I didn’t think I would write about this honestly. Part of me wants to close up and not share a word. Yet the questions have come quickly but out of love. Why?! I don’t get it! Can’t you do something?! Can I help?! I am not sure where to begin. I have been quiet – – we have been quiet, because we were doing quite simply what we were asked to do – – parent. Last February found us in no way planning a trip to the USA. Christian and I packed up our family and moved to Eastern Europe on January 16th, 2012. We didn’t do it because we are amazing. We did it because the call is real and we consider ourselves disciples and followers of Jesus Christ. And then that push comes to shove, you go. And so with a whole lotta awkward, no idea, we packed up our three year old, our six month old, eight 22 gallon plastic sterilite containers, a carseat, a stroller, a sewing machine, and a few other random things. We were blessed to be surrounded by very loving, very forgiving people as we blundered through culture shock and insensitivity, being homesick, grief mixed with excitement and so much more.
Fast forward from January 2012 to March 2015, when our world changed in every way. My niece, Eisley Hope was born on March 23rd and twelve days later, her brave fight to live was over. We had experienced adoption loss before and we had experienced the death of grandparents and friends, but this was something we had never experienced before. Addy and Mercy were shaken. We were shaken. They were crushed and bruised. We were crushed and bruised. After a whirlwind come back to the USA just three weeks after our 2015 furlough, we found ourselves back home in Romania with a huge hole in our hearts. So we did what we know best – – we kept going. We can look back now and see all the amazing people that walked alongside of us, making sure we were okay. We found Mercy the resources she needed and after two very scary months with our precious little girl that had stopped communicating, she started trying again. we saw her slowly emerge from the dark shell she had disappeared into. At Christmastime, DohDoh (my sister) and Uncle Tanner came to visit (Eisley’s parents). As I stood back and watched the chaos of laughter, fun and life – – I saw our family healing. I saw a new kind of “okay” where Eisley’s death doesn’t define us but it changes us into better people. I saw hope and joy in our family again.
So when February 2016 rolled around, we didn’t see ourselves doing much or going anywhere anytime soon. Gosh, we were just proud that we made it through most of winter and spring was on the way. Addy is doing brilliantly in Romanian public school. She is funny and energetic and social and bright and loud. She is creative and joyful. She speaks Romanian better (proper with amazing vocabulary) than many seven year olds born in Romania. Christian and I have felt a tiny bit of jealousy a few times, listening to her flawless language skills. Mercy is doing simply amazing at her new kindergarten. After a rough spring/summer 2015, we were so blessed to enroll her in a brand new kindergarten where we watched her become a new child. She is fierce and intense but loving and kind. She is freakishly smart and can already out argue her parents through logic and persistence. Every morning, she would wake up ready for school and life. I can honestly say the girls were thriving and I think Christian and I were doing pretty good too.
Let’s face it – – we are surrounded by kids without parents. It comes with the job. If I wanted to go find myself a child to make “mine” it wouldn’t be legal but it wouldn’t be difficult either. My life is a mixture of family, church family and kids without a family. Our holidays and weekends include extra kids on a regular basis. I can’t pick up Addy from school without giving 14 million hugs and receiving 29 million crushing squeezes. I go to the mini-market and find 1 or 2 kids I know that shout, “hey Meeeerrrrrrryyyyyy!” I say this because we weren’t looking or even really considering growing our family just yet. Our desire has always been to adopt while living in Romanian after we receive citizenship (the legal way for Americans to adopt) and citizenship takes time. So when Noelan found us, we weren’t sure. Noelan’s story is “simple” enough yet filled with trauma. He was born in Africa and quickly shuffled around from orphanage to foster mom. His California family began his adoption and asked us to be his godparents. We began praying for him while he was just an infant and I love that part of his story.
Like many, most, all Africa adoption, his hit some major bumps and he ended up living with his sweet foster mama for the first three years of his life. Many times it was thought his adoption would not take place but then in January it did. And we found ourselves peering through FaceTime watching him arrive in SoCal and we were full of excitement and joy. But as we know and have experienced and lived, adoption is not an easy nor simple way to add a child to your family. It is a decision to love a child that might be “broken” according to the worlds standards but I would argue that the world is what is actually broken. Adoption is parenting a child with a complex and confusing background, understanding that they might look “fine” on the outside but on the inside they are carrying very deep, very real, very painful wounds. And Noelan’s new legal parents found themselves unable to care for him, to which I say, that is okay.
So in February when they asked us to come and be his forever family, we found ourselves very, very conflicted. Everything in us said we needed to go and yet nothing inside of us wanted to uproot our lives for an unknown time. We wrestled and sought counsel. I still remember my older brother saying, “my fear is that he is too much to for them to parent while he is living with them but once he is gone, he won’t be too much to parent and they will think they can do it and then they will get him back and he will be too much for them to parent and a vicious cycle will start.” And we knew he was 100% right because let’s face it – – we are all awesome parents until we actually have kids. Heck I was the world’s best parent before Addy was born. Yet in our heart of hearts we still felt the urge to go. Our sweet little godson was in danger – – this isn’t stuff you make up. His new legal parents were crying out for help, confessing that they wanted him out of the house, their marriage was in shambles, their home was dangerous and toxic from him – – all words direct from their own mouths. Christian looked at me and said, “if we don’t go, we will always regret it.”
My parents rearranged their lives and schedules to pick him up from SoCal with less than 24 hours notice – – because from the mouths of his new legal family, it was for his own safety. My sister and her husband rearranged everything to provide emergency respite for him. And on the night of February 18th, they got my precious little boy, shell-shocked, numb and turned off to the world. He wasn’t in good condition. He was very dehydrated. He drank and drank and drank water until you had to take the water away and he would tantrum for it. His lips were scabbed and peeling. His skin was dry and peeling. He was simply numb to the world and life around him. DohDoh rocked him for hours those first ten days. Tanner sat on the floor and played cars over and over and over. Pops would get him from DohDoh’s office and drive him up to the “big house” (our name for Grammie and Pop’s house) and Grammie would watch him during the day. He had a non-stop “cold” for the first week.
And we furiously paused life in Romania. We got out cash time and time again (ATM’s have limits you know) and prepaid bills for a couple months as customary in Romania. We started praying and rearranging money to come up with the needed adoption fees (let’s be honest, missionaries and humanitarian workers don’t exactly make big bucks). We pulled Addy out of school and her gymnastics class just a month before starting competitions. We pulled Mercy out of her kindergarten and her swim lessons. Tears of confusion streamed down her cheeks on her last day at school with her sweet best friends Tibi and Iusti. We tried to explain to our “other” kids that we would be gone just for a couple months and we would come back but I knew in my heart “gone” means “forever” in these kids’ hearts and the tears that welled up broke my heart. Our ministry director was encouraging through it all – – reminding us that God would take care of the ministry while we were gone. So with time we didn’t have and money we didn’t have, we came to California on February 29th and we met our son.
It was blurry in the beginning, jumping into mama and daddy to an adorable but freaked out little boy but it was so worth it. The nights were long and the days even longer but it was worth it. The first snuggle, the first “I love you mama” that came in April made it worth it. The girls reaching out and hugging and tickling and loving their brother made it worth it. And with time we saw him start to thrive. He began using words instead of wails, eating healthy portions of food and using the potty for pee and poo. Yes, these are life’s little successes. Don’t get me wrong, for every two steps forward we would take a step back. This is normal development for an adopted child. Noelan’s three and a half years of life are filled with loss, pain, goodbyes, fear and failures. But we were blessed to know a little better this time around how to meet his needs. So we took every day as a new start in this weird pretend life we were living in California. We morphed into homeschooling Addy and Mercy in Romanian (hello challenge) while blending a family of three kids that were strangers one day and siblings the next.
And we kept waiting. It gets tricky here but you asked, so here is the “simplified” answer. Noelan’s legal family was not completely his legal family – – because he was in the middle of an uncompleted African adoption. So his legal family couldn’t sign over parental rights until they legally completed his adoption. Maybe Christian and I are dumb, maybe we just love and trust too much, maybe we just need to have faith that Noelan needed us. But the problem is that we simply believed their word. So we plowed ahead with nothing more legal than a Power of Attorney. We did medical appointments, blood work, vaccinations and minor surgery. We did play therapy and TBRI (Karyn Purvis’ trust-based relational intervention). And we waited for April 5th when his legal family would receive the paperwork they needed to relinquish parental rights.
But they didn’t sign. We asked them why and it was a new excuse every day. We tried to explain we couldn’t stay here indefinitely while they let us babysit Noelan. We tried to remind them why they asked us to come. We tried to answer questions and be 100% open and vulnerable. All the while, the stress just grew in our little family. We tried to hide it from Addy and Mercy but they are just too smart and they would overhear something, see something, know something. And meanwhile, the love and bond between us and our new son simply strengthened. He became a mama’s boy with a deep love for daddy’s tickles. He found comfort in his relationship with Addy and mischief in his relationship with Mercy. He asked daily to visit Grammie or Pops or DohDoh or Tanner.
And we kept waiting, trying to financially afford two lives, one here in California and one in Romania. And we tried to give a grieving family time and space and love. When May rolled around and we were told that no paperwork had been signed, we were confused and devastated. There is nothing quite like loving and pouring your life into a child that you have no “legal claim” to. Our watching in desperation, knowing he has attached to his new family, us. Watching his behaviors show the beginning steps of healing, watching the successes begin to outnumber the setbacks, all the while knowing that a family he wasn’t attached to was weirdly obsessed with him. And finally, waiting as his legal family was told by the adoption agency, “You need to make a decision because Noelan is attached to his family and Noelan deserves permanency” and instead being told, “Nope we changed our minds, we want him back, we are attached to him.” Because you know, 20 days of “this child is in danger in our toxic home” is more beneficial to Noelan that 93 days in a unconditionally loving and stable environment. (sarcasm) Please don’t get me wrong – – I won’t claim perfection, simply unconditional love and safe stability. And that is what Noelan needed and deserved.
Why is he gone in a blur? Why weren’t his aunties and uncles, other grandparents or friends able to say goodbye? Maybe because on Thursday we chose Monday to take him to the adoption agency (over an hour away) and on Friday at 9a we received a call from our social worker telling us they were demanding him that day and we needed to have him in Sacramento by noon. I am so grateful that in that blur at least his Auntie DohDoh and Uncle Tanner were able to drop everything and race up to see him. And I am more than grateful for Uncle Tanner and Pops that bravely drove him to Sacramento and handed him over to a family that was acting out of selfish gain without a single concern for Noelan. And I am so grateful for Pops, that bravely tried one last time to advocate for Noelan.
And now we are here. In California without our home, but surrounded by some of the most amazing and loving family and friends. I lay awake last night, unable to sleep for most of the night, as my mind whirled and swirled, as I, Noelan’s mama, cried myself to sleep wondering if he was ok, as I woke up panicked over and over hearing his phantom cries in my head. To be the parents of a young, innocent child but not have any legal rights over him has got to be one of the worst things I have ever felt. I don’t have a lot of answers or resolution to this blog post. I would just ask that you would pray for Noelan Truth, his safety and his heart. I would ask that you would pray for Mercy Adoniyah because she feels so deep and so strongly. I would ask that you pray for Addy Grace because she loves so intensely. And I would ask that you would pray for us, our family and everyone around us. This pain is deep.