While my friends were doodling baby names and hearts with the initials of the boys they liked on their class notes, I was designing my orphanage.
I had the layout all planned out by the time I’d graduated high school, and finished up my plans during some of my less-than-exciting classes in college. I always pictured myself in some far off land, starting and running an orphanage, mom to many. I didn’t know if I would ever get married, but that was okay, because I already knew all the laws about single women adopting.
My views on orphan care have changed a whole lot since those day-dreamy days of my youth, but my passion for kids in need is still the same. Pure and undefiled religion is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress. To me, that’s pretty clear, and I always knew adoption and orphan care would be a huge part of my life. Thankfully Caleb and I feel very similarly about the role we wanted adoption to play in the life of our family.
Adoption in this part of the world is tricky. I actually wrote my final paper in seminary on how major world religions’ views on personhood affect orphan care, but I didn’t fully understand the ramifications of that until having lived and worked here for several years. I could write blog post after blog post on this topic, but I’ll save that for another day. Maybe.
Additionally, I’ve been doing a lot of reading on the topic of adoption ethics, and have some pretty strong views on that subject as well. Also for another day. But if anyone is interested, check out anything on the Livesay blog or Rage Against the Minivan as a good starting point. All the steps in the journey aren’t the point, I guess, the point is that about a year ago, we decided we were ready to move forward with adding to our family by adoption.
We knew we couldn’t afford (nor, let’s be honest, get an American social worker to approve a home study in a country where the American embassy was pulling out it’s staff) international adoption, but we thought we were really lucky in that Lebanon is not a part of the Hague Convention (international standards of adoption), so all we need to do is follow the local laws to do a domestic adoption here in Lebanon, and then two years later get American citizenship for our child.
There are two main ways of locating a child for adoption here. (Technically, there are more, but we were thinking of just using legal means.) We filled out orphanage applications to be put on a waiting list. Basically, when a child is abandoned at an orphanage, they go down the list until a family accepts the child. Children are rarely abandoned at orphanages, so this has the potential of being a process that can take years and years.
The other, more popular, route is to start spreading the word. Basically, use your contacts (and generally it’s recommended to use contacts in at-risk populations) to find your baby. The more we heard, the more uncomfortable we were getting with the process. We want to be available for a child in need. We don’t want to create an orphan because of our desire for another baby. But we honestly couldn’t be sure what was happening behind the scenes on our behalf.
So we felt like we needed to step back a bit and re-think things. Why do we want to adopt? How much “work” do we want to put into the process? (vs. being ready and available when a need arises)
We were in the midst of all that re-thinking when….. well, let me just say that I always kind of thought that people who say they got pregnant on accident were either lying or in denial. I mean, we all know how this works, right?
But yeah, that was totally us. Surprise pregnancy.
All of a sudden, the whole picture I had in my mind of what our family would look like changed. The one with three little girls, different colors but all part of one family. A true picture of God’s relationship with us. I was quite content never being pregnant again. I had already made good contacts and done a lot of research about breastfeeding an adopted baby. Read a lot about transracial adoption and had lots of conversations with the girls about how families are built. We’d even prepared ourselves for the inevitable racism that our baby would face (as she would most likely be much darker skinned than most of those around her) and how we were planning to respond.
And then this mental image was shattered by that pesky little plus sign. We are excited of course, any baby is truly a gift from God, and we really did want another child!. But it’s just not how we were planning it.
And to top it all off…. it’s a boy!