So we have been back in the States for six days now and we will be going back to our Ivan's country in 10 days.
Our time at home has been full of a mixture of emotions for me.
For those of you who do not know, we were supposed to have court on the 25th of September, but because of an issue with paperwork (Ivan's birth mom's name was misspelled on one of her certificates) our court was rescheduled for Oct 14th.
We were so confused by this delay. It seemed like a waste of time, our adoption isn't progressing right now, we're just at a stand still.
Yesterday, I got a small glimpse into why God had both Ryan and I come home for this short amount of time.
For the first time since leaving America, I was finally able to pour my heart out to God. I confessed my anger and bitterness toward Him. I wept from the heartbreak of losing a child, fighting for two others, and yet quickly losing the hope of them as well.
I haven't shared publicly what happened after we were told we would not be able to adopt Levi. Yes, I was heartbroken, but right away Ryan and I decided that we needed to keep fighting. We needed to find the child that was supposed to be in our family because surely God would not have leveled so many mountains to get us approved for two children if we were only meant to bring home Ivan.
We were shown a bunch of files of other children who were in Ivan's region. There was a little girl in the pile and when Ryan saw her he said "ahhhhh" I quickly took her file away from him because my heart wasn't prepared for a girl, it just wasn't an option. We prayed about how we would handle visiting all these children and only being able to choose one. Later that night I couldn't sleep, I just kept thinking about that little girl (there were only two girls in the files we were shown). In the morning I told Ryan that I think we should just pick one and ask our facilitator to make us a DAP appointment (the appointment where you get read the child's whole file and receive an official referral). Ryan looked at me astounded. "But how would we just choose". With tears in my eyes I said, "I think I want a little girl." I had no idea where those words or the emotion came from all I knew is that it felt 100% right. Ryan hugged me so tight and said he was thinking the exact same thing.
So that morning Ryan called our facilitator and before we left for Ivan's region we went to the court house to apply for a DAP appt for this little 3 year old girl.
The day after we met Ivan we spent all day in the town he was born in and then on our way back to our hotel we drove to the baby house where Ivan stayed from age 1 to 5. We thought that our facilitator was just going to go in and give the director some paperwork and let him know that we would be there soon to meet this little girl, but once we got there we were told that we would probably be able to see the girl that day just to make sure we still wanted to go through with the DAP appt.
Ryan and I were beside ourselves with excitement!! We got out the doll we had bought for her (YES we bought a DOLL!! We didn't see that coming for YEARS). Our facilitator went in first to speak with the director. She stayed in there a very long time. When she finally came out she told us that she didn't have good news. The little girl had an older brother and they are very close. The director will not let them be separated.
The words were like a dagger in my heart.
Hope was slipping fast....
The tears were coming...
Then our facilitator looked at the translator, said some words, and the translator asked us if we were open to down syndrome?
Ryan and I looked at each other and said YES!!
Our facilitator went on to explain that there was a six year old girl with ds who had just been transferred to a mental institution from the same orphanage that our sweet precious Ivan is at. We were told that she has a sister, but her sister was moved to a school and they would never be able to be together again, so they will be able to be legally separated.
Our hearts were still in shock, but we couldn't help but feel like this must of been God's plan all along. If we didn't go see this little 3 year old girl, we never would of heard about this one and Ryan and I have both talked about someday adopting a child with down syndrome, we never imagined that it would be so soon.
Could God of been preparing our hearts for this sweet little girl?
The next day we got the great news that we could keep the DAP appt that we applied for and we could have it for this little girl :)
Everything seemed to be coming together...
The director of Ivan's orphanage showed us pictures of the little girl with her sister. She was beautiful. Dark olive skin and dark hair. It was clear that her and her sister were very close. We were heartbroken by her story, being separated from her sister and moved to a scary mental institution only a week before.
Certainly this is why God has brought us here with the approval for two children, or so we thought.
We made the long trip out of Ivan's region to the city where our DAP appt would be. We spent a couple days sightseeing and then Monday we got into the same car as another Reeces Rainbow family. We talked all the way to the SDA building, sharing our crazy journey's. Then we met up with another Reece's Rainbow family there, visited with them in a pizza parlor, until we were told that we needed to go over for our appt.
Right away we could tell something was wrong...
Our facilitator went on to confirm our assumptions.
We didn't have DS listed in our home study.
We had thirty other diagnosis listed and the words "the Maxwell family is approved BUT NOT LIMITED to parent children with...." The "but not limited to" should of been enough, but we were told it wasn't :(
Our facilitator said there might still be a way though... we just had to email our sw back home, have her include DS, have her send the new copy to Bismarck, have a friend appostile it and send it back. The whole process would add about a week onto our stay. Ryan and I looked at each other... then we looked at the family sitting beside us, going through something VERY similar to us. After our facilitator left the room, Ryan and I talked, Ryan thought we should do it, we needed to at least "try". I agreed. When we were talking with the other family I confessed that I kept thinking is this really worth it, but that as soon as I think it I realize YES of course it is!! This is a child's life!!
So we sat on a couch down in the SDA building as the hours passed, still waiting to see this sweet girl's file, whom we were allowing our hearts to fall in love with.
After around 5 hours, we went outside with our main facilitator (He's the boss, but he's also a big teddy bear). He spoke straight with us...
"So here's the problem. This little girl does not have Downs." WHAT!! but the director at Ivan's orphanage showed us pictures of her, she does have down syndrome, I said. He went on to explain that she has been tested and has tested positive for Down Syndrome, but her medical coding on her file, says that she is healthy. (This was also an issue that our precious Levi had) I continued to argue, "but if she's been tested, then she does have it!" "How do you know? Do you have paper that says, this child have Downs?" No, I confessed (on the verge of tears). Paper is all that matters to these people... he went on talking, but my heart was so shattered, I didn't even hear it.
We stood there in shock.
This couldn't seriously be happening.
God where are you? We were willing to fight for her, why are You closing the door?
Another one of our facilitators came over to us and told us that she was astounded. She said she's never seen this, in all the years she's been doing adoptions. She explained to us that kids are supposed to receive medical updates every 6 months. Those updates get sent to the social services office and then they are supposed to send them to the SDA so they can update the child's file, but RARELY does the social services send the updates. She said it is heartbreaking because no one from another country will be able to adopt this little girl because she is listed as healthy, but if a local family goes to adopt her, they will see that she has Downs, and will not. She told us that this is what they fight against everyday. Things that seem like they would be an easy fix are impossible because people just don't care about these children. To most, they are nothing more than a piece of paper.
That night Ryan and I went back to our apartment in complete shock. All day we rode the rollercoaster of hope, only to be let off, disoriented and let down. Feeling like we invested so heavily in something that was now COMPLETELY gone.
I didn't know how to let go...
Maybe God still wanted us to fight...
Maybe there was another child out there...
Ryan and I sat in silence, both breaking inside because we knew the answer...
God had closed every door.
For the first time in our entire adoption process, we didn't feel Him going before us on this one.
We were done fighting for child #3.
I couldn't even process the concept of being a family of 4, of only having two children. Levi was a part of us and now he was gone.
Finally the grief hit.
"I just want our Levi." I whispered to Ryan through my gasping sobbing.
Ryan pulled me off the couch, onto my knees, and he poured out his heart to God.
I said nothing.
I had no words.
I hugged Ryan and Then I got up and walked to the bedroom, kicking the doll across the floor on my way.
I knew I was leaving Ryan alone. I knew he was hurting just as much as me, but I was in such a dark place I didn't care.
The next day we began the long drive back to Ivan's region. Ryan and I were still holding hands, still going through all of the craziness together, but we were both so numb.
Being with Ivan again made the pain so much easier. I still had my moments of deep sorrow, but I knew we were so blessed with this amazing child. He was enough and I felt guilty for feeling, at times, like he wasn't.
I thought I had accepted it, we began to plan how our lives would be now with our TWO amazing boys and I began to see glimers of hope.
I was excited that we could get Ivan a full size bed now, dreamed of the closeness he would have with Landon, knew I could focus so much more on Ivan's needs now.
But then we got home, and I walked into an apartment that had Levi's picture and his name all over.
The five hanging on our wall is probably the cruelest reminder.
The first morning at home, I was sitting on the floor, letting the pain hit, feeling the darkness trying to overcome my heart, when this song came on the radio...
God I know You're there, we've been through some really hard times, this feels like the hardest, but even through this, I will trust you Lord.
And the day got better, it really did, until I saw this.
Yes, that sweet little beauty was the child that we fought so fiercely for.
I figured it must be a mistake so I contacted Reece's Rainbow. They double checked, and then told me that her updated file is at the SDA building now.
I really wanted to be happy. Why am I not happy, this means her and her sister can be adopted together now. God who am I kidding, this feels like a cruel joke.
And there it was again, the numbness, the darkness, the grief.
But I have no choice, but to go on with life... enjoy life... point out the blessings I have been given... and wait for the sun to rise on the painful pages of my story.
Yesterday I bundled my baby boy up, put him on my back in the carrier, and went for a long walk. I breathed in the freshness of the wind and let it soothe my aching soul. I let the beauty of changing leaves remind me that every season, even if it includes death and loss, serves a purpose, and will one day be made new.
I also poured my heart out to God like I was still in our apartment in country, I said the words that my heart grabbed onto then, but didn't have the courage or the ability to let go off until weeks later.
I told God that I have never felt so mislead by Him, never been so angry, never felt so lost and betrayed.
If we were not supposed to adopt a second child why wait so long to close the door? Why level so many mountains for Levi? Why give us peace about pursuing Him?
After I had poured out all of my harsh honesty before God, I somehow found the words to praise Him. For safety, for an even stronger marriage. For an amazing child who will fit so perfectly into our family. For my precious Landon, whose story reminds me that heartbreak can be our greatest blessing in disguise.
I titled this post because that is where I feel my heart is - in the trenches. Adoption is such a battle. Some days we see overwhelming victories and others we feel defeated by all the pain we witness. I know that my grieving is not over. I will still have terribly dark days, where I wonder what the point of it all is, but after my walk in the park, my God brought the lyrics of this old hymn to mind.
My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly trust in Jesus’ Name.
When darkness seems to hide His lovely face,
I rest on His unchanging grace.
In every high and stormy gale,
My anchor holds within the veil.
His oath, His covenant, His blood,
Support me in the whelming flood.
When all around my soul gives way,
He then is all my Hope and Stay.
When He shall come with trumpet sound,
Oh may I then in Him be found.
Dressed in His righteousness alone,
Faultless to stand before the throne.
On Christ the solid Rock I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand;
All other ground is sinking sand.
One of my fears after losing Levi, was that our story would make some of you question your faith in God (probably because I was questioning my own), but my hope and prayer is that even through this trial you would be able to see His glorious light shining through. Our story is not our own. I don't pretend to understand why God leads us down the paths He does, but I know my God and I know that He NEVER leads us wrong.
Sometimes our trials turn out to be our greatest blessings in life, but only if we ride each wave with the One who walks on water.
I can't end this post without thanking each of you for your prayers and support during our time in country and now as we go back and finish up our adoption of Ivan. Adoption is such a spiritual battle and we could NOT be doing this without you prayer warriors by our side, you are right here in the trenches with us and for that we are eternally grateful.
If there are any of you still out there who have not joined our facebook group, please do so. You are really missing out not seeing all the pictures and videos of our precious lovie. I would love to write an entire post about him, but I don't have all day, so please join and continue to follow our journey to making him a Maxwell :)
Just add me as a friend on fb and send me a message requesting to be invited to our group. If I have somehow forgot to invite you, please don't hesitate to ask again :)