Tuesday, December 26, 2006
Reflecting on 2006--July
July was a HUGE month in the life of our family.
Jeffo, Lisa, and Kayla had been planning to go to Indiana for a youth conference for a while, and we were going to try to meet them in Purdue while they were there. I was sooooooo bummed when I discovered we were moving prior to their trip. However, when I called Lisa to inform her of our move, she reminded me that the second part of their trip was to Arizona for a Vacation Bible School (VBS) mission trip. They would actually have more free time in Arizona than in Indiana b/c that would be the end of their trip. Funny how God works things out like that! :)
As time progressed, however, I wasn't certain if I'd be here in the States when they were traveling. A part of me was hoping that I would be, since none of our family members on my side of the family had ever visited any of our homes outside of Hawai'i (emphasis on VISITED; Johnny LIVED with us in Indiana!). When Lisa came to Japan, we met her in Tokyo (a fourteen hour car drive from Misawa). Yet, knowing why I wouldn't see them here in Arizona made me definitely not want to be here when they came (as I'd be in the Marshall Islands).
As it turned out, I picked them up from the Phoenix airport when they arrived and spent the day with them and their group. :) After they finished their VBS mission trip a week later, Dave and I picked them up to come to our home. :) While they were with us, we had a great time visiting places in the midst of rushing to do some last minute paperwork for our adoption.
We went to Mexico just to say that we went to another country together. Kayla, however, did not bring any identification, and we don't have the same last name. We were concerned that she would not be able to cross the border back into the USA, but we decided to attempt to go there anyway. After shopping and bargaining with the street vendors, we easily crossed back into the USA. Hmmm . . . . (Homeland security?)
We went to Mt. Lemmon to the ski area and hiked down. I felt badly because we weren't able to do as many things because of our pending adoption. We tried to make the most of our time, though. :)
Adoption: Finally, I found out that I would have a court date of July 21st in the RMI, which meant that I would leave Arizona on July 18th, fly into Honolulu and stay there overnight, and then fly out on the 19th to the RMI. When I arrived in the RMI, it was the 20th of July, their time. (I left one day before Lisa, Jeffo, and Kayla left Arizona.)
Was it true? Would I be able to meet our baby girl after all? I guarded my feelings quite a bit, as I didn't want to be disappointed if anything went wrong. With two suitcases filled to the brim with mostly diapers, wipes, and formula for six weeks, I was ready for my adventure across the Pacific.
July 21st finally arrived (in Japanese, it is a huge "YATTO," an adverb that holds the meaning of "finally, after all that effort," or something like that).
I met Makana with her birth family. It was surreal. Children were everywhere at first. Where is my baby? Where is she? Then she came out of one of the houses on the lot with her birth mother. I was in the car. Should I get out and jump for joy? Restrain myself. She is with her birth mother. Okay. Our coordinator asked for the birth mother to come back with us to the hotel.
We were in the same car. I looked back at Makana and just fell in love with her. I let all my inhibitions of not getting attached to her picture fall down. When would I get to hold her? Soon. Soon. She is not yet officially a part of our family (according to the court).
[When I met Makana, I saw her hair that was shaven and wondered, "What happened? Is that my baby girl?" In fact, when Kason (Mary's son) saw her picture that I e-mailed from the RMI, he responded to his mother, "I didn't know he was a GIRL!" Mary corrected him kindly, saying that she is a girl. I asked our coordinator in the RMI and Makana's birth mother why her hair was shaven. They both looked at me as though I had asked a question that led to nowhere and didn't bother to answer. I later discovered that the Marshallese people believe that the baby's hair is "no good" and that better hair will grow in if you shave off the first layer at least. Most keep shaving their babies' heads until they start going to school. Some even shave the entire head (Johnny, did you realize you were being truly Marshallese?).]
What I wasn't anticipating was having to dress Makana for court that morning. Her birth mother asked if I had a dress for her. I did, but not one I would have deemed right for court. Nevertheless, I dressed her in her "American" outfit of denim, white, and red. :) Then her birth mother asked if I had socks for the outfit. Mind you, it is eighty-something degrees outside with probably eighty-something percent or more humidity! I was going sockless; the rest of the RMI seemed to be as well. However, her birth mother insisted I put socks on her. I only had her bright pink ones (Remember: I had hardly any room at all in my suitcases for clothes, no matter how tiny they were.). I only laugh when I think back to that scenario. Oh, well. I also had no idea of her size. Surely, I could try to guess given her birthday, but each child is so different. I erred on the big side, and she was swimming in most of her clothes when I first got there.
Court: The judge interviewed Dave by phone for his testimony. I was prepped by my lawyer the previous day and rehearsed my answers that I've had for years. Why do we want to adopt? What made us choose the RMI? Etc. What I was not prepared to encounter was watching Makana's birth mother having to testify that she would relinquish all her rights as a parent from that moment forward. When asked if she understood the ramifications of her sworn testimony and if she would then relinquish her rights, she hesitated. I couldn't look at her at all. It was difficult. She loved Makana, I could tell. She just wanted to give Makana a chance for more opportunities, for she was a single mother, whose husband had passed away. That was a long, silent moment. For a split second I thought, "I wouldn't blame her if she said that she would not relinquish the parental rights to this precious child. It is so incredibly difficult." After what seemed like an eternity, she nodded her head. The judge prodded her to verbally give her answer for the court record. She mumbled an "Aet," "Yes," in Marshallese. I sighed a huge relief. Makana was now able to be an official part of our family.
It took a while after court was over before I was given the opportunity to hold Makana, for her family wanted to say their "Good-byes." In the RMI, we have an agreement to have an open adoption, so they can visit at any time, and we will send pictures at least twice a year. It felt so wonderful to finally have her in my arms, by myself, in our hotel room. We needed to start our paperwork process to get back to the States, but I savored the moment of just being mommy to my daughter. Thank you, God!