Monday, December 24, 2012

Part Two

The week dragged on as the reality set in that Anna was not going to be our child.  I continued to pray, believing in my heart that something would change and she would eventually come home.  I even gave God a time limit as I prayed - telling him He had one week to bring her home and then I would stop praying about it and trust that He had found the forever family she needed.

I used every connection I had to try to figure out if I knew the family N had chosen for Anna.  I just couldn't find who her family was. Deciding to write N one more time, I simply told her I disagreed with her decision and believed God wanted us to be her forever family.  I ended my email by saying we were still praying.

N responded and said Anna was being picked up by her new family on Thursday. 

That Thursday, my two older kids were in their school musical.  It was so fun watching Eleanor dressed up like a flower child while Harry did his best Sonny Bono impression.  I laughed.  I shed a tear here and there as I thought Anna would just love to have them as her big brother and sister. 

Friday night was the second night of the show and we had relatives come in.  It was on this night that I officially gave up and stopped thinking about her.

Saturday - I have no idea what we did that day - but I do remember putting everyone to bed that night and they fell asleep right away.  I was the only one awake and was sitting at the computer doing something - probably playing Words With Friends or something, ha!  My cell phone rang.  Weird.  It was probably 10:30 at night and the whole house was sound asleep. 

I looked at the phone and recognized N's phone number.

Why is she calling me?

"Traci?  This is N.  Are you still interested in Anastasia?"

I gulped a bit and thought...am I?  I had just surrendered her. 

Reality slapped me and said Answer Her!   "Yes...", I simply said.

"Well..I got into a fight with the first family I chose. I am having doubts about them.  I am really second guessing not chosing your family.  Can you get here right away?  I mean, she is packed and ready to go.  She knows someone is coming to be her new family."

My heart leaped and shattered at the same time.  I could not imagine a 5 year old child being packed up and ready to go, sitting there just waiting for strangers to walk in and say, "I am your new mommy!"

I asked, "So, Anna knows she is going to a new family?  How did you tell her?"

N answered, "Her therapist told her."

I realized I really needed to talk to Joe before going another step futher.  I asked N if I could call her right back. 

"Yes..but I need to know tonight."

Wow - nothing like a little pressure huh?  OK - so you want us me to wake up my husband who has been asleep for 2 hours and ask him if I can fly to CO in a day and pick up a 5 year old from Ghana who is being disrupted?  But that is exactly what I did.

I woke up Joe.  I told him N had just called and that she now was choosing us.  He had a few questions - he clearly wanted to know more than what I could offer, but I kept saying that God had made a way!  God had changed her mind.  God's will was being done right before our eyes.

He smiled...laughed a bit...and said, "Go buy a ticket to CO."

So I called N back and said, "I am coming.  I will let you know when I get my ticket. I knew she was supposed to be ours."

That Sunday, as Joe and I worshiped a God who loves the fatherless and the orphan we couldn't keep the tears from streaming down our cheeks.  We were going to be parents again.  I can't remember if we told anyone or not - I think despite the joy we felt, we were terrified.

I scrambled around the next day getting ready.  We lived in a TINY house with TINY bedrooms and we already had 5 kiddos crammed into those rooms.  I put out a call to my friends who had girls and asked for some clothes and shoes.  I bought some pink sheets and a new yellow comforter for her bed.  Then I realized she needed a pillow pet - after all, the other 5 each had one.  It's funny looking back what was important to me then...things like pillow pets and a closet full of clothes.

Tuesday came and I drove my old Suburban to the Milwaukee airport.  I was taking an early flight to CO and would try as hard as I could to maneuver my way onto an earlier return flight.  I wanted to just get her and get home!  My stomach was in knots the entire flight there.  I couldn't read, couldn't listen to music....couldn't really do anything but worry.

The plane landed and I walked into the concourse of the airport and suddenly froze.  I couldn't even take another step.  I had been here before - walking toward a child I believed God had chosen for me.  The first time I was so sure that the child would run into my arms and hold on tight.  I thought my love would bring healing immediately and that child would know from my warm smile and my tears that I loved him. 

That did not happen.  He ran from me.  He wouldn't look at me.  He would cringe when I tried to touch him.  I had never felt such rejection before in my life.  It was the most painful moment I have ever gone through.

And here I was CHOOSING to walk into that same scenario.  But this time, with an extra broken child.  A girl who had been rejected more than once!

My fingers shook and I could barely see my phone screen to pull up Joe's number.  I was seriously having a panic attack (and I never have them!).  Joe answered and was so excited to hear from me!  He immediately asked, "Is Anna with you?"

I just broke into a sob.  I could barely talk, but tried to stammer the words, "I can't do this!  I am so scared!  I just want to come home!!"

Joe couldn't believe his ears.  But, he gently told me to take some deep breaths and then he did the only thing a husband could do in that moment.  He started to pray.  He prayed for me.  He prayed for Anna.  And he prayed that God would be with me. 

Immediately, peace flooded into my heart.  And I heard God clearly say, "Trust me.  I have sent you to RESCUE my child."

The peace was there...but it was a battle to keep the fear from creeping in again and again.  I found my rental car and plugged in a Christian radio station - just trusting that singing some words of praise would help me get through the next hour as I drove to N's house. 

The whole time I was shaking.  I wondered over and over again how Anna would react to me.

Then I pulled up to the house...or...I should say ranch - with the majestic Rocky Mountains literally in her back yard.  It truly was one of the most amazing places I have ever seen!  I thought there is NO WAY a little girl would want to leave this place to come to Wisconsin and live in a tiny, old farm house.  Doubt was sinking it's claws onto my back and he whispered into my ear that I was a fool for thinking what I had to offer Anna was better than this!  I began to shake again.

I pulled up the very long driveway and noticed all the corals and horses. A few ponies were in a ring.  Numerous dogs greeted me and even a few kittens scurried across the path dodging the car.  A man with dread-locs, a flannel shirt and a warm smile greeted me. 

"You must be Traci."

"Yes....and you are?"

"J.  I am N's boyfriend..."  It seemed like he wanted to say something more.  His eyes were sad even though his smile was kind. 

He simply nodded toward the house and said, "She's in there."

I was led to the front door and he opened it.  There was N.  I still hadn't seen Anna yet.  Dogs, little ones, were barking and snapping at my heels.  I looked around and saw such disarray.  There was even a lamb in the house - making such noises.  N said the lamb needed to be fed.  "Oh.." was all I said.

Then from behind a door, Anna's face peeked around the corner.  I saw here eyes.  She was smiling!

N snapped at her, "Anna!  You know you are not allowed to be in the same room as the dog!  Go back to your room!"

I must have had a shocked look on my face because N felt she needed to explain, "Anna kicked Muffin.  I just can't have her around the dog."  She said this as Muffin was nipping at my heels - barking and lunging at me. 

I almost kicked the dog myself.

N then said, "Anna's things are in her room.  Right back there."

I walked into her room and gasped.  There was Anna.  In a room with a mattress on the floor, a very large duffel bag and a few things strewn about - a cowboy hat, a naked Barbie doll and a blanket. 

At this point, I knew what God meant.  RESCUE.

I knelt down and talked to Anna a bit.  I asked if I could hug her and then asked her if she knew that she was coming home with me.  She nodded.  Her hair was a knotty mess.  My shock continued to grow.

All I wanted to do was get out of that house!  I immediately said I had a chance of catching an earlier flight back to Wisconsin and that I would not be hanging out for a few hours like we originally planned.  N was fine with that.

I lugged the bag - it was over 75 pounds and I was stumped as to how I would get that thing on the plane!  I asked about a car seat and N went to get it.  Filthy was an understatement.  Again, I just breathed deep and quietly prayed that God would be with me through this.

I truly felt like I was in a dream.

Here I was in a strange house, mess all around me, dogs lunging at my feet, a little girl with cracked skin and hair that had not been attended to...ever....in a room that no little girl should ever have to live in. 

Honestly, I don't remember any of the small talk that went between N and I.  J was there and he kept hugging Anna.  I got the impression J was not in agreement of N's decision and he told her he would always love her.  N said nothing. 

Anna hopped into my rental car and simply said goodbye to N.  She called her N.  Not Mom.  I shut the door and N said, 'See...she has never been able to bond with me.  This is for the best."

I said a few things about the legal issues that N would have to follow up with, said goodbye and got into the car.  Shutting  the door, I sighed and began to drive away.  At the end of the driveway, I handed Anna a photo book I had made of our family and our house. 

She suddenly asked, "Hey!  What should I call you?"

I hesitated for just a moment, but then answered, "Momma.  I am Momma."

Anna was quiet for a moment.  Then she said quietly, "Momma.  I like that."

And we started to make our way home.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Anna's Story

Finally....Anna is a Weldie!  It has been a very long road.  Never once did I doubt that Anna was ours, never once did I think God would turn us on a different course with this baby girl but clearly it did take a long time.

So, I can finally share her story.  I was afraid to tell it until she was legally ours, but now she is a Weldie, her name has been legally changed, the new birth certificate has been ordered with the name Anna Judith.  Quickly, her name was Anastasia...I was OK with it, but Joe didn't like it at all - so the day I picked her up in Colorado I asked her if it was ok if I called her Anna.  She smiled and said, "Sure!".  After being with us for almost a year, we talked about what we would name her when the adoption was finalized.  All of our children have family names - and Anna was Anastasia Patience.  My sister sent a wonderful family history and I scoured it for the name Patience - thinking we could keep that.  But in my heart, I knew I wanted her to be a Judith.  Judith is my mom's name and I wanted to pass that on to one of my children very much.  I talked to Anna (after she has met my mom) and asked her about making her middle name Judith, being named after Grandma.  She giggled and smiled and loved it very much.  Anna Judith she is!

How did I find out about Anna?  NO...NOT ON CR*IG'S LIST!  Yes, that rumor has been circulating around.  I am part of a wonderful group of ladies who share a web-board who all adopted from Ethiopia through the same agency.  There are some WARRIORS on that board - women who fight and pray passionately for children waiting to be adopted.  Some of those women frequent a website called CH*SK, which stands for Christian Homes Adopting Special-Needs Kids.  This website is used by pregnant moms who know their babies are going to have special needs and want to find a home for their baby.  Or, it is used often my parents wishing to disrupt or dissolve their adoptions. 

This brings up good questions.  What exactly IS disruption?  A disruption is when an adoptive parents has received a referral of a child and has completed some of the steps toward the adoption, but then changes their mind and can no longer finalize the adoption of that child. A dissolution is when an adoption has been finalized and then the parents decide they can no longer parent the child and so they wish to dissolve the finalized adoption.  Basically, it's a divorce. 

Anna's first adoptive mom, I will call her N, had adopted Anna from Ghana bringing her home to CO in December 2010.  In April 2011, Anna first appeared on CH*SK.

Two friends from the web-board let everyone know about Anna for two reasons:  1) many families on this board have adopted "older", "special needs kids" from Africa and are very aware of the challenges and joys of this type of adoption and 2) they are just crazy about making sure no child has to go through a long-drawn out process of dissolution.  One dear friend wrote to me, "Traci..I just know it...this child is yours!"  And she began praying.

I went to the website.  I was familiar with it because I would visit it occasionally, mainly to pray for the kids that were waiting for families.  After all, I was in the middle of immense challenges at home with George!  Why in the world would I bring another adopted child...let alone one that already caused enough problems in their home to be disrupted...into my  mess?

I probably should go back a few steps.  Yes..it was very, very hard with George.  But, we were seeing tiny baby steps forward.  Joe and I wondered aloud many times if George would do better if he was not the "only one".  The only one with brown skin.  The only one who was adopted.  The only one who didn't have a history with us.  In late night conversations, Joe and I thought about his and decided maybe a girl from Africa would be nice for the whole family.  We laughed...were we crazy?  We had NO money...we were EXHAUSTED dealing with George each day...and our other children were FED up with the whole scene.  Yea...that idea is crazy.  But, let's pray.

See a theme here? 

Then, I saw her picture.


And her beauty took my breath away.  And I knew...deep down in my heart...THIS was my daughter.

I read her profile.  Oh my.....wait....

Scary words jumped out off the page, "terrorizes children her age or younger", "hurts animals on a regular basis", "masturbates all the time", "eats like an animal", "flirts with the mother's boyfriend"...and then the word, "sociopath".

I just didn't know what to do next. 

This child?  She does all that?  My heart stopped and I cried out to God?  "Oh Lord!  How does a 5 year old child become this?  What is YOUR plan here?  Why have you ripped my heart over this girl and opened my eyes another child who is so hurt and broken?"

And then I did all I could think of, I took her picture and all this information to my husband.  I prayed, "God, if this is NOT your will, Joe will say NO right away.  I will trust his lead, his place in our marriage." I prepared myself to hear the word NO and then decided I would advocate for this child to find another family.

Joe surprised me.  He looked at her picture.  Then he read the words in her profile.  And then he said, "We can parent her.  Call the mother and start finding our more information."

Floored....and a little excited...and a lot terrified!

I decided to leave the house to call N.  I didn't want any of the other kids to hear the conversation and so I hopped into our old, beaten up Suburban and drove to the only place I could think of that offered some peace and quiet...the parking lot of P*p* Murphy's Pizz* (of course!).  Actually, I am always "on" as mom, and so I thought I would kill two birds with one stone and order some pizza for dinner while I was there.

I was shaking horribly when I called N.  First thing I said to her was that I understood.  I shared with her a little about our life with George, and I told her I had no judgement in my heart for the decision she had made.  I also told her we would proceed slowly and with prayer.  She answered, "I can't go slowly.  I want someone to pick her up next week."

Shocked.  Really?  I asked her how many families was she talking to about adopting Anna.

She said "About five.  And honestly, the fastest one to CO gets her.  I am pregnant and this is causing all kinds of problems for my pregnancy, and she slammed the head of my 4 year old onto the ground the other day. I just can't do this anymore.  Do you want me to email you her medical records, school reports and all the psychology reports?"

I was surprised when she said Anna had been seen by 4 psychologists.  All I kept thinking was this poor baby girl from Africa had been with her for only 4 months and was already in two half-day schools (so she was in school all day) and had been seen by 4 different psychologists.  Everything I knew about international adoption said a parents must use those first crucial months to be together...all the time...constantly....bonding.  When was she ever home to bond with her mommy?

When I got home, I emailed N our homestudy so she could get a good glimpse into our family.

The reports came later that night and after everyone had gone to bed, I cautiously opened the email.  I read each one with many tears falling down my cheeks.  Those same horrible descriptions popped up everywhere, but through God's grace I noticed something....each one of those sentences that described the negative behavior started with the words, "The mother reports..."

Wow.  None of the teachers, none of the doctors ever reported seeing these behaviors.  OK...feeling a bit better now.

Then I read a paragraph from the pediatrician for recommended course of action.  Number 1 on the list was the following, "We recommend at least 30 minutes of one on one time between the child and the adoptive mother to take place every day.  We recommend rocking in a rocking chair, or allowing the child to sit on the adoptive mother's lap for 30 minutes of uninterrupted time of bonding."

I began to make the implication that maybe Anna was not getting any of this.

Then, Number 2, "Seeing the child's skin is cracked and very dry, we recommend the adoptive mother use lotion on the child's skin twice a day, every day."

And...the mom is not helping Anna put lotion on.  Another light-bulb moment.  From having adopted George, I knew how putting lotion on his body each and every day was one significant way in which I could touch George with loving hands.  And despite how much he "hated" me in those days, he would always let me put lotion on his arms, legs, belly and face.  I knew how important this simple gesture was toward the trust and bonding that needs to take place for these hurting children.

After reading the emails I announced...we can do this!

The next morning was a Saturday and I called N early and said, 'We want to be Anna's parents."  Interesting as I look back that I was already calling her Anna.   N said she had narrowed all the families down to 3 that she wanted to have a final interview with.  We set up a time for later that afternoon.

There was a part of me that was so angry..why does this mother get to say who Anna's next family is?  But..I just prayed and prayed.  And then I posted on my web-board for the ladies to pray.  And they did!

The final interview began and I was asked just a few questions.  The first was, "What is your trigger point?"  Huh?  I wasn't even sure what that meant.  N continued, "You know..that point in which her behavior drives you to a point where you say you have had enough and don't want her anymore."  Oh....I thought for a few seconds and then said, "I don't have a trigger point."

"O, come one!  You have to have a trigger point."  N replied, "What if she hurts your youngest, what's his name?  What if she slams his head into the ground?"

I had to hold back a laugh, "She won't be able to.  Lincoln is the youngest of five right now and would never let a younger girl do that to him.  But...I see your point.  If she hurts Lincoln, we'll deal with it."

I could sense N getting angry, "What if she burns down the house?  Or what if she kills your beloved dog?"

Wow.  All these what-ifs!  I honestly told her, "I don't know what I would do if those things happened.  But I do know this...I would turn to my Lord and Savior to help me, to give me wisdom and to bring healing to Anna."

Clearly this was not an answer N liked....and she moved to another line of questioning.

"If I chose you, when can you pick her up?"

I quickly thought of a couple things; purchasing a plane ticket, who would help around the house with the other five children, and I remembered both Harry and Eleanor were in the school musical which was next week.  After calculating all these things I answered, "In 10 days."

"OK, I will make my decision by tomorrow afternoon and let you know.  Bye."  N hung up the phone.

I couldnt' help but think the final interview went horribly.  And I kept wondering if I should have told her I could pick up Anna sooner than 10 days.  But...we still had to tell our kids!  And we still had the musical and the last thing I wanted to do was miss my children in their big moment!

I told Joe the interview did not go very well.  He answered we simply needed to pray about it.  Then, we gathered the kids on the front porch and told them we wanted to talk to them about something.  We happened to be watching the kids of friends' of our that weekend - so we had an extra 3 roaming around.  We asked them if they could give us some time to talk.

We laid out the story (appropriately, of course) of Anna and how she needed a new home.  Lincoln and George both said, "Cool" and ran off to play basketball.  Isabel gushed, "Oh mommy!  I want a little sister, please, please go get her!!"  Eleanor was quiet but said, "I will trust that God is in this...I may not understand why you would want to adopt again, but I know God's Word is clear."  Harry...well...he was furious and  stomped up to his room.

I followed him.  He was so angry, "Why would you do this?  Why?  I don't want her.  I don't want another George running around here!"

He was adamant and so angry.  There was no talking at this moments, so I let him cry and then promised to be back to talk later.   A few hours later, we both climbed onto my bed and had a long, long talk.  I understood his anger and his fear.  It really was fear.  He had taken George's behavior toward me so hard...he couldn't stand the way George treated me.  He wanted to protect me and defend me.  Oh how this momma's heart appreciated that.  But, I reminded him that we needed to trust the Lord in this.  I told him how we had been praying and even though it seemed like this was happening very suddenly, the answers we were hearing from God were undeniable.  God was saying "Go rescue my daughter!"  I shared with Harry that I didn't know what that meant, but I wanted to be obedient.  He said he understood.  He still didn't want her, but he was willing to give it all up to God.

Sunday morning came and Joe and I prayed and cried all morning during church.  We knew she was ours!  We couldn't wait to get that phone call from N.

We sat on the front porch with the phone all afternoon, waiting and waiting. 

Then the phone rang.

"Hi.  I wanted to know I selected another family.  I think you have too many kids and I am afraid she can't have any siblings close to her age, like Lincoln, for she will hurt them.  Sorry."

All I could think of us "NO!  This is not right!!!"  Those words were screaming in my mind, but to N I said, "Well....I don't think this over.  I will keep praying."

And we said goodbye and hung of the phone.

Devastated I turned to Joe.  He knew the answer and we both cried for a minute.  And then, we vowed to keep praying. We would pray for Anna and pray that she was with a good family - -that would be how we would pray from now on.