After the birth of our third child, we were spent. My pregnancy with her was a long-awaited miracle, our older boys were keeping us busy, and we both come from families of two children. Having three children felt like we’d reached our max. My tubes were tied during the c-section; we’d agreed we were finished having kids.
Four years later, I began feeling like we’d made a mistake and our family wasn’t complete. But I wasn’t thinking medical reversal – God put adoption on my heart. My precious husband Loren isn’t one who really loves surprises, so I prayed about this by myself for a few months.
In the fall of 2011, Loren was away on business overnight. When I tucked in our middle child—a first grade boy, he said, “Mom, I feel like our family isn’t done.” When I asked what he meant, he said, “I think we’re going to abduct a child.”
Bless his little heart.
I said, “Well, buddy, abduct is when you take somebody without asking.”
He said, “What’s the word, when a baby needs a family?”
I replied, “Adopt?”
“Yes!” he exclaimed. “I think we’re going to adopt a baby.”
I told him that was something I’d been praying about for a while, and that he could too.
When Loren came home the next night, I said, “There’s something I’ve been praying about for a few months, and Charlie brought it up on his own at bedtime last night.” I told him the story from the night before, then said, “I’m feeling like adoption might be something we should consider.”
He immediately replied, “Let’s start praying about it now.” It felt like a calling from God, but not an urgent one. Like it was in our family’s future, but not yet.
Two years later, as my kids all entered school and I considered a new career to fill my newly-found free time, I went to a conference in Austin and stayed with a dear friend from college. She and her husband had been talking adoption recently, and we stayed up both nights until two in the morning to toss around ideas.
Upon returning to Houston, Loren said, “So. Are we starting a new business?
I said, “I don’t think this trip was about work at all. I think it’s about our adoption.”
We filed our application to adopt through American World Adoption’s Haiti program that week.
The process of adoption hasn’t been easy – we hear it rarely is. And it’s never the same for any two families.
We spent about five months assembling our dossier and completing our home study. Our dining room table was a virtual filing cabinet of documents assembled for our adoption.
The dossier was finalized in September of 2012, translated, and then…Haitian adoptions were stopped. Our documents sat in limbo until March 2013, when they were accepted by the Haitian governing authority over adoptions (the IBESR).
We were told of a soft-referral that fall (2013), and our family began praying for that little girl by name. We waited. We were given news of a hopeful referral soon to come.
We kept waiting.
On December 19, 2014, I received a call at work. It was the call we’d been waiting for. Our referral. But it wasn’t soft match we’d been expecting. We received our formal referral email the following day, though there was no picture. We had two weeks to accept or decline our referral, write a letter to Haiti requesting permission to travel, and book our flights. That was a whirlwind, especially considering how long we’d been waiting.
At that time, we learned of our little girl’s birthdate. It was the same day I’d submitted registration for that Austin conference years before. That’s not chance or coincidence.
We said we’d like to travel on December 26—leaving our three bio kids behind for our mandatory 15-day bonding trip felt like it might be easier for their caretakers if it spanned public school’s Christmas break as much as possible. We had a list of 20 families who’d volunteered to help manage kids/school/pets/the house, and we were going to need to rally them quickly.
America World said that Haiti had specifically mentioned they wouldn’t approve travel until January 2015. My sweet husband wrote our travel request letter without a backup travel date. He specifically asked for December 26-January 9.
On December 23, my birthday, I was in a nail shop with Aubrey (our then-seven-year-old) having our nails done for the holidays. AWAA called and said they were shocked, but our travel dates were approved.
Loren polished up on his Haitian Creole while I balanced logistics, packed bags, collected donations for the orphanage, and lined us all up for the trip.
We spoke with our Texas Children’s International Adoption Physician to prepare for our trip, gather some developmental paperwork so we could find out where our girl was developmentally, and learned lots of handy tips. As Jesus walks before us, so has our TCH physician. She has been on over ten medical mission trips to Haiti, and was such an encouragement. We were even able to message with her while there, about medical questions specific to sweet Sonia.
We left for Haiti on December 26 and met our daughter at the orphanage that same day, around 4:00 pm. We enjoyed 15 days with her, meeting with the US Embassy there, a Haitian social worker, and getting to know the orphanage director better. We were even there for her third birthday, and were blessed to celebrate it with her. It was likely her very first birthday party. What a gift to experience it with her.
Our trip brought lots of relationship building, trust, getting to know each other, playing, giggling, snuggling, and getting past the new-ness. We learned much about her culture, her country, and about such loving, hardworking Haitians. We met and hugged on Sonia’s friends and her nanny. We shared snacks, crafts, books, games, iphone app playing time, balloons, playing ball, and so much more with Sonia and her little friends.
Then after fifteen days, we had to leave our girl.
That first month back was hard. I’m pretty sure I could’ve been diagnosed with depression. My entire perspective had turned on its side and I had to monitor my interactions with others. I felt like a horrible, consuming, ungrateful person. After a few days I found myself functioning a little better. I could smile and sometimes laugh. I could make dinner for our family and not feel guilty about having food so accessible. After a month I could even see cereal bars in the grocery store (Sonia loved them!) and not cry at the sight of their boxes.
I returned to Haiti about six weeks later with our two sons and my parents. We stayed for five days. None of them had been to a third world country or an orphanage before that trip. It was life changing for everyone. Another six weeks later, I returned with four girlfriends from our neighborhood and Loren’s dad. It was another five day, transformative trip.
It was such a blessing to have others meet our girl. This long process leaves us wondering, sometimes, if it’s all been a dream. It’s so good to have friends who can remind us that she’s real, the wait has been real, and it will all be worth it.
In June, I accepted a long term substituting job at our littles’ elementary school for this fall. I knew that once school started, we wouldn’t be able to go back and see Sonia. So I booked two more tickets, and Aubrey and I went down after July 4 for four days in Haiti. It was such a beautiful time and a gift to see our little girls together. They got along so well.
The day after I booked those tickets, we were contacted and told that we had exited the IBESR.
Later in July, we exited the Haitian court system.
In early August, our adoption decree was issued. That was the point when she was legally ours—she began to carry our last name (unbeknownst to her, undoubtedly). We could finally post her name, her birthdate, and pictures of her adorable little face on social media.
This also means that any time we visit her in Haiti now, we can take her from the orphanage to stay with us. This is a tough one, though. Do we take her to a nice hotel to eat lovely food, play in the pool, and sleep in a plush bed, then return her to her orphanage? There’s no handbook for this. We just pray that Jesus leads our steps.
We’re still awaiting news of her passport being issued, our I-600 approval, Sonia’s visa appointment and visa approval. Then we can return to Haiti to bring her home.
We aren’t super patient people. We’re both Type-A, firstborns, and slight control freaks. This has been the hardest wait we’ve ever endured. But our children have learned so much about waiting on God, and about Jesus’ faithfulness. They’ve seen the poverty in Haiti, and the joy those children all still carry—even as orphans.
If we hadn’t taken this journey, we would’ve missed out on so many relationships, the chance to sit back and watch God at work, to invite others to partner with us in this, and to have felt our own patience, peace, and faith grow beyond what we ever could’ve imagined.
And as parents with three already at home, we know that just the getting them here ends up being the easy part. So we continue our adoption readings, building relationships, striving to learn more about what she’ll need, and asking God to prepare our hearts and our family for Sonia’s arrival home. We pray it’s soon.
– by Julie Long