I have horribly neglected this blog the past 8-ish months (have I mentioned that I hate blogging?) but I’m forcing myself to sit and write an update because something big happened in our adoption process yesterday. I know so many of our friends and family have been faithfully praying for us, especially the past couple months, and this is the easiest way to get information to everyone. To help you all understand this stage of the adoption process, let me start by breaking it down in a concise timeline:
Almost 4 1/2 yrs ago we started the adoption process. I’m a tinsy bit ready for this process to be done.
Nov 13, 2014– We got a referral for a beautiful baby boy! We immediately accepted the referral and began filling out the “referral acceptance paperwork.”
Nov 15, 2014 — Our son turned 1 yr old!
Nov 26, 2014– Finally completed the paperwork and Fed-Exed it to our agency (Josh was overseas for work when we got our referral, so it took us a hot minute to get everything signed, notarized, etc).
—At this point we were launched into the PAIR process. PAIR = Pre Adoption Immigration Review. This means that the US Embassy in Ethiopia has our case file and is doing an investigation into all the documents to make sure everything is legit. Once the PAIR process is complete, they are basically saying that they approve for us to move forward with this adoption. They do this by sending us our PAIR letter.
—March 5, 2015 — Got an email from the Embassy notifying us that our PAIR process is complete and our letter will arrive within 7-10 days.
Mid March, 2015 — PAIR letter arrives and we send it off for authentication.
March 26, 2015 — Authentication is complete and our PAIR letter is sent to Ethiopia. At this point we are waiting anxiously for a Preliminary Hearing to be scheduled.
May 5, 2015 — We find out that our Preliminary Hearing has been scheduled for June 1st. YAY! This is not something we attend. We need to have a favorable hearing, then get the stamp of approval from MOWYAC before we can get a court date and travel to meet our son. (MOWYAC = Ministry of Women, Youth & Children for the country of Ethiopia. More often referred to as MOWA)
June 1, 2015 — Our Preliminary Hearing takes place and all goes well. It was a “favorable hearing” and the court asks for nothing else from us.
—At this point, our case file is handed off to MOWA. Our case is assigned to one of the five MOWA investigators, who will have the responsibility to look over our case and make sure everything is tip top. Basically, MOWA is doing EXACTLY what the US Embassy just did a couple months earlier, just on a smaller scale. Once they complete their investigation, they give their stamp of approval in a MOWA letter — or “court document” — and we can FINALLY be given a court date and FINALLY travel to meet our son.
So, June 1st comes and goes. The first few weeks I check in with my agency 2 or 3 times to make sure everything went well and there is nothing that MOWA needs from us. They assure me that we had a favorable hearing and MOWA has not asked for any additional documentation on our case. It is not unusual for MOWA to ask for additional documents or for clarification on certain aspect of a case file. This makes the wait for a court date even longer but they did not request any of this from us. Thank God! MOWA works at their own pace and can be extremely unpredictable. We really have no idea how long it will take them to review our case and give us the approval needed for us to get a court date. Months ago, I was added to a facebook group message with several other families who were at the same stage in the process as Josh and I. We were all keeping each other updated and getting to know each other because we expected to travel together. I saw each of these families have break-throughs in their cases and travel to meet their kids. Some of them have even brought their children home already.
Each day that goes by, my anxiety grows. Just before the 4th of July, several people from my agency who had prelim hearings on the same day as us (June 1st) receive their MOWA approval and were issued court dates. Many of them traveled on the 4th of July to meet their children. I was thrilled for them and sure that we’d be issued a court date the following week. The first, second and third weeks of July came and went with no MOWA approval letter or court date for us. I am becoming more and more distressed as I watch families who were weeks and even MONTHS behind us in the process, zoom pass us as they receive court dates, travel to meet their children, and bring their children safely home. I am happy for them, but WHY IS IT TAKING SO LONG FOR US?! It’s hard to wait for something this important when you have no idea why you are being made to wait. I felt like something must be wrong. I kept checking with my agency, who is consistently checking with MOWA about my case to make sure that there is nothing MOWA needs from us. Our agency cannot figure out WHY MOWA has not completed our investigation and given us a letter. They have asked MOWA specifically about our case time and time again and each time they are told, “Everything is fine. NO we are not waiting on any other paperwork. Nope, don’t need anything else from the orphanage, We just haven’t gotten to it yet — we’ll get to it soon.”
The courts in Ethiopia close for the rainy season every year, which runs from mid-August to mid/late-October. If we don’t get a court date before the closure, we will not bring Theo home before his 2nd birthday, possibly not even before the New Year. A couple weeks ago, I get added to a NEW facebook group message with several other waiting families and we begin getting to know each other, believing we will all travel together. All of these families, who were weeks or months behind us in the adoption process, have received court dates. Most of them have already traveled or are leaving this week.
The past 2-3 weeks have been excruciating. I just kept thinking…”God, what am I doing wrong? Am I not praying enough? Not submitted enough? Is my attitude wrong? Am I not trusting enough? What can I do to fix this so that you will answer our prayers?” I know that sounds ridiculous but at that point I had moved through every stage of grief and was at the point of bargaining. I also needed someone to blame. So why not blame myself? So many people are praying for us and we are praying as well, but it felt like God was asleep at the wheel. I’m not proud to admit that I had these thoughts but the struggle is REAL. When we needed God to move mercifully on our behalf, it felt like He was silent.
I was getting so extremely concerned that I actually started having nightmares. Early last week I had a dream that my 2 yr old daughter, Giselle, drown. It happened right in front of me and there was nothing I could do to stop it. We were enjoying a day at the lake with the family and swimming together. She had a life jacket on and she sunk right to the bottom. I went after her as fast as I could but by the time I brought her back to the surface it was too late. She had drown. The nightmare repeated itself three times. I felt so much powerlessness, unspeakable grief, and this deep sense that I should have or could have done something to “fix” it and keep her from drowning. It was awful. A few days later as I was pondering this nightmare, I realize that it was a manifestation of what I’m feeling as I walk through this adoption process. Grief. Loss of control. Powerlessness. Striving to fix something that is broken beyond repair. I am concerned about Theo. I don’t know what kind of care he’s getting at the orphanage, what kind of trauma he has already endured, or what it will be like to meet him and bring him home to our family. Some days I feel numb, other days my feelings are SO BIG that they explode out of me. I know families who were given court dates two weeks after their prelim hearings, and others even sooner than than. Yet our case has been sitting on someone’s desk since JUNE 1st for no apparent reason. IT DOESN’T MAKE SENSE. I am trying desperately to surrender to God and trust that His plan is for good, even though it seems like it’s harming us and our son. It’s so hard!
BUT WAIT, that’s not the end of the story. Monday morning (yesterday), I’m finally coming to a place of acceptance. Whatever the reason for us not getting a court date before the closure, I sure don’t understand what it is but I have to trust that God has a plan that is bigger than my pain. Even bigger than my child’s pain. THEN I get a phone call from my case worker with a huge update. On Monday morning (yesterday), the MOWA office in Ethiopia called my agency’s office in Ethiopia and confessed to them that they had LOST our court document. Yep, that’s right. THEY LOST IT. It has been lost for quite a while (weeks?) and they’ve been trying to find it. So all this time that my agency has been checking with them about our case, instead of being honest about what happened they’ve said “Oh we just haven’t had time to get to that case yet”, hoping they’d be able to find my court document and get our case pushed through. They finally decided to quit wasting time (since, you know, the courts will stop issuing dates in like a week) and fess up about what happened. Needless to say, I was shocked to hear this but also relieved to have a real answer as to why our case has not moved in nearly two months.
—So where do we go from here? MOWA has scheduled for our court document to be redone next Tuesday, Aug 4th. My agency is pressuring them to get this done sooner but we don’t know if that is possible. Having the court doc redone will likely be a quick process and hopefully we can get a court date right away! We are in the eleventh hour, folks! We really need a mircale to actually get a court date before the closure at this point. My case worker assured me that our agency’s staff and the MOWA personnel are working their butts off to get this all sorted out and get us a court date before the closure, but of course there are no guarantees. We will have extremely short notice if we do get a date before the closure so I am getting packed and ready to go.
Thank you so much to everyone who has prayed for us. Please continue to do so! WE love you so much!