Sunday, July 15, 2012

The Wait. Part 3


It is common to offer analogies between adoption and the more typical way of having children, sometimes known as "home grown".  Here is my shorthand:

Applying to agencies/homestudy = Trying to get pregnant.

Waiting for a referral/match with birthmother = Pregnancy. Sometimes a very looooong one.

Referral/match with birthmother = Yeah! Sonogram! It's a boy/girl!

The Moment of meeting your child = Yeah! Super 4D Sonogram! (ok, this is a stretch)

The Flight Home = Childbirth. (painful, long and involving way too many bodily fluids)

Some day I'll tell you all about our flight home from Ethiopia, but like childbirth stories, really only people who have recently gone through it, or are about to go through it, will want to read about it.

I've already written about how the Third Wait is the toughest.  It is also the one with no analogy in the "normal" world.  Hence the difficulty.

The other thing way in that adoption differs from most pregnancies is that it is extremely unpredictable. Most pregnancies and child birth stories are pretty much the same, except in the thankfully uncommon dramatic cases.  Excuse me, veteran mamas from the ChildBirth Wars,  but after a while they all sound the same.  And, I LOVE to hear childbirth stories. No, really. :)

Adoptions... oh boy. They are all over the map. Each step can take either days or weeks or years. Each step involves multiple decisions that can take you in multiple directions. It's a "Choose Your Own Ending" story, only, it's your life. Domestic? Foster? Private? Infant? Child? International? Which country? Special Needs? Siblings? Boys? Girls?

One of the reasons Andrew and I choose to do an Ethiopian adoption is that, when we started in 2009, that country had a simple, easy, straightforward, predictable process that would be about a year long.

Mwah, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha!

There are all kinds of reasons why none of that was true. Some good reasons. (Ethiopia started paying more attention to international adoption and scrutinizing the process more carefully.) Some not so good. (So many folks wanted "easy" adoptions that Ethiopia became a target for corruption.)

In the end, we have beautiful Daniel and Lily.

In the middle, holy hell. Unpredictable! At first it was just paperwork hiccups.  One agency needed a letter from a therapist I saw 10 years ago, saying I wasn't, in fact, crazy.  (Or, I wasn't 10 years ago.)  We changed our age range and needed to read more articles and have more conversations with multiple social workers and attend an extra class.  Because that TOTALLY prepared us for adopting a 5 year old boy. Uh-huh.

We had it pretty easy, though, and got a referral very quickly.  We were all set to fly to Ethiopia and bring them home! Then. The one trip process became a two trip process. The time between the two trips doubled, then got longer, then became, "too difficult to predict".  Some bureaucrat in Ethiopia who was supposed to process a big pile of letters started only doing 5 a day.  One day in March I checked our email and found a notice from our agency that said, in effect, "We have no idea when you'll be able to bring your children home, but it could be next year. "  I cried all day.

That day in April, in Ethiopia when we finally met the judge, and she finally said, "They are yours," I had to ask our translator/social worker to say it again about 5 times before I believed it.

At this point, there is just a trickle of adoptions being finalized in Ethiopia.  Newer programs are being started in other poor countries in Africa.  Other new-to-adoption couples are hoping for a simple, quick, predictable adoption and are learning just like we did that simple, predictable adoptions are unicorns.

I don't recommend the Ethiopia program to people who ask me for advice. The two of them, that is.  (I do recommend adoption though.)  However unpredictable and complicated the process is, it is beautiful, and it will teach you many things about yourself and the world.  And it will prepare you for parenting, which is the most unpredictable, complicated and beautiful thing of all.

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