People ask me questions about our adoptions all the time. A lot of the questions are simply about what it took to get through the adoption, from what paperwork was involved to what travel looks like to financial information. I can give all the technical answers, and do. However, as I’ve looked back over what both Zinashi’s process and Elvie’s process have been like, as well as their homecomings and the days that have followed, I realized that those technicalities don’t really matter. Our experience with Elvie has been strikingly different than our experience with Zinashi, but both have a common theme.
As parents, we’ve had to commit to our daughters before we even knew them, as well as to walking through some tough days to help each girl get her particular needs met. None of the pre-adoption literature prepared us for this part, but experience has taught me this one thing above all else. If you intend to adopt, the one thing you must have is perseverance. You need it from the beginning of the process to the end, and you need it when you are home and are living life as a family.
Most parents would probably agree that perseverance is a trait that everyone who raises children needs to develop. With adoption, that trait has to come out early, just to get through the paperwork portion, and there are often more intense experiences on the horizon as you move forward. If you’re not of great means, you’ll also need it to stick to a budget and get creative in finding a way to pay the fees. When I think of the paperwork portion of adoption, the words “slogged through” are the ones that come to mind. Some of our documents were easy to procure, but others I had to go back more than once to get done right. I had to ask people to do things for me and to do them in a particular way. And I couldn’t give up, because if I didn’t have the right documents done the right way, we wouldn’t be able to complete an adoption. From the first uncomfortable phone call to ask someone to redo a document, my friend perseverance had to be at my side.
Then there was the waiting for a referral portion. With Zinashi, we waited five months on our agency’s waiting list before seeing her face on a waiting child photo listing. With Elvie, our process went very quickly, but I knew from the time that we adopted Zinashi that there would be someone else, so in some sense all that time felt like waiting. Particularly in between Zinashi’s adoption and Elvie’s, we could have given up on the idea of a second adoption, but I felt that she was out there, and that we were meant to be a family to one more girl. So my friend perseverance walked with me through all those days that I was wondering just when we’d be financially able to adopt again as well as ready as a family.
The hardest wait, by far, was the wait between knowing who each of our children was and being able to go to them. In that time in between knowing who our children were and meeting them, there was a lot to get done, and so perseverance helped us make it through not just the waiting portion, but also getting everything done before traveling. This was particularly true in Elvie’s case, as we scrambled to get paperwork done to send to Ethiopia, plus apply for grants and loans at the same time. We had to persevere to get to each of our babies, and those months I waited to get to each of my daughters were perhaps the hardest months I’ve ever lived through.
Bringing a child home from far away takes its own kind of perseverance. Extensive travel with a child who barely knows you is not a cakewalk. I remember those long hours in row twenty-two with Zinashi on our flight back to the US, just trying to get her to sleep a little bit. And then the flights with Elvie found us trying to care for Zinashi’s needs while worrying about Elvie’s health. Clearly, everything ended up fine in both cases, but it is not an experience for the faint of heart.
Finally, perseverance is necessary after you bring your child home. It’s fairly obvious that we are pushing through some tedious medical stuff right now for Elvie, but the perseverance extends to every area of my children’s lives. For Zinashi, her emotional healing and her need for intense attachment work tested the limits of our endurance every day in the beginning, and still now as we walk with her through issues that arise as she grows and is able to understand more about her beginnings. Beyond this second hospital stay, we will need more perseverance to get through all of Elvie’s medical care and whatever other issues may arise for her in the future. But we are committed, and with commitment has come the opportunity to practice perseverance. Every day, we keep going, because these girls are worth everything to us. I was about to say, “even the hard stuff,” but what I really mean is especially the hard stuff. We are so lucky to call ourselves a family. We will continue to persevere, every single day.
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