When we married in 2001, we wanted to start our family. However, it soon became clear that we would not be able to conceive so easily. We sought the assistance of a local fertility specialist, but to no avail. After years of testing, shots, drugs, and roller coaster after roller coaster of unsuccessful invasive procedures, we decided to concentrate on something else for a while.
In 2004, I decided I needed a new project. Something to dive into and lose myself in. So I approached Brandon with the idea of getting my master's degree. Adoption was on both our minds at this time, but we felt as though we had just went through a war. To bring a child into our home at this time would not have been right. We needed to nurse our wounds and 'get right'. Only I would think that getting a second degree would be theraputic!
For 18 months between 2004 and 2006, I attend classes at Indiana Wesleyan from 8-5 nearly every Saturday (in addition to my full-time teaching job). It was exhausting, but fulfilling- unlike my bacherlor's degree. I enjoyed my college years, and learned a lot... but gaining my master's degree has made me a specialist, an advocate, and a better thinker. There were times when it was too much and I begged Brandon to let me give up, but I continued and finished in May, 2006.
When I had finished my masters, Brandon and I began talking about what we really wanted to do. We spent the better part of the summer pondering some really serious questions: Did we really want to be parents? Should we just leave it to chance or should we go further with medical treatments? Where would we get the money to do this? Is adoption an option that we are willing to consider??
When it became clear that we couldn't fathom a life without a child, we knew that adoption was the way to go. There are so many children who need parents to take care of them, and, to us, it seemed wasteful to continue to squander money away on expensive fertility procedures when we could spend the same money on adoption and be guaranteed a child in the end. So the search for agencies began....
We thought we would find an agency quickly, but for reasons that are to detailed to go into here, finding an agency was not so easy. We knew international was the way to go... for us, domestic adoption was a scary prospect for many reasons. But narrowing the search proved difficult and deciding on a country was even harder. At first, we thought Russia or China. But they were so expensive and required long visits. Then we considered Guatamala and Colombia. Somewhere along here we heard about Haiti, in detail, for the first time.
We met with a local agency here in Indianapolis that works with an organization that facilitates adoptions in Haiti. The flyer was simple and we asked several questions about Haiti. After some research at home, I called Brandon over to the computer and showed him a statistic I found: The average adult life expectancy in Haiti is 49 years old. I think that was what sealed the deal for us. After some work, we found Heritage Adoption Services in Portland, Oregon that works with Chances 4 Children, a charitable organization that runs Creche de l'enfant Jesus (Orphange) in TiMache, near Port-au-Prince in Haiti. After talking to our social worker, Vivian, we knew that we were in the right hands and started the paperwork. By this time it is December 2006.
We spent the next three months getting our homestudy done and our paperwork for Haiti. I knew the paperwork would be thorough but I had NO IDEA. Some of the items required- copies of tax forms for three years, medical tests, psychological tests, FBI background checks, State Background checks, HOMELAND SECURITY checks (yes), letters of reference, employment verification, letters from banks, vet records, passports, etc... and this goes on to include about thirty additional items. All of these were complete around March of 2007 and this was when we began our homework. Workbooks, classes on Saturdays or worknights, and CD-ROMs... and proof that we had done all this. However, even though it was thorough and repetitive (we were doing all of this for 2 agencies), I'm sure it will be VERY worth it when Rory arrives. There are so many things that our instructors and resources have opened our eyes to. We did this while we waited for our referral.
On Monday, June 4, 2007, Vivian emailed us our referral. Erleyorson LaFrance was born May 14, 2004 in a little town on the end of the southern peninsula in Haiti. He was healthy and had only been at the orphanage one month. We were thrilled ... we had a picture of our child! However, we also had been told to expect a longer waiting period (12-18 months from the time of our referral). We were so disappointed, but this is what we signed up for. Uncertainty was part of it and something that we had to accept as a part of this crazy adoption ride.
We prepared for things to get underway in Haiti. We got word in August that our file was in Haiti and ready to go into IBESR. It is a black hole. It's like the social services dept. of Haiti.. somewhat. But, some people's files are in for over a year... some three months. It just was completely unpredictable. So when we heard that our file entered IBESR on Sept. 28, 2007, we were excited that we were now 'in' but waiting ... for who knew how long....
As we hoped for a speedy exit from IBESR, things took a turn for the worse here at home. My dad became ill and was diagnosed with small cell lung cancer on Nov. 7th. Things were bad. Real bad. Dad was really sick within days and once he was more stable, he began chemotherapy. The holidays were pretty crappy (on top of it all... Brandon was laid off just before Christmas), but we made the best of them. My dad really wanted to meet Rory. I know that was his one, dying wish. When we told Vivian of this news, she was so supportive and got us hooked up on the January trip to the creche to meet Rory.
Being in Haiti is shocking. It is beautiful, but so sad and unbelievable. We immediately felt at ease with our travel companions and with the orphanage staff. Rory was happy and healthy, we warmed to us during the week and every morning there was like Christmas. I remember waking up - it was just around seven- and I bolted out of bed and started prodding Brandon "get up so we can go get him and bring him in here and play!". We had so much fun at the orphanage, it is an amazing place and I can't wait to go back.
We left Rory behind, but brought back video and photos of our little guy. The next morning, we went immediately to my mom and dad's to watch the video. Dad did get to meet Rory that day... maybe not in the most ideal way. But he got to see the three of us together and us holding Rory, and I think that made him feel good.
In February, we found out the chemo wasn't working and that Dad would have to have hospice care. He died on March 29, 2008. In retrospect, we think it was meant to be that Dad didn't get to meet Rory. Bringing him home into this situation would have proven to be bittersweet. I wouldn't have been able to help take care of my Dad as I did, and Rory would have seen us all so sad after the raw experience that the month of March was. Plus, NOW... we have something to look forward to, a light at the end of a long, dark tunnel. It is so interesting how the 12-18 months that we were dreading now seems to be what saved us.
We left IBESR in the middle of all of this on February 20, 2008. We went into Parquet (the Haitian courts) about a month later. We are out of Parquet right now, but going though Second Legalization. This process was supposed to only take a couple weeks, but it is taking a few months for most. But Vivian says we are nearing the end, so hopefully we will know that we are in MOI soon. MOI is the ministry of the interior, where we received final verification and Rory's passport. Our file is released to USCIS (US CUSTOMS AND IMMIGRATION) and they set up Rory's visa appt and we are on our way!
So here we are. Rory's room is ready, clothes are folded, our suitcases are slowly filling with more supplies for the orphanage for our return trip. I've started his lifebook, but have no news to fill it with. We just wait every single day, waiting for an email that we are on to the next step. Some days, I'm a pessimist, some days, I'm an optimist. Some days, it feels like it's never going to happen, other days, I'm getting on Brandon saying "He's coming, we have so much to do! Let's do this, that, and the other!" in a weird nesting frenzy. It really is a roller coaster. But when we look at his picture, we know that he is waiting for us, and I know that I can withstand the roller coaster another day.