I received an email yesterday from our social worker. The HOMESTUDY IS COMPLETE!!
If you have never gone through an international adoption, perhaps that news is not all that exciting to you. This is why it's extremely exciting to us:
We started over a year ago with our first homestudy agency. We had joined adoption forums about a year previous to that, and figured since we had adopted 7 children domestically, we were old hats at this. Wrong.
We started praying about the country we wanted to adopt from. I researched Liberia (closed), Haiti (wouldnt' accept our family size), and Russia (too long in country for me to leave my family.)
We poured our hearts out over waiting list children, looking into their eyes and requesting information on each one. By the time the agencies got back to us, the children had been placed, or for some reason we would not fit the criteria for adopting them. My heart sank a bit each time. We decided Ethiopia would be the best fit for our family, and researched agencies who place children from there. We sent off our application fees, then contracted with a placing agency. That was Jan. 09.
After our contract was reviewed and signed (ALOT of reading!!), we had located a homestudy agency in Michigan, and began the tedious process. We bought required reading books, studied the country of Ethiopia and dreamed of the children who would soon be part of our family. Mike and I spent HOURS writing out our personal history, our reason for adopting again, and everything about us and our families that would matter in the end. By the time our social worker showed up to begin the homestudy, we were so psyched and pumping every ounce of energy into making our remodel projects complete, and getting ready for our new children.
Social worker #1. Discouraging. To. Say. The. Least. After 7 frustrating months, we received a letter stating our social worker had left the agency, and the comments he left about us in his wake were less than desirable. We had close friends and family question if this was "God's plan to stop the adoption process", and our hearts sank a little more. I cried tears for the children we would never meet, the plans that I thought God wanted for us, and the turn of events that had stopped me cold in my tracks.
But a small, still voice spoke peace and comfort in our ears, so stepping out on faith once again, we contacted another agency, who seemed more than willing to give their best shot. The first agency refunded our initial expenses (unheard of, from what we hear now) and we really had lost very little with that attempt. Except time. Which can not be refunded, ever. God continued to speak to our hearts cry, while, step by step, we moved closer to what we understood to be HIS will.
Social worker #2. An answer to prayer. Mary Beth was kind, a hopeful adoptive mom herself, and loved our big family. She was supportive, never critical, could see our hearts and knew God still had a big plan for us. What a perfect fit! We went through hours of training, in person and on-line, read different books than the first time, and we were on our way. More than half the year was over, but we were hopeful again.
My oldest daughter got married in the fall, went through surgery, then recovery, and we knew that the timing was perfect. We could see why we still hadn't gone to Ethiopia yet, because we were needed here. But then the waiting for the homestudy felt like it was dragging on,so we questioned again, would we ever get our children? Pregnancies last 9 months. It felt like we should be nearing the end of ours. September. October. November. Still waiting. December.
I started to lose my focus. We were approached by a man who asked if we would be interested in another domestic adoption. I jumped, heart first. It never worked out. Then we were approached about adopting twins who were due in December, again domestic adoption. I jumped, knowing I had a nursery set for two, once again, heart first. We celebrated holidays, a precious visit from my second oldest daughter from Oregon, and still waited. Birth mom choose another family. Obviously, this was not how God was going to add to our family. He clearly was telling us to wait. My mom heart grieved, but I really wanted to be faithful to the path that God had placed us on. It was just hard to see the empty cribs, and I contemplated taking them down so the constant reminder was not there. Would an empty nursery feel any more comforting? The cribs remain.
A new year dawned, making this wait well over the expected pregnancy phase. Our social worker had emergency surgery, recovery time and other clients. I wanted to be strong and faithful, but I was wavering. Big time. I heard the voices of others in my head, questioning our intent, our plan, the path we were walking. But in my heart, I still saw the big brown eyes peering out of an orphanage crib, and God continued to ease the emptiness in my heart that cried out to bring the babies home.
An email that said "your homestudy has been approved and copies will be in the mail this week" brought all the year past into focus. I do not know the children God is preparing for us, but this is a major step in the right direction. Our next hurdles are the immigration paperwork, fingerprinting, and dossier preparation. Most of that paperwork is completed, just waiting for the homestudy piece that was needed to go with it to the next level.
So, what have we learned? I can't speak for Mike, but for me, waiting for something to happen does not mean that God has changed His mind. For all my questions, tears and fears, God has remained steady, pushing us gently on our path. That's the main thing. Secondly, International Adoption is hard. It's time consuming, and I have to be careful that is doesn't consume my entire life. Life with 10 kids will be hectic, unpredictable, and consuming enough, so adding the IA piece will not make anything else easier. Over the year (plus) we have had opportunity to teach the kids more about the country we will be bringing home our children from. Nicole has done reports for school on Ethiopia. Bella hopes on a daily basis that we will get our babies today, and the other kids have had time to adjust their thinking on what life will be like when we add more children to the mix.
Has it been a good year? Yes.
Was it a hard year? Exceptionally.
Is it over yet? Nope.
But like Mike said when he read the email from Mary Beth, "It feels we are moving again."
Might I add, "in the right direction." Finally. In the right direction.