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."


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