Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Long Wait for Phoebe

Phoebe’s story with our family began on the Cliff Walk overlooking the ocean at Newport, Rhode Island, on the day Mark and I celebrated our first wedding anniversary. I proposed to Mark that day that we adopt a child, a girl from China, and that we get started on the process soon. He said yes, and we launched into the path to parenthood.

Why adopt? In a world where there are so many children in need of families, we are a family who wants a child. In the simplest way, it is an easy match of the world’s needs with our desires. And it makes sense to me to have a family that reflects what I deeply believe—that all the world is beautifully interconnected—so much so that a child born in China can become my own.

We spent the summer of 2005 reading up on adoption and visiting a few different agencies. On Veterans Day, November 2005, we had our first official meeting at China Adoption With Love to sign up for the process. “It’s a six month wait, right?” I asked. “Well,” the social worker said, “it has been, for a long time. But yesterday we got our referrals, and something strange happened. . .We aren’t quite sure what it means.” Later we would understand that right then, the day before we started the process, the great slow-down in China adoption referrals began. By the time we got our referral, we would be waiting three years to be matched with our child.

But at the time we had no idea. So, with great excitement, we began “paper-chasing”—completing a lengthy home study, writing our autobiographies, getting our house inspected, collecting photographs, asking friends for letters of reference, documenting our financial status, fingerprinting with USCIS, signing criminal background checks, visiting the notary again and again. Document by document, piece by piece, we worked through the list. When it was done, the whole packet was sent off for translation. Then one day in February 2006—just after I watched a woman in the infertility clinic joyfully sob as she saw the flick-flick-flick of her baby’s heartbeat on the ultrasound—my text-pager went off: “CAWLI called. Our documents were sent to China this morning. We are now a Waiting Family. I love you, M.”

We threw ourselves a “Documents to China Party” that weekend, with red lanterns and Chinese food. We picked a name and colors for the nursery. I wore a Chinese pendant around my neck. When it came time to make schedules for the next academic year—the third year of residency—I front-loaded my schedule to do eight hard months straight so that maternity leave could fit in easily anytime after Christmas. We were expecting, and so exciting.

Summer came. The wait kept getting longer. There was much speculation about the slow-down on the internet, but few facts and no information about the future. It can’t go on forever, people said. I started obsessing on the “Rumor Queen’s” website, which tracked the progress of referrals. Each month, the wait got longer. It seemed like as time went on, we were getting further away instead of closer.

At some point, we decided that if we wanted our life as parents to start sooner rather than later, then we might as well try to conceive while awaiting our adoption. So, in the fall of 2006, we found ourselves expecting in the more traditional way, with a due date in May 2007. We worried a bit about having two children so close together. Could I take two maternity leaves during residency? Should we suspend the adoption application for a while? Is it healthy for kids to be “artificial twins?”

Miranda was born, and we waited. There was actually a time when we were thankful for the wait and hoped that the speed-up that the adoption community longed for would never come. I graduated, we moved, I started my new job. We updated our home study, re-fingerprinted, and applied for permission to bring an orphan into the country a total of three times. In our Christmas letter 2008, for the fourth time we said that our baby was coming soon. Only this time, finally, it was true.

So where are we now? Last month the China Adoption Affairs office matched families with applications up through 3/6/09. We are 3/7/09. We are at the front of the line. At long last. And unless there is a major surprise, we should be next. Our application has been sitting on a dusty shelf in China for over three years, waiting for the day that someone takes it down and pays attention to it. Sometime in the next two or three weeks, our application will be opened on some Chinese government worker’s desk in a magical place in the “The Matching Room.” He or she will see our old photographs—with no Miranda, and less gray hair. And then he or she will sort through the folders of babies who are cleared for adoption and will decide which child—of all the children in China, of all the children in the world—is to become our daughter. A few days later, we will get a phone call saying, “Congratulations, you have a baby.”

So, here’s what you can expect next:

Sometime after March 20th, most likely around April 1st, we’ll get “the call.” The next day we will have pictures and a medical report. Then 6-8 weeks later, we’ll travel to China. We will keep this blog so you can follow our journey. Someday, when Phoebe is older, we’ll let Phoebe read this blog, too, so she know how much she was loved even before we knew who she was, and how much excitement there was about bring her into our lives.

And one last thing—Thank you to our family and friends who have waited with us. Thank you for taking us seriously when we said “We are expecting a baby” even when that gestation was longer than an elephant’s. Your support has been wonderful.

And for people who don’t even know us but are joining us through the Rumor Queen’s site or CAWLI or other places: Please enjoy. Watching other people’s blogs through our long wait gave me great hope that truly a baby would come at the end of the journey. If you are waiting, take heart. Many people have told us that when you get that baby in your arms you realize why the wait took so long—because this baby was meant for you, and four Christmases ago, she wasn’t even alive in the world yet. I believe that, too.