Eighteen months ago in a coffee shop in Indiana, I said some words to my husband that I couldn’t not say anymore. I wish I could tell you that I said them with confidence, that they flowed readily from my mouth like the first pour from a bottle of wine. Instead, they just kind of drizzled out like the leavings in a honey jar. I was too scared to even make eye contact.
But my husband met my timid words with faith, and six months later — after lots of prayer, soul searching, and researching — we took our first step toward international adoption.
In the year since we began, we’ve marked the milestones of our process with little celebrations. I’ve peppered Facebook with pictures of our happy moments, our little foursome indulging in cutesy (or maybe dorky), rhyming desserts. First we had Home Study Nutty Buddies. Then came Dossier Creme Brulee. And last night we celebrated our USCIS approval with Immigration Carbonation (root beer floats).
If you know me very well, you know that I can turn almost any situation into an excuse for dessert. But in this case, there was more to it than indulgence.
Celebrating became a lifeline.
At the beginning of the adoption process, our world was a hurricane of paper. Applications, forms, releases, autobiographies, contracts. My poor husband could hardly make it through the door after work without me thrusting a piece of paper at him for his signature. We were excited, our friends and family were onboard, everything was new.
We met with our social worker. We had the dreaded medicals done. All of our down time was devoted to pre-adoption education. We tried to hurry through each hurdle, knowing that Haiti is already a very long program. We wanted to trim off whatever time we could so that our son could come home as soon as possible. And for a while, we had some amount of control over that. Hope was winning.
But then the paperwork was done, our training was finished, and it was out of our hands. We had to wait.
We knew waiting would be part of the process, and waiting itself was not the problem for me. The problem was what my mind began to do while I waited.
My friends who have adopted have talked about the fear. I’ve prayed for them and tried to understand those fears. But I still wasn’t ready for the Iron Veil of Dread that descended on me.
I began to look at my children and wonder if we were about to ruin their childhood. That sounds terrible, I know. Adoption is all about love and compassion and hope, right? But fear was talking now. Having learned about the challenges we are likely to face in bringing home our adopted child, I began to fear my children would become casualties of our decisions.
Besides that, I like how our family of four works. Motherhood is something I’ve grown into slowly, and with a lot of mistakes. It took at least five years before I felt like I found my groove. Am I really willing to shake it up again?
What if our adopted child resents us? What if he has some unforeseen needs that we’re not able to meet? Is bringing him to America really in his best interests? Did God really tell us to do this?
After a few months of this, I knew that I needed a tangible way to hold onto hope and joy in the midst of our adoption. I needed to remind myself that this was given to us by God, and that it was good. So when we reached our first major milestone in March, we shared a little moment with our rhyming desserts. Home Study Nutty Buddies all around.
We were doing more than treating ourselves. We were choosing joy over fear.
While I was wallowing in my questions and doubt, my kids were dancing along, oblivious to the Iron Veil of Dread — and really to the adoption altogether. Oh, we talked with them about adopting. We told them that was the reason for the hurricane of paper.
But we realized that it must be a very abstract concept to them. Their world is so small and so American. How can they conceive of life in a developing country, or what it means to be an orphan? What child can really grasp what it will mean to have a new sibling, especially one from a very different, very difficult place?
The adoption really meant two things to them: 1) Their parents had less time to play with them because of the hurricane of paper and all the training videos, and 2) Every time they asked for a little something extra, their parents said, “We can’t because we’re saving for the adoption.”
So it felt like we needed to find a way to let them participate in the process, as well as giving them a positive association to go with it. Home Study Nutty Buddies led to Dossier Creme Brulee.
I realize that our little ritual might seem kind of incongruous with the adoption of a child from a developing country. Here we are, celebrating each step toward our child with an indulgence, a luxury, while a boy we haven’t yet met waits in an orphanage, sharing clothes and toys with other children, owning nothing, not knowing if he’ll ever be chosen.
But when he is chosen, and when he comes home, and when he processes his past and his place in our family, I want him to know that we were counting the steps and celebrating each one that brought us closer to him.
So we have goofy little rhyming dessert celebrations, and we take pictures. Someday we will show them to him. We’ll tell him that while he was still far away, we were waiting and hoping and closing the distance.
And every step in his direction was as sweet as sugar.