Friday, January 24, 2014

Tomorrow, tomorrow - I love ya, tomorrow

 Tomorrow at around 7AM, Andrew and I will get in the car and drive to Ft. Lauderdale to go on a long-awaited adventure together. We will leave our 4 kids at home with their Nana, (Marcia) and since there's literally no good way to get there from here, we will take a 4-hour drive + a 2-hour flight + a 1/2 hour drive to a tiny orphanage in Pétionville, Ouest Haiti, just outside of Port-au-Prince where we will, after more than a year of waiting, meet our baby girl. Her name, given by Haitian Social Services (or IBESR) in July 2012 means "Little Princess" in Haitian French Creole, which is the national language of Haiti. Haiti lies on a little less than half of the island known as "Hispaniola", and is separated in language and national ties from it's other resident nation, Dominican Republic. Haiti is the poorest nation in the Western hemisphere. Just over 4 years ago, a massive 7.0 earthquake devastated Haiti, and though more than 1,200 children were quickly evacuated to adoptive parents on foreign shores, the complex issues which remain for children born after the earthquake is bring complicated challenges for the orphans of Haiti. Our daughter was born 2 years after the earthquake but her crèche, or orphanage, has been caring for children in Haiti for many years. The organization, Three Angels Children's Relief, has a Facebook page and a website and is run by an American Board of Directors based out of California and an in-country staff of Haitians and Americans. Three Angels focuses on reunification for children who have been separated from their families because of poverty and sponsor hundreds of children who attend the school on its' property. In the orphanage on the Three Angels compound, 13 babies aged 2 and under live in the Angel House where they are taken care of night and day by nannies who sing to them, massage them, feed them, diaper and play with them as they each await a life with a family. Every baby at the Angel House was placed at the Three Angel Baby House by Haitian Social Services (IBESR), every one of them already deemed "available for adoption" by IBESR which rules on such matters, all just waiting...each child being prayed over and loved by 2 country's worth of staff who fundraise, educate, support, love on and advocate for these kids. 

 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

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