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.

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