I've started and stopped this blog post many times. Finding the right words to share this part of our journey is hard.
My husband and I started our adoption journey almost 3 years ago. We initially started pursuing an adoption from Russia and started the process with an agency here in San Diego. We applied in September of 2011, were accepted, and did our home study. Four months later, in January of 2012, I got a strong sense that Russia was not "it"; that we needed to reevaluate our country of choice. We did, and in March we switched from Russia to Uganda. Our home study agency was able to complete our home study for us, but did not work in Uganda, and thus we had to find a separate agency to find us a referral.
I did a good deal of research and found a placing agency that a) worked in Uganda, and b) had a good reputation. We made the switch, finished all necessary paperwork requirements, and got on the waiting list in November 2012. While we waited, I started doing more research on Uganda, ethics and orphan care. At the same time, I started hearing of some questionable issues that involved our agency, and I began to look into leaving the agency and going independent. Several ladies reached out and gave me options, and we decided to pursue an independent adoption with a children's home in Uganda. We learned that the director of this children's home had a heart for resettlement and we would be her last international adoption case since these took away from her work on resettling the children. Her heart for these kids was amazing. Since she always made attempts to resettle children before turning to adoption, we felt comfortable going this route, and left the agency.
After going independent, we had to work to get more paperwork turned in. This was pure craziness, but we managed, and eventually were given the referral of a sweet, shy little two year old girl. Her file told a sad story of abandonment, neglect, extreme malnutrition, and finally hope as she was found and placed in the children's home. This children's home brought her back to health and loved her like she mattered. Though she had a living father, and although he was offered supplies and a small business, he had no desire to keep or raise her. Searches for the mother found nothing, and they presumed her to be dead, since she was sick when she abandoned her daughter. With no other relatives willing to claim her, we accepted the referral and moved forward with the adoption process. We spoke with our lawyer about hiring a Private Investigator to confirm the mom's passing (this would help a lot in court). Though this was not necessary, anything we could do to confirm the orphan status of this little girl would help in our case, and would satisfy my strong desire to do things as ethically as possible. She said our paperwork could still be submitted in court, and she would include the PI report when it was completed.
The PI went to work on our case and surprised us completely when he found that the mother was alive. They had the wrong name for her since she was not Muslim, as they had originally believed, and that's why they could not find her on previous attempts. Despite finding her, though, she had no interest in the child. There are more details to this story, which I won't go into here, but suffice it to say I don't believe she would be a healthy option for her daughter. Though we were ready to continue on in the process, I asked more questions about the situation and found out there was a grandmother that had expressed interest in raising her granddaughter. The PI did not include this information in his report, and the lawyer insisted the grandmother was unwell and unable to care for her. We wanted to be sure this was all accurate information, so we hired a second PI, as well as reached out to the director of the children' home. The director was able to meet with the grandmother and determine that she was, in fact, a good option for this sweet little girl.
That email was painful to read. So much work, so much money, so much time spent on the end goal of adoption, and it wasn't going to work out. But in all honesty, it has also been amazing. You see, all that time we spent, all that money, and all that work...it wasn't in vain. We found her a home...even if it didn't get to be our own. And it's also confirmed what I've learned about the most-used Bible verse regarding orphans: James 1:27 says "Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world." This verse is regularly used to encourage adoption. But I am convinced (especially now) that caring for orphans doesn't always look like adoption. Sometimes it's about using our resources to preserve families that already exist. I'm thankful to get to walk this road, too.
I don't want to end this blog post with the sense that adoption isn't necessary. I 100% believe in the need and beauty of adoption. I just think it's important to be aware that not all children labeled "orphans" are truly without families, and in those cases, we ought to fight for them as well. It is also necessary for those of us adopting to do our part to ensure there isn't already family available for the child we are pursuing. And when you've already fallen in love with that face, it's a hard step to take.
Stuart and I are not sure what the future holds as far as adoption goes. We have recently found out we are expecting a little one in November, which takes any chance of adoption off the table for the immediate future, and we will also do what we can to continue to support the precious girl that was brought into our life through this adoption process. We have already reached out to several people and organizations to figure out a way to support her education and health, and to sponsor her grandmother, if needed. We have also offered to pay her resettlement fees (which purchases supplies and a small business for the grandmother).
In all honesty, realizing this is it - that our pursuit of this little girl is over - has been devastating. I've spent months staring at her pictures, watching a little video of her, collecting clothes and envisioning her in my home. I've imagined her on family trips with us and crawling into my bed early in the morning. I've tried to picture her laugh, and what little quirks she might have. Is she a picky eater, does she like dogs, will she get my sense of humor? Will she be a daddy's girl, and what will her biggest dreams be? I've researched hair products and lotions, and looked up Ugandan recipes to share with her. I've dreamed of being her mommy and giving her the best life possible. It's so hard to let that go, to stop thinking of her in our home, as part of our family.
And in those hard times, there is one image that comes to mind. I see myself looking up at this tapestry that God is creating, and only seeing thousands of knots and a confusing mess, and asking Him, why must life be so complicated?? But He's not stressed like I am. He's on the other side, looking at the colors and patterns, and whispering to me...."Just wait, Jessie. It's beautiful." I trust that must be true.
It's hard to figure out exactly how to close out this blog. How to end this journey we've been on for nearly 3 years. And I feel like to most appropriate thing to do would be to share our thanks. To thank those who have been supporting us through prayer and encouragement, through yard sale and silent auction donations, through financial gifts. To those who have asked how we've been doing and shown an interest in our life, in hers. Her journey is far from over and Stuart and I are committed to ensuring she thrives, that she has hope beyond the poverty and illness that define her country. And you all have had a hand in changing her life. So, from the bottom of our hearts, thank you.