The place God calls you is the place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

She Smiles With Her Eyes - Our Referral Story

I will try to coherently share with you our referral story. (Grab a mug of something and a chunk of time because I've never been known to spare details and this is no exception.)

I say 'coherently' as it's hard to type as I stare at the most beautiful little babe this Mama has ever seen. I also say 'coherently' as the events of the past two days have been whirlwind times infinity and I have a hard time wrapping my mind around all that has occurred. I say 'coherently' because when one hopes and prays and waits for a life-changing event such as this, for so long, it's hard to wrap one's mind around the reality of it. But this I know: we are so very blessed.

Briefly I want to share two thoughts before divulging those juicy details...please bear with me.

First, when I say she is "the most beautiful..." or "the most amazing..." or "there is none as incredible...", I whole-heartedly realize that my statement is intensely biased. And I'm okay with that. We've waited years so we're okay with feeling a little biased.

Second, while I am elated to share in the details of our referral story and some of the details of our wee babe's being and her life, it is her story to share. Amidst the joys of our celebration, the tragedy that has occurred is incomparable to much else. There will be bits I will purposefully leave out as they are simply not mine - not ours, to share. They are hers. You are welcome to ask any questions as I'll likely, unintentionally leave something(s) out...but some of the specifics will never be voiced on this forum or by ourselves.

To preface our story I will say that I never give the phone a second thought. I never carry it around, often forget to charge it, and it was only in January of this year that my arm was twisted to the point of giving in and getting a cell. Over the past four weeks however, our/my phone has been a fifth appendage.

Each day I would get up, say to Ben "today? will today be a pink day?" to which he would patiently (oh, the patience this man has!) reply "sure, that would be good" or "maybe" or just simply an "I love you and I'll see you at lunch" coupled with a kiss on his way to work.

Each day I would carry the phone close until 11am, at which point it would be 2pm in Ontario and I figured there was no way MoT would send a referral onward. After all, if Ethiopia is ten hours ahead of us (seven ahead of EST) then MoT would definitely have it by midday and have sent it to our agency. After around 11am, I would carry it a little more loosely until about 1pm and later I could care less. Knowing there was always a possibility of a later day call, I would never hold out too much hope.

The feeling - similar to the pressure growing in a balloon as your small child blows it up to the bursting point - had been welling in my heart for weeks. (Okay, really it had been years but intensely to the point of explosion was more recent.) The ache was more intense than I can accurately put in to words. And through all this I knew, we knew, and felt carried by the prayers voiced on our - on her - behalf.

This week came and on Wednesday I emailed our rockstar of a social worker to ask her if she thought that if I stared at the phone long enough and willed it to ring, it would and that it could be her on the other end. I'm sure she had a chuckle at my expense. I did.

Thursday morning we whirl-winded around the house getting ready for a friend's birthday party and then headed out so one small five year old could enjoy himself over the next few hours. It was May 5 and I knew from an email sent out months ago outlining Ethiopian holidays that May 5 was a holiday there and therefore they would not be working. (And if you ever doubted how ornery I am, that fact alone will likely affirm that "detail oriented" doesn't begin to describe me.) Not working in Ethiopia means nothing happening in Ontario, therefore no movement on the western front either. So, I had my phone but kept it in my pocket only half-heartedly. I'd been texting Ben a bit throughout the morning as one small four year old and I ran some errands together. The only reason my cell ever rings is that it's my husband, as not many others have the number...and those who do have it only text me.

We picked up our sweet five year old - who assured me that while there had been cake at the party, he'd eaten very little and saved half for his brother. This was at noon. I contemplated heading to the camp for lunch but decided against it as the request for a super cool nearby park arose and seemed like a request I couldn't pass up. Plus, what four and five year old boys don't need to burn off energy?! I threw some pizza their way and we headed a couple minutes down the road for our fun.

We arrived, played together for about five minutes and then they took off on the jungle gym while I sat down to send a quick text to Ben. I closed my phone and oddly, seconds (!) later it rang. Not a text-reply ring. It was a ring-ring. Trying not to get irritated at the fact that he would phone me in reply to my text, I answered quickly...the thought briefly passed through my mind that it could be The Call, but it passed just as rapidly because, as I mentioned it was May 5 - an Ethiopian holiday. Plus, it was 12:26pm and in my mind too late in the day.

{she called our house first}

"Hello" I said, trying to keep my voice gentle (it was shaking a bit) and not sharing the irritation with the anticipated caller. (After all, he knows better than anyone the anguish that has been endured while waiting for our moment when the world would briefly stop and the journey would hit a milestone.)

"Hi Ashleigh, it's Fiona. How are you?" initiated the voice on the other end.

It was too real. To real to believe this could actually be happening. Here. In this park. On a random day (which wasn't really random at all, was it?!) in May. With both boys out of school. A short distance from Ben. It was too real to be happening now.

(The rest of what was said is likely pretty accurate but I can't promise that. It's all a blur which I tried my best to burn into my mind in the moment as it was a juncture in time, I want never to forget.)

"Um, Fiona why are you calling me?...I'm okay?!?!?...I think." (I physically had to sit down.)

"Are you somewhere, where you can talk?" she calmly replied. (She has the sweetest, more gentle and genuine voice.)

I think I could have been sitting on the moon and I would have been somewhere where I could talk.

Also, I think this is a line that any adoption-related social workers must swear on oath to memorize because time and again, across provinces it's the first thing we all read when hearing of a referral be given. And now I understand why. When your life changes on a dime, you need to be somewhere where you can talk.

"I'm at a park with my boys. Oh Ben! I have to be with Ben. But old is she? How is she?"

I wanted to know it all in that instant and in the same breath I wanted to know none of it until we were together as four.

"Ashleigh, she's beautiful. She's little. She's only five months old" she replied.

"Oh" I replied through the know, the ugly cry. "Oh! I told a friend the other day that I didn't know whether I would laugh, cry, puke, or wet my pants when this finally happened." Yes, I felt I could be that honest with her as I choked through my tears...I think she chuckled.

We briefly chatted, not revealing any other details and I told her I would call her as soon a we were with Ben. She told me to drive safe (wise words when you've just received a call three years in wait).

The boys and I ran to the car - I was still trying to catch my breath amidst the sobbing - and I continually tried to explain that they were happy tears about their baby sister. The drive home is a bit of a blur but I did have to smile as the Lord reminded me to be patient: we got stuck behind both a dump truck and a school bus...for nearly the entire drive.

We arrived at camp, the boys and I ran down to where we knew Ben would be and Noah ran over and told him we had news about their baby sister. I just stood there sobbing. Phone held up in one hand. Mouth covered with the other hand. Tears streaming down my face. We hugged and then ran to the office to call Fiona back and see, and read, and live the next moments of our journey together.

This is where some of the details will blur. Not because I don't remember them but because they are hers to share. We opened document upon document and absorbed all the details we could. We imprinted her image in our minds. We called family and friends until our fingers hurt.

We have air horns at the camp which, in cases of extreme emergency we blow: one, two, or three air horn blasts depending on the specific crisis. However, four air horn blasts signifies the birth of a camp baby. The air horn was blown four times for our baby on Thursday. We had an office full of people for the next couple of hours. And all we could all do was stare at her - and rejoice together.

Her wee five month old body.

Her duck fuzz hair.

Her dump truck onesie.

Her 13lbs body.

Her little, but noticeable rolls on those sweet little legs.

Her story, as with all orphans is tragic. Sadness, mourning, great sorrow have been experienced so this child can have more, so that our family can rejoice. We will never forget this.

We will never brush over this sacrifice.

Back to the story...we booked an appointment for the next day with our doctor. The rest of Thursday is mostly a blur (the Canucks won - I do remember that!) and Friday we woke up, excited to take her information to our doctor and officially accept our referral for what appeared to be one healthy baby girl.

Our doctor went beyond what I had anticipated and hunted down some infant development and growth charts, (after we had reviewed all other medical report information). Keeping in mind they were North American infant growth charts, we charted her developmental information: weight, height, head circumference. By our standards and charts, she falls within the 75th percentile on all accounts. On north american accounts. (What a gift for her lifebook.)

Mercy. We have been shown great mercy.

We officially accepted and our documents bounced from us to Choices to MoT in Ontario before 4pm EST, Friday.

I called Fiona back and asked her when the referral originally came through to her, as I was shocked to have received it on an Ethiopian holiday. She had actually received it on Wednesday the 4th but some crucial documents were missing so she didn't want to call us until she had a complete package. Bless her heart. The irony is that Wednesday was the day I emailed her asking if she thought my willing the phone to ring with her on the other end would be worth a shot.

The next step is court. Court dates seem to be booking out 3-4 months after referral. However, typically ethiopian courts are closed during August and September. I'll let you work through the math. Recently there was a court date announced by a family who made it in under three months so if you can please pray that we are assigned a pre-closure date (ie: July), we would be so grateful. If we don't make it before the closures, we won't see her or make it to court until October-ish.

This is the story of the day we saw our daughter for the first time.

This was the story of four working to becoming five. This was the day the reality of miracles proved truthful once again. This was the day we had been dreaming of for years. This was the day we were able to begin imprinting her features in our mind.

Oh and her eyes...

She smiles with her eyes.


Cristina said...

Oh Ashleigh - now I'm sitting here with tears streaming down MY face! I think I was in shock when you called the other day and probably didn't show much emotion! I truly am SOOOO happy for all you - all 5 of you!

Love you guys!!!!


Dana said...

What a journey. Everytime I see a new post of yours come up in a news feed I pray a little prayer that it would be the post that you say you received the call. When it wasn't, I'd pray for patience and grace for all of you. When I saw, 'oh baby', the tears started rolling and every time I think of you, they well up and I rejoice in the miracle that is your baby girl. Praise Jesus. Praise Jesus. We are so happy for you.

reintjes1991 said...

Thank you so much for posting! What an inspiration! We will be praying.

FTD said...

Tears, sweet tears of joy! I wish I had an air horn to blast out my window right now! Like Cristina, I was in shock on the phone the other day... and just haven't stopped smiling since along with moments of tears. I can just picture your day, it is now imprinted in my mind - thank you for sharing these special details with all of us followers! Love Tracy :)

Melissa said...


I am also waiting on the Island (though not for Ethiopia). So exciting to read your story!

Tammy said...

Ok, crying up a storm! You brought back our referral day and the joy I felt seeing baby sister for the first time. Isn't it amazing!
I will defintely pray that you receive a pre-closure court date!
Thank you for sharing your story, I've been stalking your blog today waiting, ha ha!
Email her name to me and I will have Sid look in on her when he's there!

Joy and Geoff said...

Beautiful! I enjoyed reading every detail.

Sarah said...

What a great story Ashleigh! So thrilled for your family. Looking forward to seeing photos of your little girl after you pass court!!

emily said...

Wow! What an amazing and beautiful referral story! I'm so happy for you guys. This brought tears to my eyes again...
I love that you had just called your SW the day before : ) Praying for a miraculous and successful JULY court date!


Veenstra family said...

Wow, Tait Family Five! What a great read. We're so happy for you and will pray for a pre-closure court date. Blessings to all of you!

The Harrison's said...

Oh Wow Ashleigh, I am SO excited for your family. You may not remember me, but I was one of your caseworkers at Imagine. I've been following your blog and praying for this day for you, and I'm so happy for you. Your referral story was beautifully written :)

Jennifer said...

Ashleigh, I'm in tears here, what a beautiful story--I'm positive she is going to be a complete blessing in your family!

Barbara said...

What a joyous day! And, to add to our Type A in common, I couldn't help but notice we own the same phone. Count down to court. Keep the faith.


darci said...

oh.....oh..yay! yay! yay! I am so so so happy for you. beautiful. :)

Niki said...

How fantastic! Reading all this made me cry!

I cannot imagine how excited you must have been and must be! After ALL THAT WAITING - the little girl who was meant to be YOURS is ready for you! Congrats, and prayers for a speedy court date!

Anna said...

My eyes are big time watering! I LOVE every single detail that you've shared (being annoyed answering your cell phone, your conversation, the air horns, etc.). Great to write it all down, so you won't forget that special day when you were able to see for the first time the child that God had chosen for you all along!

Sarah said...

So amazing! I love your detailed account of how thins unfolded. AS we give birth by an emailed photo in adoption, this is our birth story! I still remember all the details of how I first laid eyes on those precious photos of my little ones. It honestly does stay with you!
Praying for a speedy process to your new daughter!

Shan said...

followed your link to 'camp' and found you are on the same island as me! Maybe I'll run into you and your beautiful new baby on one of my Homesense trips sometime!

Yours Truly said...

Ugly cry indeed. What a blessing! Healthy! 75th percentile! Rolls on her thighs!! We are rejoicing with y'all and praying that you meet before October!

info said...

I LOVE your description of the day!!!! So wonderfull...

My best wishes for you and your new little daughter. She sounds like the perfect small blessing!!!!


Derrick, Alysia, and Levi said...

Wow, I am very behind on my blog reading. This is soooooo extremely wonderful. Congratulations!!!