When I found out we were expecting our first baby, my feelings ran the gamut as much as my hormones did. I was elated, nervous, impatient, giddy, anxious, and absolutely overjoyed and overwhelmed at the idea of becoming a mom. I started reading books, eating certain foods and avoiding others, talking to other moms, and coming up with my birth plan (yeah, I know that’s kind of a joke to some, but the organizer in me needed a game plan). I was TOTALLY engrossed in this amazing transformation happening to my body and my psyche! I loved this little person growing inside me. I’d never seen her smile, stroked her hair, smelled her skin, heard her cries, or tasted her kisses, yet I would have literally given my life for her. Fast forward through a 2nd, 3rd, and 4th pregnancy, and despite being a veteran mom, I was still surprised every time by the awe I felt with each new life.
So I laugh at myself for not expecting to feel the same way with how God is growing our family now. I’m falling madly in love with this child growing inside my heart. I think about him or her or THEM all the time (yes, we are open to siblings)! Some thoughts are trivial, like bedroom arrangements or if we can buy smaller chairs to fit everyone around the table. Recently, I looked online to see if my favorite Pottery Barn stockings were still available. I just knew when I ordered the kids each one a few years ago that we would NEVER need another stocking for our mantle. Gotta love our plans, huh?! Other times my thoughts jump to heavier places, and all I can really do is turn my mama tears into prayers. These are His children first, and we must trust Him to protect their little lives while they wait for us to come.
So what do we do in the meantime? When pregnant with a child inside your womb, you know when to expect their arrival. Adoption is a different story since so much of it is completely out of our hands. Many have asked us about the process and what it entails, so I thought this would be a great FAQ #2. Let’s talk straight logistics of the process.
First, we selected an adoption agency. This was a huge research project since I wanted a reputable group advocating for orphans in the most ethical manner possible. I could do an entire post on the agency we selected, but you can click here to read a little about Holt International’s work in Ethiopia. I love that Holt’s mission is more than just adoption. They are building hospitals, providing education, and getting help into rural areas so orphan numbers don’t continue to grow.
After an initial application with Holt, we moved to the home study portion. Because our agency is out of town, we contracted a local social services organization to do our home study. We filled out more paperwork than a house purchase (30 question survey, tracking down birth & marriage certificates, daily schedule forms, financial data, letters of reference, lots of background checks, DMV records, federal fingerprinting, physicals and blood work, and other fun paper chasing). As crazy as collecting data seems, every appointment and notarized document makes us feel one step closer to our child. The home study also involves training, personal and joint interviews, and a visit to our house – I’ll let you know how all that goes.
In the meantime, we are working on a dossier, which is a fancy name for more official paperwork. The dossier includes much of the above, with a higher level of security to get things legally ready for Ethiopia. It’s pretty funny to think of our family being represented to another government in a manila envelope. We’ll make sure not to send oatmeal cookie crumbs or batman stickers on anything important!
Once the dossier is submitted to Ethiopia and translated accordingly, they begin matching us with a child (or two!). This is determined through our application information (i.e. gender, age, medical needs, etc.). Ethiopian adoptions are almost evenly divided between girls and boys, and since we aren’t specifying a gender, it will be fun to see if our boy streak continues. As for the age, we want to keep our birth order the same, which means we’ll qualify for children under age 4. I’m thinking a newborn and a toddler would be perfect, and I’m also thinking I’m crazy! Good thing God is in complete control, and He knows who our family needs and who needs our family. That’s so reassuring to me.
After being matched with a child (this is called a referral), we await a court date to appear in Ethiopia. Not every country requires this, but Ethiopia prefers to have all the paperwork done before the child leaves the country. So one or both of us will go before the court for adoption approval, and then we’ll both return about 6 weeks later for a permanent appointment. Finally, we’ll bring our precious ones home for the first time. Whew!
Holt has an average waiting time of 12-18 months from start to finish for their Ethiopia program. I’m really praying that we’ll have new faces on our Christmas card next year. There’s lots of fundraising to do since each of these steps requires chunks of change, but thankfully it’s all just chump change to God. I’ll tell you about how the money part works in the next post. We’re already blown away by financial support from friends, family, and even strangers. It’s a great story we’re watching unfold thanks to many of you playing a special part!