Friday, January 31, 2014

laboring

 There is something so bizarre and otherwise impossible to duplicate about adoption, I think. The process is so incredibly emotionally demanding, mentally challenging, physically difficult and yet spiritually is the richest and most life-giving thing I know that I, personally have ever walked through. There is an immediacy in the desperation for a supernatural intervention and such an expectancy in the heart for God to show up and DO something, such a knowledge that you are wholly dependant on God to step in and be Whom you have trusted Him to be, just waiting for Him to actually Be That Right this exact Moment. At home, I know that I can go a heartbreakingly long time without absolutely needing God to show up unmistakably clearly, times I get halfway through my day and think: "Oh, yeah - Jesus, hey there, yeah." Honestly here, folks. There is something about birthing a child which makes you marvel at the miracle of birth and in the same way there is something about adoption which makes you marvel at how long it takes to mirror that childbearing and you wonder at how God knits people together without blood and bones. It just takes much, much longer. There is something powerful about needing God to step in and create and I want you to hear me affirm that He still does create. He really does. I am waiting to see it myself, in my daughter, but as for me? God is creating in me and in Andrew today and it's this pain which will lead straight through, passing "GO!" and collecting $200 straight to something which He will call "good'. I am coming face-to-face with the 2 greatest fears at my core, those of being an agent of damage and also of losing my people, and it's rocking me to my core. For a person whose story is built out of rubble which includes abuse at the hands of babysitters as a child, being an agent of pain or damage and also of the risk of losing something or someone dearest to me, this risky business of adoption, of letting your heart get flayed while your hands hang free at your side, it brings me to the brink where a whisper could knock my knees out from beneath me.

 I just want you to know it: God is creating and we are still standing. I've never been so grateful for Andrew. Ever, y'all. He, true to form, some days has words which he can write into a journal instead of speaking but he has offered to me: "wanna read my feelings?" I find this sort of hysterically funny for some reason (me, with all the words, good grief, I am too much even for myself) and I laugh really loudly at him, because that's the sort of thing that's keeping us sane here, but it's about the sweetest thing I have ever been offered.

 Oh my stars, he's going to kick my tail for sharing that.

 You are all so good to write back to me. Some of you wrote that you are confident we must get oodles of emails and that you are sure we don't have time to pour over every single one. May I assure you that we do? We reach the top of this steep, crumbly hill almost panting for breath 3 times daily back at the guesthouse and all 6 adoptive parents (there is another couple here, now, as well) we reach for water bottles, a glass-bottled Haitian Coke or coffee with canned milk and cane sugar along with our phones and laptops and we gather at the wooden table with an uneven top to sit and nourish our hearts with emails from home. Sometimes one of us will read some words out loud, all of us sort of marinating in truth and freeing ourselves from things like doubt and guilt that swirl through our heads from that first moment of pushing away from our kids earlier. Your emails are each so exactly what I need to be reading. Please, please, do not stop. I would love to have time to write back to everyone of you, to tell you that I love you in a way you only possibly can if someone has ministered to you in the time of your greatest and most dire need. None of you needs to prove anything to me, or win me in any way - please just keep it coming, okay? Some of you have sent song lyrics which echo at the back of my thoughts in hard moments when I find myself just standing, feeling sort of lost, watching her play in the sandbox with her back intentionally curved away from me, her head down, her hand instinctively pulled up over her ear to shield herself from me further. Some of you have sent verses and pages of devotionals which send tears streaming down my face and shoot more much-needed steel into my heart like a round of CPR when the baby doll we brought for her is cradled into her arms and she is being a little mommy, pretending to feed the baby doll a bottle all while in the protective nest of her nanny's lap and I sit across the room on a blue-painted picnic table because that's as close as I can get before she will freeze, all the while feeling a sob in my throat for how badly I want her to be in my lap, resting her head against my collar, my hands absently and finally distracted because she is so content. Some of you are adopting little ones yourself and your grace to me, in letting me paint you a picture of our time here, has been so generous that I feel like I am part of a team sport, passed the ball for this one minute but surrounded by a team of people who I know is running serious interference. Some of you have reminded me that this is labor, that I can be aware I have competed another contraction and that we are one step closer, always that one. step. closer. I think of all the encouragement, all the people devoted to praying, all the love sent to us and I realize this is part of the gift of adoption and it is for me, y'all. You are my gift so many times a day. It's like, the nicest thing anyone's ever done for me, and the most vulnerable since I haven't got it in me to write more words a day than these in thie group email. Just know that from my heart, I could never thank you enough.


 Last night, we ate at a restaurant which was so much like a treehouse or EPCOT. There were 40-feet tall narrow trees wrapped in green vines with lanterns hanging and we dined seated on patio furniture like something straight out of the sweetest home furnishings catalog you've ever seen, while live jazz played all beneath a tin and thatched roof overhead. Unreal. All of this was behind a tall, unmarked gate, of course, hidden from bone-crushing poverty just around the bend and down the road. The juxtaposition of these things side-by-side defines a place like Haiti, I think, and it's so hard to wrap my head around. It was a precious reprieve and being super delicious didn't hurt, either. I sort of hoped I would lose a couple pounds here without trying. Dang it. 

 Today we march on. Head up, chest out, eyes soft, smile in place. Laboring continues. 

love, love, love,

Thursday, January 30, 2014

dawn


 It is dark.

 It's dark and cool in here, I am propped up with 3 pillows and the light of this laptop illuminates even more than I need to see to type. Outside I hear the guard, who is seated on a plastic chair by the gate, talking on his cell phone. Andrew is awake, too, on a bunk bed across the room, and I am sure others are stirring in the house but for now it is still mercifully still and calm. It is still night, really. Soon, the street outside will get noisy with vendors, children off the school in uniforms and pigtails with oversized white bows in their hair, with feral cats and dogs wandering, with trucks rumbling, cars careening, with roosters crowing, with music ringing but for now....it is really still night. 

 I want you to know what the challenge here for me is, in writing to you. First, Haiti is a challenging country to adopt from because it is always, always in a state of flex. It is like grasping water in your bare hands. You cannot get a clear focused picture of what is happening or what will come next until you are in the moment yourself. This is not adoption where things are processed briskly, maybe coldly, but at least efficiently and somewhat "conveyor belt". No, this is a rollercoaster...that you are riding while it is still being built. Second, Every single family who adopts from Haiti, I personally believe, is a pioneer at heart. This means you will climb unforeseen mountains, unchartered territory and that you will encounter terrain no one saw coming, and you will be taken aback by it. Then, you will clench your jaw, narrow your eyes and climb. There are some who are reading these emails who are behind me in the process of Haitian adoption, and I take them into consideration while I write. And I have a daughter who, one day many years from now, will possibly read these words as a journal of this time here and I take that into consideration, too.  There are 389 email addresses on this email link, blind carbon copied, and at the moment I have regret that I ever began to share this journey. I am wishing I hadn't invited all you readers to watch this, to know what it feels like to be constantly rejected by the daughter you absolutely 100% adore with every fiber of your being, because I want so much to spare everyone who loves children and adoption and Haiti and who feels tugged to be strong in their fight, and brave to their depths. I do not want anyone dissuaded, and so I wish I was not compelled to share. However, I have begun, and I want everyone of you reading now to belong to people who are "Team Babygirl" who will grip hands, side by side like a game of International Red Rover, calling for her to "come over", unafraid with me - undaunted with me - defiantly, determinedly believing with me. So,  I will share how we are now with you, trusting that the Lord will use this sharing for HIMSELF alone.

 Yesterday, we headed over to the babies at around 8:30, maxi skirts skimming the ground and Haitian beads around our necks, knowing the Social Worker was scheduled to arrive at 10. We had a noisy, delightful morning playing with all the babies, laughing at their sweet, silly, carefree baby ways and wrestling their tummies with tickles as they rushed us,headfirst,as we sat on the floor of the playroom. We played Ring-Around-the-Rosie, we brought a small Jawbone box and played worship music for them from our iPods, "All Sons and Daughters" and "Bryan and Katie Torwald" playing, replacing the tinny kids' praise songs sung by soprano children on the CD player for the first time. It was a lovely, wholly enjoyable morning, and my baby - though she wouldn't play in my lap or let me physically love on her - would sit next to me, hold my hand to walk somewhere else in the room, and generally NOT freak out with me. Serious progress there. By 11:30 IBESR had not shown up and so we left, so we could be fed at the guesthouse and the babies could be fed and napped. As soon as lunch ended at the guesthouse, the Haitian school headmaster and IBESR liaison, our friend, poked his head in the door and shouted: "OK. IBESR." and popped back out the door to head over. Both us adoptive parent couples, our American adoption coordinator from California and our young, precious Three Angels intern from Massachusetts, followed him over to the baby house, anxious and prayerful but calm, hurrying to the baby house around 1PM. 

 Approaching the house, we saw the gates open, a giant semi truck backed through the gates, a tremendous hose snaking its way through the courtyard, through the house, noisily bringing water to the reservoirs there, ending exactly where we found the IBESR Social Worker seated on the veranda at the only table, quiet and professionally, looking through paperwork with reading glasses in place already, her assistant (?) or driver (?) accompanying her. "This is not meant to make you nervous", we were told, "she just wants to ask you some questions. Be yourselves." Fair enough. The babies are all resting in their cribs in siderooms, the cheery morning of playtime has ended now, and the water truck guy is crouched at the foot of our table while his truck deposits water through a hole in the floor to the room beneath us, and he's listening interestedly and unabashedly to every word (who can blame him, really?) so we half-shout over the noise of the water truck. Our daughter and the other family's child are brought to us. My heart breaks and every ounce of maternal instinct I have to protect her gets called to attention. My child is utterly terrified. Her heart races as the nanny deposits her onto my lap and slips away. Her breathing is rapid, approaching these 8 or so adults, almost none of whom she knows and none very well, not a nanny in sight, and when they place her on my lap as wide-eyed and horrified as you can imagine, and my arms tightly wrap around her and I whisper: "I know, it's awful, I am so sorry, I gotcha - I gotcha - I gotcha" I hear her begin to cry, her shoulders silently shaking as her fear wraps around her again and again like a shroud of pain and bewilderment, cocooning her in emotional isolation.
The questioning begins, via the interpreter, all questions designed to prove that Andrew and I are familiar with her story (that we want to raise this particular child whom we have now met; that we still want her now) and they want it adequately shown that we have not personally known this child before this week, anytime before this invitation from IBESR has come to us to come bond with her for this 2 weeks, that she is Their Referral to give, that she is not too familiar with me, ("so they oughta be satisfied", I think to myself angrily, "she's freaking out here on my lap without a nanny") I tell the interpreter: "please tell her we love her" and he does, the Social Worker raises a hand to me and the answer comes back interpreted: "She says, 'I will decide'.
My heart hits the ground floor and a wave of bile rises.
My daughter's tears are running.

 The damn water truck guy is casually listening at the foot of the table with his hand amusedly on his hip and I glare at him, angry that he can understand all the things being said while I sit here like an idiot waiting for a translation after every line, understanding the further we go into the 4 pages of notes that I. am. not. being. understood. and there's nothing to be done. We wait while the other family is questioned just as hard, their son resisting even sitting with them. My wide eyes meet the other mother's eyes across the table and we just stare at one another, our message to one another reading: "WHAT THE HELL". I tell the interpreter with a good natured, "let's all be conspirators together, and let's break the mood" attitude while laughing, "please tell her we are intimidated" ( like "haha, isn't this all necessary but funny, since we all want the best for the children of Haiti and this one we have worked so hard together for?") and the response comes back only "yes". She will be back again, the translator tells us, and we will fill out more paperwork and she will watch us play and she will look for improvement in our bonding.
She leaves with her assistant, and we hand out traumatized children back to the head Nanny and they both dissolve completely on impact of her Haitian arms, their pooled eyes of tears turning from us gratefully. The other mama and I absolutely lose it. Our husbands both go to take naps once we are back at our guesthouse and sleep off a pain they could neither predict nor protect us from. 
My daughter is back at square one. 
She will have nothing to do with us. Friends, this is an anguish I cannot, even with all my love of words, describe.
 I will not try.

 It was dark. Friends, it was dark here just a few moments ago when I began this letter, remember, but the sun is coming up. I know that upstairs, if I were to go up on the rooftop where the laundry dries and mountains surround and the sea sits at their feet I would see the sun peeking out from behind a green crest. I know it will rise, and I know it will heat up this room til mosquitos are hard to dispel, and I know Petionville will come alive and I know the day will go on. I hear the first chirps outside our windows even now. It is dawn.

 It was dark with my baby, it was dark in my soul, it was dark in the agony that Andrew heard escape my lips. And I have never really understood the verse: "Christ in you, the hope of glory" but all I can tell you is that it woke me this morning, lit up in my brain, hung like a parade day banner across my heart when my first thoughts registered: "CHRIST IN YOU, THE HOPE OF GLORY". I don't imagine I interpret it rightly but I want to see some glory. I want the hope of glory. I want this story redeemed. I want an ending that makes sense of all that we are living through. I want beauty. I want justice. I want Jesus. I want dawn.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

like Christmas

last night, we had a field trip to the home of a Three Angels staff member's home where we had dessert and so much belly laughter that I forgot for a while where I was, it felt so much like a dinner party with old friends. The other couple we are here with, in-country, themselves in our own identical situation in the process of adoption of their son, are from Louisiana and the storytelling we hear from Joe, the prospective adoptive dad are truly a gift straight from heaven above. They are both a really lovely couple, sincere and relatable with two blonde little girls at home in Lousiana, and their presence and knack for entertaining tales after 20 years in college student ministry of things like Cajuns, dysfunction and practical jokes gone awry has us in fits of uncontrollable laughter till midnight some nights. What kind of good God brings us to a foreign country with extremely stressful circumstances and sends this crazy funny guy to keep us rolling around ugly-laughing? A very good God indeed, who knows this has been the very best medicine, the very best reset button, the very kindest allotment of grace imaginable. It's very good, y'all. 

 Yesterday, we decided to shift in our seats a little, and the babies happily decided they liked us. I realize now, having heard what life was like in the few days preceding our arrival and seeing the layout with my own eyes, that our arrival may have been monumental for us - memorable, awaited, monumental, epic - but for the babies, we are another short-term ministry tour group, apparently another crew of white people stopping by for a couple days who like to get at the beautiful, sweet Haitian orphans while they do helpful projects for upkeep and philanthropy. The babies can't know our intentions are eternal, our hearts yearning to protect and ensure them, our eyes only for them for all their lives, not just a week or so. It makes so much sense, that white faces which appear at the nursery room door which are unfamiliar come and go with frequency, so don't get attached - they don't have time to know your backstory or a life's calling to make you a treasured part of their home. It makes sense. It does not make me bitter or angry that people visit; I know the orphanage staff does what they can to protect my baby girl and the babies and does not utilize them as tourism, I believe that and have seen it other places, so I know it's different here - but when people come and go easily, constantly from an institution even though it's the only safe home you've ever known? The confusion is completely, understandably valid.

 So, yesterday when the babies decided they liked us, running up to squeeze their small heads between our knees while wrapping arms around our thighs, or digging around in my ponytailed hair or playing soccer and sitting on Andrew's lap while he crab-walked around the tile floors, it felt like Barbra Streisand belting out a Broadway-worthy tune and the Red Sea parting all at once. We won them over. We're in. 

 And then, there's My Child. 

 Her smile... y'all, it's like the ascent of an airplane through an overcast sky: clouds fall away like a dropped curtain and you realize the sun was always shining, just as brilliantly as always and here it is, after all. Paula's smile is like that. It's like Christmas morning, when handed to you in the most intoxicatingly inviting wrapping paper, the most perfect bow, the wrapping paper the color you imagine all gifts ought to be wrapped in, you find inside the gift you hadn't let yourself imagine you might actually be given. In the orphanage many times daily, she is like a fawn nestled in the forest, and you are so hopeful to approach you don't take time to wonder how long before she runs away, you just soak up every drop of her features, her sweetness with your eyes. 
She played with us, high-fived us, blew silly kisses, pushed other babies away from us, while smiling a smile so bright it could rival Siesta Key's temperatures mid-day in August. When you see her one day, years from now, at home being silly and see that smile? You'll remember how I tried to share what a present it is and you'll say: "yep."


 Please pray today, friends? We have a visit from a social worker. A very important, intimidating meeting where we will be observed. I do not know what she is looking for bonding-wise. I do not know her name. I do not speak her language. I do not know what she will ask the nannies. I do not know how long it will be. I do not know what she will think. I do not know if this may be her only visit to observe or not. She should arrive at 10. We shall see what the Lord will bring, friends.  
I do not know any of this but I know she is ours like I know my eyes are green and what day my birthday is. I know God loves my daughter. I know He is King over all the Earth. And I am struggling to believe this observation visit of our "bonding" isn't threatening, but really, who am I kidding? It is. Nevertheless, God is calling us to get out of the boat. And walk to Christmas morning where my child is the gift. 
We're getting out and we're going.


 love, love, love

Monday, January 27, 2014

slow and steady wins this race


 The cool breeze continues to surprise me until I remember we are on an island in the ocean, surrounded by blue sky and sea everywhere we look. Each time I taste mango juice when I expect apple or king-size okra where there should be green beans or hear throbbing melodies pumped from a mobile nightclub down the street like a Good Humour ice cream truck I realize: "ah, yes. we are, after all, on an island." And, every time I enter the doors of the baby house my heart calls out: "Lord, steady my heart - steady my heart - steady on, please, Lord...steady for my baby."

Today was a day of becoming like the furniture in the playroom, sedate and fixed. 
It was a day for observation, for watching, for sitting, and ultimately, for a decent sized breakdown for this lonely mama when my daughter was unfairly rebuked for a misunderstanding with another baby when the nanny missed the initial affront and only saw our child's defensive and (fairly enough) sincere response which included a shovel and pail and some hitting. My daughter burst into tears when her feelings were hurt from being reprimanded and I sat helplessly on the uneven concrete border around a towering oak tree a few feet away, watching her await a rescue from her nanny, tears falling and wails calling out with hurt. I watched as her feelings were wounded and her nanny responded patiently and picked her up and put her on her hip...and I watched. Y'all...I just watched. I had decided I would say: "It's ok, it's ok, I love you, I love you" repeatedly and that was my approach today. I was able to win smiles from across the room, my daughter diligently seeking out where I was at almost all times peering from around the nanny's shoulder or knees, playing peek-a-boo and grinning the smile of sunshine I have waited to see with the deeply-dimpled cheeks and pure joy radiating from her tumbly, made-of-sugar self. Today, we saw her...I just wasn't allowed to get close to her. Trade off.

Then, around dinnertime, I decided I had enough and I got outta there. I just had to weep for a while. It helped. Andrew talked some love and some logic to me and I let the tears just drip off my cheeks while I sat in a white plastic chair with my head leaning off the back of the curved back, my hair gratefully off my neck and the breeze floating off the mountains from the south whispering that this is not the moment for attachment. Even though the grins and peek-a-boo games were lovely, it's no substitute for knowing I can, at home, calm and soothe my kids but here? I am not only unable to fix her pain and confusion, but I am responsible for it. Painful reality. Hence, the weeping. But now, I am better. You guys have sent such love, such comfort - y'all, it almost leaves me undone. Your supportive messages mean the world to me. You have reminded me of how well my kids are at home now, how faithful the Lord is in His goodness, how much dividend this will reap, how much you all believe in her, in us, how desperate the circumstances are for so many other waiting children who are not being cared for with such an utter lovely embarrassment of riches and how you know we have doubts and fears and you insist that we trust and march on...you are holding up our arms and some moments, when our hearts ache while she snuggles her nanny and rubs her wary eyes and buries her face to avoid us, we are reminded how you are praying for us in a moment when we cannot. You are impossible to do without, friends. 

 Also, people are interested in what Andrew is thinking so here he is...

First, I need to apologize to you all that I'm not the poet my wife is when it comes to writing...but for all you logical/leftbrainer's out there...we'll be tracking.

Haiti is Uganda with AC outlets...that's my opinion on the country thus far.
Paula is the sweetest little girl, quiet and an old soul in a two year old's body.  My favorite moments in the day are catching those moments when she is burying her head in her nanny's legs and quietly turns her head to make sure Esty is still watching her.  Its those moments that give me hope.  I did teach the kids today to "blow it up"--bump fist together.  All the kids wanted to do it with me, Paula included.  They are a sweet children.

I am catching up on my sleep...sad that I have to travel to Haiti to make that happen.  I'm having a wonderful time with my beautiful wife.  The mosquitos are getting old.  ---Andy  

Sunday, January 26, 2014

shadowboxes

Sleep is a very special magic.
 Last night, as my head hit the pillow I remember thinking: "I wonder if I'll be able to..." and that. was. it. Sleep claimed me fast and completely, despite being in a pitch black room when I prefer a little light, and despite a lack of AC even though I am a Floridian, and without complete walls since everything is loft-style on the ground floor here for air flow, even though it's not conducive to private talks. Even with all these factors, my cheeks wet with overwhelmed tears were quietly dried by the fans as I had a mercifully recuperating sleep. 

 Three times today we exited the well-guarded, 7-foot, kelly green-painted gate, and trekked by foot down a steep, crumbly, chalk white road, rounded a corner to the left and hiked back up almost an exact mirror of that hill to get from the guesthouse to the baby house, where we are met with another well-guarded, 7-foot, kelly green-painted gate. Inside, we found the babies of Three Angels contentedly being cared for by 4 or 5 nanny's at a time: having their hair braided, eating FIVE meals a day, bathing at least twice, being changed, massaged with lotion and doing puzzles, reading books and playing in the sandbox, all on a clockwork schedule with cheerful music wafting in from the kitchen. The tile floors and bookcases of well-loved books and baby dolls are clean, the grounds swept, the nanny's in matching purple and white polka dotted aprons. By the time we arrived this morning, only the final children were yet to be changed from their pajamas, and they were all quite compliant in the routine. Clearly, they are loved. Clearly, they are cared for adequately. Clearly, they are content. Clearly, they are full, hydrated, clean, and healthy. The children hung off the nanny's 3 and 4 at a time, each lady struggling to move encumbered with so many tiny, needy bodies dangling from their hips and knees. We watched. That was about all we could do. Watch. 

 These kids: they had seen us last night, but they were far from us by morning. Controlling all they could and protecting themselves today meant their little hearts were closed to us then and for a good deal of the day following...especially my beautiful, unbearably fragile daughter. At times, her nannies would bring her to me, gently chastising her, probably for not rushing to greet me with enthusiasm and love, and though I had determined beforehand to resist rushing her and to just observe, I found the insistence too great, the language barrier too high, the situation too impossible and I gave in, afraid of what the nanny's would think if I resisted without being able to explain WHY, and that it would go badly for me with them, or that they may say something negative when we are observed by a visiting government official from IBESR who will come to observe "bonding" during this trip...Instead, I realized in no time I was curled around this tiny, panicked creature on my lap with the bottom lip curled into an almost-cry, and no amount of kisses, eye-to-eye contact, affection, or song and dance routine from this One Woman Show would change that today. It was not my finest moment. It was a desperate series of actions by a woman hungry for her baby...but she is not a baby and I am not desperate. She is a toddler, not a baby and I have all the time of our whole lives...I will determine again to endeavor to live that out, that's what she needs if I am going to leave her again and again, all day long and for a month at a time. Tomorrow, we try again. (note: I am not beating myself up or being a martyr, please don't feel like you need to make me give myself a break. I'm just preaching the gospel to myself, feel free to chime in on THAT. )

 Watching the children play today in a small, pebble and gray-sand filled concrete sandbox, I marvelled at how small their world is. There are 3 communal bunkrooms with cribs. One playroom. Three tiny plastic tables with pink and blue chairs. One sandbox. 13 babies. A handful of nanny's. A nurse. And ancillary staff. That's it. All of their life is filled in with such small boxes. They have no concept of families or church buildings or car line at school or preschool or Chick-fil-A playgrounds and nuggets or movie theaters and popcorn or grandparents and aunts and uncles or swimming pools or the beach or sports or a couch and a family all piled on top of one another with a white floppy-eared dog at their feet or a Christmas tree or even their own shoes.
They have such a good life. 
But it is a shadowbox replica of their waiting lives. 
These children - all orphans - would be content to stay in these 5 rooms and this one sandbox, behind a locked, painted, metal gate all their days, seeing mountains only in the cloudy distance over the concrete wall and barbed wire coil. They have no idea how big the world is, how grand their futures are, how fullness awaits - fullness that will spill over onto every area of their lives. 
I was struck, realizing this, at how this describes each of us, too. God has a plan for a big future for each of us and so often we are behind a painted metal gate, the concrete walls keeping us oblivious to the world outside our 5 little, clean, sparse rooms. 
We choose, so often, to remain inside. 
Oh, friends! - let's go explore. We are not orphans and our Father has our lives waiting. 

 Please keep the letters coming - they are better food for us both than anything we could eat. We love you all and covet your prayers. Especially for my tender child...we need great mercy, friends. 

love, love, love,

Saturday, January 25, 2014

the little princess

 Right now, sitting on the bottom bunk in this guest house with all the windows open and a fan overhead, I can hear no less than 3 types of music playing somewhere in the dark outside. There are dogs barking, babies crying, noisy vehicles making their way down impossibly steep and sandstone-white hills and a guard at the gate of this house. In short, it feels like I am back in Uganda with little exception but the language. The language barrier is a real thing, folks! In Uganda, English was maybe highly accented but certainly we could communicate. In Haiti, I can say nothing but "yes" and "thank you". ACK! Thankfully, our adoption coordinator from the orphanage is with us (direct from California) and there is something very familiar abut Haiti, much the way Uganda felt: mysteriously primitive, devotedly musical, highly colorful and deeply nuanced. Flying above mountainous islands in the Caribbean today, seeing brown and green hills rising out of the sea paved the way for something so foreign to feel amazing. 

 After retrieving all people and luggage from the airport, Andrew and I made our way to the guesthouse with another adoptive family and Three Angels staff. We deposited out things and ate a very American meal of spaghetti and salad, all the while thinking: I DON'T NEED DINNER JUST TAKE ME TO SEE MY BABY AAAAGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH but nevertheless, we ate and waited some more. Finally, we drove about 50 feet away and entered the gates of the property on which the baby house is located. My breath caught in my throat as we rounded the corner to the room which I have seen so many times in pictures, the room where the chidden eat and play, with Noah's Ark-style lions painted on the walls and tiny tables and chairs. All the children were playing and they all stopped abruptly when we entered through the wooden baby gate at the door. Our daughter ran to her nanny and hid behind her leg, where she then planted herself for an hour pausing only to glare at us and scowl when she found we were still watching her. My cheeks ached from smiling hungrily as I drank in the sight of her, just watching her and being in the same room with her. I watched as she delicately ate the simple dinner served to the children, and as she peeked out from under her lashes, presumably to see if we had gone yet. Slowly, I moved to sit next to her...then after a while I showed her the photo as my Wallpaper on my phone screen...then I found us taking selfies on my phone together...and at last, she was unceremoniously plopped into my lap by her nannies who wanted her to give me a payoff for traveling to see her, I could tell. Coaxing her with a small baby doll and some books, I began to win her over and soon we were playing with puzzles and blocks, all the while with her on my lap generously letting me shower her soft, dimpled cheeks with kisses and her arms with warm squeezes. 

 By the time I left at around 7:30, she wrapped her slim arms around my neck and frog legged her legs around me so that I would take her with me. It was all I could do to peel her off after all that work and hand her off to the nanny. 

 This is going to be hard. Everyday, without fail, until she's home. 

 Friends, you have been so faithful to pray and send love and messages! They are fuel! Thank you! Keep it up, please! We need the Lord to keep being who He is and keep redeeming as we go. And He will. 

Love, love, love

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 PĂ©tionville, 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

Monday, January 20, 2014

5 more days…and risking it all

In response to a dear friend who cautioned me about the perils of visiting repeatedly for an adoption, mostly so that I do not forget the ardor with which I love you, Baby Girl, and also so one day when you are home and attached and this is a memory, that I may recognize and appreciate a MIRACLE in my midst. 


  • ...Sighhh. Oh, I wish indeed there was inflection in email and on FB messages because you would know how this deeply settles in knowing acknowledgement and how much I completely concur. Background for us: I have experience with RAD, I get it on a variety of levels, and as a family committed to Empowered to Connect, small group attachment study leaders and Believers, this is something we never, ever intended to do: visit and leave a child. It goes against everything we know to be plausible in adoption and frankly, was a reason we ruled out so very any programs when looking for our child this time. That was all, of course, before 2013 and all back when we innocently saw this little girl's picture and her story and talked to her creche adoption coordinator in California and heard her story and realized she was waiting because of hesitation in so many people who had inquired after her but never committed? For us, she was the realization and embodiment of what we always believed our next adoption would look like (for a number of reasons which I will not go into for times' sake right now). 
    We fell in love. We, very quickly, were ALL IN.

    When we began this adoption in January 2013 we were told there would be 2-3 trips, none lasting more than 2-3 days and we would stay at a guesthouse and have visitation with our child -that she would at no time stay at a hotel with us, nor would we call her anything but her given name nor would we be allowed to feed her, bathe her, wake her or otherwise mess with her. We knew from the beginning she was to be respected as "belonging" to her nannies and that we would have access to her in 1 room. And none of those factors have changed...except that Haiti is about to implement Hague and passed new adoption laws in November doing away with things like dispensation but adding in this 2-week, IBESR-mandated, bonding-observed trip. And we are, I am not even kidding, like probably Family #10 or less to participate. This flies in the face of everything we know and have studied for 4 years about attachment, everything we diligently practiced in our last adoption, and everything we want to be the case...and yet, it is where we have landed, almost against our will and certainly against our best judgement. I actually had friends adopting from Haiti while we were adopting from Uganda and I remember so clearly not comprehending how they could bear it. And here I am. It is extremely bizarre. Extremely.
  • I appreciate very much your candor and your attitude of love in expressing this to me. I know you risk rejection and dismissal from me in telling this to me, and I know this comes from a place of sorority and care. I want you to know that I will read and re-read all of this again and I do so with tears, knowing this is the reality we are opening our hands to: that we are risking her future attachment potential by being more white people who visit and disappear. That we will risk confusion which may lead ultimately to inability to recover from abandonment and that we may look back one day and realize we screwed ourselves. It's a risk, you realize, as an adoptive mama, we are going to take. We will not be taking care of her, nor bringing her at any time off the grounds, nor really parenting her - we will be loving her and being what she needs. And in time, she will come home and we will then dive in and regress her and cocoon and all the things my very soul is CRUSHED that I must resist doing for now, for her sake. This is broken and this is backwards but I agree with you to my core: we must be what SHE needs; we belong to HER, not she belongs to us. Pray with me, would you? That I will let my heart break and support her attachment to her nannies while we are there, even while being observed to be "bonding" and that finally, when the Lord in His good timing brings her home that we will see her bloom, blossom and unfurl in His love, that she will let us love her well and deeply and forever, that her walls will crumble, that our eyes will pour her identity into her, that we will swim out to deep waters to drag her back to this boat that is our home, that she would one day - impossibly - trust us. I know how improbable this sounds. I wrestle with the implausibility of what I am asking every day and every night. I will abandon her and I will ask her to trust me after that: I know how that sounds. Please pray with me that I will have grace enough from Jesus to harm her as little as possible and that with great speed she will come home when I can bear it no longer being only her friend and not her Mama.


  • Thanks again,
    Esty