After being immersed in the international adoption process for almost a year, I was ready to be done. Five was a great number, right? I certainly thought so. But as we sat in our small, cold hotel room in a tiny town in Eastern Ukraine, a quiet voice whispered to my heart that our family was not yet complete. I quickly silenced the voice by placing my earphones into my ears and turning on my iPod, letting the music drown out my thoughts. I was just not ready to think about doing this all over again. I had just come home from Uzbekistan four weeks prior and we were two weeks into our first trip to Ukraine. I just needed to focus on the here and now.
As we boarded our flight home from our first trip to Ukraine, I noticed several "older" Ukrainian children with their new adoptive parents. The joy and excitement (mixed with a little fear and trepidation) at the thought of their new lives, surrounded by loving families, was evident and it struck a cord in my heart.
On Christmas Eve (2007), just a few short day after returning home with Evan, we happily dressed the kids in their Christmas pajamas and lined them up on the couch for pictures. . .the first pictures of all five of our children together. I shed a tear or two as the miracle of that moment sank deep into my heart. Once the photo shoot had concluded, we tucked our little people into bed and I headed back to the home office to look at the pictures we had taken. My heart all but stopped as I pulled up the first picture on my computer screen. I very clearly saw 7 children sitting there. I shook my head, blinked and ultimately chalked it up to severe jet lag, but the impression had been made upon my heart and I could no longer tune out that quiet voice that continued to whisper to my heart that our family was not yet complete.
I waited several weeks before I shared these thoughts, impressions and experiences with Richard. I knew that he would think I had completely lost my mind (I thought I had completely lost my mind, so there was very little doubt that Richard would concur). In the mean time, the Spirit continued to remind me that there were still children missing from our family. At the playground, I would quickly count my children. . .1,2, 3, 4,5 and was confused to feel that someone was still missing. One Sunday morning, an elderly lady at church walked up to our pew and took a long, hard look at our family. She then asked us, "When did you adopt two more?" Richard and I looked at each other, confused and then she quickly corrected herself, "Oh, there are only 5, I thought I had counted 7."
The official "adoption talks" began in May/June 2008. Although we both wanted to return to Ukraine, with travel times lengthening, we knew that it was not the right choice for our family this time around. We soon learned that, Bulgaria, whose international adoption program had slowed to a trickle over the past few years, was once again moving. With no age or family size restrictions and travel times and fees that fit our situation, we felt that it was the right program for us. We only wished that the agency we had used for our previous adoptions had a program in Bulgaria.
A few weeks after we began talking about Bulgaria, I learned from our agency director (without mentioning our plans to her) that, About A Child would be partnering with a Bulgarian agency to begin a program in Bulgaria. We knew that the Lord had led us to the place where we would find our "missing piece(s)."
Shortly after we learned about our agency's plans to open a program in Bulgaria, we had to put our plans on hold. Joshua and Evan had been accepted for treatment at Shriners Hospital for Children in Philadelphia and the initial treatment would be rigorous. We knew that we must put their needs first and so our adoption plans were placed on the back burner. We knew that the Lord's timing was perfect, THAT had certainly been made manifest many times throughout the process of bringing Joshua and Evan home and we knew it would be the case this time around as well.
In February, as I was making plans to schedule Joshua's next post placement report with our social worker, I was reminded that our current homestudy would expire in mid-May. An update would be exponentially cheaper and involve far less paperwork. We knew that another adoption was in our future and so we made the decision to update. Shortly after making that decision, I learned of two beautiful little girls who were available for adoption in Bulgaria. The first little girl that stole my heart was "M." She was a beautiful 8 year-old girl, listed with another agency, just waiting for a family to call her own. I then learned that "M" had come to the agency as a referral for another family whose dossier was already in Bulgaria. They had two weeks to decide whether or not they would accept her referral. In the meantime, I learned of another little girl, "D." She was a gorgeous little girl who had just turned 7 years-old. She was born with cerebral palsy, but she was not letting that slow her down. Her amazing smile won me over in an instant and I knew that she was meant to be ours.
A few weeks later, I learned that the family who had been considering "M" had turned down the referral and that she was, once again, available for consideration. As soon as I showed her picture to Richard he said, "She's the one!" The agency that the girls were listed with was nearing the end of their two-month period with their files (in Bulgaria, the Ministry of Justice maintains a list of 700+ children (most who are older, sibling groups or have special needs). Bulgarian agencies can request the files of the children on this list to share with their clients for consideration. Each agency has two months to try to find families for the children whose files they are in possession of, at which point the files are given to the next agency who has requested them). Although the agency that they were currently listed with was wonderful, we were still hopeful that we would be able to use our previous agency (and their Bulgarian counterpart) to bring the girls home.
I contacted the director of the Bulgarian agency working with About A Child and told her about "our" girls. I shared with her the indentifying information that I had and soon learned that she had requested M's file back in mid-November and that she should be one of the next in line to receive it and, in the meantime, she requested D's file as well.
We have been waiting for several months to receive the files and we are still waiting. In the meantime, we have completed our homestudy update, have officially signed on with our agency and will be filing our I-800A (request for immigration approval to adopt an orphan from a Hague Convention country) as soon as we have received a copy of our homestudy. We know that, if it is the Lord's will, we will be able to bring "our" girls home and we know that the timing will be perfect. His plan is so much bigger (and better) than ours. We are reminded of that each and every day as we step back in awe and take in all that He has blessed us with.
So, while we are still waiting to know whether or not we will be able to bring our girls home, we DO know that we are on the right path and that it is the right time and we are doing everything that is in our power to move forward in every way that we can. The rest is up to the Lord and we are excited to see what He has in store for us!