Throughout the years of going through the adoption process, I have often heard of people saying that the wait they had endured simply disappeared when they received their referral; it was as if the wait had never been, the moment they looked at their child's face. For a long time, I have been curious to know whether that would be my experience as well.
Our wait has been long. We started the adoption process almost nine years ago, over two years before Matthew was born. After a circuitous route getting to Africa, our file finally arrived in Ethiopia on April 23, 2008, and we waited thirty-one months for a referral that we were initially told would take between five and seven months to receive. We waited and waited and waited.
I was initially somewhat disappointed that the news of our referral did not erase, or even significantly ease, the pain of our long wait. In fact, nothing really changed at all in that regard: one day we were still waiting; the next day we received our referral and the wait ended but not the memory of it. The wait remains an integral part of our story, and a heart-felt part of my life's journey. I am forty-four years old, and our adoption journey has consumed almost 20% of my life's length thus far. This is no small chunk of life.
I have decided that I no longer want the wait to be erased from my memory. It's not because I'm a backwards-looking person or a person who lives with a lot of regrets. Quite the opposite: I'm more of the inclination to be optimistic and forward-looking in my perspective on life. But remembering the pain of the wait, the struggles with fertility, the many roadblocks that had to be overcome, the constantly-adjusting expectations about the length of the wait, the fortitude it took to get through Imagine's bankruptcy last year, the crushing despair of losing our first referral...all of that stuff helps me to understand other people with just a little more compassion, and just a little less judgment. Put simply, life doesn't always turn out the way we want, or expect, it to...that's the lens I want to see the world through, how I want to look at other people.
Our years of waiting to create and complete our family have coloured the filter through which I view life, and permanently shifted who I am...in both good ways and bad. Had I not been impacted by the pain and grief of our struggles with infertility, I don't think my ongoing joy in Matthew's existence would be as profound as it is for me. I remember what it was like to long for him so badly; that wait coated the lens of my life with a film of perpetual joy and thanksgiving. I can only imagine that the wait involved with bringing additional children into our lives will similarly result in shaping my outlook on these children yet to come into our home.
So...I want to remember it all. Every moment, hour, day, week, month, and year of the wait. Every tear, scream, outpouring of grief and pain, sliver of hope, dashed expectations, and, ultimately, the exultant hallelujah-shouting day of our referral. May I never forget a moment of our wait.