Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Most Recent Update

So as of Monday, we did receive an update on our adoption, but unfortunatley it wasn't what we were hoping to hear. I had my heart set on leaving this week to bring Selah G home, but it doesn't look like that is God's plan for us.
Our case manager called to let us know that the U.S. Embassy is requesting an in person meeting with our daughter's biological mother, so we are unable to have an Embassy date issued yet. It is not unusual for them to request more information, but this is a new situation for our agency, so they are unable to give us a very detailed timeline yet. According to our case manager, Almaz (the director of Hannah's Hope in Ethiopia) is not concerned, as this has happened with other agencies, however it will take extra time to re-contact Selah's biological mother and get her back to Addis Ababa for this appointment. Our agency is hopeful that this could happen within the next couple weeks. It is amazing to me how a couple weeks can feel like eternity!
Needless to say, we are very sad and disappointed and I (Susie) had a very teary afternoon on Monday. We trust God though, and know that only He can see the "big picture." He knows the perfect day for us to be reunited and for her to come home.
Will you please pray however, that this will be resolved quickly, and that this will be our only delay in this process to get her home? My heart aches daily to have my little girl in my arms again and for her to be with her forever family.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

A Letter to Family and Friends...

Hi Precious Family and Friends!
In case we missed you by email, we wanted to post the letter we have sent out to prepare all of you who are special to us on what to expect once we come home with our long awaited precious baby girl! Below that is a story that does an excellent job of putting things into perspective on some of the feelings our daughter has probably already experienced and may experience even more intensely upon leaving Ethiopia.
Thank you for your continued love and support! We are so excited for the day when we can "fully share" this little miracle with you!

March 2, 2011
Dear Family & Friends,

After a year and a half of waiting, our precious Selah "G" is almost finally home! We know that each of you receiving this letter has, in some way, supported, loved and prayed for us. Because we know your care for Selah and our family, we want to share with you some information that we hope will best equip everyone around her to assist us in laying the strongest and healthiest foundation - emotionally, physically and spiritually.

In many ways, Selah will be like the children who entered our family through birth; we will parent like other Christian families as we bring all of them up in the instruction and discipline of the Lord. But there will be a few, initial differences. For over a year now, we have researched bonding and attachment in children, especially those coming home through adoption from an institutional orphanage setting.

We are confident of this: God's design is PERFECT! His plan for parents and children is a beautiful and meaningful picture of His love for us. Attachment between a parent and child occurs over time when a baby has a physical or emotional need and communicates that need. The primary caretaker (usually mommy) meets the need and soothes the child. This repeats between a parent and child over and over to create trust within the child for that parent; the baby is hungry, cries in distress, mom feeds and calms the baby - which teaches her that this person is safe and can be trusted. By God's very design, an emotional foundation is laid in the tiniest of babies, which will affect their learning, conscience, growth and future relationships. The security provided by parents will, ultimately, give children a trust for and empathy towards others.

Children who come home through adoption have experienced interruptions in this typical attachment process. The loss of a biological mother at an early age can be a major trauma on their little hearts. The good news is that we can now, as Selah's parents and forever family, rebuild attachment and help her heal from these emotional wounds. When Selah comes home, she will be overwhelmed. Everything around her will be new and she will need to learn not just about her new environment, but also about love and family. She has not experienced God's design for a family in an orphanage setting. The best way for us to form a parent/child bond is to initially be the only ones to hold, snuggle, instruct, soothe and feed her. As this repeats between us, she will be able to learn that parents are safe to trust and to love deeply. We are, essentially, recreating the newborn/parent connection. Once Selah starts to establish this important bond, she will then be able to branch out to other, healthy relationships, and we will definitely let you know when we feel she’s ready for this!

Selah will have, what may seem like, a lot of structure, boundaries and close proximity to us. Please know that these decisions are prayerfully and thoughtfully made choices based on immense amounts of research and instruction from trusted adoption mentors. We will be doing what we believe is best to help her heal from those interruptions in attachment as effectively as possible. If we seem overly focused on this topic, we are: this is too important to not be intentional about it. Children who fail to establish a healthy bond with their parents may suffer the rest of their lives with Reactive Attachment Disorder, which causes severe interpersonal and behavioral difficulties into adulthood. While we want to let you hold and closely interact with our daughter (especially since so many of you have been so involved and supportive throughout the process), the risk is too great these first few months, and the potential consequences too devastating. We hope that you will understand and support us in making these tough choices for her long-term well being.
Why are we telling you all of this? Because you will actually play an awesome and vital role in helping our little Selah settle in, heal, and lay a foundation for the future. There are a few areas in which you can help us:

The first is to set physical boundaries. It will help us immensely if adults limit what is typically considered normal, physical contact with Selah. This will (for a while) include things like holding, excessive hugging and kissing. Children from orphanage settings are prone to attach too easily to anyone and everyone - which hinders the important, primary relationship with parents. Waving, or blowing kisses are perfectly appropriate and welcomed! Selah should know that the people with whom she interacts are our trusted friends.

Another area is redirecting Selah's desire to have her physical and emotional needs met by anyone (including strangers) to having us meet them. Orphans often have so many caretakers that they, as a survival mechanism, become overly charming toward all adults. A child struggling to learn to attach may exhibit indiscriminate affection with people outside of their family unit. It may appear harmless and as if they are "very friendly" but this is actually quite dangerous for the child. To share this is difficult for us because we have snuggled, cared for, fed and loved so many of your children.

Please understand that we want nothing more than to have Selah hugged, cuddled and cherished by ALL of you (she's totally irresistible and huggable). But until she has a firm understanding of family and primary attachments, we would be so grateful if you direct her to us if you see that she is seeking out food, affection or comfort.

So what will this all look like exactly? We don’t know all the answers to that yet. But we do know that we will be entering a “cocooning phase” right after her arrival home. We welcome you to greet us at the airport if you would like to see her in person briefly before we head home, but after this, we may be out of the picture for awhile! We will largely stay at home as a family (other than for daily necessities). We will also be limiting the number and length of visits from those outside of our immediate family. These measures are all being taken in the best interest of Selah in order to accomplish what we talked about a little earlier.

Please know that is it just as, if not more difficult for us to put these boundaries in place as it may be for you to abide by them. We want to share this precious little girl with you so badly just as we would share a baby we welcomed into our family by birth. But because we know we only have one chance to “get this right” in terms of her bonding, we ask that you be patient with us during this initial phase of her homecoming to help Selah learn what it means to be part of a family. As we observe her forming appropriate attachments with us and her recognition of us as mommy and daddy, we will gradually be able to expand her horizons and relationships!

We are incredibly blessed to have so many loved ones around us. We couldn't ask for a better extended family & circle of friends for our precious little girl. Thank you so much for your love and support throughout our adoption journey. If you have any questions please feel free to ask at any time! And of course, feel free to continue following our journey on our blog: www.bailyplace.blogspot.com. We’ll do our best to post pictures along the way so you can enjoy meeting this new little one and watch our family grow!

In Him,

Aaron, Susie, Anaiya, Landon, and Selah "G" Bailey

And now...for the story...
Imagine for a moment...
You have met the person you've dreamed about all your life. He has every quality that you desire in a spouse. You plan for the wedding, enjoying every free moment with your fiancée. You love his touch, his smell, the way he looks into your eyes. For the first time in your life, you understand what is meant by "soul mate," for this person understands you in a way that no one else does. Your heart beats in rhythm with his. Your emotions are intimately tied to his every joy, his every sorrow.
The wedding comes. It is a happy celebration, but the best part is that you are finally the wife of this wonderful man. You fall asleep that night, exhausted from the day's events, but relaxed and joyful in the knowledge that you are next to the person who loves you more than anyone in the world…the person who will be with you for the rest of your life.
The next morning you wake up, nestled in your partner's arms. You open your eyes and immediately look for his face.
But IT'S NOT HIM! You are in the arms of another man. You recoil in horror. Who is this man? Where is your beloved?
You ask questions of the new man, but it quickly becomes apparent that he doesn't understand you. You search every room in the house, calling and calling for your husband. The new guy follows you around, trying to hug you, pat you on the back,...even trying to stroke your arm, acting like everything is okay.
But you know that nothing is okay. Your beloved is gone. Where is he? Will he return? When? What has happened to him?
Weeks pass. You cry and cry over the loss of your beloved. Sometimes you ache silently, in shock over what has happened. The new guy tries to comfort you. You appreciate his attempts, but he doesn't speak your language-either verbally or emotionally. He doesn't seem to realize the terrible thing that has happened...that your sweetheart is gone.
You find it difficult to sleep. The new guy tries to comfort you at bedtime with soft words and gentle touches, but you avoid him, preferring to sleep alone, away from him and any intimate words or contact.
Months later, you still ache for your beloved, but gradually you are learning to trust this new guy. He's finally learned that you like your coffee black, not doctored up with cream and sugar. Although you still don't understand his bedtime songs, you like the lilt of his voice and take some comfort in it.
More time passes. One morning, you wake up to find a full suitcase sitting next to the front door. You try to ask him about it, but he just takes you by the hand and leads you to the car. You drive and drive and drive. Nothing is familiar. Where are you? Where is he taking you?
You pull up to a large building. He leads you to an elevator and up to a room filled with people. Many are crying. Some are ecstatic with joy. You are confused. And worried.
The man leads you over to the corner. Another man opens his arms and sweeps you up in an embrace. He rubs your back and kisses your cheeks, obviously thrilled to see you.
You are anything but thrilled to see him. Who in the world is he? Where is your beloved? You reach for the man who brought you, but he just smiles (although he seems to be tearing up, which concerns you), pats you on the back, and puts your hand in the hands of the new guy. The new guy picks up your suitcase and leads you to the door. The familiar face starts openly crying, waving and waving as the elevator doors close on you and the new guy.
The new guy drives you to an airport and you follow him, not knowing what else to do. Sometimes you cry, but then the new guy tries to make you smile, so you grin back, wanting to "get along." You board a plane. The flight is long. You sleep a lot, wanting to mentally escape from the situation.
Hours later, the plane touches down. The new guy is very excited and leads you into the airport where dozens of people are there to greet you. Light bulbs flash as your photo is taken again and again. The new guy takes you to another guy who hugs you. Who is this one? You smile at him. Then you are taken to another man who pats your back and kisses your cheek. Then yet another fellow gives you a big hug and messes your hair.
Finally, someone (which guy is this?) pulls you into his arms with the biggest hug you've ever had. He kisses you all over your cheeks and croons to you in some language you've never heard before.
He leads you to a car and drives you to another location. Everything here looks different. The climate is not what you're used to. The smells are strange. Nothing tastes familiar, except for the black coffee. You wonder if someone told him that you like your coffee black.
You find it nearly impossible to sleep. Sometimes you lie in bed for hours, staring into the blackness, furious with your husband for leaving you, yet aching from the loss. The new guy checks on you. He seems concerned and tries to comfort you with soft words and a mug of warm milk. You turn away, pretending to go to asleep.
People come to the house. You can feel the anxiety start to bubble over as you look into the faces of all the new people. You tightly grasp the new guy's hand. He pulls you closer. People smile and nudge one other, marveling at how quickly you've fallen in love. Strangers reach for you, wanting to be a part of the happiness.
Each time a man hugs you, you wonder if he will be the one to take you away. Just in case, you keep your suitcase packed and ready. Although the man at this house is nice and you're hanging on for dear life, you've learned from experience that men come and go, so you just wait in expectation for the next one to come along.
Each morning, the new guy hands you a cup of coffee and looks at you expectantly. A couple of times the pain and anger for your husband is so great that you lash out, sending hot coffee across the room, causing the new guy to yelp in pain. He just looks at you, bewildered. But most of the time you calmly take the cup. You give him a smile. And wait. And wait. And wait.
--Written by Cynthia Hockman-Chupp, analogy courtesy of Dr. Kali Miller

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

One Step Closer!

Yesterday we received word that our file had been submitted to the US Embassy on Monday in Ethiopia! So this means we are one step closer to getting our little girl home! According to our case manager, the BEST case scenario would be that we could potentially be cleared sometime next week and receive an Embassy date on the 14th of March which means we would have to be in Ethiopia no later than the 12th, and then leave there around the 16th WITH our daughter! Otherwise, it is very possible that the Embassy could review our file, and then determine they want/need more documentation. This would obviously push our travel dates back depending on how long they need to review things again. According to our agency, there is about a 50/50 chance of either scenario happening due to recent trends.
Would you please join us in praying that the BEST case scenario happens?
For a couple of reasons!
1. We just want her home!!
2. I am supposed to be my sister's matron of honor in her wedding on the 19th! Yes, you heard me correctly! She doesn't seem to mind if I look a little spacey in the pictures due to jet lag, and I REALLY want to share in the joy of this day even if I'm exhausted and newly home with a baby! It is fairly likely we would be out of town on her wedding day if things don't move quickly and smoothly from here on out.
We know God is in control and can move MOUNTAINS!
Thank you for your continued love, support, and prayers. She's coming home soon people! I am so excited to introduce her to you!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Day 6:                                                      SHE IS OFFICIALLY OURS!

Woke up after a very restless night of sleep for both of us with our minds racing! I'm not sure how it's possible to feel nervous and at peace at the same time, but those were my emotions exactly over the last 24 hours. We were picked up by 9 this morning and headed directly downtown Addis for court. It was quite a drive amongst the morning rush hour traffic, and I have to say now that I am extremely grateful for traffic lights! Even red ones now! There is only one intersection in Addis that has a traffic light. Who proceeds first through the remainder of the intersections in Addis depends on who values their car most, who is the quickest at accelerating and braking, and who has the most guts basically! I prefer to look out the side window rather than through the windshield on these crazy rides through  town. Once we arrived at court, we proceeded to climb 4 flights of stairs which in Addis is quite a feat I must say! At about 8,500 feet of elevation, we have definitely noticed we don't feel quite as fit as we thought we were. We were led down the hall to a waiting room full of people, both native Ethiopians, and also several other adoptive families (we assumed because of their skin color and the process we observed). This was an interesting experience, as our driver briefly introduced us to a man, and then walked out (to move the van we assumed). We had absolutely no idea who this man was however, as friendly as he was, and so we decided to continue with the theme of our trip: to go with the flow!  We eventually came to the conclusion that he was the social worker to help represent us.  The judge's chambers were just to the left through a small door through which one of the court employees would occasionally peep her head out and "shhhhh" as loud as she could to keep the noise down. The first thing I ached to know as I walked into the waiting room was, "Is she here?" Was "G"s mom sitting in this very room? I scanned the faces and my attention was drawn to two women in particular who both did not have the look of someone from the city. I told Aaron that if I had to guess it would be a younger woman wrapped in a bright green scarf because I thought the shape of her mouth resembled "G's". A woman right next to her however, caught my eye and bowed her head, placed her hand on her heart, and smiled. At this point, I wasn't so sure anymore that I had guessed correctly. As we waited while others passed before us, the woman in the green scarf was called into the courtroom, and as soon as she walked out, our name was called. It was then I knew that we had the privilege of seeing "G's" biological mother for the first time. We had little time to think or process this though, as we needed to appear before the judge. The time with her was actually quite brief, but we needed to make it clear that we understood that our decision to adopt "G" was final, that we have educated ourselves about the effects of international adoption, and that we would commit to raise her to know about her Ethiopian culture. The judge stated that she had heard everything she needed to hear, and she was just awaiting our final documentation (our MOWA letter). We had learned from another adoptive mom shortly before we were called in, that MOWA was due to deliver letters to court later that day, so this was not a surprise to us. Our social worker assured us that we would remain at court to see if our MOWA letter would arrive with the delivery, and that we could leave with our driver to go back to Hannah's Hope. I was a little disappointed that we didn't officially pass right away, but was hopeful in knowing that more letters were going to arrive today. This was an exciting, unusual, awkward, surreal moment, as "G's" biological mother rode in the same van as we did back to the orphanage. I so wanted to be able to communicate with her, but all we were able to do was exchange shy smiles. She is from the Kembata zone of Ethiopia, and so her first language is not Amharic, rather an entirely different language particular to her region, so the very limited knowledge I have of Amharic was not useful to me in this situation today. We rode back to Hannah's Hope through a not quite as crazy Addis, listening to "G's" birth mother converse with her translator. And all I could do was pray that God would bless the meeting that we would have shortly. We finally arrived, and as we got out of the van, I immediately took her hand, squeezed it and then kissed her on each cheek. She smiled shyly and we held hands as walked into the office building of Hannah's Hope where our meeting would be. We all had a few minutes to get situated and as the translator from Hannah's Hope finished some business. All we could do was look at each other and smile. We had written "G's" birth mother a letter and made her a small scrapbook of pictures we had of "G" and our family. These were both translated to her which was quite a process, because every bit of information had to be translated from English to Amharic to Kembaten, and then back again if she spoke. She seemed very receptive to what we had written her and would nod her head and smile sometimes shyly, sometimes sadly, sometimes with more joy from time to time as she listened to our words. And at other times she would whisper quietly to herself. "G" was brought into the room shortly after our meeting began and was handed to her biological mother to hold. I was so grateful that "G" stayed calm for the most part and fussed for only a short while. She calmed down quickly though when she was given a bottle. It was a very special moment, bittersweet really, for me to watch her have one last chance to physically love this little girl that she had given birth to. We were then given a chance to ask questions of this special woman. I am so thankful God gave us this opportunity—it was an incredible moment that I will never forget as Aaron and I were able to personally thank her for the gift of "G" and promise her our love and commitment to her child. I am so thankful that God gave us this gift that we can pass on to "G" as she gets older so she knows this part of her story and identity. We experienced such a mix of emotions today, that we really can't put them to words completely: sadness for this mother and her absolute sacrifice in love to save precious "G's" life, joy as we  celebrated the fact that "G" is ours now—a part of our family, and other feelings we really can't put a name to yet.

After our meeting was finished, we had to leave Hannah's Hope if we wanted an opportunity to visit Bethzatha, the orphanage "G" was first at when she arrived in Addis. We met many more beautiful children in need of families who were extremely excited to have visitors, and just someone new to pay even the smallest bit of attention to them. The orphanage's director gave us a tour of the facilities and led us upstairs to where the babies' room is: the room where "G" slept some of her first nights in Addis. As I turned around, my eyes were drawn to a phrase painted on the wall above one of the little white metal cribs, "I am my Father's daughter…" and was struck at how true this is for "G" and how this has been so evident in her life thus far. She is a daughter of the King. She has a plan for her life that has already been determined by the Maker of all things. We are so humbled that God chose us to be part of His plan for her.

Once again God's providence was evident as our visit to Bethzatha made us run behind schedule and the fact that we left our briefcase at Hannah's Hope resulted in us making a quick stop there before returning to the hotel.  Aaron and I wanted so badly to find out if we passed court today, but were not hopeful as the office closes at 5:00 pm and we returned around 5:30 pm.  Praise the Lord, at the very moment we pulled up to the gait Almaz pulled up in her vehicle.  Almaz came up to us and asked how our day had been and we informed her that all seemed to go well, but were still anxiously awaiting word back from court.  Almaz proceeded to tell us that she received word that everything was fine and that we passed court.  I immediately had a huge rush of emotions as I came to the realization that "G" is legally ours.  Tears of joy flowed as Aaron and I embraced and gave thanks to God and to our friends with us for their prayers.  To Aaron, all the joy and congratulations following an anxious waiting period, felt just like the experience following the delivery of Anaiya and Landon.  It really drove home the fact that we are now proud parents of 3 beautiful gifts from a loving and faithful God.

We ended our joyous visit to Hannah's Hope with a short visit with "G" to kiss her good night.  She was already bathed, bundled up in her pajamas, and sleeping in her crib.  She looks so beautiful when she is sleeping.  It is our prayer that she continues to sleep so soundly when she comes home with us.  Unfortunately, our unexpected visit to the nursery resulted in some children waking and crying, but not "G", she slept through it all.  We were very grateful to the special mother's for their patience and understanding, as they had to work frantically to prevent a domino effect of crying children.  After saying good night we headed back to the hotel elated with the news, exhausted from the day, and a little sad realizing we only get one more opportunity to see her before we have to return home. 

It was a blessing to be able to experience just one more small part of her story today in visiting Bethzatha, but heartbreaking at the same time in knowing that this is only 1 orphanage out of thousands around the world full of children who long for a home and a family. There are so many precious children just here at Bethzatha. We experienced more at Bethzatha today, but I'm having a hard time processing everything just yet and putting it to words. We do know however, that God is a God who sees. Our heart has been broken for what breaks His, even more so after today. We will defend the cause of the fatherless. We will not forget.

And so…tomorrow we have to say goodbye and leave a piece of our hearts in Ethiopia. We trust God in knowing we will be brought back to this beautiful country in HIS perfect time to bring "G" home permanently. We are so thankful for the many prayers we know have been lifted on our behalf: it has never been more real to us—we are so excited to share more stories with you over the next weeks. Until we return…

Aaron and Susie