Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Adoption Emotions Galore - Part 2

Steve with Kibrom. Our son will remain a photo mystery until we pick him up.

This is Part 2 of our story. Part 1 is here.

Our family spent three weeks looking at a set of new pictures and envisioning our lives with a new son and brother. Just as we were getting used to the idea, something totally unexpected happened. I got a call one day in September from our agency telling me they just received word from Ethiopia that the regional authorities signed the papers on Kibrom! You can imagine my surprise. I couldn't speak. I was in total shock. Now we had to make another difficult decision to make since we had two boys officially referred to us.

I suggested to Steve that we take both boys. He immediately called me insane - which is probably true. In the end, I was swayed back to reality. Three kiddos was our limit. So two days later, I called our agency to tell them we wanted Kibrom. After I made the official call, I pulled up the pictures from our December trip to Ethiopia to look at him. I hadn't done this in months because I didn't want to see pictures of our boy who might never come home. Then it hit me. I cried like a baby. All the months of emotion bottled up inside just came out.

The courts were closed for the rainy season from mid August until October 8. In late September, we learned from our agency that we would have to wait until the courts reopened so that they could submit a written appeal to the judge to reopen our case. To my surprise within two days of filing the appeal, we were notified of a November 2 court date. I was incredibly excited, yet nervous at the same time. I still didn't think it was real. The emotional purgatory of the last year had taken its toll.

In the midst of the craziness of preparing for the trip, I found out a mere two days before we left for Ethiopia that we would need to update several important documents in our dossier as they had "expired" after two years. Not having them meant not passing court. Since I couldn't stand the idea of anymore delays to our case, I ran around like a crazy person to get the new documents before we left. I am so thankful we live in a small town where it is possible to get new medical and police letters plus a bunch of notaries in less than 24 hours.

With our new documents in hand, we arrived in Addis Ababa on October 31. Our agency immediately took them for translation and told us they would try to get our final letter of comment from the federal Ministry of Women's, Children's and Youth Affairs (MOWCYA) - the absolute last piece of paper needed to receive our final court decree.

On November 1, we finally saw Kibrom again. Aside from looking a bit more mature, he was the same little boy we met nearly a year ago. We wondered if he remembered us and the girls so we brought him pictures of the five of us together last year. I think he remembered. The next day we returned to say good-bye and to tell him that we will be back in a few months to take him home. I think he understood.

Prior to meeting with the judge, our agency's attorney told us that he still didn't have the MOWCYA letter needed to pass, but was 99% confident he would get it in the next few days. The judge issued a new court date of November 6 in hopes that she would receive the letter by then. We were free to leave Ethiopia and would be notified by our agency when we officially passed.

We found out exactly one week ago that we passed court. Kibrom is legally our son! It was an incredibly long and difficult 326 day journey to get to this point. Now I am asked when he will come home. The short answer is soon. It usually takes another 2 to 3 months to go through the necessary U.S. immigration procedures. As soon we receive word that the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa is ready to schedule our visa interview, all four Pragers will be on a plane to get him! As I said in my Part 1 blog post, our story will have a happy ending. For that, I am eternally grateful!

Adoption Emotions Galore - Part 1

Kibrom's new care center in Addis Ababa
I began writing this post the last day of August then amended it in the middle of September and then in early October as our adoption journey took yet another strange turn. But I had no intentions of posting this until much, much later. It was not something I wanted to talk about at the time. Things were complicated and I wasn't over the hurt yet. But I thought it was important to write down my thoughts while they were still fresh. And many friends had been asking us for months if there was any news with our adoption. Now that we officially passed court in Ethiopia and I am confident our story will have a happy ending, I feel more free to share the details. So for all who are interested in the reading about our epic adoption adventure, here goes.

Over a year ago, we were referred a beautiful, four-year old boy from Ethiopia. His name is Kibrom and he was to be our son. Our family traveled to Ethiopia in December 2011 to meet him and to appear in court to become his legal parents. Unfortunately, while we were there, our court date was canceled because we were missing some newly required paperwork, a letter from the regional authorities stating that Kibrom was eligible for international adoption. We met Kibrom and he met us. At the time, we thought this was a hiccup along the way, albeit an annoying hiccup because it meant we would be delayed in bringing Kibrom home. Plus Steve and I would have to make an additional trip to Ethiopia. At the time, we thought we would be home by last spring at the latest.

We were told to be patient while the regional authorities worked out their new paperwork process. So we waited patiently. And then we waited and waited some more. After four months, we were still optimistic that it was just a matter of time before we received this very important piece of paper. But by the middle of summer, the situation changed. I won't go into all of the details because there are too many to recount and I would end up writing a book instead of a blog post. Let's just say I spent many hours and days communicating with our agency, other parents stuck in our same situation, and a third party investigator via telephone, email, and a private Facebook group trying to figure out what to do next. The emotional highs and lows during this time resulted in many nights of restless sleep to downright insomnia. I can't even begin to convey my personal pain and angst.

Beginning in late July, the tone of the conversations with our agency began to change. There was a good chance that Kibrom would never come home with us. The fact of the matter was the regional authorities didn't really want to write the letter. We were presented with a host of increasingly difficult options from which to choose from, none of which seemed fair or the right thing to do. We were truly stuck in a complex ethical, moral, and financial conundrum. We knew there were many risks to adopting internationally. We willingly signed on for them as we had done so once before. But to know something bad could happen and to have something bad actually happen are two entirely different things. And now something bad was happening to us.

Steve and I talked about our options. These were very difficult conversations. I found myself begging for a clear sign of what to do next. I just needed clarity as to which fork in the road to take. Then it happened. Unexpectedly, in the middle of our turmoil in late August when things looked bleak for us and Kibrom, our agency told us about another little boy who needed a family. He was from a different region of Ethiopia and his paperwork was already complete. We could continue our fight for Kibrom or accept a new referral. As you can imagine, this was a very difficult decision to make. We didn't want to give up on bringing Kibrom home. But we also didn't want to engage in a fight that could become extremely adversarial, confrontational, and expensive with no guarantee of the positive outcome we wanted. After a few days of thinking about our options, we decided to withdraw from our adoption of Kibrom and accept the new referral.

We sat down one night in early September with our girls to tell them this very sad news. They were absolutely crushed. They met Kibrom and had spent the last eight months waiting and waiting for their brother to come home. How can I ever explain something so complicated to my kids? They wanted to know why people made such stupid rules and what would happen to Kibrom if he wasn't going to be part of our family. We tried to explain, but it wasn't easy. Even we did not have the answers to these questions.

When I first wrote this, I was still trying to come to terms with our decision. Any decision we would have made just felt plain wrong. I describe it an awful "ick" that makes you sick to your stomach. I got weepy every time I would talk about our decision to close friends, but I was coming to terms with our new reality. Even though we made the ultimate decision to end our pursuit of Kibrom, rationally, I knew others had contributed to it. The country of Ethiopia had different plans for this child. I may not have agreed with them, but he was not my child legally and who was I to argue.

Up next, Part 2 of the story.