In honor of National Adoption Month, today’s installment of “lessons from my son” is keeping with the adoption series happening here for all of November. This was supposed to have been posted yesterday but my week hasn’t exactly gone as planned.
There’s a phrase that is often said and heard throughout the adoption community by parents who have either just received a referral, have just met their children, or have just arrived home with their children… “He/She was SO worth the wait.”
The wait. If I could chose one thing that is the thorn in the side of every prospective adoptive parent’s flesh it wouldn’t be the paperwork, it wouldn’t be the funds, it wouldn’t be the travel (for international adoption)… it would be the waiting. I’m fairly certain most would agree with me here. Adoption is full of waiting.
The first part of the waiting isn’t too terrible. We started the process for our first adoption in November 2009. We had to complete home studies, background checks, education, and a giant binder of paperwork. All of this was just to get on the wait list. That’s right – adoption starts out with waiting to wait. But I call this phase the “active waiting” phase. You’re actively working toward your child through each step. I was doing things to get to a certain point. It was mostly up to me how quickly everything got accomplished and even working like a mad woman it still took us from November 2009 until March 2010 to get it all done. Then we were on the wait list with our agency. #32.
Then comes the second part of the wait. This part is HARD… not the hardest… but pretty close. There were 31 families in front of us waiting for an infant boy from Ethiopia. We could do nothing but wait for children to be matched with families until it was our turn. There was nothing I could do to make it happen faster. All we could do was wait. This was a hard part of the process for me. We waited 7 1/2 months which in retrospect isn’t long at all. Let me tell you that it felt like 7 1/2 years. Keep in mind that we’d already been dealing with infertility for 5+ years. I felt like I was back in that place again… waiting month after month for a positive pregnancy test only to be met with a big fat negative. It was hard and it hurt. But that time bonded me to my son even when I didn’t realize it was happening. I prayed for him, I ached for him, I imagined what he would be like, and I longed for him. I spent nights crying for a little boy I hadn’t even met yet.
Then we got our referral. With one phone call and an email we “met” the little boy who had been filling all my dreams. I fell in love the moment I saw his picture. He was mine – I knew it in my soul. And then we entered the third phase of waiting – waiting to meet our son. Again, there was nothing we could do to speed up this process. We simply had to wait for the courts in Ethiopia to schedule a date for us to appear before the judge. We received Mareto’s referral on October 25, 2010 and our court date was scheduled for January 17, 2011… nearly 3 months we had to wait to see our boy. It was hard, but in a different way. There was an excited expectancy with this wait. Because of the holidays season the weeks passed fairly quickly.
(The first picture I saw of Mareto)
Mareto grew deathly ill in December. He was hospitalized and truly on the brink of death. Every day for about a week I waited by the phone and held my breath through each phone call updating us about his current status. We went from “sick but okay” to “critical… it doesn’t look good” to “improving” to “discharged from hospital” in about 10 days. Again, all we could was wait. Christmas was especially hard for me that year. I had a boy but he wasn’t with us… it hurt. One of the greatest gifts we received during this wait was pictures from families traveling during our wait. They would take pictures of Mareto and email them to us so we could see our boy grow. It felt like manna from heaven to get these pictures.
(Mareto at 9 weeks old)
(Mareto at 3 months old)
Then the moment came. On January 15, 2011 we walked through the gates of Hannah’s Hope, Ethiopia and into a brand new life. A life that included Mareto and every beautiful blessing that he is. The moment my skin touched his and I scooped him up into my arms all the pain of all the waiting melted into oblivion. All I felt was joy and overwhelming love. There aren’t enough words in the English language to describe the bliss of that moment or the days we spent with him that week. I tasted a bit of heaven.
It all fell apart 5 days later when I held him in my arms and had to say goodbye. This is the last part of the wait and it is the hardest. I stood next to Mareto’s little bed on the floor of Hannah’s Hope sobbing. I placed him in his bed and had to force myself to put one foot in front of the other… to walk out the door. It was agony. When our plane took off and I watched Addis Ababa fade from view I cried quietly in my seat. A judge had declared Mareto our son, but the US Embassy still had to conduct their part of the process. We had been told that it would take anywhere from 4-12 weeks to be cleared to pick him up. I felt physically ill at the thought of three months without my son. We got home and began the last part of our wait. Again, there was not a thing we could do to speed it up… it was out of our hands. Each day started and ended with tears. I couldn’t stop them. I felt like I was walking around in a fog. I had trouble focusing and getting tasks done. My body was in America but my heart and soul was still in Africa.
Thankfully, in God’s infinite grace, we cleared the embassy in just three weeks. Three weeks from the time our plane landed back in America we found ourselves boarding another plane to pick up our son and bring him home. I walked through the gates of Hannah’s Hope with a lightness in my heart and I bounded the stairs to his room. I scooped up my sleeping boy knowing that I would never have to let him go again. The heartache of the waiting melted away and in its place came a joyful sense of completion. It was worth it… HE was worth it.
(leaving Hannah’s Hope with Mareto)
I love looking back and remembering what it took to get Mareto home. I labored for years. I suffered through infertility, I worked hard over the paperwork and red tape, I ached and cried and moaned through the waiting, I trembled in fear through eight plane rides (four of which were across the Atlantic) … but at the end of that road was Mareto. He is worth it. I would have traveled to the moon and back for him. The labor was hard and I know that even if I knew then at the beginning of that journey what I know now it wouldn’t have made it easier or hurt less. But oh was it worth it. Mareto taught us the value of waiting. Mareto told us that the most wonderful things in life are hard to come by but they are worth it.
In fact we learned this lesson from him so well that we started all over again less than a year later…
…and she was worth it.