Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Referral games part 1

Before I write down the details of our referral, I need to back up a little.

If you recall, Baby Bethie was supposed to be a baby. As in, a baby baby. When we first started this process in 2009, our preference was for a newborn girl ages 0-6 months old. As teeny tiny as possible.

It made sense. For starters, Ike was only two years old. And I happen to be a Baby Person. Some of y'all think we Baby People are freaks but I love the itty bitties. And I had four of them in three years, which means I have a PhD in Baby. I can do Baby in my sleep, and did. I ain't afraid a no newborn.

But honestly, I wanted Bethie to be a baby because I thought it would be easier. Easier attachment. Easier transition. She's a baby! Babies are constantly going to sleep at the doctor and waking up at Costco! They're used to change! So it'll be a far away country full of new sounds and smells and a whole lotta smiley white people, what's a six month old gonna care? Pop in a paci and they're cool! My kids were 2, 3, 4 and 5 years old. I didn't have the bandwidth to deal with the emotional, mental, physical and spiritual complications that often come with adopting an older child.

As our 'quick and easy adoption' turned into our forever and exhausting adoption, my kids kept getting older, and older, and older. First one went to kindergarten, then another, then another, and the last one was headed there this fall. One day I realized with glee that every person in my house wiped their own butt (most of the time.) Every one of them slept through the night, every night. Heck, on weekends, they'd even wake up and make some Eggos, turn on Phineus and Ferb and let us sleep in until nine.

Glory to the Lord on high.

About this time this annoying little angel started appearing whenever I'd cuddle my friends' new babies. She'd hover above my shoulder with her arms crossed, purse her lips and say Are you really sure you want one of those? and I'd swat her and swear Yes! Yes I do! Shut up! I am a Baby Person! I! love! babies!

This summer, I made a list of all the Gladney families based on the monthly statistics they give us so that I could give my Waitlist OCD full neurotic reign. As I typed in the age requests of all the other families, I was surprised to realize that almost all of them were requesting children under 18 months of age. A couple were requesting up to 24 months. But almost nobody wanted a child above the age of two. The majority, including us, wanted infants, as teeny tiny as possible.

I stared at my list. "But what about the older kids? Nobody wants the older kids?? Who wants the older kids?"

And that angel on my shoulder whispered, you do.

And I said, I do? Do I? Really? But Bethie is a baby. In my mind, in my heart, she's teeny tiny. Itty bitty. I love babies. I do! I am a Baby Person! Even though our life is SO UNBABYFIED and everyone around her WIPES THEIR OWN BUTT I still want a baby! I DO I DO I DO!

Don't I?

And that angel crossed her arms and rolled her eyes and said Pfffft.

Then God reminded me why we, the Dollahons, are adopting from Ethiopia in the first place, instead of A. just getting it on like we did with the others or B. adopting from somewhere else. It is because, as much as we want another child, we want a child who wants us. We want there to be one less little girl growing up without a family in an orphanage. Infant girls need families too, but for the infant girls, there is a line up and down the block. The infant girls don't need us. But, at least at our agency, for girls older than two -- the line is practically non-existent.

But oh, y'all, I was anguished. For almost three years I had dreamed about, longed for, prayed unceasingly for this tiny little itty bitty baby named Bethie. To think that Bethie was actually walking? Talking? Potty trained (bonus)? Old enough to remember, old enough to be scared, old enough to grieve, old enough to have attachment issues, eating issues, sleeping issues? Old enough to miss her first mother? Old enough to reject me? Could that be Bethie?

I realized that maybe it could.

In a daze I walked up the stairs to Ike's bedroom my husband's office. He sat on the floor in his underwear at his desk, holding his iPhone in one hand.

I don't have photos of many of the pivotol moments in my life, like when he asked and I said yes, or when the tests revealed that there was a brand new human inside of me. But as I realized, with both fear and relief, that the daughter that God had chosen for me was very different than I believed her to be, as it was permeating my brain and I nervously fiddled with a cord, my husband pointed his iPhone at me

and captured the moment forever.

"What's wrong with you? You look perplexed."

I breathed deep. I still couldn't believe I was saying this. "I think -- is it possible -- maybe -- that we're not supposed to get a baby? That's Bethie's not a baby, that she's older?"

I now want to chronicle for your imagination exactly how my husband reacted to this earth shattering revelation:

1. Pumps both arms in the air several times
2. Shouts YES!!!!! as if the Aggies had just scored a touchdown
3. Rolls on his back, kicks his legs ecstatically in the air, then rolls back up
4. Pumps arms again
5. Shouted "YES!!! Let's get a three year old! A four year old! Oh for the love of God I DON'T want a baby!"

while I stare at him,

looking perplexed.

"What do you mean you don't want a baby? You've never told me you didn't want a baby!"

"Oh, man, no, I don't want a baby," he said. "I mean, I love babies, babies are cute and all, but they're so much freaking work. A baby just doesn't fit into our family anymore. Let's get a toddler! A three year old! A four year old! Anything but a baby!"

"But -- but -- why did you never tell me you didn't want a baby?"

"Because I knew you really wanted one. You love babies. You're a Baby Person. I'm happy with whatever - I don't mind a baby. But if you no longer want a baby, then oh, please, let's NOT GET A BABY."

So that's how Bethie grew. A long, gentle, nudging of the Spirit which led to an anguished, but ultimately peaceful, decision for me.

For my husband, not so anguished.

Changing our age required another homestudy and more paperwork, but we were going to have to redo our homestudy when we moved to Austin anyway, so the timing was perfect.

Soon, Bethie was not a baby anymore. Bethie was a four year old, maybe a three year old, maybe even a five year old. This made so much sense. My girls were six and seven, perfect ages to show a four or five year old how to be. And, very importantly, Maggie also has the cutest wardrobe any six year old girl has ever had and I was so, so excited that Bethie was going to get to wear it!

I can't believe I even wanted a baby for so long! A baby made no sense anymore for our family! Gah, who wants a baby? Sheesh, not me!

We changed our age to the range of a 2 years old to nine months younger than Ike, who will be six in April. And I said a two year old with the idea in my mind that any child might be two at referral, but three by the time we actually brought her home.  We also revisited our special needs criteria and broadened the disabilities we would be willing to accept or at least discuss.

Then, about three weeks ago, I was griping corresponding with my case worker about the eleventy more papers required to change our age and update our UCIS (the US government's adoption permission slip, essentially.) She emailed me, "Let me get this clear. Once your UCIS is changed, you will be approved for a child from ages 2 to 5. Now, if during that month or so before it changes, a child younger than two becomes available, do you want to be presented with the referral, or do you want us to skip over you and present her to another family?"

Oh. My. Word. You've. Got. To. Be. Kidding. Me.

In my mind, Bethie is THREE. Or FOUR. Maybe even FIVE. But now she was asking me to consider the fact that she might actually be TWO? Or even, gasp, ONE? She might actually still be a baby?

I'd let go of that baby. But could I tell them to skip over us after we have waited so long?

Anguished. Perplexed. Paralyzed.

Then, I remembered who was actually in control of this and prayed to him. Whatever God, I have no clue how to answer her. But this is YOUR adoption, this is YOUR child, YOU have chosen her for us since the beginning of time, YOU know how old she is, we are doing this to be in YOUR will not ours, so dear Lord, whatever! Just BRING IT. 

Because that's what this adoption thing is all about: Yes, Lord, whatever your plans are, BRING IT. 

Besides, I thought we were still months from referral. The idea that we would be presented with a referral for a kiddo under 2 during this little window of time - whatever. This was all just head games. This decision didn't matter.

I emailed back, "Don't skip over us. Whatever comes up, just BRING IT."


  1. This is awesome. :) I'm so excited for you guys!

  2. LOVE. IT. I can never get enough referral stories. and also? I never get tired of seeing how God uses that FREAKING LONG wait time not mold us and CHANGE US into the right parents for our child. I'm so glad you shared your change with us, even with pics! And I'm sorry i keep saying "change" like you are going through menopause. Now that we are past the wait, the refining of that time becomes more and more clear to me. WOOHOO! Also? You have a Bethie baby! Woohoo again!

  3. This is wonderful. I love the way the Spirit nudges and guides, and I really looking forward to reading about your little girl finally coming into your family!

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    1. Erin, where'd you go?

      I wear those earrings like 3x a week.

  5. So I find myself wanting to clap and jump up and down loudly for you right now. But it is 11 o'clock here my time, and I do not want to wake up my children - who do not make Eggos for themselves in the morning yet. :) Eeek! So excited for you. Simultaneously praying that God will open the door to allow my family to foster parent in the near future (we've had a delay in getting trained due to medical issues of my son.)

    1. Oh, yes, Amanda. Will pray for that. Lord knows there are some kiddos who need your motherlove.

  6. Our kiddos don't sleep through the night or wipe thier own hinges, so I have nothing great to add dur to mommy brain except..... Congratulations!

  7. I love the way you told this. So excited for you!

  8. Walker is my favorite part of this story.

    (But I can't believe you're making this a two-parter. GAH!)

    1. He's so funny. When we moved out he goes "I HATED that house" What?? Why didn't you tell me? "Because I knew you loved it and whatever, it's just a house."

      When Maggie's about a year old. "Yeah I don't really like the name Magdalene. Blech. But you loved it, so whatever."

      Most laid back man ever.

  9. L.O.V.E. that you have a photo of the moment! I'm SO very excited for you! So she's not a baby-baby, but kind of in between -perfect. I struggled and cried and struggled some more about adopting a toddler. Especially the attachment issue. It scare the FREAKING CRAP out of me! Our daughter just came home from Haiti 8 weeks ago and honestly - I think she attached quicker than I did. I know attachment is a long process but honestly I think God actually answered prayer and kept her little heart safe and soft... He prepared her to come home and let a mommy (and daddy although he had to work a lot harder) love on her. I think about the fact that we were praying for our baby girl before she was even conceived, and how we prayed her through her mom's pregnancy, and on the day she was brought to the orphanage... all before we even knew who she was! You have done the same for Bethie, and I can guarantee you that God has not let your words, your tears, your pain go to waste. He is our Redeemer and now you will begin to see the story of His redemption unfold in hers and your lives. Blessings as you walk this road! (ps - my name doesn't link to my real blog, but you can read about our highs and lows of bringing our 2.5 year old home recently at www.pressingin.com - I try to be pretty honest there about what this has looked like for us, our other kids and for her...<3)

    1. Denise I can't wait to go read your blog. Bethie is VERY attached to her nanny - which as you know is good, and bad :(

    2. Thanks, Denise -- we will be bringing home a 2-year-old next year, and I will definitely read your story!

  10. this is so great! i love that you are chronicling all this while it is fresh. how special to share with bethie one day her story. can't wait to read the rest!

    my brother and sister-in-law just adopted domestically a baby (couple weeks ago) and just got the call about their baby girl while my he was here hunting with my husband. it was so fun to be right in the middle of all the excitement! so fun to read yours as well as you are walking through it!

    my recent post: i am a runner

    1. Yeah well Walker was across the country when our call came. Bummer.

  11. Both of my children are adopted. My oldest was 16 months old when we got her. She was walking, talking & eating solid foods...GLORY! :-) You will hit the ground running...but aren't you already running everyday?!? So, she'll fit right in! And she'll still be able to express her need for you. :-)

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  13. Sorry logged into my old account…how do you know she is attached to her nanny? I am sure you are investigating everything about her. I would be!

    1. Gladney actually gives us lots of info. I'm shocked at how much info I have on her. And some of the info is that she's very attached to her nanny and cries when she leaves the room.

      She also doesn't like to share her toys, ie, she'll fit right in around here.

  14. "Strength will rise as we wait upon the Lord." This has been so strongly on my heart while thinking of you and your never-ending wait for Bethie. Unreal to think it's all finally happening. AND YOU HAVE A PHOTO! You can look into those big eyes every day until you get to do so in person! Awesome awesome awesome.

  15. Our older daughter came home at 18 months. She, too, was quite attached to her nanny. When we traveled for our court appointment, she was very guarded with us, but she came to life when her nanny held her. That was such an encouragement to me because I knew then that she was going to be just fine. She has been home for 20 months now and she adjusted much more quickly than I anticipated. It seems as if she has always been part of our family. I am so excited for your family and for your Bethie and praying you get a quick court date!

  16. Bless you Missy, bless you a thousand times. This story is so moving, so inspiring. This really, really is listening to the Spirit. Thank you so much for sharing <3

  17. OH how exciting!

    We are celebrating our friends "Gotcha Day" of their little girl this Friday.

    She was 3 when they brought her home from India.
    Now she is an amazing 9 year old.

    Hard days-yes.
    Harder nights sometimes-yes.

    Would they change one thing-NO!

    You guys are going to be more than fine-you're going to thrive!
    Can't wait to hear the rest of the story.

    Blessings to you.

  18. Missy, So happy you finally got a referral. We have 3 bio daughters. We started our adoption process in 2007. Started with Guatemala for a baby girl, then the country closed. We changed to Vietnam for a baby girl, then the country closed to US. The we spent the next 2 years or so getting out of debt before starting again. In the Spring of 2010 we finally decided to go with Ethiopia. When I saw that you could adopt 2 nonrelated children from Ethiopia, I know God spoke to me and told me we were to sign up for 2. I told my husband and he went nuts! "are you crazy?, two babies? there is NO way we are getting two babies" He feels a little more strongly about babies than your husband does. So I didn't say anything else for about nine months while we finished getting out of debt and started working on our paperwork. I just prayed the whole time "God, I know you want us to get two and it is going to be up to You to convince Aaron. I am not going to nag him" We were still planning on a girl and about a week before I was going to have all of our dossier ready to send I told Aaron that we needed to make a final decision as to what age, what gender, etc since the paperwork was pretty much done. He stood there for a few minutes then finally said very morosly "I think we are supposed to get two" I was like "What!? When did you decided this?" He said "About 2 weeks ago, but I was scared to say it out loud because I knew at that point it would be written in stone."
    Another twist...for almost 4 years we had been planning on getting a girl. So we were going to put one girl, plus another, either boy or girl. Aaron said "what if we got 2 boys?? We had NEVER considered that possibility. In the end, we put down 2 children, either gender, 0-2 years old and ended up bringing home 2 boys in 2011 ages 18 months and 6 months. Looking back I see God's timing. During it, it was horrible waiting. Absolutely horrible. I hope you get to go get your daughter soon!
    Oh another miracle in this, Aaron always said since we were getting 2, that was it. Don't ask again. 5 children is enough. While in Ethiopia for our court date, we were at the orphanage and Aaron looks at me and says "next time, lets get a girl" Prayer works so much better than nagging!

  19. Loved reading this! I cannot wait to hear the end.....which, I guess, will be just the beginning, right??!! :)

  20. Thanks for the play-by-play . . . I am savoring every word!! This whole adventure is such an exercise in trust, for us (beautifully for you, in this post!), and most of all for our children. I am struck over and over by how vulnerable they are, and then unexpectedly their lives change in an instant. It is such a huge gift that they learn to trust us total strangers!

  21. LOVE this! Esp. Walker's reaction. Classic. I can't help but think--when you began this process in 2009, that would have been when Bethie was conceived, right? Not trying to get all TMI or anything, just love the timing--When you committed to Bethie, God began her precious life. He has been growing her, within the womb and without, every day since then, preparing her to become your daughter at the exact time that will come about! And, as that time passed, He conformed your desires to His plan! Now THAT is an AWESOME, SOVEREIGN GOD!
    Ephesians 3:20

    1. I was thinking the exact same thing. That at the time your heart was for a baby, she WAS a baby. She's been growing as you have.

  22. Missy- this is just so wonderful. I think I posted on your "lurkers" post, but maybe not. We have emailed a few times (2-3 years ago) after posting on CAFEkids and because I'm from Houston and figured we had something in common. Anyway, we started with the same agency you guys have before you guys did, and based on a number of setbacks (theirs and ours...we're a military family, and we had TWO unexpected cross-country moves) we ended up stopping and going in another direction. But we had more setbacks after that, and I was SO ready to throw in the towel and tell God that we were just going to try for more home-grown kids. But God moved in our hearts this summer, as we came to learn that the 'toddler' son from ET we'd been praying for was actually brothers, ages 6 and 3, from another African country. We never set out to adopt any child over the age of 2-3, but God moved, and we are so excited! Prayers to you and your precious family!!!

  23. I am so ecstatic that you have found your Bethie! We accepted the referral of a (potty-trained!) 3 year old...5 years ago. We just trusted God in the placement of His child into our hearts. It has been amazing, and we now have the most wonderful little boy who has seamlessly blended with our family! (As a matter of fact, things went so well we are now in process to adopt a 10yo). God bless you for considering a non-baby, as there is indeed a HUGE need for families to step up and adopt older children. Thank you for sharing, I can't wait to see what happens next! :)

  24. Love it! Love that you are sharing your thought processes and how God moved in your heart, which was soft enough to listen. Praying for more and more parents to have their hearts open and listening for God's leading, including myself!

    We just came home (in Aug) with a 2.5 yr. old from China, who was very bonded to his Foster Mom. And he has been SO EASY. Seriously. My bio. 2 yr. old has been a firecracker (read: ridiculously stubborn and hard to handle). But this sweet guy, who has some medical needs, and was so attached to his Foster Mom. We thought it would be a horrible, long bonding transition, and who we thought would just tantrum all day long.... He as just been so easy going, so cuddly, so nothing we thought he would be. Such a blessing. So what our family needed. God goes before us. All we have to do is follow.

  25. Hi Missy,

    I just discovered this blog and love it. Great news and congrats on the referral. Are you still raising funds for your adoption? If so, I have a fundraising idea I'd like to share with you. Could you please contact me at mlee@coupaide.com?


    Matthew Lee

  26. AHHH, you are leaving us hanging! Finish the story!!

  27. First I wanted to say Congratulations! What great news that there is one less orphan in the world, praise Jesus! Hoping for a speedy court date/embassy apt for you all so Bethie can come home soon!

    Also I wanted to say that we have similar stories about changing age range, and that we are most likely that family you mentioned on the FBI list that was willing to go up to 24 months. At least we're the only ones that I know of :) Even though we were hoping for a 2 year old and not a baby (I call my husband a baby hater!) in the last few months we have felt that we needed to go older still. Long story short just like you guys we are moving this month and will be updating our homestudy and when we do we are going up to 4 years old. We are super excited and can't wait to meet our child!!

    Looking forward to reading more of your story :)

    1. Yea!!! Open your special needs too - I think almost all the referrals lately have been SN. Our's is considered SN but it is truly so minor.

  28. All I can do is smile. So so so thankful! Yah! (oh, and cry a bit, this is so sweet and so precious!)

  29. This blog made me laugh and cry at the same time. I only know you through your blog, but I;ve been praying for you and we are so excited for your referral!! :-)

  30. What a story she will have to tell to her grandchildren! She is already a very, very lucky little girl. Godspeed on getting her with you, Missy.

  31. Bethie isn't a baby now, but she was when you were dreaming of her and praying for her. You were loving her all along. I am praying for you and your family!

  32. I just can't get over how perfect it is that you're wearing your "I'm adopted" shirt for this perfect photo-op. And how wonderful, it's Isaac - not what you thought, but God's family for you. We prayed for the baby, and the baby grew. Wonderful.

    1. I know!! Now if only I'd removed the mascara smudge.

    2. What's also funny is that I didn't wear that shirt for like a year. Just made me sad. This was probably the first time I had worn it in ages.

  33. I so understand your resistance to God's plan. I always like for things to go just as I planned them, too. :) Reading this was a good reminder to me that He does have a plan, it's perfect, and so is His timing. We are waiting for Serbia to send us our referral list. We are hoping that our little squirt is on it. I'm trying really hard not to picture who he/she is. All we know now is: boy or girl, age 0-8yo with Down syndrome. (but, of course, I can't NOT picture him, so let me tell you that, in my mind, he's a 3yo boy & adorable. Sigh.;) We'll see who God has planned.



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