For 31 Days I am blogging about Adopting Intentionally, you can find an overview and links to daily posts here. On the weekends during this series I am inviting guest bloggers to share their personal stories. This weekend, Brianna is sharing the long wait she and her family endured to bring her daughter home.
What was the process of adopting like for us? The process was, in a word, challenging. I mean, not the paperwork, the home study, the parts we had some control over. But once that was all done and the waiting set in, challenging. (Honestly, I want to say horrific, but I don’t want to scare anyone from adopting. Do I say what I’m feeling with a layer of tact and diplomacy, or do I just come out and share the gritty truth?) Now that our daughter is home (currently sleeping on the floor of my bedroom next to my son, sprawled in one of her millions of unusual configurations), I can look back on the last four years with some clarity. And the word that comes to mind is horrific, and yet I see beauty and peace sprinkled in there as well.
Our home study and dossier were completed in May 2011 and submitted to India in June.
I was ready for some waiting time before matched with a child. However, that was not where the real waiting would be. August 12, 2011, we were matched with a sweet two-year-old girl who had lived in an orphanage in India since she was six days old. From the timeline provided us by our placing agency and the families we knew who had adopted from India, we expected to have her home in nine to twelve months. (I laugh at our naivety then).
At this point, everything we could do had been done. Now our case (and our hearts, our daughter) lay in the hands of the nameless, faceless people working for the machine that is Indian bureaucracy.
The first step in the process was receiving NOC from CARA. That is a No Objection Certificate from the Central Adoption Resource Authority in India. The expected wait for this step – two to four months. When it grew to six months, we called our placing agency to see what was happening with our case. They told us that in December 2011 (four months after we were matched) India had revamped their process and moved many steps online. There was now a monthly quota of how many families’ dossiers could be submitted, all online. Along with the online move, they were changing how they processed adoptions, so families under the newer laws would have their adoptions finalized in India instead of having to come back to America and do that in the courts here.
For some reason, with these changes, all the cases that were in process were set aside. It seemed that CARA didn’t have much time for issuing NOCs when they were dealing with the inevitable snafus that come as a result of trying to bring the adoption process in India into the 21st Century. We called, we emailed, we begged our agency for news, any news, of any progress. NONE.
On July 6, 2012 (our 10th wedding anniversary and 11 months after being matched) we received an email saying NOC had been granted.
I remember we were in the car with Ethan on the way to the beach, and I just started sobbing. Why? I have no idea. I think I had started to doubt it would ever happen, and then I thought, Well, she’ll be home for Christmas this year. Again, I laugh.
Now that we had received NOC, we could at least have contact with our daughter. I could send pictures, stuffed animals, introduce her to us, her family who loved her and couldn’t wait to have her home. These things I did in earnest, sending something nearly every month.
Next our case moved to the court in the city where our daughter was living. Some judge had to approve us as parents and confirm that she was legally up for adoption. The timeline provided to us was two to three months. *hysterical (slightly crazy) laughter*
When we didn’t hear any news after three months, we emailed our agency. What was the hold up? No idea, but we’ll let you know when we know anything. When we learned in November (four months after receiving NOC) that Mohit would be in India on a business trip the first week of December, we decided to visit our daughter. I took a week off of work, left my son with my parents, and flew to India to meet Mohit and visit the orphanage. We spent three hours each day for three days with our daughter. Way too little time to get to know her, especially with the language barrier, and too much time to realize that now we KNEW her, we wanted her home, but we would have to leave her there, indefinitely.
It was from the orphanage workers that we learned we had had a court date set up in November, but the judge had retired before he could hear our case. When will there be a new judge? No idea, but definitely by the beginning of the new year.
2013 began with high hopes, but as month after month passed, we realized we were in this for the long haul.
I’d like to say that we were patiently waiting, resting in the assurance that God was/IS in control and His timing is always perfect. I’d like to say that my packages continued every month to India because I was faithful and sure of the outcome. But that would be lying.
I wondered, I doubted, I questioned, I begged, I screamed at God, all the while clinging to Him with desperate hands. I don’t think I made it through one Sunday service for seven months without sobbing as we sang worship songs. You know the ones, the ones that say things like, “Our God is fighting for us all” and “He makes the orphan a son or daughter” and “Your love never fails, it never gives up, it never runs out on me.” Even my praise was blocked by my doubts and grief, grief over knowing and loving a little girl who lived thousands of miles away from me. And yet, with my head, and to my friends, I could say with assurance these things that I knew to be true – God IS in control and His timing is always perfect.
And yet, just like in the poem “Footprints,” God was so gracious and faithful to carry me despite all of that. He would show me in so many ways that He knew, that He cared, and that He had great things in store for us, I just had to trust and rest. Many times it was through songs on the radio – Blessings by Nora Story, Before the Morning by Josh Wilson, He is With Us by Love and the Outcome, Already There by Casting Crowns. Often it was through a Facebook post, those short quotes on pretty backgrounds – I have learned to kiss the wave that slams me into the Rock of Ages by Charles Spurgeon. Sometimes it was from the blogs I would read, trying to glean comfort from those that had gone before me and were already in their happily ever after. This is a good example, from Jen Hatmaker, “It makes sense that the Holy Spirit is called the Comforter because if you actually follow where he leads you, you’re going to need one…We trust that the God who begged us to care for the orphan actually cares about them and is weaving this beautiful story together right in front of our eyes.”
Finally, and the most amazing to me, were the times when He actually spoke to me in that still small voice, answering my questions and my doubts. He would remind me that He loved my daughter more than I did. He has a purpose and a reason and I am not “skilled enough to understand what [He] has planned,” (Aaron Shust, My Savior, My God). He didn’t call me to control anything but only to walk in obedience and then trust.
Not only did God comfort me, but He changed me. He used this time to work on my marriage, my parenting skills, and even my anger problem. He, ever so gently and lovingly, led my family on a journey that changed how we see others and our purpose in this life and how we use our time, talents, and money. He showed me what it was like to truly commune with Him, the three-in-one Godhead. He prepared Ethan to be the best big brother ever. He provided us time to travel to India so Ethan could meet Mohit’s family over there and then meet his sister and see where she came from and how she lived. Here was the beauty and peace in the midst of my pain, my grief.
In May 2013 a new judge was appointed to the court in India, just in time to take a six week summer vacation. We didn’t want too much time to pass before seeing Nayami again, and since she wasn’t coming home anytime soon, we took Ethan to meet her in August 2013. While we were there, our representative in India (called a RIPA) attended our first court date…where they set another court date to review the case.
The judge missed the next date. Then the lawyers in the city went on strike. Then the holidays had to be observed. (For a country where Hindu, Muslim, and Christian holidays are observed, I often wonder how any work gets done.) 2013 became 2014. Then the courts were closed for elections. Then a court date was set, but it was another holiday so it had to be moved. Then another six week summer vacation had to be taken, since the judge had worked so hard over the last year.
When I shared with a friend that the courts were closed for elections, he replied, “Well, of course.” Upon my startled look, he explained that he wasn’t surprised. With all the set backs we had experience, he was just waiting for the next one. He suggested I make a list of everything that could go wrong and just start checking them off as they came. We laughed, but I actually started expecting to hear that the court building had caught on fire and all our paperwork was lost and we would have to start all over again.
Then, miracle of miracles, I received an email June 26, 2014 (nearly two years after receiving NOC) that we had passed court.
Again, I sobbed, and again, I’m not quite sure why. I was under the impression that after court, it would take another year to actually bring her home, but along with that email came 11 others discussing travel to India and picking up our daughter. In amazement I emailed our agency to make sure I understood correctly. Our case manager assured me it was really happening, and our daughter should be home in the fall. June 27 I asked my supervisor for a year leave of absence from my teaching job.
Over the next three months we cleaned out the garage so we could clean out her room and make it livable. We met someone who spoke our daughter’s language and tried to learn (or record) certain key words and phrases so we could communicate. We enjoyed the summer with Ethan, constantly reminding ourselves we would be a family of four. And we praised God, for His provision, His grace, and His unending love.