We knew none of this on January 18, 2013, however.
I had friends who were in the process of adopting from Haiti and I thought it looked like torture, pure and simple. That day, however, I asked our proposed Social Worker, whom I had spoken with at length about adoption from a different country, whether I might see the list of children waiting in Haiti, whom their agency was advocating for and seeking families for. This agency was connected to 2 creches, one of which is Three Angels, and as the Social Worker at our chosen adoption agency gave me the password to view the list of adoptable kids her agency advocated for in Haiti, her words to me were: "Esty, don't get your hopes up. There are only 5 kids on this list."
The face that stared back at me, in an instant, locked eyes with me through a photograph so that I could not look away.
I had always wondered what it would be like to find your child on a list and just "know" as I had heard that others affirmed. It was unmistakable. I could never leave her. Andrew could never leave her. If she had a family, that was one thing but if not? We could never, ever walk away.
Time and many conversations would prove what I knew in an instant: she was my child, my flesh and blood in a Haitian body. There was no family, no one who had committed, though many loved and supported her so we were approved by both our US-based adoption agency and the Three Angels Board of Directors to pursue this child's adoption....BUT we must be quiet about it. Haiti is a sovereign nation and as such has the right and responsibility to match families with adoptable children. We may pursue her but we must not claim her in any way, shape or form, meaning we have had no contact with her creche or her caregivers except through our adoption agency since their initial approval to pursue her, and so, we have never heard her voice, met, or held her.
Thus we began a year-long high-risk "pregnancy", while Haitian laws were passed, our paperwork was passed stamped, translated, authenticated, submitted, and finally after many months, there was word that we were allowed to come and meet our baby girl. This is the final step in our process of moving this little girl's file from IBESR's "black hole" of family matching and approval to the next major step, the court process which will legally rename her "Downes" and make her our daughter.
The trip we are about to take will bring staggering heights of joy as meet and get to know her and heartbreaking, soul-wrecking depths of sorrow as we leave her and her adoption progresses until we can bring her home at some point, when all legalities have been fulfilled to satisfy both the US and Haiti. We are about to "give birth" and leave our baby...but we stand on HOPE alone that the Lord God has brought us this far and He has a plan for our daughter's life. He has this. We know it.
We did not go looking for Haitian adoption, nor for Three Angels but we are so beyond blessed that our baby girl is not only the realization of a child held in our minds' eye and hearts since before Rissa came home in May 2011, but who is being lovingly cared for and safely cherished in ways we could not have known to be praying for since before we knew she was alive. Tomorrow night at around 6:30PM EST we will meet her. And I will be. a. mess. After that we will spend oodles of time just being what SHE needs, all there for only her a new experience for her and very similar to how life felt when we had bouts of bed rest and NICU stays with our other kids, as well as 2 weeks in Uganda in 2011. Lots will need to be accomplished process-wise while we are there as well, and though not fast like in Rissa's adoption, this process is just a tricky and demanding in different ways.
Rissa's adoption was a sprint...this is a marathon. A marathon through a minefield.
Please pray with us for our daughter, for our 4 kids at home with my Mom - for our adoption's completion - and for grace as we pursue adoption ethics, attachment, and peace in the midst of all the complexities. A mind "set on things above" will accomplish this...but it'll be mighty difficult to do anything but see this child in my arms who I am desperate to finally bring home where she belongs, forever and ever, AMEN.
Next time from Haiti, y'all! xxoo
Esty for all of us here and in Haiti, too