Thursday, April 15, 2010

We Are The Truth

Today is the day that bloggers all around the world are sharing the truth about adoption. Unfortunately, the occasional bad seed spoils the world's impression of adoptive families and this has been one of those weeks. Sadly, a seven year old boy was put alone on a plane headed for Russia this past week by his adoptive "mother." There are so many resources available to families in pain, whether adoptive, foster, or biological. Apparently this family may not have sought out the care that they truly needed. I, as so many others, have my opinions, but I was not there so I'm not blogging about my thoughts on that tragic decision. Instead, in response, those of us with successful adoptions are responding and crying out with our fingers to let the world know: WE ARE THE TRUTH!!!!

Let me tell you our story. Grab a mug of your fave drink and relax. I type slow but I have hours until my bedtime and I have a story to tell. Enjoy...
I told my mom when I was a young child that someday when I grew up I was going to have a large family just like ours (I was fourth out of five children) but one of MY children was going to be adopted because I wanted to give a home to a child without one. We knew no one adopted, I have no idea where that idea came from! Was World Vision doing their television
specials back in the mid-1970's?? Your guess is as good as mine!

Fast forward a decade and I am 18 years old, graduated from high school and in the Philippines on a short term mission trip with Teen Missions . During the week, we are building a 2 story cinderblock addition on the back of a church which will become a Christian school. And on the weekends, we are singing and doing puppet shows at churches and in orphanages. I fell head over heels for those children with their big chocolate eyes!! Just wanted to pack them all up in my suitcase and whisk them home with me right then!! I did resist the temptation and instead filled my bags with seashells and such. But, only because the staff at the orphanage explained to me that most of the children there actually had parents that were a part of their lives. They just could not afford to raise them at home. So, several times a week, one or both parents would come for tea with their children living in this "home." I found that all out by asking if I could return in a few years and adopt from their orphanage after I was married. That summer, I also had the blessing of getting to know a child sponsored by World Vision . She was nearly my age and lived next door to the church, so we saw her and visited with her quite a bit. She was so very thankful for all the opportunities that World Vision had offered her growing up as a sponsored child.

About 18 months later, I went on a weekend trip down to visit a couple of orphanages in Ensenada, Mexico, with some friends from our church. One of the orphanages we visited was . My fiance, Mark, was also on the trip and together we fell in love with America (say it with a Spanish accent, BEAUTIFUL) a precious, musical preschooler!! Every time we saw her, she had a musical instrument in her hand!! We talked about what it would be like to have a child older than the length we'd be married, of all the funny topics to bring up! We then talked to the orphanage staff and found out that, basically Americans were not allowed to adopt from Mexico. And, certainly they would never be allowed to pick out their child! So, home we went, with no further thought or plans to adopt. After all, we were getting married, we were young and healthy, we'd be having children "of our own" (a phrase I now dislike, because of how it is used to discount adopted children as if they are NOT my own!!)

A few months after our Mexico trip, Mark, my high school sweetheart, and I married. He was 24 years old and I was a ripe old 20! Seeing as we were getting old fast, we decided to let God work in our lives and be willing to have children from the day we wed. Or maybe by our first anniversary, or maybe it'll be our second, or third, or ......... We finally conceived our first biological child when we'd been married 17 and a half years! Our precious Glory has a blessed story all his/her own and is currently and forever more dancing and singing and praising God on those Golden Streets. Someday, we'll hold Glory as we've given Glory to God in the highest, on Earth peace on whom His favor rests, and in that we rest.

Meanwhile, on the adoption front... After we'd been married several years and I'd been volunteering as a Crisis Pregnancy counselor for years, we realized biological conception was not in the plan for our family. Dontcha just love the irony of our lives sometimes??? God has quite the sense of humor! So, we conceived another plan! Adoption! Novel thought in our families as we still didn't know any adoptive families, or at least realize that we did. We were told we had no infertility insurance and that the test needed would cost on the realm of $5-7K. "Well," we thought, "we could give a child in need a home for that much money, why spend it on a test that could tell us, 'This is why you may not be conceiving and it may or may not be solved by doing this and it will cost this much, da da da da da da!!' " So, we took the question to our parents and laid it on the table... And, were told to take the test. So, we started adoption proceedings! Leave and cleave and all that jazz! Never mind that counsel of the wise thing, we threw that out with the bathwater ;) The whole biological link thing did not really speak to Mark and I. It was really never something that bothered us at all. However, offering our home to an orphan, now that got us charged up. We loved the idea!!

So, we embarked upon our journey of faith. We saw this as a way to grow our family but also as our mission in life. I opened up my huge Crisis Pregnancy Resource folder, flipped to the section marked adoption agencies and called around California trying to find the cheapest international home study we could find. We were, after all, living on a carpenter's wages. We chose an agency down in Orange County, about a 2 hour drive from here, but were assured that distance didn't really matter. We completed our home study and asked them not to find us a child. We had friends all over the world as missionaries and had put out the word and were just sure that one of them would find our baby. In our mind, we always thought we'd have four little girls right in a row. Our own little women. And, in our mind's eye, our little girl had black hair and beautiful chocolate skin! And these thoughts were pre-adoption planning!! Pretty funny coming from a green-eyed Scot and a lanky blonde hair blue-eyed Dutch boy!

While we waited on God's hand, we had many false starts. We've lost many children over the years and know, for the most part, it is all in God's hands and have faith and trust in Him, even when we don't understand. There are 4 precious girls out there, Amanda, Jeannie, Mary, and Connie, that do confuse us when we think of the why's, but it is not all for us to know on the underside of this weaving we call life. When we get to the top and can look down upon the weaving He Masterfully wove and called our life, we will see that we needed the dark thread, the dark shadows to make the brights stand out all the more!! And, again we will give Him the weaving and lay it at His feet giving Him the praise and the glory.

On Palm Sunday, 1994, we were walking across our church campus when along comes a friend, Laura, and she says, "Amy's in the church, and I think she has your son with her." We looked and one another and continued on. Along comes a second friend, Carol, and she says, "Amy's in church, at the back, to the left, and I think your son is with her." Hmmm... So, we head for Amy, wouldn't want to miss this date with our future son, of course! When we walked up to Amy, she was engaged in conversation with someone else so we headed straight for the double stroller. I come around the stroller, lay my eyes on this little baby boy and my heart fluttered! God spoke to me so very clearly in that moment and I knew, "This is my son!" Mark, on the other hand, thought, "That is the ugliest baby I've ever seen!" Sitting next to him in the stroller was a GERBER baby and we didn't even notice him until Amy turned around and told us he wasn't available as his family was getting him back soon. We were like, "What other baby?" Hadn't even seen the poster child. Daniel's biological mother had used Methamphetamines for the entire pregnancy and the poor thing was just so frail and small and going through withdrawals at that point with a shock of dark brown hair going every which way due to about 76 cowlicks! So began our love affair with Daniel! He was 3 weeks old. On Monday, we called our agency and told them that we'd found our son in our own town and asked them to please issue us a foster license in case we can get him moved over to our house. That foster license cost us $400 and before it even arrived in the mail, for various reasons, we found out it would not help us in Daniel's case. We felt so bad, as if we'd misused funds God had entrusted to us. However, the story was not yet over.

Late in July on a Friday afternoon, the day after our Foster License actually arrived in the mail, we got a phone call from our adoption agency. They were apologetic in their tone as they said, "We know we are not supposed to be looking for a child for you. But, would you be interested in a little preschool age boy from Russia? He has blonde curly hair and blue eyes." Hmmmm, sounds like Mark, I think. Long story short: they had just gotten home from Russia with all of their families that had been ready to adopt. One of the families had ended up with a very sick Mommy while they were travelling and when they arrived home, the family doctor told them to give the children (they'd adopted 2, girl & boy) back to the agency as he tried to make his point that she was dealing with a chronic illness that wasn't going away. They had a bio-son so gave the boy back to the agency. That is our precious Drew!! We picked him up on Monday. When we walked into the room, I was shocked at how petite he was! He weighed 18 pounds! I went over to where he was standing, very interested in the puppies outside the glass doors and he turned to me and reached his arms right up to me and raised his face and looked at me! The ladies in the room were completely in awe. I was clueless! He was extremely autistic-like and had not, in the three weeks they'd known him shown interest in any person, only the vehicles. He'd never been outside of the orphanage and later, we came to believe he'd never been out of his crib! He looked at the world with his chin on his chest and out of the side of his eyes. We were told he had a club foot and had been born at 25-26 weeks as the result of an attempted illegal abortion. He actually had Cerebral Palsy and Mild Mental Retardation, Children's Hospital would eventually tell us. Our personal belief is that he got the CP at birth due to the trauma, the MMR in the orphanage due to malnutrition, and the autistic behavior in the orphanage due to lack of stimuli and also vaccinations due to his weakened immune system just not being able to handle the preservatives/aka mercury in the vaccines. But, we love him to pieces just the way God made him!!

The day after we got Drew began the longest year of my life. I wholeheartedly know that God delivered Drew on that day on purpose. I was already head over heels for Daniel, now 3 months old, and his biological mother had been granted reunification and visitation beginning the day after Drew's arrival. So, every Friday, Amy and I and our 3 children under 2, Drew, Daniel and Angie (Amy's other foster baby, now adopted and a miracle to be alive at 16 because of her genetic disabilities,) all with special needs loaded up and made the all day journey to Long Beach for visitation. Sometimes the bio-mother showed but mostly she didn't over the following year. And, had I not been so completely wrapped up in Drew's medical care at that point, I know I would have been a basket case going through that year of visitation! Amy made this huge commitment and sacrifice to us to make the drive to Long Beach every Friday because Daniel's Social Workers kept trying to get him moved closer to Long Beach. Amy believed as strongly as we did that Daniel was meant to be our son, it was just a matter of time. The week before court, the bio-mother tossed her hands in the air and goes, "If I just KNEW there was a family out there that would love him as their own, I'd give up this charade!" I was sitting just across the livingroom from her and slowly raised my hand in the air like a timid student and said, "S_____, that is why we're here. We love him to pieces! He and Drew already think they are brothers. That is why we've been here weekly for the past year." Her jaw dropped and she was shocked that with Drew's special needs we'd even consider adding Daniel to our family. On court day, we all loaded up again, drove down to Long Beach, picked up both bio-parents and took them to court. The judge made a miraculous decision based on the fact that we were Daniel's secondary caretakers, even though we weren't on L.A. County's waiting list and bl/bl baby boys were their most requested child. He made it VERY clear to the SW's that this was not about a waiting list but a child!! HEAR HEAR!! Sure enough, Drew and Daniel are 51 weeks apart in age and arrived in our home 51 weeks apart from one another, both at almost 17 months old.

Christian came along when Daniel was 18 months old to Daniel's bio-mother. She fully intended to give him to us at birth right up until the birth went so smoothly and she said, "The birth was so easy, maybe raising him will be also." So, we committed to long distance mentoring of her parenting him. She was 10 years older than us but needed the guidance and support. We would send hand-me-downs and photo coupons with just enough cash to get his portrait taken. Stuff like that. And, when he was 13 months old, we were invited to her younger sister's wedding. So, we got to meet Christian, but were very sad to see that the wedding attire she had him in was a size 4 sweater with the sleeves rolled up triple! He was a cutie, nonetheless! Ten months later, she phoned us and asked if I'd come pick him up for a while. "It's so hard being a single Mom, I just need a break." So, I loaded Drew and Daniel up and we went to get Christian. He did not know me but went with me without complaint. We stopped on the way into town to buy him some shoes. His birthday passed without even a call. This saddened me to no end! A couple weeks later, we heard from her again and she was ready for him back. This continued for 6 months. Each time, buying him shoes. The third time, the store was closed when we pulled into the parking lot and at 2.5 years old, he knew the routine and started crying because he couldn't get his shoes. One of those calls had been on Daniel's birthday, she had no clue. I just told her we were a bit busy with other plans that day, but we'd be down first thing in the morning. As it turned out, she'd been able to stay sober from about 3-4 months pregnant, when she found out she was expecting again right up until he weaned himself that first weekend she called me. She could not remain sober for herself, even after 28 months sober, the draw was too strong. Just after Christian's 3rd birthday, he was officially a Dayton!! Barney boots and all!!
Have you noticed we weren't doing too well on our plans?? Our four black haired brown-eyed girls, had morphed into God's 3 blonde hair blue eyed boys!!! This actually caused us to go through some grieving as we let go of our dreams and embraced God's plan. I always wanted people to ask me if I'd adopted. Having children that look just like you doesn't tend to lead to those conversations. So, I began them myself!! We loved the way God had built our family and let our children know how blessed we were by their presence in our lives.

Several years passed and several losses occured. Some so painful, we asked our County Adoption Social Worker to toss our file, not willing to deal with the pain. However, she was very wise and chose to put it away in a drawer instead. She was a veteran, one of the rare ones that stuck around for many years!! In fact, our Charissa was almost Chiarra after her!! One day we did call her and say we truly did want to try again for a daughter. We specified Asian or Hispanic, under 3. Because she had filed our file instead of tossing it, we were put at the top of the list because of the approval date on our file. One day, a worker for the day calls us with a Safe Haven newborn. Loooooooooooooooooooong day and long story, but the mother changed her mind and we didn't get her. I haven't mentioned it but we had also decided years ago that we bonded so well with toddlers that we would leave the newborns to those families feeling so desparately the need for a newborn. So, while we were frustrated with the day we'd just lived through, we breathed a sigh of relief. Not a newborn, ahhhhhhhhh. We'd been married 17 years, had preteen boys, etc. etc... Then, not two days later, we get a call from our Laura Chiarra and she says, "We think we found her and she's both!" Woohoo!! We knew it was her!! She was 23 months old and Asian and Hispanic!! Perfect, just what we asked for!! I picked her up early the next morning in L.A. She was asleep when I took her. And didn't wake up until weall stopped for a snack an hour later. No fuss at all. She just looked at me and I unbuckled her and took her into the restaurant. Where she proceeded to clean the tables and windows with all the littles napkins she could get a hold of!! I called my girlfriend and told her and she said I'd adopted a mini-her, instead of a mini-me!! She is my dear dear friend and she's Mexican and when we're camping and stuff together, Stef takes care of my disorder ;) Thus, the mini-her comment!!

Over the next 6 weeks, I lost 17 pounds trying to keep up with this little wind turbine! We said she reminded us of the Tasmanian devil, zipping around destroying EVERYTHING in her path!! Another girlfriend jokes that when she had us over for the 4th of July a few weeks later, she lost 10 pounds in a couple of hours trying to keep up with her!! Her name at the time was Serenity. That was between the hours of midnight and 6a.m!!! After she'd been here for a while, one day it just hit me like a 2x4, the simplest of facts pulled together to show me the handiwork of God!! This was early summer after our Glory had moved on to glory! Glory was named that because of the verse mentioned above. Before we ever knew we were miscarrying, God kept placing that verse on my heart: Give glory to God in the Highest, and on Earth peace on whom His favor rests. When we did miscarry over Thanksgiving, we had such unbelievable peace, truly a peace that passes all understanding! You'd think we'd have been wrought with grief, after 17 years, finally conceiving, etc. etc. However, we'd lost several precious children here on this Earth andthey went to families that had we seen them in the park, we'd have packed up and found another park! This precious child was being delivered straight into the hands of the most perfect Father EVER!!! We had confidence that this child was completely safe, unlike our others. So, we felt God had given us such amazing peace here on Earth, and that we were giving Him our Glory, thus the name chosen. Fast forward about six months and we add a new daughter into our lives and just before her birthday, I realize her 2nd birthday falls on our baby's due date! And then I realize, all in the same split second, that her name means PEACE, her name is Serenity!!! God not only gave us spiritual peace, He gave us a little girl named Peace that shares the same birthdate with our Glory in Heaven!!! WOWOWOWOWOW!!! is exactly what came out of my mouth at that moment and then my hubby thought I'd lost it :)
Needless to say, WE ARE THE TRUTH. We are not living a fairy tale life, but don't tell our Princess that. We have three teenage boys and a little pipsqueak that thinks she rules those big boys! All from adverse backgrounds. And, we are now on our way to Russia to rescue more children. It is not an easy life, but God doesn't promise us an easy life! He promises never to leave us or forsake us. Family is about commitment. Carry on.


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