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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

I found this today and it is perfect in every way.  This really summarizes the power of being a mother, even in a bi (or even tri) racial family. 

What can I teach you about being Black?
Not much,
Because I'm not.
But I can teach you about pain,
And how to forgive peoples foolish words.
I can show you how to endure suffering,
So that through it Truth will be proclaimed.
I can love you and cry with you,
I can be the she-bear when you are threatened.
We can live where there is a rainbow of people,
and we can learn to love them together.
We can seek out the truth of history,
And not be afraid of the ugliness.
I can open your heart and your eyes
To the painful reality that comes clinging to the back of sin.
And in the end, I can release you into your destiny,
And wait for you to come home,
With a fuller understanding of who you are
and what you are to be in your life.
Then I can listen as you teach me,
What it means to be Black.

By: Dorothy Bode

Monday, November 12, 2012

Journey to Lanna....

Our journey to Lanna (and maybe Mali) has just begun!  I'm titling this post, "Journey to Lanna" as Lanna is the former name of the capital of Northern Thailand.  A journey to Lanna is not just a journey to our daughter(s), but about our journey here! 

Mali (Molly) means "flower" in Thai.  If we do adopt a sister/twin, then this will be her name.

Ron and I have been working on our Thai adoption since May, around the same time we started our adoption for Aidan.  Although both processes are international adoptions, they are so completely different that at times, it's hard to see similarities between the two!

For Thai adoptions, there are 2 options for adoptive parents:
1.  For parents in the US, an adoption agency should be used to facilitate the application and post-placement visits.
2.  For parents living in Thailand, parents are able to forgo the use of an adoption agency and apply to adopt directly through the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSDW).  For Ron and I, this is the route we took.

Back in April, Ron met with the director of Thai adoptions in Bangkok during a day-long layover.  He was able to turn in our initial questionaire and obtained our application and check-list.  Luckily, almost all of the documents we acquired for Aidan's adoption were required for Lanna's.  As such, we didn't have to do everything twice!

Some examples of the documents needed for our Thai adoption are: marriage certificate, personal statement/biography explaining family history, statements of income, letters of employment, copies of our passports/visas, letters of recommendation background checks and passport pictures.  We also had to to have a physical performed by a Thai doctor and a formal letter completed (our doctor was more concerned with, well, puzzled by, why we wanted to adopt than he was with our health!  We now need to have a psychological evaluation by a Thai doctor- I can already imagine how this will be as we're "insane" for wanting to love a child that's not our own...)

On Thursday, Ron and I went to the DSDW to turn in our completed application and packet.  However, after waiting over an hour as the Department of Adoptions was closed for lunch, we briefly met with a social worker who didn't speak English.  She called her supervisor, who was off work that day.  After explaining the purpose of our visit, an appointment was made for the following day.

Although this was a bit frusterating, it wasn't too surprising.  A lot of things in Thailand change and happen at the last minute, and there's not always an explanation for things.

Ron and I took advantage of that afternoon and went to the US Embassy to get our final documentation- passport copies authenticated and a formal letter by the US Immigration Visa department stating that our adopted child/ren will receive US Visas after the adoption is finalized.  It all worked out and by 4PM, everything was completed!

The next morning, we took a 15 minute sky tram ride, followed by a 10-minute taxi ride and then a 10-minute walk to the DSDW.  We met with the director who spoke wonderful English.  After about an hour of going through our paperwork, we were told we were all set.  After initial approval, a social worker from Chiang Mai will come to our house to conduct a HomeStudy.  Then, our packet will be submitted to a board for approval.  Finally, we'll be put on a wait list and wait...

We learned the following...
There are about 300 families waiting to adopt from Thailand.
The wait is about 2-3 years from application approval to placement.
Last year, Thailand adopted out 350 children.  (I know, the numbers don't add up...)
The committee meets every month to match families with children.
Preference is given to families living in Thailand.
Preference is given to families open to adopting children with any degree of special needs.
The wait time is less for families open to adopting older children.

We we're on a waiting list of about 25 families living in Thailand...waiting for a referral of 1-2 children.

In Thailand, you cannot adopt unrelated children.  If you want to adopt more than 1 child, they must either be twins or siblings.  And Thailand doesn't like to adopt children to families who already have 2 children already in their home.  As Ron and I thought about this and what kind of family we wanted, we decided to request to adopt a single child OR twins or siblings.

We hope to adopt 2-4 children (or even more later on in life).  We are also open to gender, age and family background.  After working with many of the children at the orphanage who have mild to moderate special needs (almost all of which are correctible), we realized we are open to adopting children with special needs.  At first, Ron was hesitant.  But after discussing that even biological children could have a plethera of needs, he realized there wasn't much difference.  Plus, we have seen the life these children will have in here Thailand if they're not adopted...they will be shunned beggers on the street with their special needs not addressed.  Although Ron realized this may prevent us from getting a "perfect" child, we would be able to get a child or children "perfect for us" in exchange- ones that we could love and give a life that would otherwise be impossible to have and achieve.

So we sat down and made a list- what we would and wouldn't accept.  At first, Ron only wanted correctable special needs- umbilical hernias, correctable heart defects, etc.  He was hesitant about vision and hearing loss, mild limb deformities, birth marks, burns, etc.  However, we again had a discussion.  Ron's fear was that he didn't want our child to have a bad day because they lost their glasses and couldn't see at school.  My argument was that with us, that would be our child's only reason of worry, and if that was their worst day, it wasn't that bad of a day considering.  Soon, Ron began realizing the beauty of what we could offer a child.  Although the military doesn't have that many perks, it does have some...one of which is unlimited health care.  I know- this is a huge jungle of program and can be a pain to work with, but the fact that some of the best medicine is available to us and our children is a gift.  And it's a gift we can share with children in need.  With the military, our children will receive the best medical care available to help correct or address any need they have. 

After those discussions, we really sat down to determine what we could and couldn't accept right now.  A lot of it came down to the fact that we live in Thailand, where we don't have all of the educational and medical support that we would have in the US.  As such, this eliminated special needs such as Down's Sydrome and epilepsy.  However, it left a lot open- hearing and vision impairment, heart defects, limb abnormalities, etc.

We have no idea when our referral for our child/children from Thailand will come, or how old they will be, or what, if any, special needs they have.  What we do know is that we have learned a lot through each other, our time at the orphanage, and through Aidan.  We have realized that a child deserves love, no matter what.  And if we have that gift to give, then we want to give as much as that gift as we can. 

We won't be hearing much in terms in Lanna and Mali for awhile...but when we do, it will be a surprise, I'm sure! :)

Sunday, November 11, 2012

A Mother's Wish...

I know it's been awhile since I last posted, and a lot has been going on.  This entire journey has been a roller coaster, but these past few weeks have been tough.

It's been 10 weeks since we first saw Aidan's pictures.  When we first received his referral, we knew the Ethiopian courts were closed, so we would have to wait for a court date.  The courts opened on October 8th, and we anxiously awaited a court date.... Once the courts re-opened, MOWA (Ministry of Women's Affairs) had to look over our paperwork and Aidan's.  Once they felt we matched, they would write an approval letter.  With that approval letter written, we could then be submitted to court for a court date...

But our MOWA letter never came, and we're still waiting.  By waiting, I mean I check my e-mail 20+ times a day, including right before I go to bed at at 6AM when I wake up early just to check my e-mail.  Everyday is a heart break.  Luckily I work to stay busy so the day goes by, but it's tough.  It's tough for me to wait and tough for Ron to watch.

Ron keeps telling me that he loves the fact that I care so much, but that it hurts him to see me in so much pain.  He keeps wishing there was a way to make it all better.  Today, he told me he wished there was a way for me to care, but not let it affect me.  I told him that was impossible- if I care, then it affects me.  He laughed and said I live and love with my whole heart!  

Two weeks ago, we received an update on Aidan (our Friday update).  Prior to this, he was "Kimaya" Garberson.  However, on this one update, his name was changed to "Bedessa" Garberson.  It was still Aidan in the pictures and his measurements fit with the previous ones we had received, but his name had changed.  I felt that something was wrong and it took Ron 2 hours to convince me not to fly to Ethiopia that day to figure it out.  So instead, we waited out the weekend until Monday when I could call the adoption director of our agency for more information.

I was told that yes, indeed, Aidan's name had changed.  At the time, our agency had been given the wrong paperwork and they were under the assumption that Aidan was Kimaya, but that Bedessa was his first given name.  I was told this happens sometimes and it's not a big deal.  Our agency was working on changing all of his documents to "Bedessa" and once that was done, THEN a MOWA letter could be written.

Again, waiting and waiting and waiting....

Yesterday afternoon, I finally received an e-mail with a new update.  Our agency had been given the wrong paperwork from the beginning, not just the wrong name.  We were first told that Aidan was 4-5 months old and was abandoned in a village east of Addis Ababa.  However, with the proper paperwork that came through, we got the truth.

Aidan's given name is "Bedessa."  He was relinquished by his mom in early May of this year when he was about 2 months old.  So Aidan is about 9 months old.  He was at an orphanage north of Addis until he became sick in July.  Then, he was hospitalized and moved to the Foster Home.  Aidan's mom is alive, his father is unknown.  We have the name of his village as well as his birth mother.

Prior to yesterday, I was grateful but sad that Aidan was abandoned.  I was incredibly sad that he was abandoned and he would have to deal with that his entire life.  However, I was grateful in that I wouldn't feel like I was taking anyone's child.  All that came crashing down yesterday.

An hour before the Marine Corps Birthday Ball in Bangkok, I read the e-mail.  I burst into tears and grieved yet again.  Everything I had known about Aidan had changed.  It was almost like I was grieving the loss of a child I didn't know as everything I did know about him had changed.  I was also falling in love with the "new" Aidan and his story.

What hurt the most...well, it still hurts, is the fact that Aidan was relinquished.  There is a strong possibility his Ethiopian mom will be in court.  She will officially and legally give up her rights of her son to Ron and I.  WOW!

In Ethiopia, I know this happens all of the time.   Extreme poverty, lack of education, poor nutrition and scarce medical care make it difficult, if not impossible, to raise a child in much of the country.  I know Aidan's Ethiopian Mom is an incredibly strong woman.  She realized this and out of love for her son, surrendered him to an orphanage with the hopes that he would receive better care and a chance for a better life.

Ron and I are that chance.  However, it breaks my heart and causes a downpour of tears when I think of that.  This poor woman's life is so difficult that giving up her son is her only option.  I know some adoptive parents think poorly of such actions.  However, there is not a cell in my body that has negative feelings towards Aidan's birth mother- all I feel is love....immense love.

I was really shaken yesterday realizing all of this.  How was I going to handle being in court?  What would I tell her?  What would I do?  How could I ensure she knows how much I respect her?

I called my Mom on Skype at 4AM Michigan time.  I poured my heart out and cried- daughter to mother over the journey of my son's birth mother.

At dinner last night, we sat beside a wonderful family that has adopted 2 daughters from China who were abandoned.  After talking to them, they stated that they wish they knew their daughters' birth mothers as they could have more information to help their daughters today.  This was a relief to hear.  When I explained my concerns with meeting Aidan's birth mother in court and what I would do, should do and wouldn't do, they advised, "Just do what you would have wanted your mom to have done."

I thought about this all night.  In the middle of the night, I woke Ron up and we decided on the following.

I'm going to write Aidan's Ethiopian mom a letter and have it translated into Amharic.  It will be titled, "A Mother's Promise" and in that letter, I will explain how much I will love Aidan and give him the best life I can.  I will also explain how I will work to keep Ethiopia in his heart and raise him knowing how incredibly strong and loving his Ethiopian Mom is.  Ron will write a letter titled, "A Father's Promise."  That way, she will always know how much we love and cherish OUR son.

When I was thinking of what I would want my mom to do, I realized we need to help her.  There is absolutely NO WAY I think I could ever forgive my parents if they didn't help my birth mother who gave me up because she was too young/poor/uneducated to care for me.  Out of respect for Aidan, we'll find a way to help her in some capacity.  This has to be after we receive Aidan's Visa for the US.  However, after Aidan's Visa arrives, we'll travel to his village.  There, we will find a way to help his Ethiopian mom, whether it be food, clothes, livestock, something.  I couldn't live knowing that she wasn't ok.  It would eat me up inside.

It's a funny thing, this adoption.  Although our story has changed, it's still special and unique.  I once thought we would be giving a child a set of parents and grieving with abandonment.  That has grown to being given the gift of a connection of a beautiful baby boy with another woman.  Aidan will have 2 moms: me and his Ethiopian mom- his guardian angel.  I will forever be connected to this woman and love her with more respect and emotion that rivals any love I feel for anyone.  We will share the bond of our son and the love we share for him.

I have no idea how the court date will be...I think Aidan's Ethiopian mom will be grateful, excited, scared, hopeful, worried and maybe spiteful.  How can we live in a world with so much when she has so little?  Again, my heart aches and breaks.  I know on court day, she'll be the determining factor in everything we do- what information we receive, what pictures we take, etc.  I will vow to respect her and her wishes as I can only imagine what a difficult day that will be for her.  For us, it will be bittersweet- we will be gaining a son, but through poverty.

Whatever may come, I do know that Aidan is a lucky, lucky boy.  He was born to a mother who loves him so much she was willing to sacrifice her own pain for his future and well-being.  He also is one of the few that is adopted.  This will give Aidan a chance to go to school, have good health care, get a job and have a family of his own.  Many of us are grateful for having one Mom.  Aidan is lucky enough to have 2!  For that, I will be forever grateful for!