Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Reality of It All

There has been a lot of excitement this week and yet, the reality is, that jewelry sales and PODCASTS aside there are still 143,000,000 orphans in the world and there are 65 that we know by name in Kyrygyzstan. This blog post is from Lisa Brotherton, my closest "adoption" friend in all of this mess. In fact, I have known her since the very beginning of our journey.  We started with the same agency at the same time and received our referrals within days of each other.   We have had hundreds of emails over the years and shared long tearful conversations from time to time.

Lisa volunteered to write up their story early on but openly admitted how difficult it was to put it on paper so instead, she is allowing us to read what she has written over the four years.  The posts truly capture the gravity of what a nightmare this has been. So from one of the bravest and most devoted people I know, please meet Lisa, Nargiza and her family.
Precious Nargiza

My name is Lisa Brotherton. My husband Jeff and I have two amazing kids at home, and one heaven sent child that is living out her days in a Kyrgyz orphanage. I find it very difficult to put down the words to tell our story… it is painful to even contemplate trying. But for the love of Altynai and for my own deep need to have the children I have etched in my psyche released from the institution life that has been sucking away their very spirit; here is my attempt to paint a picture of our life over the past 3+ years.

I am writing this out of great love and respect for Suzanne Bilyeu, my friend. In so many ways, Suzanne is a soul mate born from mutual love and tragedy on this “roller-coaster” ride we call an “adoption journey”.
I decided it best to pull excerpts from our blog that I enthusiastically started early in the adoption process, and from other forms of communication along the way.

Early 2008:

Jeff and I had always planned on having four kids. We were barely married three months when I became pregnant with Chloe. We were thrilled!
Chloe was only 10 months old when "Surprise" I was pregnant again with Jake! We were so excited. And lucky us, a boy!
Chloe turned 2, Jake was 6 months, and “Whoa”... how could I be pregnant again so quick? But we knew it was a blessing, and we would find a way to manage...
But our third baby, Lucas (bringer of light), was diagnosed "Incompatible with life" at 20 weeks. I can not begin to explain how devastating that diagnosis was. We choose to carry him to full term. If this was all the time we would have with him, we were going to parent him the best we could for that time.
Unfortunately, I delivered him stillborn and in the process my uterus ruptured. I had an emergency hysterectomy and nearly lost my own life. Our family and friends know what an enormous toll this took on us.
But I am truly, deeply grateful for the whole experience of Lucas. We wish that it could have been different. I work hard to not question what I can not understand. But I know God spoke something powerful in my soul. It was a gift like no other. And I know I am a better, stronger and more human person because of it all.
Jeff and I talked vaguely for some time about adopting (this all happened in 1997). At the time, our children were so young. It seemed we had time to heal and process things before we took on this new challenge.
The years flew by and we had stopped talking about adding to our family. Then on my birthday last year (Jan 2007) Jeff asked me, "When are we going to adopt a baby?"
Well, the internet research began that night and continued for weeks. Late one night, I found it, Kyrgyzstan! I knew our baby girl was coming from this small country that I had hardly heard of, yet now it was foremost in my heart. I have not looked back since.
As sure as I know God sent me Lucas, I know He is calling me to our baby girl!

Mid 2008:

Yes, today we got THE call!
The only thing holding me back from complete euphoria... she is at the Bishkek Baby House. Currently, and for the past few months, the court system in the Bishkek region, the nation's capital, has not processed any adoptions that I have heard.
We have not seen a photo yet, we are going to give ourselves some time to digest the challenges that may lie ahead before we take any big leaps. But one thing we know for sure, nothing on this roller coaster of a ride is directly controlled by us (except the option to not get on) and nothing is certain; it can all change at a moments notice with little or no recourse.
Please say a prayer for us or send us silent wishes that we can consider this precious child with a clear mind and an open heart; that we can be courageous in our decisions and have the faith to follow them through without second guessing ourselves. And that I have the patience and restraint to not look at the photo before thinking through the situation (as I know full well that seeing a sweet baby’s face will numb our minds to all reasoning).

Late 2008:

We have suffered through disappointment after disappointment as hopeful progress has continued to not pan out.
It is the strangest world we have entered into; a place where faith and hope circle along side uncertainties and fear. We can not seem to get a full grasp on either. So it is a careful dance of balance that moves us through the process.
But one thing I know for sure, that little girl needs a family, and we will not give up on her!
This is not the IA program we signed up for one year ago. We never dreamed we would go through months of uncertainty that would slide further and further from a happy ending. For all of the hope and desire Jeff and I have to bring another child into our family, I would never have signed up to have our hearts torn open like this. It feels much too similar to the grieving process we have endured over and over in the last 12 years.

So much love is yours little one. I don't know if you sense it, but it is real and it is plenty.
We miss you beyond words and wish to see your soulful eyes and tiny hands, though they have surely grown since we held them last.
Ten months of your precious life without a family of your own. You may not have a concept of what it is you are missing, but we surely do. It is here; it is waiting and will be here when the time comes. We will not let you down little one. You are loved!

One month and she will be a year old. How could we let this happen to her? A year of no family to love and nurture her. A year to learn that her cries mean nothing. A year of never feeling special and prized.
At 11 months, I could still teach her the joy of having a bottle held to her lips as she slips in to a safe sleep in my arms. At 11 months, her daddy could still play her first game of Peek-A-Boo under her favorite blanket or whatever it takes to get a squeal of giggles to burst from her lips. She could still be cheered on by her sister and brother as she learns to crawl and babble out random sounds that will be claimed as words. At 11 months, we could tell her one day that she did not spend the "entire" first year of her life without us, and show her the photos with frosting and cake crumbs covering her tiny pink cheeked face to prove the point.
There has to be a way to break through this mess and bring each of them into the one home that waits for them; to salvage us all from despair.

For God's sake, SOMEBODY explain to me why more than 65 children living in orphanages in Kyrgyzstan have been waiting over a full year to be released to the families abroad that love them and are more than willing to parent them for their lifetime? These are children that will otherwise spend their first 14 years in an institution (if they survive that long) and then be turned out, still with no family. They do not know what it is like to be loved and cherished…, yet they are, so deeply, from afar.

One of the greatest diseases is to be nobody to anybody.
~Mother Teresa

I stopped blogging at the end 2009. At that point my time was taken by the hours of daily research and direct communication between myself, the other waiting families and desperately reaching out to any and all advocates we could find to be a voice for the children. And we have found many.

And here is the foundation of my message written in early 2010:

They (Kyrgyz officials) do not care about us; they do not need to care about the PAPs (Potential Adoptive Parents) or their pain waiting to bring home the child that came to live in their hearts so long ago, because that is not their job. What we need is for them to honor the rights of these children.
These children are wards of the state. The state has signed the UN CCR (Convention on Children’s Rights) stating that all children have certain rights, rights that have been "put on hold" indefinitely. The state is underfunded to care for the large numbers of children. The increase in abandonments and decrease in the number of children being adopted (domestically as well) has created a critical mass in the orphanages and the maternity hospitals. And children can not be "put on hold". Every day their potentials are slipping away. They are aging out of who they could have been with the medical and loving interventions waiting for them.
While we agree that the corruption must be stopped and the process transparent, one thing we know is children do not thrive in institutions. Try as they might, they can not replace the quality or quantity of attention that a child gets from a one on one committed parent. And it not just for their childhood, they need a family connection for their lifetime. Over 60 of their most vulnerable children are in need and the answer is knocking at their door dawn till dusk. They have a family, it may be across the world, but they have people, mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers, grandparents that long to hold them and plan their futures and show them that they are valued human beings. This is the right of every child!
I can not meet the needs of every child, but I am waiting to do it for this precious one. No government can meet the needs of every child, but are they not called to do everything in their power to not to deny their rights?
We need someone to take a stand and look at each child as the precious human life that they are, to cut through the red tape for the sake of what is decent and good.

Since spring 2009, I have traveled twice to New York City, twice to Washington DC, and all the way back to Kyrgyzstan to meet with officials, advocates and anyone that would hear my voice speaking for these children. My two biological children have grown from grade school to high school. They spent their turbulent “middle-school” years trying to digest that they live in a world that could be so unjust. It has changed them. It has changed all of us that wait for these beautiful children.

Following the revolution that ousted the entire government of Kyrgyzstan in April 2010 here is a letter I sent to the interim president, Rosa Otunbayeva after “friend-ing” her on Facebook:

I praise you for the tremendous courage shown this year in the Kyrgyz Republic.
I humbly request that you show the same courage and leadership in resolving the 63 cases of intercountry adoption that have been held hostage by the bureaucratic process for 2 years (unofficially for 3 years). As you know, more than one child has died while waiting for action to be taken on their behalf.
The right thing to do here is to weigh the “best interest” of each of these individual children. Some one person, with the courage to do the “right thing”, regardless of the political cost, is what it will take to move the political will in the favor of these innocent ones. I pray daily that that person will hear the call of injustice and be courageous.
Imagine the future of these 63 little lives… I know I have nightmares of the futures stolen from the precious ones that have died while waiting for a family. They deserved better. They deserved someone’s courage.

After all of this time of being stuck on this nightmarish ride… it appears that finally the wheels are starting to move. The roller-coaster is headed around the final turns and the unloading zone is in sight. But for too many of our families the “fee” to get off this nightmare ride is no longer accessible to them. The thought of any one of these children being left behind after their family has fought for so long to provide a life and a future to them… it is unbearable.

Mother Teresa reminds us, “If you can't feed a hundred people, then feed just one”. We can not provide for every child, but these children… we, collectively we, can provide them safety, security, a family, hope…. Please consider helping these children come home. Altynai never made it to live with her family here on earth… for that injustice; I will be forever looking for peace. But I will find no peace if any one of the remaining children looses hope for a family, for a future.

Our family is contributing to this effort to help all the remaining Kyrgyz 65 come home. Will you please consider joining us?

Nargiza's 3rd Birthday - The Brotherton's were able to make it a special day for her. 
~ Lisa Brotherton

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