The journey to Monday afternoon past began, as these things tend to, on the Belfast to Dublin bus.
“Here, what do you think about the whole idea of adoption?” It was December 2004 and Amanda was over for her first visit to the British Isles since we’d gone ‘official’. But, in all honesty, she might as well have asked me: “Quantum mechanics: discuss”.
As I was about to learn, in Amanda’s circles back in Canada, adoption was fairly par for the course, and a particularly big thing for Christian couples. I had had limited experience at best and was beginning to wonder if I was supposed to have produced an engagement ring at this point. So I brushed the notion aside, saying we could perhaps think about it after the first couple of ‘naturals’, expecting we probably wouldn’t, and assuming (i.e., hoping) that the matter was closed.
Just over five years later, we found ourselves in Bolivia, with two-and-a-half years of marriage under our belts. “Why don’t you have kids?,” the local women would ask, bearing in mind the fact that we were over 20! As it happened, we had been talking about it ourselves, and decided that it was time for another new chapter to begin.
By spring 2012, we weren’t getting anywhere, and on our way out to LAM Canada’s missions conference in Costa Rica, we had an appointment with a urologist to begin investigating further. But a far more significant development was to take place at the conference itself.
There, we had been assigned a lodge with a young couple called Dave and Esther Bettany, serving in Honduras. They had recently welcomed a new addition to their home, and we had the pleasure of meeting her face to face. I was particularly struck by the connection she had with her parents; she was perfectly contented in their company. It was, I reflected, typical of the relationship that can only be forged in the womb, between biological parents and their children, a key weapon in my armoury as I continued to resist the adoption question.
Except, a few hours later, in the quiet of our room, Amanda informed me that she was, in fact, adopted.
My prejudices addressed, if not eliminated, we headed back to Bolivia and, eventually, a spell in a private fertility clinic that woulditself end only in further disappointment. Forget about ‘conceive first, adopt later’; if we were to have children at all, it was beginning to seem as if I would have to make a big compromise.
And, in theory, we could have gone ahead with it there and then. But we were also conscious of our home assignment in 2014. Though it was a whole eighteen months away at this point, we were required to be away for a year in order to pursue further training, meaning we would not have been in Trinidad for the required post-adoption visits from social work over two years. During this period, however, my resistance was further diminished by the adoption of a baby boy by some close friends (he even looked like his adopted dad!).
Still, however, I was not completely convinced. And it was here that we learned that our home assignment year really was, in fact, an important part of this journey. Towards the end of our spell in Scotland last year, we attended a conference for Christian couples struggling with infertility and infant loss, with yours truly signing up for the seminar session on adoption. There, the speaker shared about his own personal journey to adoption (he and his wife had only recently taken in a four-year-old boy, with a view to adoption), and it was one remarkably similar to my own. Indeed, it was here that my eyes were opened to how prideful I had been over the years. Like the speaker, I had played the role of a typical man, inventing difficulties where none existed and resisting the possibility of there being any children in my family, living in my home, who were not mine.
Or, to put it another way, I had completely denied the essence of the gospel in my own domestic life. Where, indeed, would I be if not for the greatest adoption of all? What right, then, had I to enforce selection criteria?
Of immense help in this process has been Russell Moore’s ‘Adopted For Life’, a text I would recommend to anyone. Moore, no slouch as a theologian himself, has personal experience of adoption and its associated stigma, and so helpfully and clearly unpacks adoption as Biblical theology.
I commend Moore’s work particularly to my fellow Christians, parents, would-be parents or otherwise; indeed, if I may, I’d like to impart some friendly counsel at this juncture to the people of God. Since deciding to push ahead with adoption, we’ve had several variations of the following conversation with a number of people, and not just here in Bolivia (where people can be a touch more liberal with their tongues):
Friend: “So, I hear you’ve decided to adopt.”
Craig/Amanda: “Indeed we have. We know God has clearly brought us to this point, and we’re hoping to have something in place fairly soon, God-willing.”
Friend: “Och [OK, maybe not in Bolivia, that one], that’s lovely.”
Friend: (lowers voice slightly) “You know, you mustn’t stop trying.”
C/A: “Indeed. That’s why we’re going ahead with the adoption.”
Friend: (it’s a whisper now) “Yes, I know, but, what I mean is, it’s still, you know, possible.”
C/A: “Well, of course we believe that, but--”
Friend: “I mean, you must have faith. God can still provide you with a child, you know.”
C/A: “Oh, of course, we know that. But you don’t have to be Don Carson to see the centrality of adoption in the sweep of salvation. In God’s eyes, we are all adopted, wouldn’t you agree?”
Friend: “Yes, well, I suppose you have a point.”
Friend: “But, seriously, have faith, alright!”
Friends, there is no hierarchy here. Let those of us who are biological sons of God be the first to waggle the finger of faith in the faces of the infertile. As for the rest of us, our best approach in such moments would be to keep our fallen thinking to ourselves.
* * *
January saw us arrive back in Trinidad and hit the ground running on the adoption question. Pre-July (which we spent back in Scotland for a family wedding) was all about filling in forms and making sure no egg-shell was leftbehind. We had only been back in Bolivia a matter of weeks when things cranked up several notches.
We got word form a nursing friend of an abandoned baby boy in the maternity hospital – music to our ears, as our preference was for a baby. We got in touch with a lawyer friend, whose husband works there as a paediatrician. He confirmed the boy was there, but that there were other family members now on the scene. In other words, adoption was a non-starter. Not the first time something like this had happened in our experience.
A few weeks later, we were at a fundraiser for the children’s ministry at the church, where we bumped into a former colleague, now working as a GP in the local orphanage. She told us of a very bright and sweet four-year-old girl who was ‘available’ there, and suggested we get in touch with a legal representative. Up until this point, we had ruled out older children, but we were beginning to sense that God was challenging us on this; how did a baby have any more right to a loving home than a four-year-old? Struck by the hard fact that ‘adoptability’ decreases with age, we prayerfully decided to pursue this lead.
And so, a couple of days later, we found ourselves in our lawyer’s office, she too being aware of the situation. However, she had to inform us that, in fact, another family were interested in the girl, and were already a few steps ahead of us. “But aren’t you aware there’s a baby boy in the hospital?” she asked. We quickly worked out that she was talking about the same boy who, it turned out, was far from a lost cause; it transpired that the ‘family members’ were not who they claimed to be, for reasons that I cannot go into right now.
Indeed, much that follows is heavily filtered due to the fact that the legal situation is ongoing; hopefully, there will be time to write in greater detail when I get round to writing the book, something I’m seriously considering – it can’t be denied that we have more than enough material.
Over the next few weeks, we faced a rollercoaster of emotions as the situation seemed to be changing day by day until we came to a hard realisationthat the ball was no longer in our court. This was made all the more difficult by the fact that we had visited the boy in hospital (from which, by the way, he should have been discharged weeks earlier) twice daily and had very quickly developed a deep connection with him. He was little, weak and helpless (drinking his milk from a syringe – welcome to Trinidad), but at the same time, the most supremely contented infant we had ever met. We loved him to bits, and the feeling seemed mutual, making the disappointment of the legal roadblocks even harder to deal with. Especially when we could have given him a home situation far superior to most in Trinidad at the click of a finger.
As we were coming to terms with this, the Santa Cruz possibility opened up (see here for the full story on that). Yet it was an episode that ended with a twist, like a well-honed chapter of airport fiction. Because before heading back for Trinidad, we received word that, as far as the boy was concerned, we were very much ‘back in the game’.
The last two months, then, saw us get back into a visiting routine, this time at his new home of the orphanage, to which he’d been moved at long last. To fortify our hearts, we enforced upon ourselves a limit of two afternoon visits a week. These joyful times were sufficient to solidify the connection, while keeping our emotions at bay in the event of another disappointment.
All of which led to Monday, and the long-awaited hearing, at which we were granted foster care of the boy, albeit on a provisional basis; no fault of ours, just that the officials who were supposed to terminate the mother’s rights had – no joke – simply not got round to it. There is to be a further review meeting in February, at which we’re hoping the adoption process proper (which would take two to three months) will formally begin.
In the end, Monday’s meeting was remarkably straightforward. And we had been fairly hopeful of a positive outcome. But so careful were we to protect ourselves that we had done very little to prepare the house for his arrival that same evening. The last few days, in other words, have occasioned a seismic change of circumstances, made tougher by the fact that the Samuel Archie, as we have named him, is no newborn.
But, as we suspected might be the case, he has so far played ball. Every morning, I am woken at around 5am by the most joyfully innocent creature I have ever met, and getting another hour or two’s sleep before the long day ahead just feels like a waste of time. We, too, have been granted the reserves to cope physically and mentally.
Amidst the confusion, delays and frustrations of the past six years, God was preparing the way for us to meet dear Sam, just as he has been doing from eternity past. And whatever happens from now on, his purposes will be fulfilled in this relationship. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Adoption? The best thing I’ve ever done.
- We are not out of the woods yet on this (hence the deliberate lack of legal detail and photos here), so please pray for the couple of months and the decision to be reached at the review meeting in February.
- The adjustment proved a bit much for Sam’s health, with some diarrhoea and vomiting, followed up by some respiratory problems. He’s settling now and is getting into a really solid eating schedule, so much better than what he was on at the orphanage. He’s a little bit premature and needs to bulk up a little. Continued prayer appreciated here.
- Pray for the events at the church over Christmas, particularly the Christmas Eve service on Thursday, where we hope to welcome many friends and family of participants.
- With the upheaval of the adoption, we’ve decided not to travel to La Paz next week, where we were due to attend a wedding. So we’ll be here in Trinidad for Christmas after all. It’s never the easiest time to be away from home, and this year may prove especially tough as, for the first time out here, we’ll be the only non-Bolivians around (i.e., the only people who eat their main meal in the late afternoon rather than at 1 in the morning on Christmas day!). Still, mustn't complain: we’ve been given quite a present this year.
- For the outcome of Monday’s hearing. Thank you all so much for your prayers.
- For energy to get through this gruelling – yet so rewarding – first week of parenthood.
¡Que Dios les bendiga!
Craig & Amanda
Craig & Amanda