I don’t know if it was our ages (35) or the number of children we had (4), or even, perhaps, the age of my youngest (4), but I was constantly fielding the age old question, “Are you done?”
And though I could answer any of a number of ways, “I don’t know,” “Nothing permanent has been done,” “Some days I feel over-done,” or, if I was feeling particularly feisty, “Well, last time I checked we weren’t celibate,” I couldn’t shake the nagging feeling that we were missing someone.
Actually, “missing someone” is an understatement. Some days I would have said it felt like I was dying a thousand slow deaths. I had a child, I knew not where, and I didn’t know how to find her or how to proceed when I did. Which seemed crazy considering many people already thought I had a “lot” of children and “had enough to do.”I had been stalking online photolistings for many years, sometimes intently and sometimes casually, watching for that child that would grab my heart and my husband’s, as well as our kids’. Though their daddy and I would have happily brought a wide range of new siblings into our home, our clan definitely had their opinions. Our domestically adopted African American son really wanted someone brown, our daughter wanted a sister, and we had a four year gap that left our youngest feeling left without a buddy. It was a tall order. We felt that if we could accomplish all three in a single child, it would be the green light we were awaiting.
I don’t know what possessed me to get on precious.org that day. We were feeling pretty content at the time. Therefore, I can only attribute God for the random urge that took me online in June. When our little girl popped up, I literally gasped out loud, unplugged my laptop and SPRINTED to my husband who, rather than instantly responding “no” as was his custom, cocked his head to the side, blinked, and requested more information.
She was just…..ours. We knew it.
Granted, it took us three weeks to think and pray about it. Three weeks of obsessing. Three weeks of tears. Three weeks of feeling like a failure as a parent (I’ve since found out that this is a very normal experience while trying to make an unalterable decision about waiting children. If your children suddenly don’t obey, question you on every. single. thing, seem to hit adolescence early, or any of a number of bad behaviors while you are deciding on a waiting child, take heart that they will soon return to their normal selves once you’ve resolved that there is no going back). Three weeks of checking and rechecking the photolisting to see if she was still on there. And in those three weeks, another family stepped forward, so by the time we were ready to commit ourselves to another child she was “on hold.” Oh, my grief and fury at myself for questioning, for even a second, that she should be with us. I took heart that she would have a home, but, we KNEW she was ours. And four days later, apparently so did they. We committed to her fully on June 24.
Adopting in Ethiopia during these uncertain times has been a trial by fire. Since we were miles away from feeling like we would adopt on June 1, we had to work backwards, and fast. We had a full dossier to assemble. We had to rush a homestudy. Rush documents. Rush money. (What money?) And yet it all came together and our dossier landed in Ethiopian hands on….get this…the first day of rainy season. So we waited. And waited. And waited for the courts to re-open. And then we waited. And waited. And waited to be submitted to court. And then we waited. And waited. And waited to get a court date. And then it all sped up.
The day after Christmas, my husband and I jumped on a plane and flew to Ethiopia to meet our daughter. Everyone who met her before us described her as sweet, but sweet doesn’t encapsulate her by half. That little girl is a firecracker. She is fiery and independent and determined and she knows what she wants. It will serve her well as a middle child in a family of seven. She wasn’t about to trust us in our two short weeks with her, and that is to be expected after the experiences of her last three years, but she is resilient and strong. And with the Lord’s help we will take those hesitantly offered hugs and her internal spark and teach her about the love of a family.