Of one of the worst days of my life, I sit here and listen to the giggles of a boy that I thought I would never raise. What a blessed sound.
My story began years and years ago, but for the purpose of this blog, I will fast forward to Feb. 2010. My husband and I decided to expand our family through the blessing of adoption, once again. This time, we were going to forego the foster system, as it was a rough 3 yrs trying to adopt 2 of our children. We wanted to head across the ocean. Ethiopia was our heart and that is where our passion lay.
Adoption is called a paper pregnancy for a reason. It is a paper chase nightmare. Adopted domestically, from the foster care system and adopting internationally are two completely different beasts, yet the goal is the same. Our children.
We did everything as quickly as possible, collection wise and then we chose our home study agency. We had our visits, turned in our masses of stuff and then there was our first delay. Our worker, left the country, for a week, to go and pick up her daughter. A delay with purpose, yet still a delay. Our adoption agency worked with another agency and midstream of our adoption, they severed ties with their “partner” agency and partnered with another. Delay. It took a bit for us to meet the requirements and get the added stuff for the new partner agency, but we did.
In the meantime, we were fingerprinted, had our stuff turned in for 171-H approval (US immigration approval) and we waited…we did fundraisers, we filed for grants, we took out a loan, we sent letters and we waited. We were blessed in June of 09 to see a picture of our son. It was an older picture, he was only 3 and he was 4, in actuality, but oh my goodness…..the preciousness was unspeakable. I fell in love.
By Oct. 10, we were ready to travel to meet him and adopt him. We still hadn’t gotten immigration approval, but we were assured that they were now centralizing USCIS in one location and we weren’t forgotten, just delayed. Travel was a go. We traveled 30 hrs…we anticipated what the first moments would be like. What would he think of us, how would he react, what were we going to see (as neither one of us had ever been to a developing country). We were blessed, however, to meet up with 2 other couples that were adopting, older children. They were both with our agency, live in Louisville and we were staying in the same place.
We arrived in ET, in awe and unsure of our next step. Then we met the most wonderful man in all of ET, Woudneh Mulugeta. Amazing. There was a crowd of people, waiting for their loved ones and through the crowd, we saw this lovely man, with bright eyes and a beautiful smile…ready to take us on our adventure. He led us to our hotel, where the staff was amazing, the tribal dancing was mesmerizing and the food…..delicious. We were set to go to KVI the next morning. None of us slept.
We set off the next morning…anxious, nervous, amazed at the sites we were seeing….then, there it was, the giant iron gate that separated a love that had been in my heart since I was a child and someone we had prayed for since the beginning of the year. We pulled in and there were SO MANY KIDS. Most of them were sitting on the curb, patiently waiting. Others were swarming the van. Amongst the see of brown faces, I saw my son…sitting on the curb, bouncing his soccer ball. I started saying “there he is, Bart, there he is, there is our son…isn’t he beautiful.” Tears came up in my eyes and a lump in my throat. My dream was being fulfilled. God’s promises were being fulfilled. I was overwhelmed.
We couldn’t even get out of the van because there was a multitude of kids climbing in the van. They wanted so much to be loved, held, paid attention too. They wanted to look in our backpacks, see what cool trinkets we had for them. They wanted affection. They wanted to be the “chosen” ones. We made our way, to our son, with 10 kids hanging off our legs. I squatted down and introduced myself and I braced myself for the first time I would touch him. I had prayed for this child and I had prayed for this moment. I reached over and I touched his shoulder and I felt warm water and chills move through my body. It was like he instantly knew we were his because from that moment on, there was no language barrier…there were no words spoken, yet he was attached to us. He held our hands, showed us his tricks, was introduced to M & Ms and peanut butter crackers. We looked at books, photos…no words were spoken, just affection, touch, love. He belonged to us and we belonged to him. It was, hands down, one of the most beautiful moments of my life. I will say, right now, for those reading this….it doesn’t take carrying a child, in your womb, to be a mom. It takes from the moment you see them until God calls you home to be a mom.
We got to spend about 3 days with him. We watched him play, eat, do school, sing, sleep, slide, snot, cry, laugh…we watched it all. The fact that once we got home, would be another 6 weeks for our Embassy appt was almost too much to bear. The pain of leaving him was unspeakable. What got me through was Woudneh, the Transition House, Betty, the love of the nannies and the fact that he would be home before Christmas.
We arrived home on the 14th of Oct. We showed our other 5 children videos and pictures and we waited, anxiously for word of our Embassy date. On Oct. 15th….our world shattered. We got our first, of many, denials from the United States Immigration. We were told, due to a law that was not regarded by someone in our adoption circle, that we would not be allowed immigration clearance and that we would not be allowed to bring our precious son home. I remember going to the mailbox and seeing that bright pink piece of paper…ripping it open…then falling in the driveway, on my knees crying to my Lord and for my son. Everyday that passed, was another day lost and another day that he was without his mommy and daddy to love him.
We fought, we prayed, we begged, we cried, we pleaded…..on Thanksgiving 2010, we received our final denial. It was over. There was nothing we could do. We did our homework, we had conference calls with those involved and we contemplated me and the children moving to ET for 2 yrs, while my husband stayed here to work and send us money. Depression set in, for me. It was a black black time. I remember my daughter saying “mom, you never smile anymore.” All I did was cry. My husband was convinced that he had lost me. Speaking to a friend of mine, the other day, she said when I would attend class, once or twice, I would get tickled and giggle and they would all secretly be praising the Lord for me laughing.
We decided to fight. We fought all of 2010 and most of 2011. We hired the top immigration adoption attorney in the states, we got a new home study agency, we got new fingerprints…we basically paid for his adoption twice and added an attorney’s fee on top of it. Our attorney told us we were fighting and uphill battle and that she would do everything possible, but the outcome was bleak and we needed to prepare ourselves and our family for the next stage of life and what we were going to do. After homeschooling for 12 yrs, I put 4 of my kids in public school and I got a job and worked full time to up our income. We hired a new home study agent (Forever Family Adoptions) and was incredibly by Jessica, she was our cheerleader.. We got a date for new fingerprinting and didn’t want to wait that long, we we went early, fearing we would be turned away….they got us in immediately. We were struggling with money and our church offered to have a yard sale for us. All I had to do was show up, everything else was done for me. We all know that yard sales are horrible and very rarely is money made….to our shock, in 2 1/2 days, we made $3000. That was enough to pay for our fingerprinting, our visas, our sons visa and our attorneys fee.
We got word that ALL of our paperwork was expired, so it ALL had to be redone, including the birthmom’s interview. Woudneh sent a wonderful man, into the jungle to find his mom and bring her back to Addis…not once but twice. Woudneh and his team worked none stop getting us what we needed. His sweet wife and kids went almost daily to see our son and play with him, love on him, hug him when other children would leave. We had hope, in Christ, but not hope in anything else. I still struggled, my kids struggled, school was hard for them…I wasn’t home much. It was a horrible time.
The same week we were denied the previous year, I actually called immigration….I wasn’t supposed too, per my attorneys advice, but I wanted to see what they needed or where we were. I never imagined my officer would answer the phone. She did, I stuttered, stumble and otherwise acted like an idiot because I didn’t want to offend her, make her mad and then get denied again. She was a God-send. She was compassionate and understanding and she was determined to see our case finished. Our son was now 5. I was sitting in the closet, fearing the worse and then hearing words that still affect me, to this day. “Mrs. Crum, we have reviewed everything and I am approving your case.” I couldn’t speak. I couldn’t understand what she was saying. I asked her to repeat herself and she said “Mrs. Crum, you are approved.” I started weeping, uncontrollably and I couldn’t stop thanking her and praising my Lord. She was weeping, I was weeping….it was one of those cries that you simply can’t stop, no matter how hard you tried. I gathered my wits, finally got off the phone, dropped to my knees praising my Lord and then I got my big girls and headed off to Pella, where Bart worked. I have no idea what I was wearing, but I must have looked a bit of a mess. I walked into the HR office and I asked to speak to my husband. The sweet girl said, this must be an emergency because I couldn’t get a complete sentence out. She took me to a private office and he came rushing in. It was like a moment out of a movie….I stood up and said APPROVED and we melted into each other’s arms. It was over. God had won. We were bringing our son home. It was over.
We traveled in Dec. 2011 to bring our baby home. Fearing he wouldn’t remember us, fearing institutionalization, fearing the worst….we boarded our flight and 30+ hours of travel later…we saw the bright eyes of Woudneh and he personally drove us to the Transition house. We pulled through the iron gates and a complete contrast of the 2 yrs prior, there was no one in the court yard. We pulled around, he parked and then we saw a group of nannies walking, hand in hand and in the middle was the most precious boy I have ever laid eyes on with the biggest smile you could ever see. He was smiling so big, you couldn’t even see his eyes. He was dressed in his best white outfit holding a bouquet of wildflowers. He hugged us, called us mom and dad, told us he loved us…..I kept telling him over and over, we loved him, we didn’t forget him or leave him, we had been fighting so hard for him and how God was so good. He knew us……..we melted together, laughed together…………that moment……………sends me over the emotional edge.
God’s faithfulness is real. The desires that He puts in us, as children, will be fulfilled if we follow that lamp that has been set at our feet. My heart is full of joy. Our son is amazing and he brings more joy than I could have ever imagined. Praise His Name for being bigger than immigration, bigger than those who said that we wouldn’t win. He is bigger.