Friday, November 27, 2015

The Loudest Silence

Silence. It is an energy source like no other. At times it is the most sought after, beautiful, restful thing our ears can hear. It has the power to restore, refuel, and replenish. Silence can also be quite scary, like the eeriness that occurs just before a ravenous tornado reduces a small town to mere rubble.

Scary or beautiful and whichever way you personally perceive silence, one thing is certain; silence almost always makes people stop, slow down, think and perhaps most importantly…listen; things many of us tend to be too busy to ever really do, let alone appreciate.

This year has flown by and has been crazy LOUD to say the least. For us, it started out with such promise and hope. We were nearly certain that our babe would be home by Christmas. We never thought we would still be waiting at the 2015 holidays and we certainly never envisioned cancer being a part of our lives…again. This year had nothing we really hoped for and instead seemed packed of things we dreaded. Between extra work hours, long business trips, doctors appointments, surgeries, hospitalizations, therapies, radiation, loosing and declining referrals….there was NO “good” silence. I personally thought, “for sure, God is waiting for all this to be done, then, our baby will come”. I am happy to report that mom’s treatment is complete; she is back in her home, and back to some element of normalcy, as are the rest of us. We still have lots of upcoming appointments, procedures, and scans but that’s not for this post. As the “Loudness” of this year has dissipated, an almost deafening silence has befallen our lives. Day after day we wait for that phone call but our agency has remained eerily silent. They were anticipating 10-15 referrals in October, but October came and went, as did November. We pray daily for something, and day after day nothing but silence. We ask God to please speak, move, intervene…Silence. Everyone around us appears to be pregnant or accepting referrals, but we are doing neither. It is easy to get frustrated, sad, weary, and even angry. What is not so easy to do, as I stated before, is to stop, slow down, think…and listen. Now allow me tell you what we’ve been hearing in our Silence, once we finally decided to actually do just that.  

I have shared previously the devastation of not only loosing “our” referral but the trauma in declining a referral over medical needs we were certain we could not handle. There were so many, well, uncertainties in the file that were too …well uncertain. We have learned a lot since the start of this journey. The orphan crisis has hit a huge nerve in the depths of my soul and when I (and then Jay) said yes to this, we simply envisioned something entirely different. We started out waiting for a healthy infant from Ethiopia. Only later, nearly 2 years later in fact, did we learn how corrupt adoptions in Ethiopia had become. We learned that “healthy infant children” are not who lie unattended in ANY international orphanage. Corruption began when the desire for healthy infants exceeded the actual healthy infants in institutions. What we learned early on was that there was a great NEED for people open to children with needs.  While everyone else in the world may turn a blind eye to them, God spoke LOUDLY that HE had not.  After much education, contemplation, and prayer we said “yes” once again; after all, there were minor special needs as well….

Then our wait became silent again…and again the sound was forcing us to look deeper still into what God sees in these orphanages. We learned that minor special needs kiddos, while they are present in orphanages, rarely wait long. We saw that first hand with our lost referral (by the way, this child was never really ours, I say that purely from a misguided feeling that he was ours). For the most part, they have correctable conditions that many of us Americans would not even classify as “special needs” at all.

The children who continue to wait in an orphanage are the sick ones; the blind, the deaf, the lame, the ones with complicated medical/surgical conditions, the ones whose files are outdated and/or their diagnoses are uncertain. A majority of these kids have conditions that simply would cause great change in an already existed family unit. I am going to be blunt for a moment, because I am simply talking about things I have seen (and felt) now being in the adoption circle for nearly 4 years, forgive me for any offence my statements may insight. People often want to adopt children that can be…well fixed. We personally have declined a referral because something scared us into believing that he couldn’t be “fixed”. When we declined, I had a friend very brazenly say to us, “I’m sorry but isn’t that what you signed up for? Special needs are needs that are beyond what is easy and fixable, what exactly are you expecting?” At the time, it hurt like a rusty knife being plunged into my stomach. But looking back, it hurt because…well she was right. We, in many ways, only wanted special needs that were manageable, clean, and easy. We wanted basically a healthy, young, developmentally on tract child with some mild correctable issue, who would fit like a perfect little piece in the puzzle we were already completing. We wanted them to just fit into our lives as our lives currently were. We could handle ripples in our lives, so to speak; we couldn’t handle waves. But these children with minor correctable needs are not the ones that lavish in an orphanage. The ones in an orphanage are those with the scary stuff, wave type stuff..and the longer they wait, growing older and getting passed on by family after family, the sicker and more developmentally delayed they become making it more and more unlikely they will ever be adopted. I will not get into what happens with the very sick (you can imagine) or the aging out teen (at the ripe old age of 14, children are often on their own…for life…alone) on this post.

Well friends, I hate to say it, but that is simply not what we signed up for. It is certainly not what is on our agencies brochure! We have pretty amazing lives…we have great jobs, we don’t struggle with money, we have a nice house, we have an amazing son who is beyond active. We go to football, baseball, soccer games, we travel, we have fun and we are blessed beyond measure. We didn’t WANT to sign up for something that would change, potentially all of that. I think we masqueraded behind the mask of we COULDN’T handle certain things, but truth be told we simply didn’t want to. I mean we live within three hours of three of the best childrens hospitals in the nation and even the world. They have some of the most renowned surgeons and all have well respected international adoption clinics. I am an acute care nurse practitioner for goodness sakes. I take care of the sickest of the sick everyday, but we would say, “This isn’t something we can handle….” At the same time though, we wanted to be used by God to do something great. We wanted our adoption to speak of HIS love, even for the smallest, weakest, and least among us. We wanted to show and feel what walking out faith looks like in real life. We wanted to play a part in God’s story, instead of just reading about it. The realization that we were hypocritical in a lot of ways, wanting to help and be used by God but only if it were on our neat and tidy terms with a child we deemed “easy enough”, was a huge blow and wake up call. And let me clarify…many of our misguided feelings were shown to be just that, misguided. The child we thought we couldn’t handle, he is home now with a family and doing wonderfully….our fear had no basis, we simply didn’t trust God when we felt Him say…”you can do this”. We let our fear of the unknown paralyze us. He did not have a deadly condition, but there were unknowns…(which ironically there will always be in adoption). Thank you Beth, that friend who was so brazen with me, for starting the crack that would eventually break open our hard hearts so that the LORD could truly show us the main thing HE has been working on from the very start…us. 

Through the silence and even despite it, I have always heard the voice of God saying, “I SEE THEM”. If our adoption had a theme from start to finish it would be that God does see us, all of us.  So much scripture points to the fact that He sees. It is truly us who are blind (to the plights of others) deaf (to the cry of the helpless), and lame (unable to move on behalf others when we know we could/should).

We have no idea what God is intending for our family, but He has a great plan and this Silence is teaching us more about His love for all of us, than anything else in this world ever could. We are growing stronger and so is our faith. We have seen glimpses of heaven along this journey and it is beautiful. We would never have jumped into the adoption of a special needs child from China without this wait and often the silence with it. What’s coming soon is going to be BIG. I can feel it.
We are close friends, the labor pains (so to speak) are here, and we continue to welcome prayers.

My next post will hopefully be about our baby (fingers crossed). Our director has never had a family wait longer than 15 months for the acceptance of a referral and we are on month 13. The end, and our new beginning is in sight!

Monday, August 10, 2015

The Storm

Over the last couple of months Jay and I have been patiently awaiting the next group of referrals in hopeful anticipation of finally seeing an end to this long wait and beholding our little love located on the other side of the world. The second group of referrals finally posted a few weeks ago, but we unfortunately have little good news to share. I have written previously about what it feels like to say “no” to a referral, an experience we had dreaded from the start. I wish I could say that saying no was the worst feeling throughout this whole process, but unfortunately we now know a far worse one…

Let me digress a moment…over the last several months, we have had a pretty open communication line with our adoption agency. As an advocate, I am often aware of things going on behind the scenes so to speak with our agency and the Chinese adoption community at large. Jay and I knew that we were getting very close to the top of the wait list and our director had asked all families to make her aware of children that we were particularly interested in and whose conditions we felt prepared to handle. We had fallen pretty hard for a particular little one and we voiced this to her on several occasions. The startling thing was, we were the only ones with intense interest and after several months, it was nearly certain that when the file posted, we would get the call and he would be ours. In fact, some at our agency even referred to this child as “Ileah and Jays’ referral”. We had chosen not to review other children’s files in anticipation of “our” little one. It truly felt like God was showing us why our wait was so long….it was for THIS child. We were so certain about “our referral” that we went so far as to tell others; family, friends, even our son about this child and we kept photos of him close at hand. We knew his paperwork would be coming up and it felt like our wait was finally almost over….

Then about 2 months ago, my mom was diagnosed with something terrible. I don’t even want to place a name on her diagnosis; I feel like if you do, then that it somehow gains power like “the dark one” from the Harry Potter films. I began attending multiple doctors’ appointments and specialist visits and our adoption took on a new face….one of hope and inspiration. In the next several months, our family was going to endure some really tough stuff, but after that….we would have this little one to actually hold. With any luck my mom would be recuperated and we would be traveling by the end of the year. It became our light at the end of a very dark tunnel. I remember taking a phone call from the agency at one of my moms' appointments and she stopped everything, and hushed everyone, to hear potential word on our little guy. The “diagnosis” was out of sight and mind during adoption related phone calls, for all of us. 

In hindsight, I should have known better. There are no guarantees in life and particularly no guarantees with adoption. You want to know the worst feeling through an adoption process? It’s hands down, loosing a referral. Six days prior to this little ones file posting, making them legally available for adoption and officially ours to accept… six short days…. was enough time for another family to gain interest, a family who was technically ahead of us on the list…and just like that, we were no longer considered for him. They would get to review his file first, which they did. And just like us, they fell deeply in love. They accepted his referral during one of the toughest days throughout my moms ordeal. My hope and light through our seemingly helpless and overwhelming situation was gone. We were back to the endless wait.

I took it really hard for the first couple of days, we both did really. To me, it felt like a miscarriage. I have never experienced a miscarriage, but for months we longed and dreamed and prepared for this particular babe and suddenly it was over and he wasn’t ours anymore. Except, I still had his face staring back at me from my phone, and his nursery which we had already started to prepare, and worse yet, social media which allows us to watch as another family documents their adoption of OUR baby.

I hate to admit this next part, but for several days I doubted Gods intentions, His ways, and sadly His goodness. I could only see our misery and the storm clouds swirling around us. I took my eyes off of HIM, and just like Peter after stepping out on the waves, I began to sink. Oh ye of little faith…I could almost hear his voice saying to me….

What is becoming obviously clear through the wait is that this process is not just about an orphan getting a family, its not just about a family getting a long anticipated child, and its not even just about glorifying God through our journey…its about simple faith; Trusting what we can not see, feel, or control. I think that’s what most of life’s trials are really, a way to build faith that can withstand a hurricane. It is sometimes easy to take big actions when you feel God calling you to do something, like saying yes to adoption in the first place. What is not so easy is remaining still when he calls you too. Everything in us wants to do SOMETHING…switch agencies, review children through other sites, try and get pregnant, stop the adoption process altogether….but God is not calling us to move, He is calling us to something harder…to remain still. He has priorities for our lives and right now, it’s not our adoption. Whether this time is for the care my mom needs, or to build our character through patience and tribulations, or to grow our faith, whatever the reason for this season, we need to wait on HIM, so we will.  He will come through, as He always does in a more beautiful and profound way than we could have ever expected.

My agency is anticipating another several months before the next group of kiddos post; I’m thinking October. We will likely not travel until well into 2016 if we accept a referral within this group.

For now, we appreciate prayers for our family, particularly for my mom, and for strength to carry on through the seemingly never-ending storm.

1 Samuel 12:16  “Now then, stand still and see this great thing the LORD is about to do before your eyes!”

Friday, April 24, 2015

Good News...kinda

Our agency works closely with a particular orphanage in China and the waiting families have gotten a glimpse of the next 40 children getting paperwork ready for adoption. As I have stated in the past we were told we are in the “top 10” of the waiting families. All the families, including us, have been waiting patiently for…you guessed it, paperwork from the Chinese government to start processing and matching these kiddos for nearly 5 months now. The first group of kiddos, eight to be exact, FINALLY posted this week. I waited by my phone as soon as I saw the post, and prayed desperately that we would get matched. But alas, the hours ticked on and the call never came. All the children were matched with other families. My heart is a bit heavy, because when you see their little faces, when you pray for each of them nightly, as we do with Jayden, you cant help but imagine some of them as “yours” and many of the ones we dreamt about, were matched with other families this week. However, putting our feelings aside, this is such great news for the other families, and for the children. Our director thinks that the next group, hopefully of 10 kiddos, will post in about 1-3 months, which likely means 4-6 given how adoption timelines seem to go through our experience. So what does this mean for us? Redoing our homestudy documents for one, meeting with our social worker again for two, and getting fingerprinted and awaiting on more paperwork from our government so when we finally do get that phone call, all our documents will be valid through travel; aka we can get back into the U.S. from China…which would be a very good thing. I am NOT looking forward to redoing any of our documents. It is a painstaking and costly process but we are just too close now to throw in the towel.

I have had my moments of frustration, anger, and annoyance, and now I am ready to move on and anticipate our referral later (again) that what we expected.

The hardest part in all of this is that I am involved with many adoption groups through social media, and there are so many kiddos who are adoption ready right now, who need families. We are locked into our agency, so even if we are interested in a particular child, we can’t help them. If I had to redo this whole adoption thing over again…and who knows maybe we will someday, I would not find an agency first…I would find a waiting, paperwork ready child first. Now these kiddos tend to have more serious health concerns, but there is no delay and their adoption is much more streamlined. Don’t get me wrong, I love our agency, they do SO much for the children in their care, but it’s the children not in their care that breaks my heart the most. The one's who sit in an orphanage with little to no chance of ever having a family. These are the ones who need pursued!

Adoption is HARD! It is hard on waiting families, it is hard on waiting children; it is HARD all around! But you know what, these children are worth the pain, frustration, anger, annoyance and perhaps most importantly, they are worth the wait…every single one of them.

So, I started thinking, what can I do in the mean time? How can I make this wait productive? I have read many books, talked with other adoptive mommies, dug into my bible deeper than I have before, and then suddenly, God showed me how to use my time and heart for orphans during this wait. My director reached out for help with advocating on social media for children paperwork ready, waiting for their families to find them. Exactly what I just described above. I contacted my director, thinking I would advocate for young kiddos like the one we are hoping for, but she instead asked me to advocate for older kids. I am totally out of my comfort zone with older kiddo adoptions, but I am finding God seldom calls us to comfort …so I agreed. I have been advocating for older boys mostly, and I work with my director but reviewing available information on children, including pictures, medical reports, and videos and I compile them and post to closed advocacy groups for prospective parents to view.  It’s hard, because older children are not sought after in China, or anywhere else for that matter. I have found this advocating very rewarding for this very reason. I have yet to see a family commit to one of my boys (yes I consider them partly mine now), but many have voiced interest and hopefully the fruits of my labor start to surface soon. My director has many upcoming ideas for some of my boys and I’m praying that soon these boys will have families of their own, before they age out of the system (at 13) and end up all alone. My heart is definitely changing for older child adoptions. We are not able to adopt out of birth order (meaning anyone older than Jayden), but who knows what the Reichert future may hold…right Jay? 

Monday, March 16, 2015

Fear and Peace

I would like to discuss a topic, I have found, that no one really talks about in their adoption blogs. Every adoption works towards one ultimate, thrilling, exciting moment; the referral call. This is when you finally get to lay eyes on the little one that your heart and hands have been preparing for, in some cases (like ours) for years. Jay and I have been anxiously awaiting ours for nearly 3 years to the day. But, deep down inside, I had a fear regarding our referral, one of which I had hoped I would never need to experience. However, last month, my long awaited fear occurred. I am not sure how common this fear is, because as I said not many talk about it, though I know many have to experience it. While part of me wants to keep this subject hidden out of shame and sadness, I would be remise if I didn’t disclose my heart about the subject here, since unfortunately it is now part of our journey.

I have harped on Jay for, well probably a lot of things, but one in particular which I feel is very important is memorizing my phone number. In this day and age, its really not necessary given the ability of our phones to store countless of hundreds of contacts and phone numbers, but if something “big” happens and he doesn’t have his phone, I always want him to know how to get a hold of me. We are working on teaching Jayden our phone numbers for the same reason. To be honest, I likely only can recount a few phone numbers off the top of my head but its important non-the-less. However, if you were to ask any waiting adoptive momma the phone number of her adoption agency, I bet she could at least belt out the area code quicker than you could grab a pen. You see, when you are in the waiting phase, your phone is never really that far from your earshot. You want more than anything for that phone to ring and that ID to be your agency calling with news of your referral. I know that when 503 (OR) comes across my phone, my life at that moment stops, because my agency is calling.

Last month, “OR” the 503 area code came across my caller ID, quite unexpectedly. Under normal circumstances I would have been ecstatic, except I didn’t feel the pitter patter that I had long anticipated. You see, I knew that China was technically “closed” because of their new year and I was confused more than anything regarding why our agency would call. It was our program director and she had come across a little guy that they wanted our family to consider. He was not listed with our agency, but with a shared list of agencies. Our agency partners with a few particular orphanages, but there remains a shared list, where kiddos who are not assigned to particular agencies or who have been difficult to place are kept for people to look through and consider.  Our faithful director, while waiting for our orphanage to complete adoption paperwork, was continuing to attempt to find families for children off the shared list. I cant explain it, but the call from the beginning did not feel right….this was the call we had both longed for and yet there was more unease than excitement. She gave us some basic information, sex, age, special need and asked if she could send over the information for us to review. When we heard the information, we grabbed our computers and waited in a weird, awkward silence for the email to arrive.

The picture was of a little boy, he was darling, just as our director had implied…we scrolled through what little pictures it contained and then opened his file. Our director did explain that his situation was unique. His file was not up to date; it was nearly a year old without recent medical checkups, photos, or videos. Most of his file was not even translated. Our director had never worked with the orphanage where he was located, and due to the weird holiday and closing of Chinese government offices, we basically had 24 hours (instead of 72 which if of the norm) to decide on whether to move forward. The email came at 7pm and Jay was leaving early the next morning to go out of town. So in reality, we had maybe 8 hours to decide. While the out dated information, the unknown orphanage, and their small time slot to decide were concerning in and of themselves, there was even more concerns and uncertainties with the file itself. As I mentioned, it was out dated, not all in English, with little photos and no video. We were told he had a relatively minor medical condition but as I scrolled through his file I saw a very brief mention of something a lot more concerning. It could have easily been over looked and it was only mentioned once. I thought I had seen something in one of the photos that looked suspicious and this was confirmation of that sense. Now, we did have the choice to move forward and ask the orphanage to do an update on his medical file, but they could say no. We could have our international pediatrician review the file but she charges $400 per review, so it is not something to jump into lightly. There were so many factors to consider, so many unknowns…..

We didn’t really speak at first. I have seen videos of people looking and reviewing their referral file…their smiling faces, their “glow”, their excitement and aww of their soon to be new family member. If there was a video, this is not the picture it would have captured that night. We both knew without even needing to speak that this wasn’t right. But, how could we say no to a person? How could we say no to a child? We started this adoption not to build a family per se, but to give a family to someone who needed one. Here we were faced with well…a face, a life in a file, a little one who needed a family and a home, and a mom and a dad, and we were unable to say “yes” enthusiastically. We had doubts, uneasiness, unrest. There was no peace.  We decided to pray on it, and the following day I fasted for several hours just thinking of what our next step should be.

There will always be “the unknown” in adoption. There will always be “surprises” that we will not know about beforehand. I have read enough books to know to expect the unexpected.  But, one thing I will always demand in our journey, not just for us but for the children out there needing families as well, is transparency. Adoptions go wrong when things are hidden, or swept under the rug, or not fully disclosed. I want to know what everyone who has cared for that child across the world knows. I want to be as prepared for the care that our child will need, at least as much as I can be. Ultimately, Jay and I felt as though too many red flags were present. We choose to decline.

My heart has been hurting since. Not that I think we made the wrong decision, but I pray that that little one has a family say “yes” to him soon. I pray daily that God does not put us in that place again….and I pray that we feel God’s grace and peace over the next referral. That is what we are waiting on more than anything, because that, despite what challenges the next child may have, will push us out of ourselves and make us boldly step out into the waters with HIM. 

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Celebrating Little Man

January 22, 2015 marked our one year anniversary of officially becoming parents to our not so little man. In the adoption community, it is termed “Gotcha Day” or “Family Day”. For us, it wasn’t the start of our adoption journey, as I have well documented here before, but it is still an important part of our journey non the less. When we started this whole process, we set out to adopt a healthy African infant. Within six months, we held a squirming blonde haired, blue-eyed toddler instead. We really scratched our heads at the turn of events, but looking back, it was a great gift from God, who is changing us everyday (for the better) through this little boy. Our lives, and the lives of everyone who has been around him for any amount of time has been immensely enriched. Our friends and family no longer come over to hang out with us, they come to be around him! He is such a joy and we are honored to be his parents.

So, how can I describe what little man (and hence us)  is up to these days....

For starters, his personality is really starting to emerge. He loves being silly and I think he will end up being the class clown down the road. He loves to dress up, and when he is at home (and occasionally at the grocery store) he is almost always in costume. From ninja turtles, to batman, Columbus Blue jackets, or Ohio State Football player, he is always dressing up to play the part. And as you can guess, we are often asked to join in as well. 

He is athletic, loves every sport and is good at nearly every sport he tries. We have played soccer, T-ball, swimming, tumbling, and basketball (so far). He has a very competitive spirit, and is only a slightly poor loser. He is SO active! He practically runs everywhere he goes.                            

He is smart; learning to write, sound out letters, he can count to a 100 (with a little help from time to time), and he loves to read books. 

So, we decided to celebrate our anniversary of becoming (officially) a family by letting little man lead the way. First, he wanted us to come have lunch with him at school. On different days leading up to his special day we both visited and had lunch with not only Jayden, but his entire class as well.... I learned a lot about the other parents through their very open and very talkative children. I am however a little nervous about what he tells others about us....


He also wanted to eat a restaurant and go to Cosi (our local science center), and that’s exactly what we did.



We had a wonderful day(s) celebrating our little man and our family. On the (other) adoption forefront, Chinese New year is approaching in February, so I am not expecting any referral until at least March. After that, who knows...maybe an April referral with a late summer travel? Fingers crossed. Little man is beyond excited to be a big brother, and he predicts a little pink in this blue dominated house....we shall see...

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Closing in...

It’s close…we are close. Everyday I wake up thinking “This could be the day of our referral!” and I’m not just hopeful anymore, we ARE getting close. It has been 3 months since our log in date, and it was estimated that we would wait 6-12 months for our referral. Out of curiosity I sent an email to our case manager in December asking where exactly we were in line. She happily informed us that we were in the top 10-15 families and she was expecting the next group of referrals (likely another 40 children) within  the next few months. She recently posted a page full of their little faces with which we could browse, so the likelihood that we have already laid eyes on our child is very high. We are waiting on the orphanage to make them paperwork ready for adoption, and for China to process them into their system. This has typically taken around 6 months to complete (which they started about 3 months ago). Once again…waiting on paperwork.

With Encouragement comes severe sadness too. We heard one of the children recently passed away, one was recently diagnosed with cancer, and another older boy gave up hope of ever getting adopted and he declined being put a wait list any further. He will likely be on his own within the next year at age 14. I cannot even imagine attempting life on my own starting at age 14 and having no one to return to …ever.

I also read an article recently from China (It can be read HERE). The author had sat outside the abandonment baby safety island with a camera and captured parent’s reactions as they abandoned their children. I think he did so because he wanted to see what kind of people were willing to abandon their kids. I don’t know what I expected, but what I saw was heartbreaking.  He captured people in great mourning and unspeakable grief as they left their children at the foot of an orphanage. What he realized was, ALL of these children were handicapped or ill in some way, and the parents were poor and simply unable to give their children a chance at life. They cannot pay even simple medical expenses, let alone any therapies their children may need. These families cannot pay for even cleft lip and palate repair. The pictures depict not families shamed by their children’s disabilities, but mentally tortured by the fact that THEY can’t meet their child’s needs. They appeared to love their children so much, they were willing to abandon them in hopes they would get medical attention and simply survive, even if it meant being loved and cared for by someone else. How many of us can look at our children and willingly give them to someone else so they could get what they needed, knowing we would never see them again. I believe it is an act of true and unselfish love. Unfortunately, it is becoming commonplace. What started out as only a small amount of baby hatches, is set to expand nationwide in China by the end of 2015.
While international and domestic adoptions decrease, while willing families wait on paperwork, while orphanages are busting at the seams, the number of children to be abandoned is set to skyrocket. What a devastating thought.