I am too knotted to think of anything but our looming decisions. And as we struggle through, this week has been an overwhelming spiral into fear and frustration. I've allowed the voices (and experiences) of all of the adoptive parents we've spoken with, to drown out my enthusiasm for something both reckless and loving. The prodigious initial response from everyone who has been through this has been, "What will this do to your kids?"
I have some really amazing kids. They are smart, funny, gorgeous and even on occasion selfless. Jacob and Lilly never hesitate to work with their grandmother at the church soup kitchen. Lilly especially loves to slice and hand out cake. And Jacob, ever the organizer, enjoys standing at the entryway to the dining hall, handing out numbered plates to the hungry homeless that stream through the door. Casey is generous with his friends. He care-takes with his smiles and the way he compromises in games and activities. But we've been talking ad nauseum about their willingness to sacrifice, to allow us to turn our house inside out, to share our love and attention with three other children and to have less for their own futures. Jacob says he loves them, that he doesn't like it but he understands why we want to do it. Lilly insists that she can maybe handle the whole mess if she has a place to escape to - a room of her own. (Ah, there's my literary reference.)
Casey, on the other hand, has been very clear. His eyes fill with tears every. single. time.
"I want us to stay the same," he pleaded this week.
Combine that punch-in-the-throat with an onslaught of confusing and often misleading information from the supposed professionals involved. One woman bold-face lied about the youngest child's propensity towards violent outbursts. Another sent us photos of the oldest child with red-rimmed eyes - the caption on the photos was, "She cried for you the whole time we visited with her."
My heart erupted with grief for that child even as I put off feelings of rage at being so openly manipulated. They want us to adopt but won't give us any background on the kids. These people are stingy with the information we truly need in order to make this decision in any kind of informed manner. And our options for contact with the children are slim. The language barrier trips us up in every message back and forth (when we are lucky enough to hear from the oldest child.)
The foster mother messaged me last week and I long to talk to her but the adoption agencies assure me that any hope of an adoption would be seriously compromised if I have contact with her. Apparently, the country keeps it's tightly wound fist around any information regarding orphans. So her request to "befriend" me on the European version of Facebook, hangs limply in cyberspace, unanswered.
And right now, I see her as the key. What could she tell us about the children's behaviors for the past three years? Does she love them and want to adopt them herself but lack the funds? The children have always maintained that their foster parents are good to them.
If not, if the parents have asked the orphan court to take the children back into care, why? Is their some way to stave this off or would the children be better off (as one agency representative inferred) in a well-regulated children's home?
Of course they would be separated then.
In the orphanages, boys and girls live in quarters arranged by gender and age. What would damaged Tomass do without his older brother's care and protection? How would he suffer?
And how do we make a decision to intervene with all of these questions swirling?
A friend unkindly pointed out that we would know little about any child in an international adoption. But that's not pertinent to our situation. We are not people who wanted to add to our family - who made a collective decision that we were missing something or were even ready to care for another being - much less three. We are in this because we fell in love with these three children. These sweet babies who deserve everything my kids have and more. But what do they want? What have they had and what do they need? Perhaps plucking them from everything they know isn't "saving" these orphans at all. Perhaps helping the foster parent to meet their needs is a better option? Of course, that could be my own cowardly rationalization. Self-protection is such a human impulse.
Generosity, vulnerability - those are the kinds of behaviors we mature into according to guys like Maslow whose "Hierarchy of Needs" followed me in textbooks all through graduate school.
So whose needs come first? Who looses in this game of risk and sacrifice?
And what sacrifices are we willing to make as people, friends, family. At what point do we put down our toys and say, "Okay, I'll share," even if the risk is that the toy will forever be broken? And who am I to make those choices for anyone else?