Wednesday, January 23, 2013

5 Weeks

It's been 5 weeks today since we went to court.  And I'm annoyed.  And frustrated.  And tired of waiting.
I know it doesn't help to complain.  And I know that I'm in the home stretch.  But I have a new definition of home stretch.  It's the kind of stretch where you feel like you are being pulled to the point of popping off extremities.
That is all.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Did You Know?

The DRC has been labeled by the U.N. as the "rape capital of the world"

1,100 women are raped every single day - and this number is considered conservative based on the fear, shame, and stigma of rape in the DRC

The wars in the DRC have claimed nearly the same number of lives as if 9/11 happened every single day for 360 days, the genocide that struck Rwanda in 1994, the ethnic cleansing that overwhelmed Bosnia in the mid-1990s, the genocide that took place in Darfur, the number of people killed in the great tsunami that struck Asia in 2004, and the number of people who died in Hiroshima and Nagaskai- Take those numbers combined and then DOUBLE them and you have the number of lives lost in the DRC

There are 5,000,000 orphaned children in the DRC- the entire population of Scotland
770,000 are from AIDS

If an HIV+ mother receives the antiretroviral drugs during pregnancy, the chance of spreading it to her child are LESS than 2%

Less than 5,000 HIV+ people in the Congo are receiving the antiretroviral medications

You can only get HIV from unprotected sex, sharing needles or sharp objects with an infected person, pregnancy, birth, and/or breastfeeding, and blood transfusion with infected blood.

Since the invention and use of the antiretroviral medications, there have been NO cases of transmission through normal family living.

You can't get it from urine, tears, sweat, mosquito bites, kissing, sharing drinks and utensils, bathing together, swimming together, sneezing, hugging, using hot tubs, playing sports, using public toilets, changing diapers....

The HIV virus is extremely fragile outside of the human body

If an HIV+ child has a bloody wound, a paper towel is enough protection to stop transmission 

If HIV+ blood splashes on you and you have no open wounds, your skin is a protective barrier that will guard against transmission

If an HIV+ child is on the antiretroviral treatments and you have open wound to wound contact, your chances are slim due to the viral load being basically non-existent

HIV is considered a chronic, but manageable disease

With proper medical care, HIV+ people can live indefinitely, get married and have children

HIV+ orphans are the most overlooked when it comes to adoption and they wait the longest to find their forever family

STIGMA is the greatest challenge of being HIV+

Education is the #1 way to defeat the stigma

I didn't know either.  But once I started learning, I found the Lord convicting my heart.  How could I turn away?

"Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter.
If you say, 'But we knew nothing about this,' does not he who weighs the heart perceive it?  Does not he who guards your life know it?  Will he not repay everyone according to what they have done?" - Proverbs 24:11-12

Friday, January 18, 2013

No Loose Ends...

Throughout my entire journey to bring Munni home, there have been encounters that might seem random to some, but I know were perfectly planned.  One such encounter had to do with Agency #1.  When I first saw Munni, she was on the waiting list of Agency #1.  I contacted the case worker immediately to find out more information.  P. sent me Munni's file.  Of course, it was upsetting to read and I had a hard time processing it.  I spent several hours on the phone with P. talking about Munni, her  background, and how to move forward.  P. was in charge of directing the PAPs to the correct country coordinator.  P. sent my info to D., who was in charge of Ind*a.  My struggles with Agency #1 all had to do with D.  She wouldn't respond to my phone calls or emails, and when she did, she was vague.  She didn't even have the courtesy to call me when she informed me that after 6 months of waiting with them, they couldn't complete Munni's adoption.  I had several conversations with P. about it, but, it was out of her hands.

The second day I was with Munni in H*derabad, I received an email from P.  First she stated that she wasn't sure if I would remember her, but about a year and a half ago, I had contacted them about a little girl named Munni.  At the time they couldn't complete her adoption, BUT, she just saw Munni on the shared list, locked in her referral, and wrote to me to see if I was still interested in pursuing her adoption because now they could help me.  I laughed!  Not because of anything bad; I never had frustrated feelings with P.  I just couldn't believe the full circle that had happened.  I emailed her back and told her, "You will never believe where I am right now and who is sitting right next to me!"  I told her we were going to court the next day.  She emailed me back immediately and told me that she was crying tears of joy for me.  She was SO happy for Munni and me!!  I really, really believe that the Lord answered P.'s prayers because I know she had such a heart for Munni.  What a loving God we have, that he would orchestrate even the little things, at exactly the perfect time, to answer P.'s prayers.  

She told me not to worry about Munni being on the list, that it happens quite frequently.  I told M. the next morning about it and she reassured me of the same thing.

I sent P. a picture of Munni smiling, in a colorful, flower dress, and another picture of the two of us together.  She told me it was the most beautiful thing she had seen in a long, long time.  I couldn't agree with her more!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Part 5: Getting To Know Her - Saying Goodbye...

We arrived at the hotel and went straight to the dining room to get a late lunch.  After all, we had been sitting and waiting for a long time.   We sat at our usual table and talked to our usual waiter.  M. and I ordered and then M. asked Munni if she wanted a certain dish.  Munni refused to eat or drink anything.  She sat in the chair and had the saddest look on her face.  It reminded me of the very first picture I saw of her, which was absolutely pitiful.  We called the waiter over who speaks Telugu and asked him to ask her what was wrong- did she feel O.K.?  Was she hungry or thirsty?  She refused to talk to him and turned her face away.  At this point, I couldn't take it anymore.  I got up and went around to her, kneeled down in front of her, and tried to get her to look at me.  She started crying and rubbing her eyes.  Ugh, I can't even express how awful that felt; it seriously broke my heart.  I told M. that I was going to take her back up to our room and to please just have my food sent to the room.  She agreed that it was a good idea.  I picked up Munni, she buried her head into my neck, and I carried her all the way to our room.

When we got to the room, I set her on the bed and tried to ask her what was wrong even though we don't speak the same language.  She rubbed her eyes, wiping her tears, and then started giggling.  I gave her a huge hug and told her I loved her.  She lit up like a firefly.  I was so happy to see the Munni with whom I had just spent the last 3 days!  I really think that she just needed that one-on-one time with me.  We had about an hour before I had to take her back to the orphanage so we played some games and hung out.  I changed her into a different dress and she picked out another headband :)  We were having so much fun together!  My sandwich and french fries came and guess what?  Just like any other child, Munni LOVES french fries!    She was dancing around, eating the fries, and laughing.  I kept taking pictures and video of her in a desperate attempt to cement this moment in my mind.  It's a horrible feeling knowing you have to return your child to an orphanage.  Even though I know there is an end point in sight, it still just plain stinks.  I was hoping to get enough video and pictures of her to sustain me through the next phase of this journey.

Oh how I LOVE her smile!!!
Finally it was time for me to pack her bag and the bag of donations I brought for the orphanage.  We met M. in the lobby and then headed out to the car.  I dreaded this car ride.  I prayed and prayed and prayed that I would keep it together in front of Munni.  Especially with how she acted after court, I didn't want to do anything that could possibly upset her again.  What was great about the day that I met her is that the orphanage is only about 5 minutes from the hotel.  But on the way back?  not great at all.  We got to the orphanage and walked into some sort of celebration.  There was a cake and they asked if we wanted any.  Of course, Munni was thrilled :)  I made the director tell Munni 3 different times that I was coming back for her.  I really, really wanted her to know that I wasn't abandoning her.  No words can describe what an awful feeling this is.  Based on her history, it was extremely important to me that she really understood what was happening.  When I first arrived, I was hoping that I could keep her until the day after court; the day I left.  But sitting in that office and hearing what the director told me she told Munni, I know the Lord was looking out for the best for her.  Since we had just gone to court that day, the director was able to explain to Munni that I had to go back home and wait for all the papers to be written up from our court appearance.  Once the papers were written up, I would be back for her.  Munni did that Ind*an head bobble that looks like she's shaking her head but it really means "yes," she understood.

While Munni was eating her cake, M. asked me to take some pictures for some families.   Let me tell you, this was such a joy for me!  I only received two "new" pictures of Munni the entire time I was waiting for her.  New pictures of your child are like water in the middle of a desert.  I had so much fun getting these little ones to smile and trying to capture their personalities!  

Sometime during the photo shoot, Munni slipped by and went back to her room.  I kind of freaked out asked M. if I would be able to say goodbye to her since I didn't realize that I was supposed to when she was eating cake.  Of course in M. fashion, she told the caretakers that we were going back to her room to say our goodbyes and then out of the side of her mouth, she told me to bring my camera.  We walked down the long hallway, past many rooms that were full of smiling children.  We finally arrived at Munni's room.   Although the decorating, clothes, and toys are sparse; it is clean.  But most of all, the children were smiling.  Everyone except Munni was sitting on a rug.  Munni was sitting against the wall.  M. told me that this is where Munni has spent her entire time at the orphanage.  I looked around thinking about this and wondered what she will remember about it once she is at home with me.  I took pictures of all the little girls - they ranged in ages from babies to older than Munni.  I could tell that Munni was withdrawn- even from how she just was in the cake eating room.  That made me really sad.  It was time for us to leave to so I went over to Munni, hugged and kissed her, and told her I loved her.  I said, "Munni mummy?"  and she answered me, "Munni mummy!"  With that, I turned around and walked out of her room and back down the long hallway.  As soon as we stepped out of the door, I freakin' lost it.  I couldn't have held it in if I had tried.  By far, that was the most painful moment I've ever had in my life - to the point that it felt like a physical pain in my chest.  M. was very sweet and hugged me.  I cried the whole way back to the hotel.  I SO wanted to be able to pack my stuff to get the bump out of there, but there was no way we could switch our flights in time.  

Once back at the hotel, M. told me that we should use our free drink tokens and celebrate that today the courts of Ind*a legally recognized Munni as my daughter.  I know she was trying to cheer me up so I agreed.  I washed up and we went down to the lounge.  I don't know if it was because I was dehydrated or because I was so sad, but Ind*a has got some strong wine!  I couldn't even finish one glass!  After a little while, we went back to our rooms.

At this point, I made an emergency call to my sister.  She had been texting me the last hour or so asking  when we could talk and if I was alright.  I wasn't alright.  Thankfully, she has a friend who had adopted 3 precious boys from Guatemala a few years ago.  This friend had to go through a similar process as me.  She called my sister earlier in the day, sobbing, telling my sister that she needed to call me, that what I was going through was horrible, and since I was there alone, I would really need someone.  Boy was she right.  I don't know if any words really ever came out of my mouth the first 20 minutes of our conversation, but my sister just let me cry and cried with me.  Best. Sister. Ever.

The next morning, I woke up with renewed hope.  I know there were many people praying for me and I fully believe that the Lord answered those prayers.  I had such a peace and joy that I couldn't explain. It was as if I had crossed a bridge.  I was on the new side of waiting.  The side of waiting that has an end point.  The side of waiting that is full of confidence.  The side of waiting that will bring my daughter home.

As M. and I drove to the airport, I asked her if she thought Munni would be my valentine.  She told me that she thought it would be before then.  Of course, I got excited and M. had to reign me back in.  I told her that I completely understood that it is Ind*a....  But then, she told me the most amazing thing.  She said that for sure I would have the best birthday ever because Munni would definitely be home by then.  My birthday is the first week of March.  I just looked out the window and smiled the biggest smile.  Out of the corner of my eye, I saw M. smiling too.
Last picture of my baby girl

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Part 4: Getting To Know Her - Court!

I woke up Wednesday morning with butterflies in my stomach.  I wasn't sure how Munni would be after crying herself to sleep the night before and we were going to court.  Thankfully, she was so happy to see me :)  We cuddled for a little bit and then had to get moving to be ready in time to leave for court.

She loves routine so the whole shower/getting ready thing was a blast for her!  After she was dried off, she ran to my suitcase.  I wondered what she was doing and then it all made sense.  The night before when we were at the mall, I bought some things for my family for Christmas.  In the first store when I really started to not feel well, I bought some scarves, a shirt for my nephew, and a Salwar Kameez for my 8 year old, tall-for-her-age, niece.  I'm going to date myself by what I say next, but this store reminded me of the old Benetton stores; everything folded into cubbies.  When I picked the Salwar Kameez for my niece, I never even unfolded it, I just took it from the shelf because I liked the color pink it was, and added it to the pile of other things I was purchasing.  Well, I'm learning that nothing gets by Munni :)  That little peanut ran to my suitcase, found the bag from that store, pulled out the folded Salwar Kameez, put it on the bed and then turned to me jumping up and down, clapping her hands and squealing with delight.  Seriously?  How could I say no to her!!  It was WAY too big for her but if you would have seen the expression on her face, you would have melted too.  I rolled the pants over 4 or 5 times and just went with the top being too long.  She picked out the hot pink headband, her pink bracelet, and pink flip flops.  She was all set!  She also had me put the flavored lip gloss on her.  Then she put her little pink sunglasses in her pink Barbie purse and was ready to go!

My Indian Princess!
 While we ate breakfast, M. schooled me on what to do and what not to do at court.  This made me even more anxious but I just kept praying that everything would go smoothly.  We finished breakfast and headed to the car.  When we got to the court, I was surprised by how it looked.  The buildings didn't have that official "federal" look to them, instead, it looked like a big apartment complex with a huge tree in the middle of the courtyard.  We got there at 10:00 am and waited.  And waited.  And waited.  M. had told me not to bring the iPad because of the area so instead, Munni had her magna doodle, stickers, cards, and a little notebook.  We sat under the tree and just waited.  Not once did Munni ever complain, whine, or do anything that suggested she was bored.  When she was done playing with her stickers, she got out the notebook and started writing her numbers.  I couldn't believe it!  I loved watching her and her methodology.  I could tell the way the teacher had taught them to write out their numbers.  She would write a column of tens, draw a straight line next to them, and then start on the next group.
My little student
After about 2 hours of waiting under the tree, we were able to move inside to the hallway.  It was very busy and people were moving in and out.  However, this is not like a typical court building you would see as there were some who were waiting that you would never see inside a federal building in the states :)  The funny thing is that everyone got out of HIS way instead of visa versa.
Just wandering the halls....
Is that an itch you got there?
After about an hour in the hallway, we were able to move into the court room.  We sat in the back row and I looked around at the peeling paint on the walls, the ceiling fan slowly circulating, and could hear the call to prayer in the background as the court is in an area with a large concentration of M*slims.  Through the iron honeycomb window grid, Munni and I saw a cat walking along the red, clay tiles of the roof of the building next to ours.  I kept waiting for Harrison Ford to show up because I felt like I was in an Indiana Jones movie.  An hour later at 2 pm,  it was finally our turn to go before the judge!  She was a stern looking woman.  Munni and I walked up to the bench and I bent down and picked up Munni.  My attorney was on the other side.  I just kept smiling and kissing Munni.  The judge never asked me any questions but she did actually smile at me.  Well, it was more like a half smile, but still, I took that as a positive!  She spoke in Hindi so I have no idea what she said.  We were in front of her for a whole 5 minutes and then it was over!  We walked out of the room and M. turned to me and said, "Congratulations.  Munni is your daughter!"  I don't know if it's because this process has been so crazy with so many what ifs that I didn't truly feel like it was real.  I kept asking her, "Are you sure?"    She also told me that my case was the smoothest she had ever had!  I thanked God for answering my prayers :)  We stayed around for about a half an hour to fill out the bond and some other paperwork.  Finally, we got in the car to leave.  I still couldn't believe it!!
We are family!
I LOVE her dimples :)
 We got in the car and left.  We had a couple of errands to run and after about 5 minutes, Munni fell asleep next to me.  I think it was probably exhausting for her to just sit there all morning and afternoon. I picked her up and put her on my lap.  She laid her head against my chest, wrapped her arms around me, and I felt her body completely give way.  I was holding her, rubbing her back, kissing her head, and looking out the window as the city passed us by.  Never in my life have I felt so blessed.  All I could think is that I didn't ever want this car ride to end....

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Part 3: Getting To Know Her Day 2

We woke up Tuesday morning, looked at each other, and just giggled.  She probably thought it was great to be in a king sized bed and I thought it was amazing that I was lying next to her :)  We played in bed for a little while, tickling and goofing around, and then we got up to take showers.  Her fascination with the shower and all her laughing and squealing really started my day right!  She loves all the routine and doesn't miss a beat.  She would carefully unscrew the shower gel cap and as soon as she was done squirting it on the loofa I was holding, she would put the cap back on.  She did this with anything that had a lid.  She loved to brush her teeth- I taught her how to get one last swiggle of water and spit it out.  It was so funny because she would do that, then turn and look at me, and smile the biggest smile!  One thing that she didn't get used to the whole time we were together was the toilet.  At the orphanage, all of the children and adults use a hole and buckets of water.  No toilet and no toilet paper.
This is a High Class version in the Delhi airport.  In the orphanage, there is no sprayer, just a huge bucket of water and a little pitcher!
Trying to show her how to use it was definitely an adventure and for her, a scary one even though she giggled the whole time.  If you are adopting from Ind*a, be prepared for your child to hang onto you for dear life when they try to use the toilet!  I demonstrated but she still needed to hang onto me.  She also would try to step over it from the side, which was hilarious!  I tried to show her how to stand in front and sit down, but she wasn't havin' it!   Let's just say it's a bonding moment for sure!  Of course, I didn't mind in the least, seriously because I was still in shock that I was with her.  I would just rub her back and kiss her while she went.  Because she's so little, she couldn't balance herself so I had to help her clean herself.  I would suggest to bring a ton of baby wipes.  They do the job and also I think they somewhat helped her to feel clean like what she was used to with the bucket of water.   She will probably hate me later in life for posting this much info, but I know there are a lot of adoptive mamas out there and I think it's important to know!  At least I'm not posting on how I got her to finally poop :)  After the adventure of the toilet, I had to teach her to wash her hands.  She really loved that.  Next, she would run to get the lotion.  She loves some scented lotion!  I put lotion all over her and in between rubbing it in, I would tickle her.  I never get tired of her laugh - so, so fun!

I laid out several outfits for her to choose what she wanted to wear.  She chose the yellow flower dress.  I think she liked all of the colors.  Then I showed her all of the hair accessories I brought.  She definitely knows what she likes and what she thinks looks good!  Can you tell that pink is her favorite color?  She chose the fuchsia pink headband and then quickly put on her pink bracelet and pink flip flops.  I was cracking up!
so pretty!
We went to the elevator and she LOVED it.  It has a glass window and the way it moves makes you feel like you are on a roller coaster.
Sunglasses inside- prepared for the paparazzi :)
Let's talk about HOW AWESOME the breakfast bar is at the Taj.  Seriously, all day I thought about it :)  They have some sort of smoothie every day which are all delicious, but my favorite was the Mango Smoothie.  They also have a wide variety of Indian and American food, in case you really need something to remind you of home or your stomach needs that comfort :)  They will make anything to order and every time I asked for an omelet, it was so tasty.  I ordered coffee and the guy asked if I wanted to try the local kind and of course, I said yes!  It was so good that I didn't even have to put sugar in it.  That's saying a lot because I'm the kinda girl that takes coffee with her sugar and cream.    I walked Munni around the huge circle of food and let her point to what she wanted.  I have no idea what she chose, but she loved it.  She also had some kind of red, spicy chutney that she dipped almost everything in before she ate it.  She really loves spicy food!  They also have what's called sweet lime juice.  It didn't really taste like lime or lemonade to me, but it was very refreshing.

After breakfast, we went out to the pool.  I didn't bring a swimsuit for Munni (or myself for that matter) because I wasn't sure how she would have reacted.  Now that I know her, in retrospect, I wish I would have brought one as I think she would have had a blast in the pool!  Anyway, we did a photo shoot, put our feet in the water, and played in the big lawn area they have.
She's a natural!  I didn't even have to tell her to pose!
After spending some time outside, we went back to the room.  I thing I wish I would have brought is some "lounge wear" for her and me.  Doh.  So instead, we improvised and got back in our jammies.   We played all kinds of games, laughed a ton, and I took a bazillion pictures and videos.  She loved to watch the videos of herself.  I was surprised at how much English she knew.  She knows her numbers 1-100, her ABC's, her colors, and some simple words like cat.  She also knows how to write her name.

Around 4, we went to the mall with M. because I wanted to get some Christmas gifts to bring to my family.  We walked from the hotel and Munni was a champ!  About 3/4 of the way there, I started to feel weird, almost light-headed.  When we got to the mall, you have to go through 2 security entrances: first a booth where a woman pats you down and then you walk through a metal detector.  At least I knew we would be safe!  Once inside, we went up the escalator and it was seriously like the scene from Elf:
She was so funny!  We jumped off it when we got to the top.  We headed into a store and started looking around.  At this point, I started to feel even worse.  I was so light-headed and was starting to get clammy.  I hurried with my purchases, hoping that as soon as we started walking again, I would feel better.  I took about 20 steps and really starting feeling like I would pass out.  I envisioned myself doing a face plant in an Indian mall.  Do they have ambulances?  I didn't remember seeing any on the roads.  I  didn't want to be a wimp but my vision was starting to look like the peep hole at the end of the Merry Melody Cartoons so I told M. that I wasn't feeling good and needed to sit down.  She gave me her water and my hands were shaking while I drank it.  The clamminess was getting much worse.  I sat there for about 10 minutes and then told her that I thought I should go back to the room.  She suggested getting some ice-cream, since maybe it was my blood sugar.  WOW.  It's more  like gelato than ice-cream but their flavors were incredible!!  I got the almond flavor and Munni got the strawberry.  We sat down, ate our ice-cream, and watched all the people.  There is such a mix in H*derabad.  I saw women in beautiful saris, women in full burkas, and women in western clothing.  It was definitely an interesting place to people watch!  Although it was an improvement, I still wasn't feeling great so we headed back to the hotel.  When we got to the front of the hotel, M. told me to go on up to the room and she and Munni would continue to walk.  She said I looked like a ghost :)  I was very thankful to have M. there because I knew that something wasn't right with me.

I went up to the room and tried to take a nap but I couldn't fall asleep.  I think I was worried/anxious because Munni wasn't with me.  I also posted on fb asking for prayer because I was not feeling well at all.  We had court tomorrow and I was imagining myself looking like death-warmed-over in front of the judge.  That was the last thing I wanted.  It did help to lie down because that alleviated the light-headedness I was feeling.  About 45 minutes later, they came back to the room.  M. said that Munni LOVED to walk and would have kept going.  *Mental note to myself- this comes in very handy since I have 3 dogs :)  I really hope she likes walking them with me!  Anyway, we were supposed to go down to the restaurant for dinner but I couldn't so we ordered room service.  I think Munni felt like a princess with the big tray of dal and rice :)  I put her in her jammies and let her play with the ipad while I laid next to her.  I think I fell asleep for about 20 minutes but when I woke up, I did feel a lot better.  It was so strange and I still don't know what it was that caused me to feel so ill.  I never felt like I was going to throw up or have the judies, so it's a complete mystery.
Room service Dal and rice!
We played some games and then skyped with my family.  After that, I turned off the lights and we snuggled.  I said our prayers and rubbed her back.  As soon as I was done praying, she started to cry.  It was so sad.  She was hanging onto my arm, facing me, and trying to hide her head.  This was really hard for me because since we don't speak the same language, I was so frustrated that I couldn't find out what it was.  I kept talking to her and she continued to cry.  I called M., whose room was right next to mine, and told her that Munni was crying.  She came over and tried to talk to her.  M. speaks Hindi and Marathi.  Munni speaks Telugu but I think she understands some Hindi.  M. couldn't get Munni to tell her anything either.  M. told me that as hard as it was for me to see Munni upset and crying, it is actually a good sign.  She said she is either crying because she misses her friends at the orphanage, or she's crying because she knows based on the other girls before her, that this was her last night with me. Either way, M. said it shows signs of attachment and that is a GOOD thing.  M. went back to her room and I turned out the lights.  Munni hugged me, I rubber her back and kissed her head, and she cried until she fell asleep.  I prayed for her until I drifted off to sleep.  It was the most heart-wrenching experience :(

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Full Disclosure

Here it goes:
I started my journey to adopt Baby Joaquin in September of 2010.  There have been tons of twists, turns and blocked roads along the way.  Technically speaking, there is no reason for a Congo adoption to take this long.  Except when God has a plan that is different from your own.  He started cluing me in to this fact early last spring when one of the first families with the agency I used to be with finally traveled to bring home their child.  The news they reported from the DRC while there was horrifying, especially the parts about the agency run orphanage.

In addition to all of the incredibly unethical practices that were going on, I was hearing things that really messed with my comfort.  I was so nervous that I would be referred a baby with a need that I didn't feel I could handle.  That's when God started whispering to me.  He whispered one, sweet verse to me over and over:

"Then He will answer them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.'" - Matthew 25:45

I knew I was in trouble :)
I started to get that uncomfortable uneasiness when you know the Lord is leading you down a path you would have never chosen on your own.  I lined up my excuses, "But God, what about...?"  and "But God, I don't think I could ever...." and, "But God, HOW?"
Every single excuse I put in front of him, He answered with the Matthew verse.
Being the faithful One that he is, he also brought things to me to ease my discomfort and to show me that yes, when I trust in HIS plan, he will provide.
I "met" a very normal mom who adopted a child with a need I thought I couldn't handle.  Her life with her "special" need child looked very normal.  No big deal.  Hmmmm.
Then I found some more blogs of adoptive parents with children of the same special need and I saw how normal their lives looked as well.
My uneasiness slowly started to depart.
Then the Lord showed me a couple of organizations that really advocate for these children.  Their educational resources are AMAZING!!  I couldn't get enough of what they were saying.  My mind felt like a sponge and I was loving learning all that I could.
Then came October.  
My new facilitator posted that a baby with this special need was looking for his forever family.  I contacted her immediately and said I was interested to know more.  She told me another family was considering him, but if they didn't accept him, she would give me his information.  I thought to myself, there's no way that family will turn him down.  This was on a Wednesday.  I prayed all Wednesday night and all day Thursday.  I kept checking my email during the day.  Nothing.  I left school later than usual and still no email or voicemail.  I was happy that the baby found a family but was also disappointed.
Then she emailed me.  "Well Kristen, he's still available...."
I couldn't believe it!!!  She warned me that he was super cute but I told her I felt I couldn't make the decision without seeing him.  I had 24 hours to decide.  I immediately told 3 people to pray specifically that God would make it super clear if this was indeed Baby Joaquin.  I didn't tell them about the special need because I didn't want any personal bias to interfere with their prayers.
I was at the gas station when she emailed me and I couldn't wait to get home to look at him!!!
Before I opened the email, I prayed that God would give me peace and clarity of mind on whether or not this baby was for me.  I opened the email and she wasn't lying.  He was the cutest thing ever!!  But, my heart sank because I knew immediately, he wasn't for me.  I can't explain it, I just knew.  I didn't want my feelings to dictate everything so I continued to pray.  I had until Friday to tell her yes or no.
I woke up Friday morning with an overwhelming sense of peace about two things:

1)  That specific baby was not intended for me.  He was in instrument in guiding me to where God was calling me...
2)  That I would adopt an HIV + baby from the DRC.

Although that specific baby wasn't intended for me, he did open the last door to my heart.   I knew I needed time for 3 things:
1)  to educate myself more so that I was the most prepared I could be
2)  tell my family and close circle of friends to gain support
3)  decide whether or not to disclose his HIV status

My friends and family have been amazingly supportive.  I was expecting the worst and that's not at all how my decision was received.  You see, I found out about HIV/AIDS in the 80's at the height of the pandemic when it was a death sentence and fear spread rumors like wildfire.  I can tell you the EXACT moment I became a germaphobe.  We were warming up for soccer practice, talking about our next game with our rivals we couldn't stand, and G made a comment that we shouldn't use their bathrooms because we would get the AIDS from them.  The  Aids.  Really?  We were so dumb!  I didn't even know what it was but I found out quickly.  And then there were the spring break urban legends about a girl who hooked up with her dream guy and he sent her home with a gift she wasn't supposed to open until she was on the plane...  You can read all about that drama here.  Anyway, as I started my education about HIV, I realized that I was with the majority of the country in not having been educated about the disease past 1987.  WOW.  I couldn't believe all I learned!  It is no longer considered fatal.  It is now classified as a chronic disease considered easier to manage than diabetes.  You can't "catch" it from normal household living.  In addition, an HIV+ person who is on the antiretroviral medication can lead a normal life, with normal life expectancy and can even have children!  The advances in the treatment of this disease is absolutely phenomenal.  I could go on and on about it but if you are interested, you can read about it here.

With regard to disclosure, I prayed A TON about this.  It is a very important decision.  There are families who disclose and there are families who don't.  I respect everyone's decision and I would hope the same in return.  About 6 years ago, I was introduced to a book series about strongholds and how to pray binding and loosing prayers.  Hands down what I learned from those books has been the most powerful thing that has completely changed my prayer life and has been responsible for HUGE prayers being answered and deliverance of some major stuff.  In one of the books, she outlines three sources of where strongholds take place.  One of them is shame.  I don't want Baby Joaquin to grow up with a secret that he feels he has to keep.  He has nothing to be ashamed of with being HIV+.  People who have children with other kinds of special needs don't feel obligated to keep those a secret so why should I?  The stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS is the biggest obstacle out there.  Ignorance breeds fear.  So if we can do our part to educate those around us so that in turn, the fear and ignorance about HIV/AIDS dissipates, then so be it.  If my life with Joaquin can be a beacon of hope and a future for another child waiting to find his forever family, then it's worth it.  HIV+ children are the most overlooked children when it comes to adoption.  Internationally, it's still a huge crisis because the medications aren't available.  I love the United States.  I mean, I really love it.  I've traveled a ton, lived in other countries, and when you leave your country, you learn to appreciate what we have.  And what we have here are amazing resources for medicine and treatment that you can't find anywhere else.

Finally, it was really important to me to talk to M, my in-country facilitator and social worker for Munni's adoption.  She was 110% supportive and thought I should start pursuing it right away.  She's known Munni for almost 3 years and has seen her adjust to life in the orphanage.  She thinks that Munni will thrive having a baby brother :)  The other thing M told me that broke my heart is that hardly ever do the HIV+ children in Ind*a get adopted.  She said that the majority of them grow up in an institution because no one wants to adopt an HIV+ child.  There are no words for how devastating this is.  It further confirmed my decision to disclose.

So my next steps are that during my one month home with Munni (YIPPEEEE!!!!) post placement visit, I will have my Congo home study updated to specifically include HIV as a special need I am willing to adopt.  This is necessary for the immigration.  This should be in March sometime.

I was talking to my friend Mer the other day and I told her how if someone would of told me 3 1/2 years ago when I started the adoption journey that I was going to adopt an older child with a traumatic past and an HIV+ baby, I would have bolted as fast I could in the opposite direction.  The two things I was most resistant to and afraid of, the Lord brought to me.  I think about Sweet Munni and how I would have completely missed out on her if I would have stayed with my myopic point of view.  She replied, "I know.  Don't you love it when you say things like 'I would NEVER do that,' and God's like, 'um, actually we ARE going to do that!'"

So there it is.

I am open to answering any questions you may have.  I can't believe how much I've learned so if I can educate along the way, bring it!

Oh, and that sweet baby boy?  I emailed my DRC facilitator right before I left for Ind*a.  He had been on my heart obviously and I prayed for him everyday that he would find a family.

God answered those prayers :)