I’m really thankful for the opportunity to spend a lot of quality time with Elise while working from home for four weeks. She’s growing and doing amazing things all the time, and I’m getting to know her, which is fantastic. I don’t have much to say in this post, I just like these pictures that I snapped on my iPhone while we hung out at home last week:
(Two months ago, today, we brought Elise home.)
I remember December 9, 2008.
We got the email saying we could come to Vietnam.
I remember December 10, 2008,
Confirming we had five days to get to Vietnam.
I remember saying, “I don’t know,”
When a friend helped me pack.
I remember running into an Air Force Veteran
While gathering everything we needed from Walmart.
I remember being sick the whole 21 hours to Vietnam.
I think it was the food.
I remember the “taxi” ride from the Noi Bai airport to Hanoi.
Taxis in Vietnam are white. We chose two guys in a black car.
I remember the mass amounts of motorbikes,
They covered the streets and the sidewalks.
I remember flying to Danang, December 17, 2008.
We still didn’t know when we would get you.
I remember waiting by the phone at The Green Plaza
Finally getting the call at 4:00 pm, December 18, 2008.
I remember saying, “Right now?!”
Even though it was what we’d been waiting for.
I remember the taxi ride through the city of Danang
And turning left down a pothole-ridden dirt road.
I remember pulling up at the gate of the orphanage,
wish I had taken a picture.
I remember driving to the right, then the left,
Glimpsing a baby through a door, then a final right, and parking.
I remember seeing you in your caretaker’s arms,
And I was overwhelmed with emotion.
I remember holding back the tears;
I didn’t want anyone to think I was an unfit mother.
I remember holding you
Feeling surreal and like I didn’t know what to do.
I remember Scott saying, “How about Daddy holds you?”
Taking you into his arms for the first time.
I remember the facilitator saying, “We should go,”
And getting back into the taxi.
I remember the government building
Where you were bundled in outfit, hat, socks, and blanket.
I remember being advised to get a hat that covered your ears
Hanoi was going to be colder than Danang.
I remember you crying and advised to give you a bottle;
We left it in the car.
I remember you choking on the first bottle I gave you;
It was a number four nipple.
I remember the old men blowing on their fist, touching the base of their palm to your head
What was that for? How does that help choking?
I remember being ushered into a room for the G&R;
You were screaming.
I remember a lady taking you;
I didn’t know where you went.
I remember things said in Vietnamese; Scott replying
And then being called to the front.
I remember the lady reappearing with you
Handing the baby to me, then the orphanage vice director.
I remember the vice director handing you to me, taking a picture,
Then the facilitator saying, “That’s it.”
I remember getting back in the taxi, gathering our belongings
Heading back to Hanoi.
I remember rocking you to sleep, patting you through the night
Just hoping the make it to morning.
I remember learning your routines, taking turns on the all night shift
And waiting for your dad to meticulously make a bottle.
I remember it was hard.
We didn’t know each other.
I remember making you laugh on the bed in the hotel room;
I think it was then I fell in love.
I remember Monday, December 22, 2008, – two trips to the SOS clinic
Thinking we’d never get your passport. (We did.)
I remember Wednesday, December 23, 2008
Applying for your visa at the US Embassy.
I remember getting your visa that same day
Ready to take you home.
I remember hurrying finding a flight out of Vietnam
Booking Hanoi to Japan, Japan to Dallas, arriving December 25, 2008.
I remember getting in the right taxi
Leaving for our life together in Texas.
I remember buying tickets on Vietnam Airlines that night.
Our JAL tickets were not waiting for us.
I remember boarding the plane at midnight wide-awake
You did great.
I remember arriving in Tokyo, hearing that you looked liked me,
Thinking, “How is that possible? She’s Vietnamese?”
I remember having coffee at a pseudo-Starbucks
An Indian three-year old came to talk to you.
I remember boarding the plane to Dallas
The flight attendants were enamored with you.
I remember being tired, showing you Bee Movie
Catching an hour or two of sleep.
I remember getting off the plane, carrying you in the Snuggli,
Getting our luggage and making our way to Immigration.
I remember getting your passport and visa stamped
On December 25, 2008, you became a US Citizen.
I remember walking through customs, then turning left,
Asked, “Are you exiting? It’s to the right.”
I remember walking through those doors, tearfully seeing familiar faces
Finally knowing that it’s over. You are home.
I remember Vietnam.
(On Wednesday, Elise will have been home for two months. I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting. This is a brief synopsis of our journey.)
In March of 2007, Scott and I formally began our process to adopt from Vietnam. We had been in negotiations since September 2006, and now with God’s help we had finally arrived at the onset of our journey. From March to December 2007, we ran around getting home studies, passports, birth certificates, marriage licenses, fingerprints, I-600As, and I don’t know what else. At the start of 2008, we were in the final stages of preparing our foreign dossier to be sent to Vietnam, and during the first week of February we formally submitted our dossier.
Submitting our dossier also introduced us to the next most stressful six months of our lives. Within a week of submitting our dossier, we had to sign a “Risk Waiver” because the agreement between the US and Vietnam would expire on September 1, 2008. We had to sign that we were aware of the “risk” of having no child. We signed.
Then the referrals started to slow. Many of the children in the orphanages in Vietnam had pneumonia. I remember talking to our social worker and saying, “We need to pray for those children.” She said, “Yes, they need good energy.” What the heck is good energy?
As we moved into the summer, I made no plans to work extra jobs, as this would be my last free summer. It seemed that the adoption process in Vietnam came to an almost screeching halt June 2008. More than 30 families who submitted documents for preliminary visa approval for their children, received RFEs (Request for Further Evidence) from the US government. Many of the people involved in the adoption process were consumed with this issue. Rightfully so—these families needed to be united.
Still, I tried to relax and stay positive, but it was a pitiful try. I was easily discouraged and would say things like, “I don’t see what prayer could change.” Isn’t the point of prayer to change things? Obviously, I had no idea what I was talking about. I began to have a fatalistic attitude, which I’m sure was pleasant for all around me. Eventually all my cheeriness culminated on July 31, 2008 when we were told no.
On July 31, 2008, our adoption agency called with these words, “I’m so sorry, but we don’t think we can get you through. We know we are getting two referrals from Vietnam, and we think we will get one more. You are number four on the waiting list.” As I hung up the phone, I started to bawl uncontrollably. I called my husband, Scott, and he could barely understand me. I don’t even remember what I said to him; I just know we immediately felt the loss of a 16-month dream. Now what?
With only a month before Vietnam closed to international adoption, there was just no way we could get a referral in time. Even if we got matched, we would need three weeks to get the official referral, and our agency just didn’t see that happening. With this devastating news in hand, I did what any “good” Christian would do. I went on with my day. A friend was already on the way to come get me to go shopping, and I met her at the door crying and explained the situation. She offered to cancel her plans, but I said, “No” (attempting to cling to some sense of normalcy). Later that afternoon, we met up with another friend at a favorite Mexican restaurant for some margaritas. I don’t think I’ve ever met a margarita that didn’t make me feel better. After the restaurant, I was dropped off at home. Scott had come home early, but I don’t remember discussing the news. I think we were too shocked. We had always known this was a possibility, but we tried to stay positive and hope for the best.
Yet, here we were, right where we didn’t want to be. (At least, that’s what we thought.) That same afternoon, my sister-in-law called because she was in town, and I invited her over for dinner. I remember her asking if it was okay, if I thought Scott and I needed time alone. I remember saying, “No, it’s fine. Come over.” It was fine that she came over, but it was still an attempt on my part to deny what was happening.
Scott and I left for Las Vegas on Sunday, August 3, 2008. It was a gift to ourselves before we had a little one, only now there was no little one—at least not from Vietnam. I tried to enjoy myself as best as I could, but it was difficult. Soon after we arrived, I received an email from the family that was number three on the waiting list; they had gotten a referral. I wrote back something like, “Yeah, we knew there was a chance of three referrals. We’re not getting one. Congratulations.” I later regretted that email—it was so bitter, a low point for me.
When we got back from Las Vegas, I broke down in church. I remember a friend handing me a pack of tissues and saying, “It’s going to take time.” We were trying to let go of our dream of a Vietnamese boy. (I say boy because we had always been told there was a greater chance of having a boy than a girl. I bought boy clothes at the beginning of the summer.) So in the midst of letting go, one thing resonated with us. We were not done with this adoption thing. We believe God had called us to adoption, so we looked at other countries.
We were quickly drawn to Ethiopia; it was a program we had looked into at the start of our process. We contacted our agency to let them know that we wanted to switch, and we began the task of trying to transfer our funds to the Ethiopia program. The funds transfer was Scott’s responsibility; I was done talking with agencies. Transferring funds is not something that’s easily done, but we wanted to try.
Almost a month after the devastating news, we went back to our Waiting Families group on Saturday, August 23. Our Waiting Families group was sad but supportive. They were ready to encourage us and pray for us on this next leg of our adoption process.
On Monday, August 25, I started back to work as a preschool teacher. During the prior week of inservice, I had been telling everyone Vietnam was over, and finally on Monday, I had gotten word to everyone. I left work and went to the Rec Center near our house. I was on the elliptical machine listening to some Avril Lavigne, watching Carson Palmer’s bloody nose on ESPN, when my phone rang. I could tell by the number that it was my agency, and my first thought was, “Why are they calling me? Scott’s trying to get the money back.” And I answered, “Hello?”
”Hi, Annie. It’s Trudy. You’re never going to believe this but….”
That phone call changed our lives. On Monday, August 25, a two-month-old girl in Vietnam became available for adoption, and our agency wanted to know if we wanted her. Normally, once you are matched to a child, it takes three weeks to get an official referral, and we had less than week because Vietnam was closing the following Monday, September 1. So Scott and I said, “Yes!” When they asked if we wanted her picture, advising us it could be more difficult if we lost her, we said, “Yes!” I remember getting the picture over email, and thinking, “I guess that’s our baby?” Now, we had this little picture to pray for, hope for, and wait to see if she could be “officially” ours.
On Friday, August 29, Scott called to give me the news. The baby was ours. Elise would be our daughter! Miracle of miracles, our agency’s Vietnamese facilitator had done the impossible, and we were so amazed. In less than 30 days, we had run the whole gamut of emotions. I’m not too eager to repeat that rollercoaster, but, in the end, number four didn’t turn out to be so bad.
We officially adopted Elise, on December 18, 2008 and brought her home December 25, 2008.
On the second Tuesday of every month, I go to my mom’s group at Starbucks. It’s with the wonderful ladies I’ve met through Tapestry at our church. Well, we ended up in the kitchen of Starbucks this week because of the tornado sirens. The wind picked up and blew open the front doors, but that was about all the excitement we had – thankfully.
Then yesterday, Wednesday, Elise and I went over to Haley’s (Scott’s boss’s wife) house. Another wife, Stacey, also came over with her kids Bennet and Dayton. Elise had a lot of fun swinging and playing with Haley’s dog. Elise loves dogs. Who knew? I was deathly afraid of them as a child.
My mom, sister, and cousin came up last Friday. (You see them in the Sock Monkey video.) Anyway, they brought a Nikon D50 for us; my dad gave us one he had at the house. He really wants us to use it to take lots of pictures of his granddaughter, so we’ve been doing just that. I’m just trying to judiciously post the pictures. I don’t want to overwhelm you guys! So expect lots of pictures in the future.
Now with an almost eight month old crawling and pulling up on everything, I had to find a way to get laundry done, so I took some pictures of our set up. As long as she doesn’t get too tall, I think she’ll keep helping this way. Then on Monday we got her highchair that I ordered and eating is going much better. She didn’t care for the Bumbo seat anymore; she could move around too much. Anyway, that’s all that’s going on with us this week.
On Saturday, January 31, Scott, Elise, and I went to the Wiggly Play Place in Frisco to meet four other families who adopted from Vietnam, and then have dinner together at a Vietnamese restaurant. We met Emily, 18 months; Corinne (sorry if I spelled her name wrong), 14 months; Jack, 12 months; and Simon, 9 months. It was fun to finally meet everyone and hear their stories. Some we had seen pictures of their families, and others we just knew through email. What I thought was really neat was that three of the kids, Emily, Corinne, and Jack, were crib mates, and now they all live in the DFW area, such a great connection! Anyway, that was our first playgroup, and we hope to have many more. Here are a few pictures: