Wednesday, January 2, 2013

It is done!

Our family, finally together, after almost 2 years!
It is done. We are home. It has been a crazy, crazy process, but that is exactly what I expected. Let me back up and fill in all that has happened that I haven’t yet written about: 

We received the adoption decree mid-September. Christina was ours! What a mix of emotions, knowing she now had our last name yet could not come home.

We entered Ministry of the Interior (for her Haitian passport) on September 28, 2012. At this point we were given a loose timeline of 12 weeks (loose being the operative word here) which meant if all things went smoothly she could be home before Christmas! I latched onto Christmas...prayed for Christmas. Not that a few weeks on either side would make a difference in the scheme of life, but for some reason I just needed her to be home by Christmas.

We were out of MOI with her passport and entered USCIS for approval from the American government on October 29, 2012. We received notice from USCIS that our adoption had been approved by United States on November 23. Our adoption agency director told us to buy a stocking for Christina, she would be home by Christmas! My prayers were answered!

We did have one tiny glitch: our fingerprints for USCIS expired on November 24, 2012. Our fingerprint appointment was scheduled December 17. Considering we needed current fingerprints for the Visa appointment (which would happen well before December 17) we drove to the Denver USCIS office the day after Thanksgiving and requested they allow us to redo our prints. With a bit of grumbling and irritation from the USCIS government workers, we were told to come back in 2 hours and they would “fit us in” (after all, they had at least 5 people waiting in the lobby!). Two hours later we returned to an empty waiting room and they fingerprinted us...they fingerprints would be uploaded into the system within a couple of days, which, we were told should be in enough time for our Visa appointment. Whew! That was a stressful couple of hours. Wouldn’t it have been ironic if our fingerprints were the hold up in the process, after all this time.

We waited and waited for the American Department of Security (DOS) in Haiti to schedule our Visa appointment. I think I checked my emails every 15 minutes for a week. Nothing. At this point we were panicking. Our hope for Christina being home for Christmas dwindled. We knew the Visa appointment would be scheduled 1-2 weeks out and we had at least another week after that before we would receive the final exit letter from the Haitian government. And we found out that another family who had received their USCIS exit letter on the same day as us received their Visa appointment 2 days later. What was going on?!?

To make matters even more confusing, the orphanage director in Haiti was going to be out of the country as of December 13. Not only did we usually stay at her house, but she was the person who shuttled the paperwork from office to office in Haiti!

I am sure we drove our director crazy as we emailed almost daily asking if she had heard anything (as if she would withhold any information from us!). Weston even contacted our US Senators to see if they could pull some strings and get the Visa appointment more quickly -- only to then find out getting a Senator involved could actually slow the process. 

Finally we got the email that the Visa appointment was scheduled for December 11. Pretty sure our case got held up on someone’s desk -- 3 weeks between exiting USCIS and receiving a Visa appointment was unusually long. Grrrr!

Again we worried that there was no way that Christina would be home by Christmas without a serious miracle. I looked up plane tickets and to my dismay not only were the prices twice as expensive the weekend before Christmas, but flights were few and far between, with horrific layovers. Against our agency director’s better judgment, (she recommended we not book flights until after the Visa appointment happened, in case something went wrong), I booked flights for Weston, Jake and me for December 17, returning with Christina December 20. I was afraid if I waited there wouldn’t be any flights left! I had to trust that the paperwork would be finished in time.

We emailed our agency director on December 12, asking her how the Visa appointment went. Her reply: she hadn’t heard anything because the appointment was the 13. What?!? I went back through my emails, thinking I had lost my mind, but in fact, my email from the DOS office stated the appointment was in fact for December 11.

What if our Haitian attorney accidentally wrote down the wrong date? What if she missed the appointment? We already booked our flights!

We decided that regardless of the status of the paperwork, we would fly to Haiti as scheduled. If the paperwork wasn’t complete, I would stay in Haiti with Christina and Weston and Jake would return home for Christmas. I would fly home with Christina the minute the paperwork was finished (which could be as late as January, with government offices being closed for the Holidays). I did not enjoy the prospect of staying behind in Haiti without Weston, but there was no way we were going to leave Christina again.

December 17 drew closer and closer, with zero word from Haiti on our Visa/Exit letter status. At this point Sonya, the Haitian orphanage director and our only Haitian contact, was out of the country. There just was no way to know if the appointment happened, or the status of our paperwork. We didn’t even know where we were staying once we arrived in Haiti!

My mother-in-law arrived at our house the Saturday before we were to leave to stay with Sam and Sophie. We were supposed to leave at 11:50 pm, Monday December 17, to arrive in Haiti Tuesday morning, December 18. Sunday evening Jake, who was going with us, declared he didn’t feel well. Sore throat, headache, achy body and a bit of nausea. Seriously?

I spent Monday packing and running last minute errands. I made Jake stay home from school, hoping rest would speed his recovery. I debated whether or not to take him to the doctor and get him tested for the flu. I certainly didn’t want him to travel if he had the flu; That wouldn’t be fair to anyone! Him, the other passengers, the kiddos at the orphanage in Haiti, no one needed those germs. But by 1pm he decided he felt a bit better, so I prayed that he was on the mend. If he wasn’t vomiting or having diarrhea by the time we left, he was going. We still had not heard if Christina had a Visa or the Haitian exit letter. I waited until late in the day to contact our agency director, figuring if she knew something she would have called. Finally at 4pm I couldn't take it any longer. We were supposed to board the plane in 8 hours and had no idea if the paperwork was finished, where we were staying or if I needed to rebook Christina’s and my return flight!

I left a couple of panicked voice mails. Finally I got the phone call we had been waiting for: the Visa was complete, and the exit letter was done. It was finished. A miracle had happened. Praise God! A huge weight was lifted. But I still had a tight feeling in my chest and couldn’t relax. 
On our way to the airport...finally!
We boarded the plane at midnight for our 4 hour flight to Miami. I had to sit by myself in the middle row (there weren’t any seats together) and my plan was to sleep. Unfortunately, the man who sat beside me apparently had salami and onions for dinner. He slept great. I, however received the brunt of his dinner.

Here’s a little tip: if you plan to fly overnight, eat something that doesn't eek out of every pore, your breath and your rear end. Just a thought.

So we landed in Miami at 4 am, me with zero sleep. We grabbed coffee and breakfast and waited for our flight to Haiti. Jake, thank goodness, was feeling pretty good. I truly believe God healed him. He had all the symptoms of the illness that was traveling through our community with a vengeance and yet after just a few hours seemed fine. I was so grateful to all those who had been praying for his health.

I sat next to a very kind Haitian man who asked me to help hime with his customs documents. I don’t think he could read and write. So I asked him questions and filled out his documents as best I could.

A few hours later we landed in Haiti. Hot and humid, just like we remembered.

I will write more soon, with a busy 4 year old, my writing is taking a while...


  1. You stated that getting a US Senator involved can actually slow down the adoption process....why is that?

    1. That is a good question... according to our agency, if a Senator (or anyone higher up, for that matter) gets involved, the government workers will take your case our of order, look it over to see what is going on (to see why there is a hold-up) and then if everything looks good put it back in the case pile, but at that point you can lose your place in the pile, making the wait possibly longer. Unless there is a true issue-- something serious, like missing signature, paperwork, etc, with your case (ours was not really a true issue, we just wanted to speed up the process) it is best not to involve someone who might just muddy the waters, so to speak... and it can get really messy if the workers get in "trouble" from the higher ups, then suddenly your case can take even longer.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. I can't wait to read the rest of the story. We are earlier in the process, but just having our first visit to AUBE in Oct. and returning again next weekend, it's good to hear your impression and see how you navigated the experience. I'm soaked with tears after reading your entire story. We saw Christina in October- she is beautiful little girl. I am so so happy she is home. My heart aches for the completion of our own story and yet, even as I read yours, I am encouraged by the little miracles along your journey. He is El Roi- the God who Sees. He is sovereign and in we surrender and trust him. May Christina's little heart heal quickly, may she develop trust and security and understand in the depth of her being that she is home. Many blessings to you!!

  4. I am so glad to have found your blog. We are adopting also from AUBE. It's been great to hear your impressions of the creche. Oh and your list of what to take when traveling is awesome! That will help me so much when we travel. Thanks for sharing your story. It's been encouraging to me.