Those of you who know me know that I tend to write our life on delay. Partly, that's for security reasons. But it's also because I'm a big-time processor. I (usually) want to give things a lot of thought before I write. In this particular case, almost exactly a year of thought. But don't worry! In the coming weeks, I will bring you up to speed!
When it comes to our adoption, we've gotten very used to the waiting. After all, we started this process in early 2012! So waiting and the Hicks family are old friends by this point. Still, what makes the waiting bearable is hope--that there will be good news at the end of all of the waiting. It's really only the hope that keeps you going on the tough days. And when it's not there? Oh boy!
Last year, on the Wednesday before Easter, Jake came home from nearly ten months in Afghanistan. It was an extremely joyous (if a little complicated) time for our family. For a brief few days, we were over the moon excited to just be together and have some fun. But as if having Jake home from a war zone wasn't enough, though, we had other things to be excited about too!
When you adopt internationally, you can do so in basically two tracks. On the one hand, you can be on the (long) waiting list to be matched with a healthy child. On the other hand, you can receive lists of "special home finding" kids, and choose a prospective match from those lists. In the Philippines, "special home finding" typically means one of three things: (1) the child is over five years of age; (2) the child is part of a sibling group; or (3) the child has a special need of some kind. The list is typically published monthly, and it is long.
That's why, since early 2013, while we have been on the waiting list for matching with a healthy child, we were also receiving the special home finding list from our caseworker. Or rather, we received child profiles from the list that roughly matched our family's file. If a particular list had 100 kids on it, we would receive about 15 profiles. At that many profiles a month, you can imaging how many kids whose stories we read.
The same day that Jake got home last spring, we received the April Special Home Finding profiles from our caseworker. As we were all snuggled up together before bed, we looked through the profiles, and found one that really struck us. She was a beautiful six year old girl, almost two years to the day older than Howie. Her story spoke to us, and we were certain we were the family for her. We contacted our caseworker and requested to be match right away.
The messages we got about the match were very positive, and we started to get excited--planning her room, how to handle school readiness, how to get Howie ready for a big sister. It was both exciting and overwhelming all at once. And for someone who researches and plans...well, everything, it was a time when I hopped into overdrive!
Four weeks later, I was at the airport waiting for a flight to Lexington for work, and I got the call. There was a long conversation about the "why," but the gist was that the little person we'd been building our plans around was being matched with a different family.
I just fell apart. I found myself sobbing on the floor in the United Club bathroom. I missed my flight, which led to a (now) hilarious, Planes, Trains, and Automobiles-esque race to get me to Lexington in time for my meetings. It was terrible. Calling Jake to let him know was worse--running through it all again, falling to pieces again. He handled it better than I did (he usually does), but it stung. Really stung.
I can look back now and just be thankful this little girl has a family. And when she crosses my mind, I say a prayer for her. But it still makes my heart ache.
A few days later, I collected myself and I called my case worker again to find out what happens next. She began the conversation with "if you don't want to proceed with this any longer, certainly I understand." The statement struck me: was she asking if we'd given up? Did she think we were done?
I talked to her and learned that many families reach a point in the adoption process where the emotional toll is too great, and they have to walk away. I thought about me, crumpled on the floor, and understood. But it gave me resolve that I didn't realize was there before. "This little one was not meant for us," I told her, "but it doesn't mean adoption is not meant for us." See, Jake and I have felt from the beginning that adoption is something we were called to. No one said it would be easy, and Lord knows we've had our challenges. But absent some insurmountable roadblock, we just know adoption is our path.
"We're in this," I told her. "Perhaps there will come a day when we decide that, for our family, enough is enough. But today is not that day. Not by a long shot."
A year and a dozen challenges later, it's still not that day. Not by a long shot!
To be continued...