Monday, June 18, 2018

Summer 2018 Mini-Vacation #1: Washington DC

 Our usual summer vacation MO - go the last two weeks before school starts - had its advantages.  They say the anticipation of vacation is almost as good for you as the actual vacation, so you get to look forward to it all summer.  And, because schools start so late here (the Tuesday after Labor Day), we could hit popular places at the end of their seasons, when crowds were thinner and deals were to be had.

Alas, between the School District moving the start of the school year up a week and me being on the School Board (and therefore needing to be in town for key meetings and work at the beginning of our tenure), it's scrambled our summer vacation plans.  At least for this summer, no longer trip and no set plans as of yet.

That's right, it's mid-June and we don't yet know the when's and where's of our summer plans.  Which may be utterly normal for some people but is highly unusual for us.  Between our crazy schedules and my pre-disposition for planning ahead, it's not unusual for us to know and secure our plans several months if not a year plus in advance.  Not so this year.

So, for a variety of reasons, we're sticking with a handful of mini-vacations of two to four days, rather than one long trip.  We just got back from our first one, to our nation's capital. Highlights include coveted tickets to the National Museum of African American History and Culture, a fun day at the new District Wharf, and just lounging in our hotel room as a family.  This is how we'll roll this summer.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

What I'll Remember from So Many Near-Matches

Adoption is a breathtakingly beautiful thing, but it is also a roller coaster.  Having a baby biologically is no walk in the park, to be sure, but it is a known quantity: the baby is a combination of yourself and your life partner, prenatal care is totally in your hands, and the arrival date is usually known to within a few days.

With adoption, there are so many unknowns to the matching process.  For one, there's only so much information you can get about the birthmother and oftentimes little to no info on the birthfather.  And then there's the uncertainty of if and when: if and when you will get matched with a birthmother, if and when she will feel a strong enough connection with you to choose you, and if and when she will follow through rather than going dark or changing her mind.

I would like to be discreet with some details, but I do want to share some remembrances about various near-matches we experienced during this two-year process of hoping and then giving up.  I do so to honor those babies who we thought might become cherished members of our family and who are now in the world and we will never meet them.  And I do so to honor a God who adopted us into His family, and who has promised us all of the benefits of full sonship and daughtership including loving us through many trials into His heavenly kingdom.

* Tennessee - The first near-match was by far the closest one.  It was so emotionally tumultuous to get all the way to the airport, find out the birthmother was likely to change her mind, and then have her go back and forth over the course of a weekend (with all of the attendant anticipation of great joy and bracing for great heartache).  I will forever remember the feeling of sudden finality when I got the call that she had definitively decided to keep the baby.  Amy and I went for a walk through Woodland Cemetery to process the swirl of emotions we were feeling and to say goodbye to this child in our hearts.  That was helpful for closure, as was the thought that this birthmother had gotten to a place of peace about giving parenting this little baby girl a go.  We will dearly miss having her in our lives but are confident she will be loved and have a good life.

* Georgia - Not long after this oh-so-close match, we got a note from our adoption agency.  For birthmother situations that are particularly complex, the agency shares information and then asks expectant adoptive families to affirmatively agree to have their profiles shown.  That way, the birthmother knows that anyone she looks at will in fact consider being matched.  So not long after we had our near-match in Tennessee, we got info about a birthmother in Georgia whose situation was almost certain to mean significant health issues for the baby.  So close to the pain of our previous near-match, we were cautious about this situation.  But I recall us lying in bed mulling it over and asking God to give us guidance, and I remember a feeling all through my body as if God's love was coursing through me.  The next morning we put our name in.  We were never contacted back, but I will always remember from that that we are but vessels of God's love to others, and if He puts hard-to-love people in our lives He also gives us the capacity to love them.

* Maryland - Later that summer, we were matched with a birthmother whose situation with the birthfather was complicated.  She was ready to match with us, but in the state of Maryland the birthfather has the right to veto an adoption and it became clear that we were not going to get his approval so we walked away.  This is probably the child I will think of the most in terms of wondering if she will be OK, will she be loved and cared for as she deserves to be.  It is so sad for me to think about for too long even now, a child whose parents didn't want her, who we wanted but couldn't have.

* Florida - Later that calendar year, we got far along enough with a birthmother to engage an in-state lawyer to begin the paperwork.  After taking our case on, that lawyer uncovered a couple of red flags, which cast significant uncertainty upon this situation, enough so that given all our near-matches made us uncomfortable continuing on.  So, with regrets but also feeling sure we were doing the right thing, we walked away.  But I think this was also the point where we began to think, "y'know, maybe this isn't going to happen ever."

* Arkansas - Early on this calendar year, we were matched with a birthmother and set about finding a lawyer in state to handle matters.  Still reeling from all of the tumult from the previous year, we were pretty numb by now, neither getting too high about the anticipation of getting a baby nor worried too much about getting hurt again.  And so when that birthmother effectively disappeared off the face of the earth and we resigned ourselves to giving up, we were too spent to be devastated.  But it was still sad, knowing we were running out of time and options and realizing we would have to give up on this situation.

There were other initial conversations and possible matches, but those are the ones that got far along enough to develop some sort of connection and feel some sort of emotion.  You know that we were going to name the baby from Tennessee Jordan, and we ended up with two other baby names (one boy, one girl) for two of the other near-matches, which I'm not ready to share publicly but which we will always hold in our hearts as part of our remembrance of these babies who could've been in our family and are now out there in the world apart from us.

It is an empty feeling to make room in your lives to love a little one and then never get to meet them.  Here and there, we will wonder about each of these babies, and sometimes their absence will hurt.  But the emptiness and sadness is a good prod to enjoy every moment with the three babies we do have, who fill our lives with great joy and for whom we are increasingly grateful to know and love every day.  We will carry the remembrance of all these nearly-matched babies in our hearts all our lives, each day with a little less sadness, and in the meantime we rejoice in every day we have with our three kids.  How fortunate and rich we are, that God brought Jada, Aaron, Asher into our lives to let us love and care for and watch grow.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Holding On, Letting Go

Picking up on yesterday's post about giving up on a fourth adoption, I wanted to share what's been on my heart and mind as far as how I'll hold on to and let go of what could've been.  Grieving is a process whose timeline is unknown until you actually go through it.  And so I know things will get easier eventually, even if I don't know how and when.

I do know that it is an active and not passive process.  Some of the activeness comes easy, which is to savor the kids we do have.  Over time, wondering how they would've adapted to a baby sister will evoke a smile more than a pang.

Time will also make me smile more easily when I see a little black girl in the street or on the subway, and the wonder of what it would've meant to add one to our family feels more like a peace that God's plans are perfect than like a sense of empty regret and bitter disappointment.

At the risk of embarrassing myself on many levels, I must also share a favorite One Direction song of mine, which has taken on deeper meaning as we awaited the arrival of and then said goodbye to a cherished baby girl.  This too will be a tangible portal back to the anticipation and then devastation of that roller coaster ride (and, truth be told, will probably continue to elicit tears from me for some time).

Ultimately, grief goes to the feet of a God who among other things is described as "a man of sorrows and well acquainted with grief."  To love is to risk hurt and loss, and sometimes to hurt and lose, sometimes deeply.  But it is the way to life.  So that's what I'll try to hold on to the most. 

Written in these walls are the stories that I can't explain

I leave my heart open but it stays right here empty for days

She told me in the morning she don't feel the same about us in her bones

It seems to me that when I die these words will be written on my stone

And I'll be gone, gone tonight

The ground beneath my feet is open wide

The way that I been holdin' on too tight

With nothing in between

The story of my life, I take her home

I drive all night to keep her warm and time

Is frozen (the story of, the story of, the story of)

The story of my life, I give her hope

I spend her love until she's broke inside

The story of my life (the story of, the story of)

Written on these walls are the colors that I can't change

Leave my heart open but it stays right here in its cage

I know that in the morning now I see us in the light upon a hill

Although I am broken, my heart is untamed, still

And I'll be gone, gone tonight

The fire beneath my feet is burning bright

The way that I've been holdin' on so tight

With nothing in between

The story of my life, I'll take her home

I drive all night to keep her warm and time

Is frozen (the story of, the story of)

The story of my life, I give her hope

I spend her love until she's broke inside

The story of my life (the story of, the story of)

And I've been waiting for this time to come around

But, baby, running after you is like chasing the clouds

The story of my life, I take her home

I drive all night to keep her warm and time

Is frozen

The story of my life, I give her hope (give her hope)

I spend her love until she's broke inside

The story of my life (the story of, the story of)

The story of my life

The story of my life (the story of, the story of)

The story of my life

Monday, June 11, 2018

Calling It Off

Well, this is it. When Amy and I started the process to adopt a fourth child two years ago, we told ourselves that if there was no match by now, we’d call it off.  And here we are.

It is, as you can imagine, bittersweet.  The devastation last year of three separate near-matches in short succession I’ve shared about, but the whole two years has been a low-level limbo for the whole family.  Imagine the anticipation of childbirth, with all of the ways it will disrupt your schedule, sleep, and house…only instead of a certain due date that becomes known several months in advance, you have to just hold your breath for the possibility that it’s going to happen within a few months or even less, and alternatively that it will never happen.

Now that we are no longer waiting, a lot of things that have been up in the air can now settle.  We can make longer-term vacation plans.  We can give away some baby items.  We can figure out how we want to configure our house.  We need no longer dread the phase of sleeplessness, the delay of being done changing diapers.  After two years of uncertainty, it’s good to get on with these things.

There’s also good in the clarity and finality of being done bringing kids into the family.  This is it: me, Amy, Jada, Aaron, and Asher.  We’re done.  Financially, logistically, and mentally, these are the people we need to get our heads around as our immediate family.  And it’s a good crew.  So it’s nice to stop waiting and start living.

But.  There is also loss and grieving and pain and regret.  I can’t imagine my life without any of our three kids, but now we must live our lives without an imagined and desired fourth kid.  What would s/he be like?  How would our family dynamics change?  What do you do with the love that you had prepared to love a new life with?  We now know we will never know.  And never is a long time.

You never really get over losing a child.  What we’re feeling is far easier than that.  But it’s still a loss, and that of something we never had, so the feeling is on level even more empty – not harder or more painful, but more empty in that there was nothing in that hole in our hearts before it went away, so there’s nothing to hold on to.

At any rate, life goes on.  Our lives are full with the joy and responsibility of three kids, each with their own challenges, each on their own path, each of whom we are so grateful God intersected their paths into our family path.  So we go forward, heavy of heart but also full in our hearts.  This is it for another adoption.  And so, moving ahead, this is us as a family. 

Saturday, June 09, 2018

Gotcha, Aaron

It was 11 years ago today that Aaron arrived at Philadelphia International, so today we say "gotcha, Aaron!"  He is a good boy with many talents, and though there are days he drives me crazy, I love him so and would run through a brick wall for him.  Thankful to God that Aaron is part of our family.

Monday, June 04, 2018

Busy Weekend

Quite a whirlwind for the Huang kids this past weekend.  On Saturday, Jada had make-up gymnastics class and then had her spring concert for Philadelphia Girls Choir.  On Sunday, everyone ran in our kids' 5-K fundraiser in the morning, and then we did the Y and groceries in the afternoon.  Everyone slept well!

Friday, June 01, 2018

Huang Family Newsletter, May 2018

Asher is a wild child, bouncing off the walls and careening from squeals of glee to epic tantrums.

Jada and Aaron are counting down the days to the end of the school year and looking ahead to a summer of sleepaway camps and new adventures.

Lee is eyeball-deep in school board orientation and running a consulting firm.

And, like a good mom, Amy is plugging away at her stuff and fretting over all of us.