Friday, August 29, 2008

How can it be so hard to find a good family for a perfect baby boy?

My quest for a family for this sweet baby boy continues.

The teacher doesn't want the baby because her husband "has his heart set on a baby girl". Wow. When I heard that, I was struck speechless which really rarely happens. How could you be choosy at a time like this?

She has contacted her social worker who apparently has a Brazilian family that desperately wants the baby. The social worker was supposed to call me tonight and she hasn't called yet so have they fallen through too?

Then tonight, the American woman in Brasilia had an idea: why not let the birth mother keep the baby until we get habilitated and then we adopt directly from the mother? This would take a number of months but it sounded like a good solution (if, in fact, the Brazilian government would allow us to adopt directly from the mother - and that's a big "IF".)

The American talked to her housekeeper, who is the birth mother's cousin. The cousin said the birth mother will not agree to do this. She's so desperate to get rid of the baby, she will throw him in the garbage if somebody doesn't take him from her in the hospital. I cannot imagine the desperation she must feel to be at that point. It's critically more important to her that he be placed with a family and not "in the system", and I have been told not to tell her yet that we can't adopt him for fear of sending her over the edge.

When I drove her to her house, she told me that she was embarrassed for me to see the poverty in which she lived. I told her that she was rich in something that money couldn't buy me but that she was willing to give me. I feel such an enormous weight that I've failed to live up to my end of the deal with her after she was going to give me a bigger gift than I deserved. I have to find this baby a home so the mother doesn't reach the point of desperate measures where she'll do something awful that she and I will have to live with for the rest of our lives.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

"You must abandon the birth mother."

The fight is over. The lawyer uttered the words "you must abandon the birth mother" last night as we simply do not have enough time to complete our paperwork and get registered and approved before the baby is born.

After I hung up with the lawyer, I called the American family in Brasilia to tell them. The wife just could not understand how it worked for them and why it wasn't working for us. I could offer her no real reason because I had no idea.

The wife called our shared lawyer to discuss the situation and the difference in our situations became very clear. This family started their adoption process when the husband was not here on a diplomatic visa. He had a regular working visa which allows a foreigner to claim resident status in Brazil after something like 6 months of being in-country. Even though we've lived in Brazil for nearly 3 years and still have a year to go, we will never be able to claim resident status because we're here on a diplomatic visa. It all boils down to what kind of sticker page we have in our passport. The Brazilian government doesn't take into account how long we've lived here or the resulting affinity we feel for this country.

Our own devastating disappointment and selfishness aside, what's important right now is the baby's welfare. I started attending a Bible Study among friends on Tuesday and the adoption came up. While I was talking about the Brazilian government's insistence on placing newborns with Brazilian families who are apparently lined up in droves, a friend said that was interesting because her husband's Portuguese teacher and her husband have been waiting for 5 years for a baby and still there are babies put into orphanages. I have spoken to the Portuguese teacher this morning and I am hopeful that I can connect her with the birth mother.

As for us, the attorney has talked to a lot of her contacts and she's insistent that we can do the paperwork and get "habilitated" or registered in the system and she can help us adopt a child sooner rather than later. The child won't be a baby, which really is okay for us because we'd like a smaller age gap between Mac and a younger child. So we remain prayerful and hopeful and we're going to start the process.

Through all of this, I have known that there was no certainty or guarantee in this process. It's not like Christmas where you know you'll wake up on December 25 to find a present. I have wrestled with what God's plan was and is for us through all this and I still don't know where this is all going. What I do know is that Jimmy and I thought we'd closed the door on having more children and this has made us realize that we really do want more children and that it is worth fighting to grow our family.

Two days ago, we had decided to pursue international adoption outside of Brazil because both of us were so disgusted by the system here that we couldn't bear to fight it. But after talking to Vera last night, we've decided to put in our paperwork here to try and get habilitated so we can adopt a child from here. Brazil will likely be the place we live the longest in Jimmy's diplomatic career, so to have one of our children be born here would be a special reminder of a country and its people that we do love. We'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Life goes on...

Jimmy was paneled for the job in Afghanistan, so it's official. He'll spend a year there (starting next summer) while Mac and I live in SC. More details as we know them.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Possibly the greatest invention of all time?

I've spent the last week moaning and groaning about all this adoption nightmare, so today I'm shifting gears and writing about what might be the greatest invention of all time - or at least this year in the life of the Storys.

Since we may as well live in a cave for all our technological expertise, the connection this past Sunday of our Slingbox is a real marvel. We learned about the Slingbox on a flight out of SC last November. I sat next to an ESPN producer living in SC whose biggest concern when he found out we lived overseas was how we live without American television. I didn't bother to tell him that we watched non-cable Brazilian television on a black-and-white set. He would've been horrified.

As soon as the plane's wheels touched down, he whipped out his cell phone, which was probably worth more than Jimmy's little VW in Brazil, and we started watching live-from-Mt Pleasant, SC cable television on it. I could not believe such a thing existed.

So this guy told me what I needed to know about buying a Slingbox and - in typical fashion - here we are 9 months later with our Slingbox set up.

We have it connected to cable at Jimmy's mom's house because they have what seems like 496 channels. It runs through their Internet and we can watch on our computer in Sao Paulo. There's a remote control on the computer screen and you can control the remote and change channels just as if you were sitting in your La-Z-Boy in Moncks Corner, SC. We actually can run it to a television from the computer, but our computer and our tv are both older - go figure - so we can't get that to work right now.

If you live in the US or have an aversion to television in general, you probably don't realize how wonderful American cable television can be. Do you know the pleasure you get from watching a US-Brazil men's volleyball final with commentating in English and not Portuguese? Do you appreciate how nice it is to watch Meredith Vieira do a segment on her family roots in the Azores? Do you know the value of watching HGTV? After one day, I'm ready to renovate our apartment singlehandedly. And don't even get me started on how excited Jimmy is about watching college football. The SC Gamecocks are really 99% responsible for us having the Slingbox. (Otherwise he will spend hours reading line-by-line plays on the Internet - BORING- or listening to radio commentary - ALMOST AS BORING.)

As I sit here drinking my green tea, waiting for 15 more minutes until The Today Show starts, I'm thinking by the time we see some people next, I may be 40 pounds heavier from turning into an office-chair-potato (the Slingbox version of a couch potato). But I will be all caught up on current events, improving curb appeal, and college football!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Confusion Reigns Supreme...

First discouraging email came in early this morning from a Consulate colleague that said Sao Paulo is not doing any adoptions to the US. We knew this already, but I really didn't need to see it in black and white first thing on a Monday morning.

I sent the lawyer in Rio an email to ask for an update soon after and only just heard back from her. She's checking with a colleague in Rio to see if we can still register in Sao Paulo (even if adoption won't happen there) and she's to get back with me on this. In the meantime, she's given me a list of what seems like a million things to start working on immediately.

I haven't spoken to the birth mother today, but I did talk to her cousin and they all believe the baby will be born before September 20. The birth mother obviously has experience in delivering babies and she believes she's closer to delivery than her estimated due date.

I am overwhelmed with how this can possibly even happen or if we even stand a chance. There's obviously no way we can be given legal guardianship before September 20, so even if we were able to bring the baby home, we would simply be "fostering" the baby. The mother would still have all rights over the baby: we would have to get her permission to travel with the baby, to have any medical treatment, etc. The best-case scenario by which we'd be given guardianship is maybe 6 months. Then we'd still have to wait for a court date before we'd go before a judge. Up until then, some government official could knock on the door and take the baby from us. And that's the scary part. What if we love this baby and live with this baby and believe he's going to be ours, and somebody takes him away?

If there appeared to be any remote guarantee that a judge would ultimately allow us to legally adopt the baby, I could more easily live with the fear that the baby would be taken away because the odds would still be in our favor.

The lawyer says we must not worry about this because it's in God's hands; if the baby is meant to be ours, he will be. I very much believe this, and if I were helping a friend through this, I'd say the exact same thing. The problem is that I'm very involved in this and very committed to this baby and I'm terrified of the hurt that, right now, is about 99% more likely than the happy ending I dream about. Are the high odds of hurt worth the 1% chance of a happy ending? I have to believe so. This opportunity fell from heaven into our laps; how can we not do everything possible to make it happen?

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Poetic thought for the day

"I know
it's hard to be reconciled
not everything is exactly
the way it ought to be

but please turn around
and step into the future
leave memories behind
enter the land of hope"

- from Polish poet Zbigniew Herbert's "A Life"

There's not much to report in the way of breaking news. We have two attorneys looking into our case. One is the woman who helped the other family adopt and one is a lawyer referred by my brother-in-law's firm. The woman has said she'll have more to talk to us about on Monday and the man said his firm is reviewing the legal statutes and will get back to us as soon as possible.

So we wait and we pray as we enter the land of hope.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

I found a Yes (wo)Man!

Yesterday was a truly spectacularly disappointing day. Everywhere I turned I just got bad news.

Our preacher at church anonymously called the Santo Amaro (where we live) adoption agency (government-run) to ask about the process, our odds, etc, and he was told that Sao Paulo is not currently doing any international adoptions to the US. STRIKE ONE.

I called a recommended lawyer in Brasilia and she said she wouldn't even tell us if she'd consider taking the case until we talked... in Brasilia. STRIKE TWO.

Then a friend in the consular section in Rio told Jimmy that Brazil-US adoption protocol had just been finalized according to the Hague Convention on International Adoption and things really didn't look good for international adoptions right now. STRIKE THREE.

I exaggerate because there were moments of goodness. You all have reached far and wide into your network of contacts and have provided us with lawyers, advice, encouragement, and prayer. So that really, truly negates the strikes.

And then last night we got our first bit of really encouraging, concrete news. The lawyer in Rio who helped the American couple in Brasilia to adopt was willing to review our case.

I have spoken to her today and have just sent off a long email that tells our story, our desire to adopt and why, all the details I know of the birth mother, etc. She's going to see what she can do to help us. She believes in adoptions like these because she recognizes the benefits for the child and the adoptive parents. Prayers have been answered!! We at least have our "Yes Woman."

Today started out as the sequel to yesterday's terrible day. Do you know the children's story about Alexander and his terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day? Well that's how my day started out. I took our car back to the shop (it's already spent 7 of the last 10 days there) to be told now that the car isn't firing on all cylinders. Join the club of the Story family. I started crying in front of the poor mechanic and told him this was just one more thing on a mountain of things that I just didn't need. He felt so bad that he offered to rent me a car to use until they fix our car. I declined, but the goodness of people shines through all over the world.

Then I went to the bank at the consulate to pay the internet bill, only to find out the bank didn't open until 30 minutes later. Then I tried to get more minutes on my cell phone, only to give them the wrong number. Fortunately the number I gave them didn't exist or else somebody would've thought they'd won the mini-lottery.

But then I had lunch with 3 lovely friends and it was a great respite from stress and worry and aggravation. Just what the doctor ordered. The car may still not be firing on all cylinders, but I think I'm at least up one more cylinder now.

We are waiting to hear from the lawyer and will go to Rio to meet with her as soon as she calls. Hopefully that will be sooner rather than later. She understands the urgency of this since this baby could be born a month from yesterday.

The possibilities for total disappointment are mind-numbing so I'm choosing to stay focused on my Yes Woman who might not be able to say with 100% conviction "you can" but at least she recognizes the power of "you might can". I'll take that any day over NO!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Unexpected gifts from friends

I really debated about "going public" with our current adoption struggle. Infertility and, for us, the urgent and resultant desire to adopt are such personal things - even though many people invade that privacy by being quick to ask about our plans to have more children. (As an aside, I have learned that nothing gets somebody to change the topic faster after asking that question than answering "I apparently have used up all my eggs.")

I also worried about going public because my email was ultimately a prayer request. We have so many friends of different faiths that I was afraid of offending somebody.

So as I was clicking the boxes of who to send the email, I left out a lot of people. Then my computer froze and the email didn't send and I had to start all over. So when I got to the point of clicking the boxes again, I decided to go for broke and click everybody I know. I decided that as people read the part about praying for God's direction, even if they never uttered another prayer about our plight, God would've heard that single utterance and heard my cry.

I have gotten so many emails this afternoon from people near and far who have promised to pray for us and remember us, and knowing that all these people are sending up prayers and sending us well wishes is just more than I could have imagined.

Several friends have sent their emails on to other people and tiny rays of hope have come through in what has otherwise been a dismal, tear-filled day of nothing but discouraging news. A friend of a friend of friends works in the legal arena in Brasilia who might can help and somebody else knows someone who adopted two children here and he's going to get me the names of his legal team and somebody else called the local government adoption agency here in Sao Paulo to discuss our situation to find out the possibilities. I asked for prayer and got so much above and beyond.

Jimmy has tried to prepare me for what I think he sees as nearly unavoidable and eventual disappointment. He works within the confines of the bureaucracy here nearly everyday, but fortunately I don't, so I'm not jaded into thinking that this can't happen.

We had a discussion last night about what could be God's purpose in bringing us through this if not to have a baby at the end of it. Jimmy feels like even if we don't get the baby, maybe having this birth mother brought into our lives might be part of God's purpose. Meeting the birth mother and understanding her plight and her desire to find a good home for this new baby so she can get back to her other children and our trying to help her meet that goal might have to be enough.

Or it might be the unexpected outpouring of gifts from our friends today of prayer and love and trying to help us get this baby. I knew we had great friends, but today I know we have the most extraordinary friends on the planet.

Yesterday I started reading a fictional work called "Unaccustomed Earth" by Jhumpa Lahiri. I don't know what you technically call it when an author chooses to put a little quote in the front of the book before Chapter One starts, but she chose a quote from Nathaniel Hawthorne's "The Custom-House". The quote spoke to me for different reasons than it spoke to the author, I'm sure, but here it is:

"Human nature will not flourish, any more than a potato, if it be planted and replanted, for too long a series of generations, in the same worn-out soil. My children have had other birthplaces, and, so far as their fortunes may be within my control, shall strike their roots into unaccustomed earth."

Brazilian adoption law heavily favors keeping adoptable children in Brazil. I can completely understand their desire for the continuation of heritage, culture, language, etc. But is this baby the potato that needs to stretch its roots in the unaccustomed earth of a home made by American parents? Would that be as awful a thing for that child as the lady in Brasilia seems to think? I can't help but think that a home filled with love is more important than what language this child grows up to speak.

Tomorrow's a new day and we'll see what it brings.

The Power of YOU CAN!

Either cut and paste this link into your browser or click on the YouTube link over to the right! It's so worth watching.

Post-Brasilia Update on Adoption

I met the birth mother on Monday afternoon in what was a slightly awkward meeting. She's 28, appears healthy, and has had 4 other healthy children (who either live with her mother or their fathers). She is from the state of Maranhao and came down to the state of Goias because she had family there and she thought she could make more money down there than she could in Maranhao (where she was lucky to earn R$100 ($60 USD) a month). She didn't realize she was pregnant until she got to Goias.

She appears very eager to hand the baby over and return to her family in Maranhao. Her intention is to get on a bus for Maranhao as soon as she leaves the hospital. I would like to think that she's willing to hand over this baby to us because she liked us the best and thought we'd do the best job with her child, but I think she was just looking for anybody who seemed halfway decent and responsible.

She agreed to allow me to take her for an ultrasound so I could see the baby. We tried to get an appointment with my former doctor there but she wasn't working on Monday afternoon, so the birth mother had the idea that I could drive her back to her town and we could go to the little private hospital there to have the ultrasound. In what was a lapse of sanity, I agreed. I think now of everything that could've happened, but thankfully nothing did so it is not regrettable.

We got lost getting there (it's only 30km from Brasilia but we took the wrong road and a quick trip ended up a little longer). Our hospital visit ended up taking 2 hours - about 1 hour and 55 minutes of waiting and 5 minutes of the ultrasound. It was all worth it because I got to see the baby and he is beautiful and big and healthy (and definitely a boy).

By now it was getting dark and I was getting nervous. Her house is way up in this rabbit warren of dirt roads and it was at this point that I thought things could go terribly awry. We stopped at a grocery store to get her some food and then I delivered her home (her aunt's house). It's a very humble dwelling - she has lived a far more difficult existence than I can even imagine. I left her there and set off for Brasilia. Fortunately I didn't get lost and the 30 km passed very quickly.

On the plane going to BSB, I randomly opened my Bible and read a lot from the Psalms. The verse that I kept repeating to myself before I went into my meeting with her (when I feared rejection) and then again on the road home (when I feared for my safety) was Psalm 118:6 - "The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?"

I should have been reciting that verse yesterday when I went to the Vara de Infancia in Brasilia (the government adoption agency). Jimmy and I met with a woman there 14 months ago when we were first trying to start the adoption process and it was one of the worst experiences of my life. We have taught Mac that we don't "hate" people, so I don't "hate" this lady who runs the office on international adoptions, but I -- insert verb for whatever is the closest thing to hating without hating --- this lady. I explained the situation to her and she said "esse nao pode acontecer" - "this (foreigners adopting a baby that is handed over from the birth mother) cannot happen." Apparently there are a million Brazilians in line in front of us who want newborns and so there's no way a foreigner can adopt a baby. (My question is if there are so many people willing to adopt newborns in Brazil, why are there so many unadoptable teenagers in Brazilian orphanages? Did they become burdensome only as they got older and so their moms put them in the orphanage then??)

Anyway, I told her that it can happen because there's an American family (who facilitated my meeting with the birth mother) in Brasilia who has just finalized an adoption of a Brazilian baby who was handed over specifically to them by the mother. Our meeting went nowhere because she just kept telling me no, so I left and decided then that I was going to follow some advice Jimmy subscribes to: Why take no from somebody when there's somebody out there who can give you a yes?

So I'm now on a quest for my "yes man". I am desperate to find a lawyer in this country who can work on this with me because time is of the essence. I ask that you pray specifically for God's direction for us in this process. I know that our answer may ultimately turn out to be "no", but I'm not stopping yet. Right now we need some guidance from an expert who can navigate this bureaucratic nightmare with us.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Looking for some Prayer Warriors

As some of you know, we have struggled with infertility and God's plan for us regarding more children, which we desperately want. In June, I underwent unsuccssful medical treatment, and because of our limited time left in Brazil, we know we don't have the time to fight the bureaucratic adoptive process here. In what was our final show of giving up total control, we sold all of Mac's baby stuff last weekend. Last Sunday was Brazilian Father's Day and part of the sermon focused on delighting in your child, so we decided to delight in this near-perfect little boy we have and not focus on what we don't have.

And then last night, I received a call out of the blue from a friend in Brasilia who had a lead on a woman who is pregnant and who is "100% sure she's going to give up the baby for adoption." Go figure...

So I'm off to Brasilia early in the morning to meet this birth mother to try and convince her that we're the right people for her to hand over her baby to. The baby is due September 20 and is a boy.

I am so nervous about this meeting and I really need your prayers. Specifically I'd like for you to pray for me to have the peace of God going into this and to know that no matter how this ends, God is sovereign and has great plans for me as a mother, even if it's only to Mac. I'd also like you to pray for the birth mother, that she might understand the depths of our hearts' desires. Even if she chooses not to give us her baby, I want her to know in her heart of hearts that we would've done anything possible to raise up a healthy, happy baby into an adult that she would've been proud of.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Mac's First Day of Kindergarten - a look back over the last 5 years

Forgive my nostalgia. Mac started Kindergarten today, and he and I went through all his baby gear this afternoon. It's been an overwhelming day.

Click to play Mac's First Day of Kindergarten
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