After almost two long years of praying and waiting, it hardly seems possible the moment has arrived. The moment when I accept Hannah's* referral and tell the US, South Africa and the world this is the child who is mine.
It's a moment to pause - a moment for reflection on the story being written, on all the amazing things - small and great - God has done to bring story into reality. It's a moment for psalms of joy interlaced with the memory of waiting and lament. It's a moment for praise and adoration and gratitude. It's a moment for thinking back to the very beginning - the very moment I began to believe in this story - the moment nearly two years ago when the Spirit whispered to my heart on a Sunday morning asking me - helping me - to trust. To trust the adoption could be and would be a reality despite and through my singleness and my financial meekness.
These whispers were confirmed as I spoke to friends and colleagues who daily witnessed the interactions between myself and Hannah - friends who agreed and joined me in believing the story. Together we began to plan and set the story in motion.
With these affirmations, I shared the story with my family - phone calls home which where meant to be everyday kind of phone calls, but the story could not be contained within me. I blurted out statements of, "I wasn't going to tell you yet" and "I didn't want to tell you over the phone", but it could not be contained, and I shared the story. The story met with initial shock and quick acceptance and excitement.
More shocking conversations with close friends would soon follow.
Then there were two long and wonderful months in Lubbock over the Christmas season where my work visa application was slowed and travel plans were changed and there were prayers and thoughts of moving back to a city I never thought I'd move back to and eventually my visa denied. The plan changed - changed from adopting through the South African system, a process which might have taken up to seven years - to adopting internationally.
I traveled back to Johannesburg and spent the next three months closing out my life there. Making arrangements with Wandisa and Bethany Christian Services. Searching out a home study agency in Texas. Finding the one agency with the one social worker in the entire state who is trained in the required type of home study - the one social worker who happened to contract with the one agency which happened to be located in Lubbock. Saying goodbye to friends and those who had accepted me as their own. Spending every possible moment with Hannah, preparing her for my departure as best I could, and doing the hardest thing a mama's heart can possibly ever do - leaving my child behind.
Two long, angsty months passed as I looked for jobs while working on gathering documents and background checks and financial checks and a lifetime's worth of information for the home study. Despair as I passed through job interview after job interview, and the prayers we prayed for a quick reunion fell away. But finally a job came. Not the job I wanted. Not the job I hoped for. But a job which would do. A job which would allow us to move forward in the home study. A job which would allow maternity leave when I needed it. A job.
Then the trial of finding a doctor who without any prior knowledge of me would declare me physically able to parent a child. Doctor after doctor after nurse practitioner saying no - not without having any records for me - but Dr. Addington finally said "yes", performed a quick physical and told his nurse I was never to make an appointment again when it came to the adoption. If I needed a letter or anything else, all I had to do was call.
The home study complete and my application on file with USCIS, I began gathering the required documents for my dossier - letters of reference, pictures of home and family, employment verification, another doctor's statement from another doctor because South Africa would only accept an M.D. and Addington is a D.O. I also began researching and writing grants, knowing a large payment would be due when the dossier was submitted. Days before the $12,000 payment, we heard back from HelpUsAdopt.com - out of thousands of grant proposals, they selected mine to receive their highest award, $15,000. A few weeks later, we found out Show Hope was also awarding us $8,000. With ongoing support from Oasis Haven US and donations from friends and family, the majority of Hannah's adoption fees were covered - without loans, without debt.
In the meantime, on the other side of the world, Wandisa was communicating with Hannah's birth father, trying to get his consent to the adoption of a child he had not seen in five years. Had he not given consent, his rights likely would have been terminated by the courts, but thankfully and wonderfully, he in the end gave consent leaving us a story to tell her one day of a father who wanted the best for her when he could not give it.
The period for him to reconsider his decision lapsed, and the period of searching for a suitable South African adoptive family lapsed, and finally my dossier was submitted to the South African Central Authority. The usual four to six week wait was bested by a three week turn around, and South Africa approved of the match between Hannah and me.
In another week the official referral was in my hand, then signed, and then winding it's way back to Bethany. A few days later, Hannah called me "Mommy" for the first time - saying it again and again as if she loved saying the word aloud - as if she was shouting it from the rooftops and wanted the whole world to hear her say, this is the mother who is mine.
There are so many other moments along the journey - moments of God's shaping, moments of his fingerprints. The confusion over the home study update and who should and should not be included. Moving into my home and preparing Hannah's room. The fluster over lost grant checks. The almost no from Hannah's birth father. The laments of Hannah as she watched other children be adopted before her.
There has been heartache and lament and lots of waiting, but this story we've been writing - this story being written long before we ever knew - this is a story of joy and of hope and of family. This is a story of a God who knows our deepest desires. This is a story of a God who has first adopted us. This is a story of a family - God's family.
*Hannah is a pseudonym. In order to protect her identity until she is fully and legally mine, I use "Hannah" in all online activity regarding my someday daughter and her adoption.