One year ago today, I picked up the phone and received the most wonderful news: We had received a referral of two children; a boy and a girl, ages five and three. We could hardly believe that our time had come. Finally, after being in process for so many years, after enduring the bankruptcy of our agency a year before, we had received our long-awaited referral. It was a dream come true, and it seemed like the perfect referral for our family.
Then the other shoe dropped. A few joyful days later, while talking with an adoption pediatrician about their medical files, she flagged something in one of the children's files that she suggested we get further information about. Our agency (Imagine) was fabulous about getting right on the needed information (CT scans, etc etc etc) and before another week had passed, we had much more information to share with the two specialists that we consulted. The news was not good. One of the children had a very serious and advanced and deteriorating condition that would likely result in that child requiring either institutional care, or at least a very difficult at-home care regime. My heart broke.
We knew that our province would likely not allow the referral to stand. But we, too, went through the gut-wrenching process of trying to decide what to do. Surely if this was the referral we'd prayed so long for, God had us specifically in mind when choosing these children for us. This was our first instinct. But another part of me challenged this assumption, and cautioned us about the long term consequences of this choice, thinking of Matthew and the other sibling, as well as what this diagnosis would do for our family life as a whole. We talked to a few people, received some counsel, and had so much to think and pray about. There was simply no easy answer, not knowing exactly what would happen to those children, and not knowing if/when we would ever receive another sibling referral. Our wait for a second referral was the second hardest time for me in our entire adoption journey...the first being the time of the bankruptcy of our agency.
I cried a lot in those three weeks between receiving and then rejecting the referral. It was an experience I wouldn't wish on anyone. The information that I clung to in those days was the news from our agency that the children could be referred out again, likely to an American family approved for the referral of a child/children with significant special needs and which had support and medical systems in place. That was a huge comfort, though we knew it was unlikely that we would ever know for sure. Still, I agonized about those children for many months, long after receiving our second referral; there's something about seeing the faces of the children you think will be yours that cements them in one's heart.
Three months (less a day) after receiving our first referral, Geoff and I received the phonecall referring us our beautiful Seth Asrat and Lizzie Senait, and from that moment on, and to this very day, it has felt truly like these were the children we were always meant to bring into our family. Interestingly (or oddly), Seth and Lizzie are both three months older than the boy and girl who were referred to us first.
I have wondered so often what the purpose was of the first two children being introduced to us for such a short period of time. Why did we need to go through that, after everything we'd already been through in our adoption journey? With the passage of time, I have developed a theory: I think those children needed someone to pray for them, and someone who would solicit more medical information that could be added to their orphanage files. And my, have I prayed for them! Up until our second trip to Ethiopia to pick up Seth and Lizzie, I prayed for those first two children every single day. Usually several/many times a day. It was during our second trip to Ethiopia, to pick up our children, that I was finally able to bring resolve to that situation; during our trip I had an opportunity to speak with someone who had done a bit of inquiring on my behalf, and I was given information about the first two children that put my mind and heart completely at rest. I can't go into details, but suffice it to say, they are taken care of. I can't tell you what a relief that was, to learn this. Since then, oddly, I have thought of them far less frequently; I still pray for them occasionally (even regularly), but I have a huge amount of peace about them.
The long and the short of it is this: As painful as that experience was, I believe that there was a reason for us receiving that first referral, even if I never fully understand it; also, I fully believe that the subsequent referral we received was the one meant to materialize in the completion of our family unit. So I think back to that referral exactly one year ago with a whole hodgepodge of feelings: I remember the incredible joy of receiving that phonecall; I remember the gut-wrenching pain of its loss; and as I think about all four children referred to us, I am so thankful that things happened precisely as they did.
Isn't it a simple truth about life that we just can't always understand why things happen the way they do? My word, I could think of a hundred things in my life that I wish I could understand the reason for. And it doesn't take much looking around a suffering world to wonder the same thing. I surely did not understand, a year ago, why this would happen to us after so many years and years of waiting for that phonecall, after so many years of waiting to complete our family. It turns out that on this occasion, with the passage of time, more has been revealed and I have come to a point of acceptance about why we might have been involved in the life plan of those two children, and why they might have been placed into ours for that short period of time. But many times we'll never know the why of it, the reasons for the things that cause us so much pain - at least, not in this lifetime. It is a relief to me to know that the God I believe in has a plan for my life, and it's a plan to 'prosper me and not to harm me, a plan to give me hope and a future.' There were many times during the weeks and months following this day last year when I repeated these words in my head like a mantra, choosing to believe that there was a purpose that I simply couldn't understand. I also believe that God was sorrowing with me, knowing my pain while still allowing me to experience it. Though I've since developed a theory about why we went through that, I also know that it has been added to my list of questions that, one day when I meet my Maker, I hope to have answered.