August 17, 2003

I’ll never forget the day. It was August 17, 2003. Back in the days of dial up internet, we tied up our home phone line for HOURS every day waiting to hear from Dixie on who she would propose for us as our children.

And then it came. Two small pictures and a brief history on each of them.

And we were in love. It’s hard to imagine how quickly you can come to love someone you’ve never met. But we did.

Every month when it got to be about the “time” of the monthly update, we’d stay glued to the computer watching and waiting for the updates. We’d ooh and ahhh over the pictures, compare the weights and heights to see how much they have grown and share the information and pictures with our family and friends.

While it doesn’t do anything for the children to get to know their family, it sure helps the family get to know their children.

 

How Many?

When we started the process, we really didn’t have any idea whether we wanted one or two kids and what age we’d like. A couple of things shaped our thinking on it and they are things that we’ve seen proven true over the last decade…….

If there’s a big age difference between your “current” kids and your new ones, you’re probably going to want more than one. In other words, having kids that are 14, 12, 9 and 2 would probably make you want more than one adopted kid – so maybe they are 14, 12, 9, 3 and 2.

If the kids you have in your family and the kids that you are going to adopt aren’t going to look like each other (and trust me, mine don’t), many people find that it’s good for the adopted child to not be the “only” one that doesn’t look like the others.

So we decided, thinking that we were rather experienced parents (so we thought) that we’d go ahead and adopt both of our kids at the same time. While I’m glad that we did, let’s just say the first 1 1/2 to 2 years were a blur.

It’s a decision that everyone needs to make on their own, given their own beliefs, their own experiences and their own family make up. For us, I believe that adopting two at once was what God was calling us to do. Our children were there and He wanted us to go get them then.

Expect the Unexpected…….

As part of the process of putting together a dossier, at least for Haiti 10 years ago, you had to have a lot of documents notarized and then “legitimized” by the state government (in other words, verify that the Notary who notarized the papers was indeed a notary. Then they had to be “accepted” by the Haitian embassy before they could be sent to Haiti.

We didn’t like the idea of sending the documents to the Haitian embassy and waiting for them, so decided that we’d take a day off and drive them down there. We set up an appointment for 11:30 at the Haitian Embassy in Chicago (about a 3 hour drive for us).

At about 8:00 PM the night before, I was reviewing the paperwork one more time to make sure we had everything and realized, to my dismay, that we missed getting one of the documents stamped by the State of Michigan (about an hour away from us in the opposite direction).

Uh oh.

We found out that the State of Michigan office opened at 8:00. So we got the grandparents over, left at 6:30 in the morning and were waiting outside the office when they opened at 8:00. In and out in 15 minutes.

And then the mad dash from Lansing Michigan to Chicago. We were careful to not violate speed limits too much (a traffic stop would definitely make us late) and let’s say there was no time for “pit stops” for food or anything like that.

It looked like we were going to make it. And suddenly the red lights started coming on. Brake lights and more brake lights……

The traffic came to a screeching halt. But it’s right over there! We were on the expressway and could literally see the building that the Haitian embassy was in. But we couldn’t get to it.

At 11:25, we called the Embassy and told them what was happening and that we could see the Embassy but were stuck in traffic due to an accident. They assured us that it was “no problem.”

At 11:45, we got to the Embassy, walked in the door, only to be told that the person we needed had “just left for lunch.” We said, “No problem, we’ll get some lunch and be back around 1?” We were told to give it until 1:30.

So, we got some lunch and then came back at 1:30. And we waited and we waited.

And we waited some more.

Finally, the lunch meeting was over – at 4:00! Apparently this was our first introduction to what is know as “Haitian time.”

In 15 minutes we were done and on our way out of town on the way home.

We learned a valuable lesson that day. Actually two of them.

We are not in control, God is.

Expect the Unexpected.

The Paperwork, The paperwork……

We made the decision. Our child(ren) were in Haiti. What now?

I’ve had people ask me, “How in the world did you handle the paperwork for adopting? Isn’t it ridiculous?”

Let me share a couple of thoughts on that front……

Yes, the amount of paperwork can be intimidating. There’s a LOT of it. I would equate it to doing three years of tax returns in a couple of months. While keeping the rest of life going as well.

Lists, lists, lists and more lists. About every three or four days, I’d sit down and get everything out and go over the lists and update them on what we need, what we’re waiting for, what we need to do and what we need to pay for yet.

Then I’d get one of the lists and my wife would get another one. We’d each have our part that we had to do.

(Repeat process every three or four days)

Why is there so much paperwork required? Two reasons, as I see it……

Government – not just one but two governments are involved. Any time you get government involved, you’re going to end up with more paperwork. When you get two governments involved, you’re going to get even more paperwork.

The importance of doing it right. I’ll say more about this later, but when you are dealing with the lives of two families and more importantly children, it is very important that things get done right. It’s important that the families the kids get placed in are reliable and trustworthy and that everything was done appropriately in the home country to verify that the children are adoptable and everything was done legally.

So, yes, there’s a lot of paperwork. But it’s worth it.

The Short Story……. Is Not a Short Story……..

The short story is, “God told us to.” But this isn’t a short story.

We started by going to adoption agency informational meetings. We went to one that specializes in infant domestic adoptions. Does the phrase, “Been There Done That” mean anything to you? We had done the infant thing and felt that God was calling us to let other couples who hadn’t experienced that live through the diapers and the sleepless nights have that experience.

We went to another one that was based predominantly on adopting from the foster care system. I don’t know a nice way to say it, so I’m just going to say it. The foster care system scared us. At this point in our lives, we didn’t know enough about trauma, attachment, abuse and its effects to feel comfortable venturing down that path.

So then we went to an informational meeting about adopting internationally. We “kind of” felt that God was calling us in that direction, but didn’t feel a firm push in that direction. Colombia? Too long of a time in country. China? Too long of a wait. Eastern Europe? Too many concerns of RAD and FAS (Reactive Attachment Disorder and Fetal Alcohol Syndrome).

And then it started happening – first it was a whisper.

A couple we met on a cruise and stayed in touch with, when told we were thinking of adopting told us, “My boss just adopted a little boy from Haiti.”

My brother (runs a youth camp) said, “Hey one of my counselors last year was a missionary kid in Haiti.”

My wife is a big Karen Kingsbury fan. Karen has adopted a number of her children. All from Haiti.

Then one day, our oldest came home from school and said, “Guess what I found out! Chelsea and Chloe’s parents are adopting! From Haiti!”

So we called them and asked if we could meet them for coffee and just talk about it all. They invited us over and we spent a very enjoyable night with them talking about adopting, about Haiti about who, where, how they got there and a multitude of other things.

The upshot of the conversation? A direct quote from the husband, “You need to work with Dixie Bickel and adopt from Haiti.”

And that’s the longer answer to the question of “Why Haiti?”

Through a couple from Montana, an employee of my brother, Karen Kingsbury and fellow classmates of my daughter, God told us that our kid(s) were waiting for us in Haiti.