This day would serve to change my life. Change? Hmm…? Yes. Daily life will change. But in the more important ways – solidify- confirm – comfort- progress. Everything before this day- seems smaller- in comparison to the HUGENESS of this day. There are few ‘defining moments’ in my life thus far. Very few. Moments that thrust me forward on the path- or send me veering off on an entirely new adventure. This day- has done both.
Many of you reading this in 2009 want to hear the details the in’s and out’s – specifics of what happened on the afternoon of Wednesday, August 12, 2009. But I feel the need to write this in the context of those that will read it in the future. My son. My family. Myself.
I’ve read many account of referral calls. The all seem to involve calling someone else so that the recipient isn’t the only one hearing about their new family member for the first time. Usually this is a husband, wife, mother or brother. I didn’t have a plan. I am a single woman, unattached, on this day. At least- at the start of the day. If I’m starting out being a single mom – I better be able to handle a simple phone call that kicks the whole thing off. (I’m sometimes a bit stubborn)
Many of you know- my referral call came much sooner than I – or anyone- expected. Only 7 months along- when forum friends and blog buddies are waiting over a year. Following their journey I ached for them- got excited as anticipation has grown expecting the call- and cried for them as it still hasn't. Lesson in expectation. I expected to be a bit of a voyeur and watch them as the celebrate referral- rejoice upon passing court- laugh as they panic over packing to pick up the little ones- and cry at their union. I expected to do all of this as a means to keep my spirits up on the down days of waiting. I wait no more for my son. I continue to wait for all our unions.
Approximately, three and a half months into ‘the wait’, I reviewed the required health and history form. I did more research- I did a gut check and prayed- “Could I have the strength to refuse a referral if a child was expected to have so many complex health issues that I couldn’t parent effectively??” “Yes.” I was sure that I would be able to refuse if necessary. It wasn’t likely that would be the case. I also prayed that it was loud and clear when I was to say yes. I became more decisive on the form. Changed many of the “maybes’ to ‘yes’. Changed a few “no’s” to ‘maybe’s’. I didn’t do it blindly. I didn’t do it to speed up the process. I just *knew* I needed to make changes.
My ‘specialist’ was supposed to be calling me every month. She’d been my specialist for 3 or 4 months now and I hadn’t heard from her at all. I had emailed her 2 weeks before this date to remind her that she was my specialist and I hadn’t heard from her.
When I opened my email in the morning- there was a message from an Alexa at CHSFS. I’d never heard of Alexa before. (Ugh. I wondered- “Anther new specialist??”) Nope: It was the dossier specialist requesting that I get new Power of Attorney documents signed, notarized and state certified. Apparently, the forms I filled out 7 months before were no longer valid as they were made out to someone that no longer works in Ethiopia for CHSFS. To say I was confused and on the verge of being P.O.’d is an understatement. My old specialist had told me that all my paperwork would be in Ethiopia 4 months into my wait. But here, my dossier was still in Minnesota- waiting to travel to DC- waiting to be translated. “What does this mean?” was the least pointed question I asked.
After a few hours- she returned my email with answers that everything was fine and everything still on track. But I still needed new forms.
I do not have a ‘home’ phone. I carry my cell everywhere. So when the 651 area code showed up on my OFFICE phone- I didn’t think twice about it. In an Alumni office- I get calls from this area code and a thousand others in any given month.
“Good afternoon. This is Shannon.”
“Shannon? This is Kim from Children’s Home.”
Me: Hello Kim. What can I do for you?
Kim: Shannon. This is Kim
Me: Hi Kim. How are you? (remember- she was supposed to be calling me anyway...)
Me: (getting slightly annoyed at the repeating pattern) Yeeeessss.
Kim: I’m calling with some good news.
At this point -I’m pretty sure my redneck-ed-ness came out my mouth. I’m pretty sure I threw the big “F” bomb although it may have been the smaller “Freakin” bomb. “Are you F’n kidding me??!!” (actual word- and at quite a volume if I’m remembering correctly. And at this point I may not be-)
Kim: Laughs and picks herself off floor from having cusses thrown at her.
Kim: I have a little boy here to tell you about.
Kim: Shannon? Are you there?
Shannon: (incomprehensible sound)
Kim: Should I go on?
Shannon: (grunting ugly noise attempting a uh huh)
Kim: Starts talking about details. I couldn’t tell you what she said. She could have been reciting the Gettysburg Address I still wouldn’t remember.
Shannon: Panic sets in. Looks out window. Thinks ”Should I get someone else in here? I don’t know what I’m supposed to do right now?”
I think we were on the phone for a while and yet the only thing I do remember Kim saying was- “I’m going to send this all to you in an email”. At this point I remember clearly thinking (and I really hope I said it more politely than how it sounded in my head) “Then why are you still talking? Shut up & Send it to me NOW!”
Note to self: God has taught me a lot about patience and control during this process- ----- apparently I have more to learn.......
Unconsciously(or bordering on consciousness) I get up and walk to the window. Drop to my knees and thank Him. It would be some time before my knees would let me stand again.
Once I can stand again- Let the pacing begin: Pace Pace Pace. My office is nice but it doesn’t have enough pacing room. I changed direction so many times in those few minutes it was like spinning in circles. I got dizzy and almost passed out.
Finally, the "Ding"- indicating it had arrived.
Pray. “Please God- Give me your eyes- your wisdom- your grace. Speak clearly. I will obey.”
Double click- Open the email.
Double click- Open the attachment.
I force myself to read the background info first. “Listen First. Your eyes deceive you.”
Ugh. Ouch. Sigh. Pray. Pray for this family. Concern.
Finally- I see your face. Two pictures. One that is close. I can see your hands. Your eyes and long lashes. I can see your hands holding a little blue book or puzzle piece. Your little smirk on the edge of a smile.
The other picture is full length. Your shirt reads “rock star”. I can tell you are small. You are wearing infant sized clothes and a pair of new blue Nike sneakers. I can tell you’ve got one ear that sticks out a little further than the other. The picture is slightly distorted and it makes your head look a little extra big. But I have a big head so I think we’re a good pair.
My eyes deceive me. I question. For what ever reason I thought I would be referred a girl. No reason to think that. I had no real preference one way or the other- but I get something in my head and it sticks. So in my complete numbness- I thought, "did she send me the right file?" Has she called ME by mistake? What if I say yes- start to cry, start loving you- and they take it all back- "oops sorry. I made a mistake" is what I thought they'd do. Take you away. I was shocked by the fact- there were sooo many still waiting. And yet-.. "am I dreaming?" "Is this real". It can't be. Go through the motions. You'll wake up soon. I'm quite sure my brain turned to concrete- or sludge- or disconnected from my body.
I wonder? Is this really my kid? Where is the jumping up and down? Where is the crazy shouts for joy? Is this real? Is this really who I’m being given to?
“YES! You are his. He needs you. You need him.”
Loud and clear.
There was no more questioning. All Clear. I have known all along- through the singles scare of November- through the homestudy fiasco- through the threat of closure in the future- that I would only ask for this, - for us- if my child was heaven sent. T'was made clear, loud and clear – within moments of reading his story- seeing his face- loud and clear- I knew.
The referral calls I’ve read about and video’s I’ve watched, of couples seeing the face of their child the first time- seems so foreign to my experience. There were no tears. No hugs. No screams (ok- yelling the f-word may qualify). There was no one to hold. To cry on. No one with whom to share ... and yet... I knew I wasn't alone. I knew this was only the beginning.
It was as if the whole world stopped. I couldn’t speak (that continues to be a problem – mixing up words- stopping mid sentence-) I think my heart may have literally stopped. My brain had so much information flying into it all at once- it literally shut down. I mean stopped. My world stopped for about a week.
(Your Momma has strong introverted tendencies when it comes to the BIG STUFF.)
I waited for the tears. My eyes darted around my office. Looked at the door as if someone was supposed to come in pick me up off the floor. I waited for the big ugly cry. But I just found myself on my knees with a big ugly smile- looking to the sky. Two days later I would notice my face hurt- I'd been smiling so much.
At home- I knew I didn’t want to tell a bunch of people right away. I needed to keep this for me for a while. The introvert in me needed to process this. This was too precious to give away. But at the same time- I couldn’t be alone. I needed a safe place. Safe people to be with. Safe to process. Safe to talk and safe to not.
I called Dodie. I managed “Hi”.
She talked for a while. I listened. My brain slowed a little. Only a bit though. “Shannon? What’s up”
“Speech isn’t working right now. So bear with me. I. ummm. Got. Umm. The call.”
“ok, What call? ....... WHAT! THE. CALL?”
“ummm. Uh huh.”
Dodie freaks out. We talked although I cant’ tell you if I spoke or what I said if I did. I ended up at their house for dinner and evening festivities. Safe. Happy. My SON!!
My son: There was a few question marks in your initial paperwork. The dates were a little screwy. I requested further explanation. You needed medical care before entering the orphanage. Your doctor fell in love with you and wrote that you were now his favorite child. (You are already my favorite.) I asked for some updated information and repeated tests. CHSFS asked if I wanted to put your referral acceptance on hold until the tests came back.
“NO. He is my son. I need these tests to know what he needs and how he is doing”. I asked “Please- No delays.”
And this is becomes my continued prayer. “He is my son. Please. No delays.”