Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Five years, 2 months

On one of the many China adoption websites I frequent, there's a rumor -- one that can be believed -- that referrals are coming next week. A referral, for those of you unfamiliar with the process, is the long-awaited name, picture and info of the baby whom officials in China have matched with your family. These referrals are part of the "regular" program (not the special needs program, which is the program we're in).

Referrals are assigned, mostly, to those who have been waiting longest. This coming batch of referrals is believed to be including those families whose dossiers (enormous bundles of paperwork) were logged in in China (referred to as "DTC" -- "dossier to China") in late July ... 2006. So these families have been waiting for five years, 2 months.

I keep thinking about our "long" wait in 2003. Our official DTC date, given to us by our adoption agency, was 12/31/2002. New Year's Eve! We didn't find out until a few days afterward (that's how it works -- the adoption agency gets word from China that the paperwork is logged in to their system). But it seemed like a great omen.

I joined Yahoo groups, we painted Laura's room, we bought stuff (OK, that was me ...). We did "virtual baby showers" -- a bunch of us from the Yahoo groups exchanged baby presents by mail. I made scrapbook pages with lots of red and yellow, celebrating China, or lots of pink, for those friends. In the spring of 2003, we got news of some weird virus that was hitting China. The "weird virus" was SARS, and it caused the Chinese government to pretty much shut down, so that everyone could stay home. The cause of the virus was found (it was spread by eating civet cat, a kind of rodent-like animal that was an occasional part of the southern China diet), the virus wore out, the government reopened. But the wait was painful.

We had good friends, Tammy and Curt, who were also waiting for their baby from China. They were a few months ahead of us -- they had submitted their paperwork in the early fall of 2002. During the SARS shutdown, she found out that the government agency in China that does the reviewing of paperwork and matching of babies was closed while her file sat on someone's desk, waiting to be mailed. It was signed and everything -- it just needed to be put in the mail. We were sure that this was because, after the referrals go out, there is more paperwork to come -- the parents have to accept the referral, and adoption agencies work with China and with U.S. immigration officials to get the right people to the right places at the right time. (Usually, a consulate appointment for the end of the trip is scheduled first. That's where people go with their babies, take the oath of citizenship for them, and get official approval to bring the child into the U.S. After the consulate appointment is scheduled, the rest of the trip is put together, backing up from that date.) For Tammy, though, the mental image of that file -- on a desk somewhere, with no end to the SARS epidemic in sight -- was agonizing.

To pass the time, Tim and I scheduled a lot of activities that summer. With Curt and Tammy, we went to a Tides game on July 5. We saw fireworks. I'm sure we were all thinking the same thing -- about our newest little U.S. citizens-to-be. A couple weeks later, Tim and I went to Rochester to visit his family, and on the way home, we went to Hershey Park. I remember we rode a water ride and ended up drenched, and we went back to the car. My cell phone had run out of power while we were in the park, so I plugged it in to charge. As soon as it had enough power, it beeped: I had a voice mail from Tammy. While Tim and I were at the park, they had gotten THE CALL! Abigail Brewer, 7 months and 16 pounds, was going to get to come home. In the furnace heat of the car, I sat in a puddle, still drenched from the water park ride, and I cried.

We got our call in early October 2003. Again, the cell phone. (How did people find out about their referrals before cell phones??) Tim's parents were visiting. That morning, I had gotten a call from a good friend whose paperwork was with ours -- they were using the same agency, too. They had their referral, so we knew it would be any moment. We were too antsy to stay home, so we went out to a late lunch. On the way to Bubba's, I remember, Tim's dad was talking in the back seat, and the phone rang. Tim's mom shushed his dad (which made me laugh), and I grabbed the phone. I was so excited I dropped the phone twice. I remember looking down, and it was bouncing all over the floor of the car. I thought: How am I going to catch this thing? But I did. And then we had the news: Yin Chun Chao, 8 months old, Hunan, China.

We had waited 9 months and a few days. (For years, I've been thinking the wait was 10 months, but no, it was shorter than that.) And that was with some killer global epidemic that shut down the Chinese government.

The current batch of families have been waiting for five years, two months. FIVE YEARS. In July 2006, Laura was about to start her second year of preschool, moving up to the 3-year-old classroom. Now she's in 3rd grade. In other words, July 2006 was an awful long time ago. I can't imagine waiting that long, but ... if I were in that line of papers, I couldn't imagine NOT waiting that long. You do what you have to do, you go where your heart tells you to go. There is no other way.

If you're reading this, and you've been waiting that long (or nearly that long, because there are hundreds of families in a very long line), I'm thinking of you. And I want to say, again, what I know you've heard a million times since you notarized/certified/authenticated your way to China: It will all be worth it in the end. It will. You get that call, and your mind freezes. Once it thaws, there is nothing else but that little face. And a big trip to plan. And the rest of your lives to look forward to.

Hang in there.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

So I started (another) blog

I've spent part of the past week (when I wasn't scribbling on forms, talking on the phone to a General Assembly member about adoption law, posting on adoption forums about those phone conversations, and, oh yeah, sleeping, packing Laura's school lunches and trying to make sure her hair is combed) choosing a blog host and a blog template. I'm too much of a control freak to just pick any ol' thing, and back in the Paleozoic era of 2002-2003 when I had my first adoption blog, there was no such thing as A BLOG HOST. You either knew HTML or ... you faked it. (Guess which one I was. I'll give you a hint: My blog had FRAMES. Yeah. Obviously, I was in the latter group. A friend of mine who is a stellar web designer tried to gently break the news, sometime in September 2002, via email. I could hear her whispering as I read it: "Um, people don't really use ... <b>frames</b> ... anymore ...") Alas, my need for control won out over my need for kickin' style, so the frames stayed.

That blog no longer exists, which stinks, because I'd love to read it. (It wasn't even CALLED a blog back then. People referred to it as "that website thing you have, where you write about stuff.") But the contents, stored on some server at some long-ago ISP, and on my hard drive, approximately 73 major hard drive deaths ago, are naught but a memory. And one memory stands out: Typing out my angst during that long, 10-month wait for our referral (the moment we saw a photo of our daughter, read a few paragraphs about her and -- in my case, at least -- burst into tears) saved my sanity. I found it much easier to REMAIN CALM AT ALL TIMES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! when I had a place to go to type out my thoughts.

This time, things are different. The Hague Convention on Adoption, and China's changing adoption program (mainly, the MAJOR slowdown in referrals for babies and children without special needs) has pretty much meant that, once again, I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I AM DOING. Several times already, I have put some documents into a lovely FedEx envelope, filled out the airbill with high hopes and a huge sense of relief ... only to get a phone call a couple days later from the addressee of said airbill, and the addressee has news of something I forgot to include, or THAT'S NOT HOW WE DO THINGS IN THIS STATE, or NO, REALLY, IT'S OK, YOU CAN JUST FAX IT. This is nervous-making, because, as fellow adoptive parents know, there can't really be any mistakes in the adoption dossier. The papers that go to China must pass muster, and "muster" is a code word for "approximately 47 separate inspections, with varying sets of fine-toothed combs."

I have a notebook. An actual binder. It's pink (gag -- it's what was available on the store shelf among the pathetically lonely leftover school supplies). I'm keeping a stack of 3-hole-punched instructions (47 pages of them, from our adoption agency, the true experts in this thing) in there, along with forms and folders and lots of ... nervous sweat.

I have been making headway on the checklist. Still to come: Photos of our house's exterior (front and back -- note to self: Be sure to choose angle that shows off the playset, and WHEN IS IT GOING TO STOP RAINING, I CAN'T TAKE A PHOTO OF MY HOUSE WHEN IT LOOKS LIKE A SET FROM A TIM BURTON MOVIE!!!!), doctor's exams and the <b>actual</b> home study, to go with all those lovely FBI, state police and Social Services background checks we've been doing, among other things. We had a date on Friday -- we went to the Police Operations Center and got fingerprinted!!!

Tomorrow is Sunday. I hope to do more paperwork. I have given Tim a deadline for completing his updated autobiography. (I had kept the hard copies from when we adopted Laura. I couldn't bear to throw away such meaningful memoirs.) I want to cross things off that checklist!!!