Monday, November 28, 2016

We're Still Fighting

I have waited almost 5 years to hold my daughter. The anticipation for that special moment has been building for so, so long. I have literally dreamed of it - both waking and asleep. To say I had some expectations would be an understatement.

Not for Kate really... I know enough about adoption (and am friends with enough adoptive families) to know not to hope for anything extraordinary from our little girl. I expected nothing beyond her to maybe be scared, or to even be crying the day we met. We were pleasantly surprised to get giggles and hugs on Day 1! But for myself.... whoa did I have some expectations.

I expected to cry tears of joy. I expected a flood of emotions. I expected the first time I held her to feel magical somehow (am I alone in this?) Silly - maybe - but when you wait and work and wage WAR to get to something.... to someone... you expect that moment to be pretty epic.

I've been disappointed with myself for how my heart is struggling to engage. Don't get me wrong - I've experienced some serious moments of joy with our little girl so far! She is more beautiful than we ever imagined, and so much fun! We have seen little glimpses of her personality that make us so excited to get to know her! I am incredibly grateful that I am here - able to hold her - instead of still at home, waiting to meet her. But if I'm being honest - I don't feel like her mama yet. With the work we do, right now my "visits" with her feel a lot like my visits with other kids I love in our Children's Homes around the world. It is hard to see her as my daughter, Kate. Right now she answers to Namfon, and after every visit she goes back to an orphanage.

If I'm being really, truly honest - I don't even feel that attached to her yet. I know that after all these years of loving her from afar I SHOULD! But I mostly feel tired. And scared. And overwhelmed. And a little numb.

I've cried and felt guilty over it - even though I know plenty of friends who struggled with attachment to their adopted child. I've shamed myself - even though our agency told us that after what we've experienced (a traumatic adoption) - we might struggle to attach. But the more I've thought about our situation, the more I've started to give myself grace. Of COURSE I don't feel a sense of peace, relief, overwhelming joy and abounding love.... I AM STILL IN THE MIDDLE OF A WAR.

We thought we'd have our final approval before we met our daughter - but that day, along with our 2nd visit - were both overshadowed by the looming "unknown" of when we'd be able to take custody. And then, just hours before visit #3, we got the devastating news that our fingerprint refresh (that should have come in "any day") didn't come at all.

Someone in the US government made a mistake, and our fingerprints did NOT get refreshed. Honestly, my head is still swimming from that news. Before we left the country, I confirmed with 3 different USCIS officers on 3 different dates that all we had to do was send an email and request for our fingerprints to be updated. They explained that they would then forward the request to the FBI, and within 1-5 weeks, they would be "refreshed" in the system. At that time, we could take custody of our daughter. We were never, ever, ever told that there was any risk of it not happening. But of course it did happen, to us.

So here we are, in Thailand - at a time when we should be focused on bonding with our daughter - still fighting for our final approval. On days when we should be taking our first steps as a family, and focusing on how sweet she looks when she sleeps, and how cute she is with her Pooh Bear - we are still fighting for custody and visiting her at an orphanage. And on top of all that, we're fighting for physical health, as I have dealt with a migraine and 2 tension headaches the last 3 days, as well as nausea the last 2 nights. (It's amazing the toll that stress can take on your body). We're also fighting for our spiritual and emotional health in the face of all this stress and trauma.... oh yes, AND we're fighting for our daughter's heart. Every single moment spent with her we are fighting to connect, fighting to bond, fighting to make her feel loved and safe with us.

No wonder I feel exhausted and numb.

This should be a time for snuggles and laughter and tears and joy and "firsts" - and a feeling of relief that she is finally ours - but we're. still. fighting. This should be a time of peace, when we can lay down our weapons and enjoy our little girl - but the battle wages on.

Is it any wonder that I don't "feel" the things I hoped to feel? My body cannot produce any oxytocin (the bonding hormone) right now, when it is pumping out cortisol (the stress hormone) in overdrive!

We are so tired of fighting friends. We need to REST! But that doesn't seem possible. We are trying... we are trying. We try to carve out moments of peace here and there - but peace just isn't something you can force. Right now we can do little more than survive. We are getting little sleep, we are dealing with new obstacles this week, and we are so worn out. This is the reality for us. We are surviving - and right now that is a feat.

Today, our battle was in Bangkok. We were told that our only hope of getting custody of our daughter any time soon, was to see if the USCIS office here would do a new, digital scan of our fingerprints. So we hired a driver and woke up this morning at 5:00 am to make the trip. After only 4 hours of sleep, a 3 hour drive, visiting the wrong office, phone calls to the embassy, a whole lot of explanations at the front desk, and an agonizing 40 minute wait - we thought they were going to turn us away. We waited for what felt like an eternity in that office - hearts racing, hands shaking, praying fervently. We were barely holding back the tears when a door opened and an American woman asked, "Are you ready to get your fingerprints done?" I can't even explain how I felt in that moment. I seriously fought the urge to hug this stranger, or maybe even kiss her feet! (I'm not lying - the thought crossed my mind for an instant!) And when I turned around - Rusty (my strong "not so sensitive" husband - who has cried so few times in our marriage I can count them on one hand) was full out sobbing in relief. I thought we were both going to have to sit in the floor to collect ourselves. The nice USCIS officer (bless her) was so understanding. We tried to apologize and explain our situation - but the reality of it friends is that we are raw. We are wounded and weary - and barely holding it together. Thank God for this bit of favor today. I don't think we could have handled it if they had turned us away.

As we walked out with our fingerprints done - so relieved - and waited for our driver outside the Embassy, I heard someone call my name. I honestly felt a moment of dread - fearful it was someone from USCIS coming out to tell us bad news! But I looked up in shock - to find my friend Frankie, his wife, and 2 precious little boys waving from across the street. Out of the 6.35 MILLION people in the massive city of Bangkok, we just happened to run into the one friend we have here - at the exact time of his family's US Embassy appointment. I almost burst into tears again!

Frankie and I led a team on a mission trip to South Africa 8 years ago, and his family is currently serving in Cambodia. They came here to have their second child. I haven't had the chance to meet his beautiful wife and adorable kids yet (one who is just a few days old!) To get to meet them was so special - and to get a hug from an old friend, so far from home, in the middle of so much stress was really comforting. I'm so grateful God worked out the timing to cross our paths! I truly felt like it was a hug from heaven on a difficult day.

I am trying hard today to trust God with the timing of everything else in our case now. It's hard - so hard to trust - when we have had so much go wrong. We have already passed the deadline for the December 1st meeting, so we won't be home for Christmas. I am trying to accept that - but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't also fighting feelings of sadness and disappointment, as well as jealously each time I see another photo of a friend enjoying this season with their child. There has just been so much grief and disappointment in our process.

But today - we are focused on CUSTODY - and nothing else. If we can just get these fingerprints in the system, and our Article 5 issued from the Embassy, then we can finally, finally, finally take custody of Kate. I do believe at that point we will feel a huge wave of relief - and be able to finally start taking our first steps as a family. While not home yet, we will at least be able to truly enjoy her here - and finally be able to do so many things we have waited so long for. Will you pray with us for no more obstacles, no more delays, no more errors, no more red tape - AND NO MORE EPIC BATTLES? Fighting for our daughter's heart is a big enough job these days. We will be so grateful when this last delay is dealt with and we can focus solely on her!


  1. You will survive, you WILL feel tbat love and attachment. I panicked when I finally got custody of my 2nd child and the battle was nowhere near as bad as yours. I balled like a baby because I had never had a baby. Praying for peace! Love Kim L

  2. Ericka, my heart aches for you and I cry with you as I write. My prayers are with your sweet family. When you were talking about your bond with Kate, all I could think of was when I had my first daughter. There in the hospital, all I could hear in my mind was all the people talking about the immediate bond they experienced and how immediately they fell in love with their babies. I just couldn't I am with a baby I just birthed and all the emotions I was feeling just couldn't settle enough for that to happen. I took a while for me...and I felt guilty for feeling that way...but it eventually came.

    Other family's stories are not your story. Yours is yours and the Lord's. It's specially woven together for the 3 of y'all specifically and for the Lord to be lifted high!

    Anticipating the day soon when y'all will officially be together without borders!!

    Aundrea Orr Baisley

  3. Dearest Ericka. I sobbed as I read your post. You are in my prayers. I pray that you and Rusty will soon be able to take custody of precious Kate. I pray for a peace that passes understanding for the both of you. I pray for healing in His glorious name, NO more migraines and NO more nausea. I pray for His mighty hand in the last few steps of this traumatic adoption. I pray that it will be over SOOOOOOOOON!!!!!! Wishing you and Rusty a happy, peaceful day. Big hugs xx

  4. Hang in there! It takes a long time to feel attached and the feelings will come, but probably at moments when you least expect. As in so many things of life, I think we often have to walk forward, one step at a time and the feelings will come as we move along. I've been praying for you and Rusty that God will have his favor on you and that you will see his miraculous works. as I often remind myself, he's got the whole world in his hands and he has certainly got you and your family in his hands.

  5. Parents of biological newborns feel tired and scared and overwhelmed, too. It is normal at such a huge life event. You are going to be okay! Welcome to the roller coaster that is parenthood! Prayers will help you through! Hugs!!