This morning I received an email from someone adopting from Kyrgyzstan who is currently one of the unfortunate 60+ families who are held up in the process for what has now become months and months of a standstill. Although I am at work, and intended to use my "between flight" time to finally get more deeply immersed in my Lay Ministry Class homework, I found my mind drifting continually back to the plaintive tone of this email and I could not ignore it. I started what I thought would be a short response which grew to a very long one as I hopped up and down from my computer as I helped people at the counter. I decided that I would post my response to this person as a blog entry, as I know there are a few waiting families who read this and maybe, just maybe they can find something of value to take away from this that will help them right now.
I have no stake in the Kyrg adoptions myself, we were one of the lucky ones to be completed before all of this happen, but we have waited for more than double the time for our daughters to come home, more than double the time that most of the Kyrg families have been waiting for their children. But as I stated in a group post, we are a community, we lean on one another, some of us have gone before so those following can benefit from our experiences. I can not speed up a process and I can not do anything to move government officials...I can offer my understanding and prayers. I can share your heartache with you. Below was my response, it is very long and I am certain that those who may read the blog who are not involved in all of this as intimately will find themselves quite bored by it, but someone somewhere might need to read it:
I know. I know how you feel. And no one else who has never been through it can really and truly understand. It's not their fault, it is not without wanting to. I am sure your XXXX would love to be able to offer encouragement and more applicable support, to really understand all that you are feeling right now...but it is simply impossible unless they have gone through it themselves. To top it off, not every IA parent has gone through it either. This "Living in Limboland" is a journey that is unique unto itself.
I assume from your email that you have a faith in God in one form or another. Fully embracing that is the only thing that has gotten me through the past 11 years, and conversely the past 11 years of adoption journeying has brought me closer to God than I ever could have imagined.
If you had approached me before traveling to Kyrg, I would have advised you against it for exactly the reasons you might now be better understanding...it is harder once you have held a child...a child that Fate may decide is not really yours. That is not to say that some child is not yours, but perhaps not this one. I speak to you frankly and honestly not in an effort to discourage you, but to try and help you see it from a different view. I have never met any of my children prior to this adoption, and if I had my choice I would not have done so this time. It is impossible to "unring the bell", so to speak, to not remember their touch, how they feel in your arms, the scent of them. To look into a child's eyes who you feel is yours and connect is one of the most wonderful experiences you can ever have, to see that hope and trust that speaks to you. It is impossible to detach and it makes the waiting interminable. I wonder if I am not going through this experience so I might better understand the many of you who are also going through it, to provide me with a different insight and compassion for it.
That being said...you did meet your child, your daughter is very real to you...not just a photo and a medical report. This is good AND bad, bad for the reasons stated above, good because you are holding a very special little girl in your heart and whether she ends up with you or not I am convinced of the Divine's presence in our lives, and your continual prayers for her have an effect, at least as far as I am concerned. It is also good because this is a part of your bonding process, and that is always good. So you can see that if your heart can weather it, this is not only to be seen from the negative perspective...but it requires a strength in you that you may not feel you have, but I am sure you can pull up from your reserves.
The fact is, she may not come home.
I know, you don't want to hear that. You won't want to even allow yourself to think of the possibility. These children that we hang our hearts on are not ours until the court says so, until the final document is signed. It leaves us living in limbo for a long time, and in this case longer than most. But they are not ours.
What helps me come to a better understanding in all of this, is also recognizing that we live with the illusion that even once the documents are signed, when all the i's are dotted and the t's are crossed, our children are STILL not really ours, they are God's. He gives us permission to carry them through life for awhile, but even then we find we are in the position of letting them go. And that too is hard, be it before they join our family, or when they graduate from high school. They are on loan to us, and perhaps your daughter is merely on loan for awhile so you can carry her in your heart and offer up your prayers for her to have a wonderful life, to ask for God's protection over her. We can never assume ownership over any person, as we really all belong only to God. It is when we confuse this that we end up often finding ourselves in a position to be heartbroken. Admittedly even when we acknowledge this, letting go can be utterly crushing.
That being said, my friend, I do have a strong belief that adoptions will soon be moving in Kyrgyzstan. Partly based upon faith, and partly based upon my experiences observing how international adoptions have developed and morphed over the past 11 years in Russia and the former Soviet Republics. Kazakhstan went through these growing pains and still does periodically. For some reason, just as we were in on the ground floor of Kazakh adoptions, the same thing has happened with us with Kenny's adoption, being one of the early families can cause your journey to be fraught with unknowns, yet if you are early enough it can sometimes allow you to bypass the growing pains of a developing program. But our length of time involved in all of this has provided me with a unique vantage point from which to take it all in. And this allows me to believe that eventually all will smooth out with Kyrgyzstan and adoptions will proceed.
It may take more time, and I know....your daughter is growing older by the minute. With infants it is even more of a sense of loss as they grow and change so quickly, you can actually see the changes from one month to the next. With older children that sense of urgency is slowed a bit, their changes happen more gradually and your bigger fears are the things that can happen to them in institutions as they grow to the pre-teen and teen years that we can all imagine in our nightmares.
I remember feeling foolish for sobbing in front of my computer screen days before we traveled for Josh and we received an updated photo of him. Our only other photos shows a tiny infant, and here he looked to be a sturdy toddler, despite the fact he was only 11 months old. Today I can grin as I see that much of what I was seeing was the "Little Old Man" in him that we still see come out in him today, and not necessarily growth. But at that moment, I could only think of what I had missed, and that grieving needed to come out, I think.
You know what is amazing though? The very moment your child is placed in your arms, that yearning for what was lost suddenly is taken from you, and you can only see the future you have together. We, as humans, have an incredible ability to adapt to the reality of what our lives are...and our reality sometimes is our children come to us older than we ever would have wished for. Once we have them though, it is funny that you hear so few adoptive parents ever lamenting the loss of those early months or years as they are busy living for the future. You too will find this to be true, should your daughter come home.
You asked how you get by week after week without feeling like you are just existing? I sense you are asking for something more from me than the usual responses on the internet adoption lists of tasks that you can do to fill the time...you know what I am talking about...the "Get the baby's room done, go to a spa, practice carrying around a 20 lb bag of flour" responses. You are asking me how to survive all of this.
I only wish I could better answer you, that I could offer more comfort. For me, the only way I can make it through is by living for the moment to the best of my ability, by not trying to jump ahead of myself, by asking God to help me not miss the wonder and beauty of today because I am so fixated on tomorrow. Interestingly, this is something I long needed to learn, well before we ever began our adoptions. I always was busy looking towards tomorrow and never saw what was in the here and now. I love how I have been formed by this process, how my weaknesses have been addressed and my strengths have been enhanced. You too will find this happening, if you allow your eyes to be opened to it. Regardless of what has happened, you can not emerge unchanged, and it doesn't have to be changed in the negative if you choose to see it from the polar opposite perspective. If you have ever read my blog, you will see quite clearly that there are times when I have been more successful at this than others. The important thing is pulling out of it.
Life exists beyond your adoption, and you will miss out on a lot as you travel through this time if you don't allow yourself to become a part of the living rather than living only in the Land of the Expecting. What will happen will happen, you have no control, and it is a good thing to practice before you travel. The best advice I have ever offered, in my opinion, to the hundreds of families I have spoken with over the years is to give up the need for control, trust your decisions and then let come what may. If you have faith in your work pre-adoption in selecting an agency, they will do all they can for you.
And what if your daughter doesn't come home? What if you allow yourself to imagine the worst? Will it hurt...yes, like hell. Will you move beyond it? Yes, one day you will. Will another child eventually find themselves in your arms. Yes. Yes.
Trust in God, let go of control, and most importantly, continue to LIVE.
May you have peace as you continue this challenging time in your life.