Sunday, May 8, 2011

The Post-Referral Vortex

In the past 18 months of watching several other blogs of people adopting from Ethiopia I've noticed many blogs with frequent updates throughout the wait until they get their referral, then there is a post or 2 with all the details of The Call and then nothing for months, sometimes not even another post until the "We're Leaving for Ethiopia in 3 Days!" post. And I've always wondered what is going on during that time after referral, why do their blogs get so quiet?

Well, I'm beginning to understand.

My mind is mush right now. Complete mush.

There are a million thoughts running through my head at any given moment, but it feels near impossible to string them together in any coherent way.

I have a child on the other side of the world. A walking, talking, eating, sleeping, playing, crying child. And I can't go to her.

How is it that every day, regular life can go on?

I think if life did just stop for a few days, I'd feel better. But right now regular life is May and May to a mom with school-aged kids is the equivalent of December, maybe even more busy. End of year parties, open house, musicals, art fair, last field trips, preschool water day, elementary school field day, parent appreciation dinner, teacher end of year gifts, and swim team season is overlapping with soccer season for three crazy weeks! All combined with the usual wash, errands, cleaning up messes, and feeding people.

But at the forefront of all else that goes on, is this precious child we know only through pictures but feel certain is our daughter just the same. We are so thankful and overjoyed with the referral, to know who she is, to be able to gaze at her face in pictures any time we want! But with all that happiness comes the questions.

When can we bring her home? We have no idea, literally no idea. Could be a few months, could be several months. Halloween? Christmas? Next spring? No idea. And that's hard.

Is it wrong to get this attached, refer to her as daughter/sister when she is not legally ours yet, and with adoptions anything can change right up until the whole thing is finalized?

What do we call her? Is there a way to meld her Ethiopian name into something more pronounceable in America? Are we even pronouncing her Ethiopian name correctly? Our other 3 children all have names that begin with the same letter, shouldn't we give her a name that begins with that letter, too? The baby name books have been dug out from the way back of the bookshelf, dusted off, and combed through. Lists have been made, debates had, children consulted. We may have a verdict. But, what if she hates what we've decided? She'll likely be 3 when we bring her home and 3 year olds have been known to be opinionated! But at the same time, if you'd allowed me input into my name at age 3, it's quite likely I wouldn't be happy with that name now as a 30-something year old person!

Where should she sleep? From the photos it appears she's in a crib right now in Ethiopia at the care center, but she'll be even older when she comes home, shouldn't we just go straight to a bed? And if so, then toddler bed or regular twin bed?

When is the right time to get the bed and prepare her space? After court when we know it's official that she's ours? But, what if we get a quick embassy date and only have a few weeks between court and bringing her home, I'll likely be busy recovering from one trip to Ethiopia and preparing for another and won't have time for bed shopping or room decorating!

What is the necklace she's wearing in many of the pictures, sometimes tucked inside her dress with just a bit of its black cord showing around her neck? Was it just a freebie from other adoptive parents bringing gifts to all the kids at the care center or is it something more personal to her? With my other children I had by birth, I know every bit of their history, pretty much every item they've ever had, I know the story, where they got it, how long they've had it, how much they love it, etc. This little girl has a past, two and a half years of life (and counting) that I was no part of. There's so much I want to know about her and will probably never know. How old was she when she began walking? What was her first word? Was she a fussy baby or easy-going? Did she spit out her first taste of solid food or eagerly swallow it and reach for more? And so many more questions.

Also, there are adoption issues we now feel totally unprepared to handle. For example, along with sharing the news of our referral and showing people her pictures have come the questions about her past and the uncomfortable conversations because we don't want to share information that is very personal and painful to our daughter, a story of great loss. But what is okay to say? We thought we had this all figured out, decided even, before we got our referral, but now with her real story it feels different.

To illustrate what all that crazy swirling around in your head can do to a person:

My husband and I traveled out of town for a few days last week to attend some optional adoption training offered by our agency (my husband's parents came into town to keep our kids). In our defense we attempted to pack light so we wouldn't have to check bags on the plane, which is a challenge for us over-packers, but upon our late-night arrival to our hotel we realized he'd forgotten his razor and I'd forgotten my toothbrush, so the next morning he shaved with the razor I use on my legs and I used his toothbrush! Too much information? Perhaps, but it gets better. We went by a store before heading back to our hotel after the first day of training and got a few things we needed, but I forgot to buy a toothbrush!!

Now that I'm back to using my own toothbrush again, I'm hoping to get back to regular blogging (although after this rambling, long-winded post many of you may wish I'd just be quiet until we're heading to Ethiopia!). If anything maybe I can work through these thoughts as I write them, and I can attempt to record them for our sweet girl in Ethiopia to see someday when she is older because we really do believe one day she will be home with us!

Thank you for bearing with me, for being a sounding board, for your encouragement and prayers!


  1. I get the mush - I've been terribly inconsistent at blogging since getting deeper into our adoption process, making some really key decisions, etc. I partly want to write about it all, I partly don't know what to say or how widely to say it, and I mostly feel like I'm in a whirlwind and can't settle long enough to type something out...

  2. So happy to hear referrals going out!! Congrats. We are back in the chase for a little girl as well:) We just brought our son home in November!!! Im not sure what the pics of the necklace on your daughter look like, but our son has a black cord/string like necklace on him and we were told that it meant he was baptized in the region he was born. Which is a great nice personal touch for their story!! Just wanted to let you know that in case it is the same thing...which i have seen on several children. Hope your next part of the wait is a speedy one!!


  3. I of course can only begin to imagine going through all the places your mind has just got to be taking you...A whirlwind like you said I am only too sure. I am soo glad you finally have got to put her face in your imaginings now, and will pray the process goes as quickly as it possibly can so that you will have her home soon. HUGS to you!

  4. I love this post of yours! I have been following your blog (along with mnay others on the "top" of Gladney's FBI list),for months and waiting to see your referral announcement. I am so excited for your family and so touched by the raw honesty of these words. My family is in the paperchase stage with Gladney, knowing it may be years before we have our son, but reading this post somehow calms my heart rather than making me feel anxious. Thank you!

  5. Hello! My name is Tricia and I have peeked at your blog on and off the past few months, b/c y'all are at the top of the FBI list. Oh I love hearing that you have received your referral for a beautiful little toddler girl! We are on the Gladney waitlist 6 months this week...for a toddler girl too. All your questions are ones i have had and still have. Your name comments esp resonated with me. I will look forward to keeping up with the rest of your journey. My blog is sadly neglected due to a lot of things going on in our family these past couple of months, but I hope to get back to it soon. Oh so happy with you!!


I'd love to hear what you think!