That date marks the "official", from a paperwork standpoint, date of our adoption adventure. Our hearts began this adventure months earlier, but May 1 is when the paper pushing officially began. I wanted to write some type of post to mark the occasion, but I wasn't sure what it would look like until last week. I forced myself to sit down and reflect on everything we've done adoption related over the past year, and make a list of things I've learned.
I want to share some of those things. Maybe this will help someone? But I know I'll be thankful this time next year that I did this, since a lot of this may not be so fresh in my mind.
These are in no particular order...
1. Support and Excitement.
Being perfectly honest, when we decided for sure that we were going to adopt, I wasn't sure what the general reaction to our news would be. We have 5 kids already, and anyone who knows us, even a little, knows we're very busy. Adding another little person to our bunch, one we know will have one or more special needs, I didn't really know how people would react. So it took me a few months before I started sharing our adoption news freely. Overall, everyone we've told has been very supportive, and many are excited for us. I've had a couple people tell me we're crazy, but honestly, we wouldn't be doing this if we weren't a little crazy. :) The support we've received blesses my heart! If you're reading this, and you're one of those people, thank you!
Unless you've adopted before, you probably don't completely understand the amount of paperwork that is involved in an international adoption. We've just finished our dossier, and while I haven't seen it in person (our case worker has all the original documents + a few extras, like pictures) the copies we have could make a small book. Our home study alone looks like a small book. We've had a couple small forests worth of paper come through our home, that we've filled out, printed out, picked up from somewhere, mailed out, made copies of. It's amazing and exhausting. And just when you think you can't stand to fill out one more document, you get a break. And then as your break goes from days, to weeks, to months, you kind of wish you had some kind of paperwork to work on again, because it keeps you busy. And it's a physical reminder that things are moving forward.
Many days while paper pushing there didn't seem to be enough time in the day. Time was not on our side (or so it seemed to feel that way). For one reason or another a delay which caused us to lose a day, a week, sometimes a month was disheartening. There's a drive to move as quickly as possible to bring your child home, and delays, which eat up time are not always easy to deal with. There are very few precious things that happen quickly, at least that was our experience with the paper pushing.
Now, however, that our dossier is in China and logged in, it seems all we have is time. :)
Expect them. Many of them. At one point, I began wondering if something was wrong if there wasn't a delay on the horizon.
As frustrating, as devastating, and as maddening as the delays are or can be, I'm learning that they are building blocks for our adoption story. Meltdowns may and have happened because of delays, but God has used those delays to stretch me, to challenge me to trust Him deeper, and brought me to places of surrender, that had I not experienced those delays, I would never have known.
There's a quote I've stumbled across a couple times in the past year, and there were moments, I had to choose to believe it is true.
"You are not just waiting in vain, there is a purpose behind every delay." -Mandy Hale
Educational courses. We did many. We passed them, thankfully! That was 85% of all reading I did last summer (pretty excited to be reading books of my own choosing this summer). They were time consuming, and sometimes boring, but very eye-opening. I am thankful we had to complete the courses we did. I took away a lot of valuable information (which I'm sure I'll be reviewing, once we're closer to traveling) but one of the big things I took away was how important it is for us to think and look at adoption from our daughter's perspective. We are so excited to meet her and hold her and love on her, but for her, things will not be happy, shiny, and bright. Grasping the importance of thinking from her perspective I know will help prepare us better for the day she is finally in our arms.
Let's just get this out there. No matter how good or how good you think you are at waiting, when it comes to adoption, you're not. I've had people tell me I'm pretty patient. There are many things I've had to wait for in my life, but nothing compares to the waiting involved in adoption. Because it's not just one thing you're waiting for. Ultimately, your waiting for your child, but there are so many, so many other things and people and papers and approvals and the list goes on, that you're waiting on before you even know who your son or daughter is. Waiting can be and is exhausting.
Adoption is not a sprint, it is a marathon...a long one. And at this point I'm only speaking of the paperwork process. I think once we get our referral, we'll begin another marathon. It takes endurance.
I remember one morning driving my kids to school, it was probably 6-7 months ago. We had just been hit with another delay and I remember as I was driving I just started crying out to the Lord, asking Him, "Why?" "Why another delay?" I remember so clearly His response, "I'm building endurance."
God uses every delay. We may never on this side of eternity know the reason for each one, but there is a reason.
Adoption can be a very lonely thing.
During the paper pushing process, so much of your time is consumed by paperwork. But your mind is consumed too. Not that you can't concentrate on other things or people, you can, but you are parent to this child, who in our case is on the other side of the world, and as her mother how can I not be thinking of her often. It's isolating. You have friends who have not adopted and they try to understand and empathize, but unless you've walked this road there's a lot you really don't understand(I can say that because not so long ago, I was that friend). And with friends, who have adopted, more often then not, while they've walked this road, they're not on the particular road you're on, so it's lonely sometimes.
9. Adoptive Families
Having friends and acquaintances who've adopted has been a lifeline.
Hearing about their experiences. Listening to their advice is invaluable. While our stories may have similarities, but most certainly won't be the same, there is a kindredness. There's an opportunity for vulnerability because of the road they've walked. Because of where they've been they can offer encouragement unlike that of other friends. They can offer an understanding and empathy that is like a balm to a hurting, anxious heart. They.are.priceless.
I have learned more about trusting God in this past year then I ever have in my life. I've learned how trust is part of the bedrock of my Christian faith. Trust in adoption, in life, is essential. Trust is crucial.
I've seen how lacking I am. I've seen how I've thought I was trusting God fully, but was really only trusting Him in part. It's not been easy, but I see how God is testing and stretching my trust in Him, and as hard as it's been, as painful as it's been, and even when I've thought I couldn't do this anymore, there is a cry that's been birthed in my heart to only want to trust Him more. Trust, it's a small word, but it's a powerful one.
I don't know how people do this without Jesus.
It is possible to love someone more then words could describe and miss them so much it hurts, when you've never met them or seen their face.