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Monday, December 10, 2012

My Husband

I know this post seems a bit odd considering this blog is all about adopting while living overseas.  But adoption wouldn't be possible (well it would be- but it would be a very different experience) if it wasn't for my husband.

For those of you that know Ron, you probably already know he's pretty awesome! :)  He's the nicest, kindest, warmest, most genuine man I have ever met.  He's also rather intelligent, funny and a bit handsome!  I could go on and on about him...

I knew I really, truly loved Ron while we were dating, engaged, and even when we were first married.  We talked about adoption on our first date and he "knew what he was in for" by sticking around.  He knew from the beginning that I only wanted to adopt- and that I wanted to adopt several children.  Still, he stuck around as he saw the world in the same way that I view it.

Since beginning this adoption process over a year ago (I attended the 1st adoption seminar in January, 2011 while in vet school and Ron was deployed), I have fallen more and more in love with my husband.  I know that sounds cliche and a bit cheesy, but it's true.

For starters, there is some crazy way that men are raised that makes them feel they "must" produce one of their own.  I'm going to argue against this being a primal instinct, but something that's actually based out of nurture.  To many men, and women, having biological children is the most important thing a couple could do and the only main way to have a family.  But not to Ron (or me).  Ron saw adoption as a way to significantly impact an innocent life in a positive way.  It's a way for Ron and I to devote ourselves to someone the world has essentially lost or forgotten.  It's a way not to make a life, but to save a life.  In that sense, Ron saw adoption as the most important way to have a family (music to my ears)!  There are days when I catch myself just looking at Ron thinking, "How on earth are you the way you are?"  I know he's seen a lot, especially with the military, but there's something else that let's us share in our view of family.  I have yet to figure that one out!

Ron is understanding- VERY understanding.  As I have never been pregnant, I'm not familiar with the wait and hormonal changes that occur in that process.  However, I have been a part of this adoption process, and I can say, it's not easy.  During our Dossier and HomeStudy, I was just a bit stressed out- which, added together with the wonderful weather found in Washington, made me not the most pleasant of all people.  But Ron understood and kept loving me!  During these past 3 months of waiting for a court date since our referral, Ron has watched me cry as often as everyday.  Mind you, this wasn't simple crying- it was very often crying fits as I was tired of waiting, not knowing and not having any control of our situation.  But Ron was there, understandingly wiping my tears away.  Ron convinced me not to fly suddenly to Ethiopia on 2 occasions.  He hasn't been mean, but is always honest.  And he's there for me!

Ron also trusts me.  When we were discussing adopting from Ethiopia for the first time in the spring of 2011, he never asked about the costs or anything.  Although we both work on our finances, I do the Garberson budget.  Ron knew this and figured that I wouldn't mention something we couldn't afford.  I don't think he's ever blinked at the cost of the adoption or has ever questioned/struggled with writing one of our hefty checks.  I honestly cannot say I know of any other man that could be so trusting and open.  He also trusted me to work on saving enough to afford the adoption without effecting our other expenses.  You know a man loves you and your life together so much that he's willing to sacrifice re-allocate the amount of money for a new car for an international adoption.  Again, I often find myself looking at Ron and just asking, "How?"  or "Why?"  But then I know...Ron doesn't see the adoption to having a price tag, but rather being a father as priceless.

Ron also knows me.  He truly knows me.  He knows when I'm on the verge of an emotional break-down and works to make everything ok.  He knows if I'm becoming impatient and finds ways to explain, re-explain, or re-re-explain the wait!  He knows when I want to go the orphanage to play with babies just by the look on my face.  He knows if I'm going to do a not-so-attractive happy dance whenever we hear good news about the adoption (he has actually taken some pictures of these secret moments).  He knows when to fight- for example, not letting me fly to Ethiopia a month ago and reasoning with me.  And he knows when to let go- like realizing me crying everyday wasn't healthy for either of us.  As a result, we'll be in Ethiopia with Aidan over Christmas.  Since the day our tickets were booked, I have had this immense sense of calm where I'm not longer sad, worried or scared as I know everything will be ok once we're together in Ethiopia where we can work on things there.  Ron knew that this would be the best thing for me and for us, and he made it happen!

Ron will also make one heck of an amazing dad!  When we first met, Ron didn't know much about kids at all!  I even remember him telling me a story about seeing a baby in a "baby cage" (otherwise known as a play yard).  Although he knew babies didn't go in cages, I'm not sure he knew much beyond that :).  Well, besides Ron having a calm, easy-going yet determined, patient personality, he has shown what an amazing father he will be.  He literally becomes larger than life with kids.  He will tell anyone here in Chiang Mai that his favorite thing to do on weekends is to go the orphanage and then the walking street afterwards for dinner (some crazy, fun Saturday night, I know- but luckily, that's my favorite, too)!  The first few days at the orphanage were interesting as we were learning our place and stride with the children.  However, now when we go, Ron is attacked by children who sprint up to him screaming, "PAPA!" He wrestles with them, carries them, plays with them, makes up stories for them, teaches them and cuddles them.  It is truly remarkable to watch your husband love and care for orphans.  I know the baby thing gets a lot of women- but try the baby thing when it's not his biological child.  WOW!  My favorite picture is of Ron lying on a bean bag in the nursery with a 10-month old girl he was able to rock/back-scratch to sleep.  And that's where he stayed for the next 2-hours...with a little girl who just needed him to be her dad for awhile since she doesn't have one of her own.

Ron knows this since I tell him a lot, but I really, truly, whole-heartily love him.  I have seen new sides to him and I am grateful they exist.  And I have seen him respond to me in ways that couldn't be written or performed any better, even for a romantic movie.  There aren't many men that would willingly adopt over having biological children, or chose to spend their Saturday loving on some orphans.  There are a lot of great men out there, but I think I got lucky- VERY lucky!

Ron- these next few weeks and months will be some of the best of our lives.  They'll also be the most emotional, scariest, nerve-wracking weeks as well.  There isn't a single person I would rather experience this crazy ride of adoption, family and marriage with and I am eternally grateful for you as my partner!!!!!  I LOVE YOU!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

The E-Mail that Forever Changed Our Lives

I don't know why I didn't write about this earlier, but I'm glad I'm just now getting to it!  Thinking about this particular day and recording the journey allows me to relive one of the best days of my life!

Right before we moved to Thailand, Ron and I were able to have our USCIS fingerprinting done just days before we moved.  Our fingerprints were cleared and I-600A application was accepted on August 15!  Around August 25, our completed Dossier was sent to Washington DC to be authenticated and certified by the US State Department and the Ethiopian Embassy.  Around August 30, our Dossier was sent to Ethiopia!

On Saturday, September 8, Ron, Paige, Bleu, Kai'a and I moved into our new home!  We finally left the hotel we were calling home for just less than a month and into our beautiful house we would call home for the next 3 years!  Although we didn't have any furniture and were still living out of suitcases, being in a house with a yard again was heaven!

That Monday, September 10, Ron went to Big C (the Thai's version of a Wal-Mart) for mobile internet.  That evening, we were online!  Before we moved, Ron and I joked that every morning, we would wake up early to check our e-mail to see if THE E-MAIL arrived- our referral e-mail with information about Aidan.  Although we never discussed it, I figured that it wouldn't be until the end of September at the earliest before we received an e-mail.  I figured our Dossier had to be in Ethiopia for at least a month for anything to happen.  That evening, I sent our adoption agency manager an e-mail simply requesting if there was any update IF our Dossier was received in Ethiopia.

On Tuesday morning, September 11, Ron and I woke up to get ready for school/work.  Ron checked his e-mail that morning while I was still in bed.  I remember almost asking him for the computer to check my e-mail, but figured I could just check it as soon as I got to work.  Ron told me he almost asked me if I wanted to check my e-mail, just in case, but then figured it was too early the THE E-MAIL!  There honestly weren't too many days where I actively thought about our referral, but that day was one of them!

When I got to work on Tuesday, I checked my e-mail.  There were 2 e-mails from our adoption manager.  The first was a response to the e-mail I sent the previous day stating, "Please see following."  The 2nd e-mail was titled "Referral."  Now, I know this sounds dumb, but I thought, "There is NO way that this is our referral."  I had always imagined opening our referral e-mail together with Ron in a planned environment with the camera ready!

Still not sure what it was, I opened that e-mail and it said, "Please see below...the child is doing fine now".  There was a grid with a given name, weight, length and head circumference, as well as a list of medications he was on.  Below that were attachments-lots of them!  Attachments of medical records, biographical information and pictures.  LOTS of pictures!  I screamed!  I COULD NOT BELIEVE IT!

It was 8:50.  Ron's class didn't start for 10 more minutes!  He would surely answer my call!  So I called and the phone rang and rang but no answer.  I called again and again and again.  Still no answer!  Out of all days Ron didn't answer his phone, this had to be THE DAY!  I sent texts...lots of texts!  "Call me!"  "We have our referral!"  "Call me now!"  Still nothing.

I know this wasn't romantic or perfect, but Ron, who knows me extremely well, thought that if I did anything else, it wouldn't represent how I really am...I'm IMPATIENT!  I can't stand surprises and waiting for things!  He knew there was no way I would wait and he later told me he was happy that I looked at the referral and things happened the way they did.  I somehow knew that.  So I clicked, "Display All Images" on my screen and waited.

Over 15 images displayed in full-view.  The first pages were informational- biographies, medical records, government letters, etc.  But I kept scrolling down until I reached the pictures.  There was Aidan's face- precious, perfect and more than I could have imagined!  He had hair- lots of hair- a full head of beautiful, thick, curly black hair.  And medium brown skin.  And brown eyes- big, adorable, precious big brown eyes. And a pout.  And a small furrow between his brow!  Everything I saw was perfect.  Beyond perfect.  There was my son, for the first time.  I started crying...and crying...and crying.  I kept scrolling.  When I got to the picture of him smiling I started to wail.

I was overwhelmed with more joy and emotion than I had ever felt.  I was a mom and that was my son- my beautiful son!  I stepped away from the computer to take a break.  I walked outside into the glorious sunshine and took a deep breath and smiled (still crying).  Of course, there were cleaning ladies outside the door when I walked out, who don't speak much English (and I didn't speak much Thai).  They looked at me to see what was wrong and had faces of concern- I'm sure I looked wonderful with all that crying!  So I motioned for them to come inside and I showed them Aidan's pictures.  I kept saying, "That's my son.  Isn't he beautiful?"  They looked at me with puzzled faces.  Finally one said, 'That not you baby," which made me laugh- typical Thailand!  Although we look nothing alike, there are not enough words to describe the amount of love I felt for that boy- my son- MY BABY!

I was then calm enough to read Aidan's initial biography, which has since changed.  But Aidan was and still is healthy.  He was small for his age for American standards, but big for Ethiopian babies.  The more I read, the more perfect he became!  I was able to send our family and friends an e-mail stating we received our referral and that details would come soon.  But first, Ron had to call.

I forwarded Ron our referral e-mail, and then sent a separate e-mail of just Aidan's pictures.  I didn't have class until 10:40 that day, so I just kept re-reading Aidan's paperwork.  Finally, at 10:02, Ron called.  He was on break and left his phone in the car.  He told me he actively thought, "I won't need my phone today."  Boy, was he wrong!  He was thrilled and surprised that we had our referral and glad I opened the e-mail instead of waiting- which I apologized at least 100 times for!  I started crying again, knowing I was going to be able to share this moment with my husband- Aidan's Dad!  Ron grabbed his kindle, went inside his school and got online.  We waited and waited.  Of course the internet here is slow!

Meanwhile, I described our perfect baby to Ron- his hair, smile, eyes, skin and history.  Ron loved everything he was hearing.  Finally, the pictures loaded and I heard a, "Oh wow, he's so perfect" on the phone!  It was music to my ears!  Ron loved Aidan as much as I did.  Ron kept looking, "He's so handsome!  Look at him!  Look at all his hair!"  He had a smile to his voice filled with excitement!  In fact, he was on the verge of tears he was so happy!  After looking at all of Aidan's pictures, we kept talking about how excited we were and how our answer to, "Do you accept this referral?" is YES!!!!

Ron had to get back to class and I had an e-mail to write.  I immediately wrote our adoption director that we accept our referral without question or hesitation.  He was perfect and our son.  I then sent the pictures to family and friends.  And then class started.  During my classes that day, I showed all of my students' Aidan's pictures and shared his story.  They couldn't have been more excited for me!

Of course, after lunch, I got sick from something I ate (something that happens commonly here).  I didn't want to move, was crampy, had a fever, and was miserable.  I was able to call Ron and he was headed up to my school to pick me up early when I was done teaching so that I didn't have to take the school bus home.  Although I felt awful, seeing Ron and finally being able to share our day together made everything better!  We hugged and hugged knowing we had a son in Africa who was perfect beyond words.

Once home, we were able to call our families to share the news!  They couldn't have been more excited!  Ron and I had our newly hired maid take our first family picture together- Ron and I, with Aidan on the computer screen!  That evening, we spent finishing our referral day video that highlighted our journey.

We celebrated our referral of Aidan by having our furniture arrive the next day!  The first thing we did was to unpack Aidan's room, build his crib, organize his clothes and find places for his toys.  We weren't just setting up our future son's room, but Aidan's room.

I never thought my life would change so drastically over one e-mail.  Ron and I became parents with that e-mail and our lives are eternally changed.  Meeting Aidan in 2 weeks will be a dream come true.  We will have our perfect, smiling, brow furrowing, finger playing, belly bulging son in our arms for Christmas!  And it all started with one e-mail with his face and story!  September 11 will always be our referral-versary!