little Sadie.  However, this didn’t explain what was going on with the quiet, wide-eyed Miguel.  Estelle was clear that she wanted a new home for Jonathan, and she was clear that she could provide for Sadie—but she never mentioned Miguel.  When asked if Miguel was in need of a home, she quickly said no, but was unable to confirm that she was capable of caring for him, either.  The social worker seemed uninterested, but we weren’t satisfied.  If this adoption process continued, we would have to make sure that Miguel was taken care of.  And, inevitably, we continued wondering if Miguel and Jonathan were the siblings that had been in our hearts for so long.  This, dear friends, begins what we will refer to as “The Saga of Miguel”.  Here he is in his old school uniform.  Isn’t he just adorable?

IMG_0301

One other interesting point came from this meeting; to our surprise, we were encouraged to spend as much time as possible with Jonathan during the adoption process!  This is more than we had hoped for, and Nic and I were thrilled!  We asked Estelle if we could keep Jonathan on the upcoming weekend, and she enthusiastically agreed.  Now, like I said, from the moment we met Miguel, he truly captured our hearts . . . so it naturally follows that we had to ask if he could also join us for the weekend with Jonathan.  We didn’t know what the future had in store, but we had no doubt that we wanted to be a part of his life in the here and now.  Estelle was more than willing to have us babysit two of her kids for the weekend, so she had no problem with Miguel joining us!

Upon leaving this first meeting, our hearts were so full of possibility and excitement!  At long last we had finally taken the first step in the adoption process!  It was no longer just thinking and hoping–real strides were being made!  Then we began to consider the next step—a weekend with a 6-year-old and 13-month-old!  We were brought back down to earth momentarily as we thought about the upcoming weekend . . . One of us finally asked the pressing question, “Do we have either the knowledge OR necessary supplies to take care of the two of them for even one weekend???”

4-up on 4-28-13 at 2.09 PM (compiled)

But, then we realized, the Dynamic Davidson Duo had never felt prepared for any of their big steps–so why start now?!  Stayed tuned to hear about these weekend adventures!

And the Oscar Goes To…

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Hello, everyone!  Way back when we only had the boys on the weekends, and our good friend Whitney was visiting for a couple of months, this is how we spent our time.  Hope you like it!

 

Chapter IV: Receiving Direction

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Chapter I: 

  • We spent 7 months making inquiries and phone calls just to figure out how adoption worked in Dominica.  We finally got the right contacts and learned that we needed to identify a child in need of adoption on our own.

Chapter II:

  • Nic walked into a coffee shop and heard the words, “I found kids for you!”  Two days later we met two women in need of a home for their children.

Chapter III:

  • The next morning, both women said they would like us to adopt their children. We were faced with an impossible choice: two sisters or little Jonathan. We decided to contact the mother of the sisters first, and move forward with that adoption if she was still willing.

Chapter IV: Receiving direction

. . . A male voice answered the phone . . . and Nic’s conversation with the man went something like this:

Um, hi. I was calling for ‘Amanda’. We met on Thursday about the adoption of her two girls.”

No, man. This is their father. Forget it. We’re not giving them up for adoption.” (It turns out this is the man who was in jail just a few days prior for beating the girls’ mother. This was also the man who a few days prior had said he was 100% behind the adoption.)

Oh, okay. A few days ago you really wanted to do this.”

Nope. Not gonna happen. Move on, man.”

Um, okay. Uh, thanks for your time.”

Nic, knowing that we actually would need to “move on” and begin the adoption process with another child, called the man back. Nic had to ensure that he understood; if he and the mother changed their minds in the next couple of months, but we were already adopting someone else, we wouldn’t be able to help them at that point. However, he was met again with the same staunch finality. Their father absolutely did not want to proceed with the adoption. This man emanated such a casually confident air, that I couldn’t help but be reminded of everyone’s favorite guy from Lincoln Park.

So, that first meeting with those two little sisters was actually our last, and we haven’t heard anything about them since. This moment that brings them to mind, however, is the perfect chance to say a prayer for them. And, as of right now, that’s all we can continue to do for the two little girls that filled our hearts and minds for a short weekend.

With that brief and surprising conversation behind us, Nic and I turned our thoughts to Jonathan, the adorable boy I had held a few days ago. 99% of us said “YES! ABSOLUTELY we will adopt this little boy.” 1% of us, however, was confused; We had always planned to adopt siblings—that was our dream. Why, now, were we presented with just one child? We had always been so sure of adopting siblings, that this truly gave us pause. But, as we considered it further, we decided to trust whatever God brought into our lives. Because we have faced infertility, we have long-since known that having children is simply not under our control in any way. For us, it’s going to happen as God designs it, and we aren’t going to get to plan it at all. And, actually, I’ve come to find peace in that. There are several enormous decisions that I get to escape: when to have kids, how many kids to have, how many years in between each one. Instead, I guess I just get to sit back and see what comes about. Though that is putting it a little too simply, you get the general idea :). So, just as having a biological child isn’t under our control, we decided that the adoption didn’t have to be under our control either. Perhaps having one little boy was the perfect plan for us. Maybe we were destined to become the next Three Musketeers, Three Amigos, or even Three Tenors! What if me, Nic, and little Jonathan were the perfect fit? Full of inspiration, we decided to walk in this path God had laid before us. After all . . . 

BUT, before I let myself get carried away in dreams of forming the world’s greatest trio, we still had to call Jonathan’s mother. Maybe she had changed her mind, too. It wasn’t quite time to get our hopes up. Yet again, we had a terrifying phone call ahead of us. The second call was made just as the first–with excitement, fear, anticipation, and a bit of panic. This time, however, instead of an unfamiliar voice, Jonathan’s mother answered the phone. When Nic asked the frightening question, “Are you still needing us to adopt your son?”,  THIS was the reply. 

With insane excitement, Nic also asked if she’d be willing to come to a meeting with the social worker. This meeting would be our first step. Again, and to our great joy, TA-DA!

It was a Monday morning and we planned the meeting for the coming Friday. Maybe this was actually going to happen!!!! Maybe we were on our way to becoming the Three Musketeers! It was hard to contain the excitement and dreaming . . . 

Still, the tiny, little “realistic” voice in my head told me to slow down. “Nothing is certain yet, Jacelyn. So much still has to happen. Besides, until the final moment when a judge deems an adoption official, a child’s mother can change her mind at any time.” I’m not a huge fan of this little realistic voice (I like to call it my boring side), but I did decide to try and guard my heart–a bit. I should probably try not to fall in love with Jonathan just yet. I’d try to remain calm and cool (obviously two of my defining characteristics) and see how the process would unfold.

Was this it? Had we just met our future child, or would Jonathan’s mother change her mind before Friday? Would we even make it to our very first official adoption meeting?

To find out, you’re going to have to wait for Chapter V!

If you pray, when you pray, pray for us.

On to the next thing…

Chapter III: Let’s Get This Show On the Road

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Okay, life absolutely got away from us, and the Dynamic Davidson Duo simply couldn’t keep up with the blog, but we’re back with a vengeance!  If any of you remember, we had begun a series to recount the story of our adoption process, and we really want to continue that story (because it’s truly amazing and we want to share the amazing-ness of adoption with you).   Also, your writer has switched:  Nic’s still got too much on his plate, so little old Jacelyn will continue the saga with you!

Chapter I: 

  • We spent 7 months making inquiries and phone calls just to figure out how adoption worked in Dominica.  We finally got the right contacts and learned that we needed to identify a child in need of adoption on our own.

Chapter II:

  • Nic walked into a coffee shop and heard the words, “I found kids for you!”  Two days later we met two women in need of a home for their children.

Chapter III begins the next morning:

In a matter of 3 hours, the 2 mothers that we had met only the evening prior called and confirmed that they would like to move forward with the adoption.  One was the mother of two girls, ages 4 and 6.  The other woman needed us to adopt her 13-month-old little boy, named Jonathan.  Naturally, we were ecstatic!  Finally, after 7 months of searching (not to mention 11 years of waiting for the right time) we had at last found children that were in need of a home.  I had that intense excited feeling in my stomach and it was a little hard to catch my breath.  In all our years of talking about it, we had never come this close to the reality of adoption.  But . . . the very next moment we realized, “Wait a minute, TWO opportunities just opened up simultaneously.  Do we actually have to choose between these children?!”  When this reality hit us, we looked at each other with wide eyes and a look that can really only be described as “I have absolutely no idea what to do”.  It’s something like this.  We received these phone calls on a Friday, and told both mothers that we would contact them on Monday.

All weekend our heads were swimming with both wild excitement and bewildered uncertainty.  As mentioned in Chapter II, we’ve long wanted to adopt older siblings.  The sisters seemed to be the natural choice and our preference definitely leaned in that direction.  Still, we knew that diving into the parenting of 2 older children would be extremely difficult, and we feared we weren’t up to the challenge.  Faced with such an intense decision, we knew it was time to call in the experts.  We needed first-hand advice.  So, we contacted 3 families that have adopted older children.  Naturally, we asked them about their adoption experience, but our main reason for contacting them was to ask the question that laid heavy on our minds:  Were Nic and I, who have never had children, absolutely kidding ourselves?  Could we actually handle it?  Weren’t we ridiculous for wanting our first venture into parenthood to be caring for two, older girls who had suffered neglect and witnessed abuse?  We cringed as we waited for their responses.  We imagined they would tell us to let the girls be adopted by more experienced parents, we shouldn’t dive in so deep, we’d be better off going after an easier case . . .

. . . But would you believe that we were met with the exact opposite?  Each of the families, with their first hand expertise, actually encouraged us!  They said that if we had any desire to adopt older children, we should absolutely move forward.  I was not expecting their words of confidence and hope.  A family that adopted two brothers, ages 2 and 4, told us, “It’s weird, but our transition with them, and becoming first time parents, was actually really easy.  They adjusted to us so well.”  Another mom’s thoughts: “Really, 4 and 6 isn’t that old.  You don’t need to hesitate to say YES to the girls.”  We also received meaningful encouragement from a teenager who was himself adopted at the age of 8.

Now, as a woman who loves adoption, I HAVE to point this out: for any of you who have ever felt the tug to adopt an older child, those words of adoption-encouragement are for YOU too!  The parents we spoke with weren’t simply saying that Nic and I, in particular, could handle the adoption of an older child; they were also giving testimony to the fact that adopting non-infants is a great choice and that it does work out.  There is a pervasive fear, and even negativity, about the adoption of older children.  But, in this moment, I hope you’ll consider the opposite perspective.  Here are three families who have experienced the adoption of an older child, and they absolutely recommend it.  I hope this can simply soften our hearts to the idea and wash away a bit of that fear.  For, you never know; someday you may be needed to encourage a friend who is considering adoption, or perhaps you will ponder the possibility just a bit longer the next time the idea of adoption crosses your mind . . . And, if you’re still not convinced that the adoption of an older child could be a good idea, let Disney convince you.  I recently watched “Meet the Robinsons”, and I’m simply in love with that movie.  It shows so well the beauty of adoption.

Okay, back to our story:  Because we were already leaning toward pursuing the adoption of the sisters, once we received insightful encouragement from adoptive families, we were almost positive that this was the route we should take—almost.  Why weren’t we 100% certain?  Because there was a little boy named Jonathan that we simply couldn’t get out of our heads.  We snapped this picture of him the day we met, and we couldn’t stop looking at it.

Li'l Jonathan

Just when we were certain that we should adopt the sisters, one of us would say, “But what about little Jonathan?”  I, particularly, couldn’t stop thinking about the dear little boy because I had held him in my arms during our brief meeting.  I mean, just think of how hard it is to turn down an adorable puppy once you’ve cuddled with the little ball of fur.  This was obviously a thousand times more powerful.

So, it turns out that we spent the entire weekend with that same “I-have-absolutely-no-idea-what-to-do” look on our faces.  This time it looked a bit more like this.  We simply couldn’t make a decision, and Monday morning was quickly approaching.  Instead, we made two tiny decisions.  First, we scheduled the necessary appointment with the social worker for later in the week, not knowing which mom would be attending that meeting with us.  Second, we decided to call the mother of the sisters first to see if she was willing to attend.  We would see how that first conversation turned out, and then proceed from there.

The time for us to call the two mothers arrived.  With excitement, fear, anticipation, and a bit of panic, Nic called the mother of the two young girls.  A male voice answered the phone . . .

If you pray, when you pray, pray for us.

On to the next thing…

Chapter II: Calls, Kids, and Coconuts

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Hello, all!  So, in the month-and-a-half since we last saw each other, two mission trips have come and gone, I’ve been scrambling to meet deadlines for the curriculum I’m writing, our friend Whitney came for 50 days, and Jacelyn’s been slowly-but-surely kicking this semester’s patooty (Due to the impending parenthood, I’m trying to clean up my speach.  Old, non-father-ish Nic would have said “buttooty”).  The mission teams went off pretty much without a hitch.  Yes, there’s always the influx of explosive and inhibiting digestive issues, but they usually pass (pun).

I did have a fun encounter with an elderly woman up in the hills outside Portsmouth, in a village called Cottage.  The whole team and I were sitting in her living room, just chatting with her and her sister about life and enjoying some fresh guavas, when she suggested that we go get a fresh baby coconut, called a Jelly Nut.  You may not have known this, but the term “coconut” is only used for the mature, ripened, end result of what grows on the coconut tree.  To clarify, THIS is a jelly nut and THIS is a coconut.  And if you were looking for the smaller, brown thing that is called a coconut, they are merely the seed found deeper in.  HERE’S one of them.  (For infallible, inerrant information about coconuts try THIS LINK at Wikipedia.)

Anyway, back to the old lady.  I followed her outside.  She was surprisingly fast, and when I rounded the corner outside, this is what I saw:

Yes, that IS a machete (called a cutlass, here) that she’s leaning on.  Before I could say anything, she turned and darted off, which I photographed:

Then, apparently all the frustrations that had been building up inside of her over the past _,___ years came bursting forth as she ripped a jelly nut off the tree, and started to kill it mercilessly (if you click on it and let it load past the slow point, it’s hilarious to watch):

(What happens when you give an old lady a cutlass and insult Pat Sajak…)

I guess apart from what I’ve called “The Cutlass Massacre of 2012”, the trips were pretty benign, so I’ll just move along to what you’re all waiting for anyway: the next chapter in our adoption story!  Settle in, grab a bowl of molasses, and enjoy the ride…

…Then it happened.  I walked into a coffee stall owned by a local woman and, as soon as I walked through the door, she said, “WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN??????”

I replied that I’d not only been busy with mission trips, but had also contracted Dengue fever for a bit and she was basically like, “Yeah, okay, wimp.”  Then she said the those five words we’d been waiting to hear: “I have caramel for you!”  Wait. No. Sorry, that was what I was wishing she’d say before she actually said something much more gratifying: “I have KIDS for you!!!!!”  I couldn’t believe it.  She went on to tell me that someone she knew was in an abusive, poverty-stricken situation, was prone to leaving her daughters alone for 12 hours at a time, and was willing to give them up for adoption.

So, we scheduled a meeting for three days from then.  When the day finally came, we were surprised at the mixture of nervous excitement and natural ease we felt while driving to the meeting.  We found it surreal to be driving in a taxi on our way to a village to meet someone who might suddenly be our child, a major “life moment”, when most people experience that moment in their own car on the way to a hospital room.  As we got closer, the woman who was acting as our go-between, whom I will call “Lisa”, began to tell us that the mom had recently been beat up by her boyfriend and father of her kids, and that he was currently in jail.  She also mentioned that the man had said that he was 100% ready to give up all rights to his daughters.

As we arrived, our hearts were broken by the sight.  The mother’s eye was swollen shut and her hair had been all but cut off by the abusive boyfriend.  She was soft-spoken and very kind to us and to the daughter who was nearby.  The mother said that she was interested in giving them up, but needed to think about it for a day or two and we agreed that that was wise, so we gave her our number and told her to feel free to call us whenever she made a decision.  The meeting was short, but promising.  As we drove away, “Lisa” mentioned that she knew of a lady just outside of town who had had 6 children, had given two up for adoption already, and was willing to give her youngest, a boy of 13-months, up for adoption.  We figured that there would be nothing wrong with stopping by, since nothing was in stone with the prior mother, but also were a bit reserved, since we’d talked of adopting siblings who were a bit older.

The meeting with the second mom was brief, and the little boy was adorable, as was his 2-and-a-half-year-old sister.  We gave the mother our number, telling her that if she was ever sure she was interested in adoption, we would love to hear from her.  As we drove away, we asked “Lisa” if the older sister was available for adoption, as well, but she informed us that she was not.

Early the next morning, the first mom we’d met called me up to say she’d like to proceed with the adoption!  We were so excited and began planning the next step, making an appointment down in Roseau to meet with the the mom and the social worker.  Not long after the first call, my phone rang again from an unknown number.  It was the second mom, calling to let us know that she was completely ready to begin the adoption process, even going as far as to ask, “When will you be taking the boy?”

If you pray, when you pray, pray for us.

On to the next thing…

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