Famous Last Words

Our Adoption Journey to Haiti

The Final Chapter January 17, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — rgraham100 @ 5:43 pm

When I began this blog, its purpose was to document the journey to adopt our child. I wanted a written testimony for our child to show him that he was wanted, loved, and sought after.  The process to adopt Jonathan is finally over – and so this will be the final blog post.  We will share these words with him when he is ready.

We love Haiti for many reasons, but most of all because our son is Haitian. Our investment in Haiti is not over.  We are committed to spending time in our son’s country as tourists, primarily.  And maybe, if we believe we can actually ever be truly helpful and not create more problems, doing missions work.

I want to share the story of our homecoming trip…it was the most exciting, beautiful, emotional, and suspenseful trip of the eight trips we made to Haiti in the past two years.

We knew that homecoming was very close when on Friday, December 1st we received visa approval from USCIS.  Once we had that approval in hand, Jonathan needed to go to the doctor’s office in Haiti to get medical tests (including TB) completed.  Once those tests were completed and turned into the Embassy in Haiti, our Visa would be printed and we could book our flights.

Jonathan went to the doctor on Monday, December 4th.  Our orphanage representative went to pick them up Thursday, December 7th, but apparently the doctor was very busy and not able to print the results.  So our orphanage representative had an appointment to go back first thing Friday morning to pick them up so that he could then get them to the Embassy and our Visa could be printed.

Keep in mind, our family is on the edge of our seats. We don’t know exactly when we are going to leave….but it literally could be the next day.

The hours ticked by on Friday.   Finally, around 2:45 we heard from our adoption agency that Jonathan’s medicals were picked up and they were going to try to get them to the Embassy before they closed at 3:30.

In conjunction with our orphanage and agency, Patrick and I decided to leave for Haiti on Sunday, even without our Visa printed, because everyone was so certain that the visa was going to be printed first thing Monday morning.

So we left for Haiti Sunday, December 10th.  By law, we had to stay in Haiti for six days to pick him up.  We arrived Sunday evening.   We were going to relax at the hotel Monday to give the Embassy time to print our visa.  Then Tuesday morning our driver, Rocky, was going to pick us up, go to the embassy, then pick up Jonathan.

The hours ticked by on Monday and still no Visa. We were starting to get very worried, but were assured by our agency that the Visa would be ready Tuesday morning.  Rocky picked us up at 10:30 am Tuesday and we still did not have the Visa.  He encouraged us to go to the Embassy ourselves, even though we were advised that we could not get in without an appointment.

Patrick and I bullied our way in (you can imagine how uncomfortable this made Patrick). We went to the attendant that handled Visas and learned that our orphanage had STILL not dropped off Jonathan’s medicals. I literally thought my head was going to explode.  During a very heated conversation with our adoption agency (who is great by the way….they too were deceived), we learned that the orphanage had not even picked up his medicals.  Again, I am normally a reasonable person…but I completely lost it.

Rocky raced us to the orphanage to figure out the problem. We tracked down (by telephone) the orphanage representative who had told us that he picked up Jonathan’s medicals on Friday.  He said that he was on his way to pick up the medicals and would meet us at the Embassy to drop them off. We never did learn why he told us they were picked up Friday.

I had always imagined picking up Jonathan from the orphanage for the last time being very emotional. We would take hundreds of pictures, give out gifts, and say meaningful goodbyes.  Nope.  That did not happen.  While I was dealing with tracking down Jonathan’s medical reports, Patrick raced around the orphanage trying to get a couple of pictures.  Jonathan gave a very non-chalant, “bye-bye” and we were gone within 15 minutes.

We raced back to the Embassy. We bullied our way in again.  Fortunately, Jonathan’s medicals were finally there.  But our Visa would not be ready until Wednesday morning.  Our flights home were scheduled for Friday morning.  Not only did we have to have the Visa to go home, but we had to get a travel exit letter from Haiti…which they needed the Visa before they would print the exit letter.  This was a tight turnaround.

We returned to the Embassy Wednesday morning and picked up our Visa – one major hurdle down! Our driver, Rocky, had planned an amazing adventure for us Wednesday and Thursday.

We left the Embassy and headed south to the beaches of Jacmel. It was about a 2-hour drive (half of the drive was over a treacherous mountain – good news is none of us get car sick).  We hit the beach.  Jonathan had no issue with the sand or water.  But a wave caught him and Patrick and took them down.  That was the end of the beach!

Thursday morning we went for a hike to the most beautiful place we’ve ever been – Bassin Bleu. We went swimming in the waterfall and enjoyed fresh coconut.  We headed back toward Port-au-Prince where we had lobster lunch on the beach on our way into town.

By this point, it is approximately 2pm on Thursday. We are still waiting for our travel exit letter as we are supposed to fly home early the next morning.  We are calling and texting our orphanage representative to get the status.  Apparently, the woman who has the sign the letter left the office, but she was coming back right before they closed.  Wha?????  The office closes at 5.  It is now 4:15. We are all very worried.  Everyone in the car is completely quiet… the tension is so thick. Rocky decides that we are going to go to the office ourselves and wait.  As we are driving there, around 4:45, we get an email that the exit letter is signed.

Rocky dropped us off at our hotel and the exit letter was delivered around 7:30 pm. Finally, we were cleared to go home.

We head to the airport Friday morning. We make it through security.  Once we get to immigration, the woman tells us that we needed a full copy of the exit letter in order to leave.  We had already been through so much stress waiting for our Visa and exit letter.  Now this?  I just stared at her.  Patrick was uncomfortably trying to navigate how we were going to get through.  The woman told us to leave the airport and go find a copy machine to make a copy.  Like hell was this mama going to leave that airport.  I told her we were not leaving. After a long uncomfortable stare down, she finally asked the immigration representative beside her and he said it was ok for us to pass.

We boarded our airplane at 8:30 am Friday, December 15th and headed home.  Forever.

Jonathan, we loved you before we met you. We loved you the first day we met you on October 12, 2015.  And we will love you forever.

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Homecoming December 10, 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — rgraham100 @ 8:00 pm

Guess what? We are in Haiti, picking up our son!!

I’m sorry this blog has not been updated in awhile.

We’ve been running on big highs and big lows the last several weeks.

Let me bring you up to speed:

– on Oct 31, we received Jonathan’s passport (in record time for our family who loves to surpass all timelines given to us throughout this process). It was a true Halloween miracle.

-Nov 1 began the longest wait ever…waiting for the US to approve his Visa.

-on Dec 8, we finally received visa approval, which was the last step of the process.

-we had to wait a few days to make travel arrangements until Jonathan got some medical tests done, which were completed last week.

-we confirmed with our adoption agency late Friday that we were cleared for travel and we quickly made arrangements to get here today, Sun Dec 10.

I’ll try to keep this blog updated, but we are going to some beachy parts of Haiti on this trip, so not sure about the connection.

 

Promises October 16, 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — rgraham100 @ 5:47 pm

PROMISES

We launched this blog 4.5 years ago. The last line in the opening blog post read, “We ask for your prayers and your encouragement as we go through this process over the next 2-3 years.”  Wasn’t that adorable? We thought this adoption would take 2-3 years.

 

Here we are. Nearly 5 years later. And over the past few months, I have felt compelled to share with you the real story that has been written in our lives.

 

Our family has the most amazing community. We get to do life with people from diverse backgrounds who don’t always share the same beliefs. For our cherished friends and family who do not share our faith, this is a story about God…so this post is going to get a little bit churchy. And it’s long (fair warning).

 

This whole journey began in August 2012 not out of some desire to “rescue a child” or “do the right thing.” It was not even our idea.  I’ve had the opportunity to tell this story 2,689 times and every time I do, it is just bizarre. It was literally a “feeling” (Christian code word for this is a “calling”) I had on an airplane. I felt that God was telling me that we should adopt a child. Again, weird, I know.

 

We knew nothing about adoption. We had never considered it. But we knew without a shadow of a doubt that God was driving this – and that we damn well better get on board.

 

So in the Bible, God makes all these promises to people. Big deal things, like “wait on me, and I’ll give you strength,” or “if you get tired, I will help you endure,” or “just call out to me and I will answer you.” Pretty compelling stuff.

 

Someone very early in this journey told me, “hold onto God’s promises, because this is a long and messy road and some days, His promises will be all you have.” We have heard that once your adopted child is home is when things get really complicated. So this wait apparently is just the beginning of that messy road. Awesome.

 

Anyhow, I want to share with you just some of the ways God has showed up and kept His promises throughout this adoption, because I get goose bumps every time I think about it and my cousin recently told me, “you’ve got to write this stuff down.”

 

$$

One of the most obvious, tangible ways God showed up is by providing us with the financial resources to fund not only the adoption, but also seven trips to Haiti in two years to bond with Jonathan.

At the earliest stages of our adoption, someone told me that if God is really behind this, the money will come.

Patrick and I have been completely overwhelmed by the generosity of friends and family. For example:

  • Several years ago, Patrick found a mysterious envelope under the windshield wiper of his car.  He assumed it was perhaps a mistaken drug dealer’s payment (naturally). Of course, he opened the envelope and inside was $600+ cash with a tiny torn up piece of paper with a scribbled note that read, “God bless your adoption”
  • Or the time I was super stressed about money and an envelope arrived in the mail from a family member with the total amount of cash we needed to make the final payment on our adoption
  • Or Patrick’s high school friend’s mom who paid for our hotel on our vacation so we could save our money for the adoption
  • Or the friend who bought Patrick and I first-class tickets on our first trip to Haiti
  • Or our neighbor’s children who host lemonade stands to raise money for the adoption
  • I literally could go on and on – we have probably 100+ of these stories

 

Strength

I have heard from hundreds of people, “I couldn’t do it” or “I don’t know how you do it”. The reality is, I am not doing it.  If I had to muster up the strength to ride out the emotional coaster that we have been on the past several years, forget it. I am pretty pathetic. I cannot handle seeing an elephant in captivity at the zoo. I can’t even watch my son pitch in a baseball game without wanting to vomit. I certainly could not manage the turmoil of a Haitian adoption. Seriously, when I:

  • Was afraid I had dragged Patrick, Noah, and Brady down a rabbit hole of financial stress and emotional despair
  • Listened to people who questioned our decision – is this real-what if your agency is scamming you?  Why don’t you adopt from the US (that’s a whole ‘nother blog post)?
  • Had so much anger and bitterness inside that I literally wanted to crawl out of my skin
  • Couldn’t even walk into our church without tearing up because I was certain God had forgotten about our son in Haiti….God, in a number of different but very real ways, gave me a peace that is completely and undeniably from Him.

 

Community

I recently turned 40. And my husband threw me an amazing birthday party in our backyard. Toward the end of the evening when the sun had already gone down and the candles were lit, we all gathered around the birthday cakes (he made 5, because that is how he rolls) and friends and family sang happy birthday.  And as I looked around our backyard (this goes back to me being pathetic), I literally had to will myself not to fall to pieces because of the overwhelming feeling of gratitude for our community. Our friends and family who:

  • Traveled to Haiti with us and were eye-witnesses to some of my family’s most vulnerable moments. We had 12 friends and family members travel with us. That is a lot of money, time, and emotional energy – not to mention the post-trip gastrointestinal troubles many faced.
  • Sat with us (okay, me) while we cried over lost time with our son
  • Drove us to the airport… every single trip. Even at 4 a.m.
  • Stayed up all night with a very-anxious Noah the night before his parents left him for a 15-day trip to Haiti

We have so many stories of people that God has planted in our lives who have carried us through the bad and celebrated the victories.

 

So there it is. This isn’t a story about the Wicklines. Or our son in Haiti.  This is a story of the promises that God makes and how He keeps them. And if you want to know more about this God who shows up EVERY TIME, let me know.  By the way, the God I am referring to loves all people – gay, straight, white, brown…you name it. In fact, His son Jesus, while here on earth hung out with prostitutes and tax collectors – He was and is very cool. He roots for the underdog, loves the weak. He is not a harsh, exclusionary dictator. Sorry (not sorry) for getting political (it is my blog after all:))

 

Jonathan will be home soon. And things will be hard. Can somebody please remind me of His promises?

 

Final thoughts…trip 7 October 8, 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — rgraham100 @ 1:00 am

My creative blog titles are a reflection of my fatigue.  These last couple days have been a blur. J did great during his first major excursion outside the orphanage. His favorite things, like so many of us, were eating at the restaurant, baths, and Netflix.  

I’d say the biggest challenge was sleeping. He’d “sleep” for about 11 hours, which was great. But for most of those hours he was rubbing my head, rubbing his feet on my legs…tracking me down wherever I would try to go in the bed. I literally curled up in a ball at the foot of the bed, desparate for sleep…he found me.  Needless to say, the current plan is to move him directly into his bed when he gets home.  No co-sleeping for bonding purposes….or I will never make it.

We were supposed to meet our driver today at 11am.  He showed up right on Haitian time-11:45.  He didn’t know how to get the orphanage and told me he was counting on me to help.  I sometimes get lost leaving my neighborhood, so the idea of me navigating the streets of Port-au-Prince is hilarious.  The one time he made a turn and I insisted he was wrong, of course I was wrong.

We dropped off J and hung out with several of our favorite kids. We headed back to the hotel around 3. 

Tonight we hired a driver to take us to a restaurant that overlooks the entire city-crazy beautiful views and amazing food.  While I will miss J, I am hoping to get some sleep tonight😴

 

J October 6, 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — rgraham100 @ 6:51 pm

This trip has definitely been a learning experience. Here is what we have learned so far:

-Jonathan loves meat. And potatoes. He’s basically a Midwesterner.  He passes on fruit and vegetables.  So he is also basically a Wickline (except he doesn’t eat dessert).

– He was not at all afraid to get into the pool, as long as he can cling to me or dad.  We can also count on him wanting to get out of the pool once we finally get used to the water (and vice versa-the second we are dry it is time to get back in).

-He addresses dad and Brady as “poppy” and “Noah” no matter how many times we correct him.

-He is sort of a nightmare to share a bed with because of his constant twisting and turning.

-He’s not afraid to bark orders at the servers (we will have some work to do at home).

-He wants to go to bed around 5 pm, so we have to do some serious entertaining to keep him going until at least 7:30 pm to avoid a 5am wake up call.

– His go-to show on Netflix is Ninjago…it appears he has Brady’s eclectic taste in terrible kids tv.

-He loves to laugh; constantly wants to be held or hold hands-both awesome signs of a  happy, healthy future for this little guy.

 

Trip 7 October 5, 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — rgraham100 @ 11:08 am

We were not planning on taking another trip to Haiti before homecoming, but given our looong stay in MOI we decided to take one more trip before we brought him home.

We did not want there to be such a long stretch between our last visit and homecoming.

Brady, my dad  and i arrived last night. We had smooth travels and made it through the Haitian airport in record speed (about 15 minutes to get through customs, baggage, and find our ride).

We arrived at our hotel around 6, enjoyed some Haitian cuisine, watched my favorite baseball team, and went to bed.

We pick up J this morning at the Orlando bring him back to the hotel with us! More to come….

 

Passports October 3, 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — rgraham100 @ 5:01 pm

We learned today that Jonathan’s file has been officially submitted to passports. We also learned that we had the distinct honor of being a family with one of the longest wait times in MOI (the phase we just exited) our adoption coordinator has ever seen😐

So when do we get to bring him home you ask? Who knows!  Most families trend anywhere from 6-8 weeks from the time they enter passports until homecoming. But we like to mosey through each phase. We are praying for homecoming before Christmas because I don’t think my heart can take one more Christmas without my baby home.

In other good news, Brady, my dad and I head to Haiti this week for a quick visit.

 

 
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