Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Call

For months we waited. I became very frustrated with the lack of a projected timeline and the lack of news. I had concluded that it was best to avoid talking to our agency because the time before those calls made me hopeful and then the lack of information left me disappointed. Having been through this now I can understand why our agency couldn't tell me when or even how everything would happen (the process in Uganda is always changing; you could almost label it "unpredictable"). But it left me frustrated nonetheless. 

On Tuesday, October 4, 2011, I got to work to find a voicemail from our agency. I had been out picking up Starbucks for my team and had forgotten one person's coffee so I needed to head back out. I wanted to call back right away but I told myself that it was probably nothing and to not be hopeful. Because I couldn't control those hopeful emotions that were so dangerous to me, I chose to push all of it aside and run back out to Starbucks. As I returned and pulled back into a parking spot, my cell phone rang. I could see it was our agency. My hopes jumped up again as I pushed myself to stay calm. I told my passenger that I needed to take this call and that I would see her inside. 

I don't remember her exact first words but I do remember "you have a court date" and "are you ready to travel because you leave this Saturday." She told me how thankful she was that I was such a neurotic control freak as my prior excessive preparation and aggressive don't-get-in-my-way personality would serve us well in having to leave so very quickly. Okay she didn't use those words. She was far nicer than that. But I don't remember the exact words so I am just boiling it down to the point. :) Later we were told that it would be okay if we left on Sunday. While I wanted so badly to leave on Saturday in order to get to our kids one day sooner, we really needed that extra day to get ready. 

I walked, jogged, and skipped into the office and briefly paused on "the row" (the area where my team sits) to announce "we got it! we got a court date! we leave this Saturday! gotta go, I need to buy tickets." I'm pretty sure I dropped my coffee in the middle of all that but I know it didn't spill so I must have consumed most of it already. I'm sure the fresh intake of caffeine only added fuel to my frenzy.

We both continued to work the rest of that week as we needed to save our vacation time to cover the long absence. We would come home at the end of the day and part ways only to see each other again when crawling into bed. We went to the bank to get crisp, newer than 2006, unmarked $100 bills. We bought car seats, little winter coats, little underwear, travel tissue packs, tons of wipes, vitamins, little dresses for court, little sweaters to go with little dresses for court, 5 pairs of girls dress shoes (in hopes that 3 would fit), and on and on and on. We got anti-malaria prescriptions filled and prepared other prescriptions, all in their original bottles so as to avoid any issues with transporting so much (unfortunately I take a significant amount of medication due to significant pain associated with fibromyalgia). I picked up donated formula from local pediatricians and donated toothbrushes from local dentists (I parceled these out in small batches as I heard of various people making trips to various baby homes when it was appropriate; you have to be very careful about how you handle donations as you don't ever want to provide incentives to anyone within the adoption process as that is where ethics issues arise). We gathered more documents. We had conference calls with our agency about details and steps. 

I never really cried with joy like you would think. We were so very busy that there just wasn't time. I remember that when I would be waiting at a stop light, I would start to tear up but then the light would turn green and I would be off and running again. I don't know what all we did in those 5 days but I know that it was a complete sprint. We were both exhausted. I remember finding it very stressful but it was such an exciting time.

That Sunday as we got ready to walk out the door and head to the airport, I posted on facebook: It's baby time!!! Some couples go to the hospital. Others go to the airport.

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Wait

Once you find out who your kids are (get a referral), you have to wait for a court date. There is nothing that you can do to make it happen faster and the wait is a killer. I feel like it was a time for Satan's attacks. So many questions went through my mind during that time. What if we are doing the wrong thing? What if this falls through (a failed adoption is emotionally similar to a miscarriage)? What if these aren't our kids? What if we already missed our kids and we failed to find them and now it is too late? What if they have been split from their siblings? What if they became ill and even died because they had no one to care for them? Why oh why didn't we try biological? Why four? We must be insane. 

I asked everyone to pray for our kids. But then I felt guilty because sometimes a whole day would go by when I wouldn't even think about our kids. I felt even more guilty because I was thankful for those days because they were a relief from the stress and emotions.

Ripping up our carpet and installing laminate floors was a ton of work but it was the perfect project during the wait. It kept me busy and I was too tired to stress, worry, contemplate, and over think everything.

I really have no advice for someone in this stage. It just sucks. Well, I guess I do have 3 pieces of advice:

  • Pray constantly and listen carefully.
  • Find a project. Lots of projects. 
  • Exercise, eat well, and cut out most sugar. International adoption is extremely physically demanding. If you get an infant they will keep you up all night. If you get a toddler they will want to be carried everywhere. If you get 4 school age siblings they will wake up early, want to be carried, they will get sick, you will get sick, step on you, elbow you, and climb all over you. If you are seriously dependent on caffeine and/or sugar you will likely crash at the most inopportune time (like I did) as foods in other countries usually do not contain nearly as much sugar as they do in the US.
If you are in the waiting stage right now, I'm sorry. If you know someone who is waiting, just listen as there is really nothing you can say to make it better.

    Home Safe and Sound

    We have now been home for 48 hours. Previously I felt too nervous to blog about our adoption for fear of saying the wrong thing at the wrong time in the wrong way and somehow upsetting our adoption. So I elected to just stop for the time being until we had our kids home safe and sound. Well they are all in bed now.

    The past two months have been so extremely intense. My goals in writing are:
    • To share our joy with those who have showed their interest in our crazy life.
    • To share information with others adopting or considering adopting. I found reading others' blogs so very helpful when we were ramping up to adopt. Every person is different but having read multiple other stories gave me some idea of what to expect (even though nothing could have fully prepared me for this roller coaster).
    • To answer questions. We are two very tall white people with 4 very little Africans following us around. Naturally we get a lot of looks, stares, and questions. I am very open to these questions but I want to avoid constantly discussing my kids' adoption right in front of them. I hope that by blogging I can answer some of these questions while avoiding making my kids' feel like their lives are always on display.
    • To respect our kids' privacy. I know that people want to know about our family because they are interested, curious, considering adoption, etc. But when in doubt, I hope to default to sharing less. My theory is that you can always say more later but can never un-say something.
    • To keep a record of this amazing and crazy roller coaster. The stories and the memories are important to me. I hope our kids will enjoy having these in the future.
    I tried to keep a journal during our trip but that went out the window once we took custody of the kids at the hotel. So I will try to piece together my memories and write what I can.

    Tuesday, November 1, 2011

    We Are A Family!!!

    I know that it has been a long time since I have written much. I will explain that later, but right now I have something too important to wait on catching up. As of today, we are officially, legally, and forever a family. We were awarded, in writing, legal guardianship by the Ugandan high courts. It is my greatest joy to introduce our new family to you.

    Joanita Naomi Johns (age 9)
    Her full name is pronounced jo-anita but she prefers to be called Joani which is pronounced jo-ann-E. Joanita is the name that her first mother gave her, a piece of her history that we would never dream of taking away. Naomi is my mother's name. Johns is the name that will identify her as a member of our family. Joanita is a leader and a caretaker. She is serious and experienced at caring for her siblings. I have no doubt that she will turn into a strong young woman much more quickly than we would prefer.

    Sylvia Joy Johns (age 7)
    Sylvia is the name that her first mother gave her. Again, we would never dream of changing that. Joy is Josh's mother's name. Again, Johns is her family name. Sylvia is soft and gentle. She is a quiet girl who shows herself a little at a time. Each day we get to know a little more about her.

    Sarah Fehr Johns (age 6)
    Sarah is the name that her first mother gave her. Again, that is an important piece of her history. Fehr is my middle name which is also my mother's maiden name. We are happy that she will share our last name. Sarah is full of energy. She does everything with great enthusiasm. When she smiles you can't help but laugh with her. 

    Ryan David Johns (age 4)
    Ryan always was and always will be his first name. David is Josh's middle name. Johns is our family name which he will also pass on to his own family someday. Ryan absolutely loves every things about "motorcars". He is a typical little boy. Being the youngest to three older sisters, he can throw elbows with the best of them to defend his space.

    Thank you for sharing in our joy of this day. I will start catching you up on our recent past soon.