For Those Adopting, Waiting is Often the Hardest Part (Mary McWilliams, Tennessee Register)
The nine-month wait for expectant parents can seem interminable, anticipating the day when their little one will arrive. Adoptive parents also undergo a nerve-wracking wait time, filled with many of the anxieties that birth parents experience and then some, in the often complicated, emotional, and sometimes unpredictable process, particularly in international adoptions.
"There are over 147 million orphans across the globe," said Julie Bolles, supervisor of adoptions and pregnancy counseling for Catholic Charities of Tennessee, Inc. Additionally, 8,000 children are in the custody of the State of Tennessee Department of Children's Services who have been removed from their homes and are in need of temporary homes.
Housed at the Catholic Pastoral Center, Catholic Charities of Tennessee is a state-licensed, Hague-accredited child placing agency. The agency serves Catholic and non-Catholic singles and couples seeking to adopt.
Domestic adoptions, Bolles explained, come in ebbs and flows, depending upon the number of crisis pregnancies at a given time. International adoptions have a degree of predictability with a timeline, since they usually involve a toddlers or older child. The wait may be 18 months, or two or three years. Each country, however, may impose restrictions on adoptive parents outside the country.
Although there are dozens of countries that allow intercountry adoptions, India was calling the Holmes and Cox families of Middle Tennessee.
Laura and Joe Cox, parishioners of Christ the King Church, were already parents to biological children Ella, Lawson and Warren, now respectively 8, 5, and 3 years of age, when they went to India last June to bring home Genevieve, who will be 2 in December.
"Adoption had been something that we talked about for years," Laura Cox said. "Even after having three children, adoption still kept coming up in conversation. It had been on our hearts for so long that we felt like we couldn't turn away from it even though our plate seemed full to most. We decided when our youngest son was 6 months old that we wanted to move forward and begin the adoption process."
Because of their Catholic faith, when they decided to adopt internationally, Catholic Charities was a natural choice to do their home study, an assessment that adoption agencies require, Cox explained.
But their journey to India began after experiencing heartbreak in Ethiopia. After preparing and anticipating for one year to bring home a daughter, they learned two days before leaving the United States that the birth mother had changed her mind and the little girl would not be theirs.
"It took us two to three months to get the wind back in our sails," Cox recalled.
Ethiopia is not in the Hague Convention, which is an international agreement among countries for certain standards, practices and safeguards. Information on the Hague Convention can be found on travel.state.gov under the intercountry adoptions tab.
Catholic Charities, which is currently undergoing its four-year Hague recertification process, stepped in for emotional support.
"They were there to lend an ear, let us know they can help in any way they can to support us," Cox said. "We had long conversations after that happened, and I had a feeling of peace after that."
They re-focused to India, in part because they loved the culture and also because India was one of the few countries that adopts to couples who already have biological children. After a new home study in October 2018, a new wait began.
"The biggest obstacle is just waiting," Cox said. They accepted their daughter's referral in October 2018 and left for India the following June. "Waiting is always hard. You know your child is across the world and you want to be with them, knowing there are special moments you're missing."
When she and her husband arrived in India, they had another wait before bringing Genevieve home. It was the first time the Indian adoption agency performed an international adoption, so the paperwork was not completed. Joe had to go home after a week, and Laura stayed for another five weeks, but she had Genevieve with her at the hotel the whole time, an experience she cherishes because it provided an opportunity for the mother and daughter to bond.
Cox advises potential adoptive parents to "have patience and trust the process."
"The child that is meant to be yours will come home with you," she said, admitting that when they lost the Ethiopian girl, it was hard to see that. "Persevere with the bumps in the road. The obstacles really do lead you where you're meant to be. We can't imagine what our lives would be like without Genevieve."
Her other three children bonded immediately with their new little sister. "I have to tell them we need to give her more than three inches of space!"
‘A heart for India'
Kimberly Holmes freely admits that she "does not wait well." She knew, even before she met her husband Robert, a seven-year veteran of the U.S. Army, that she wanted to adopt a child from India.
"I've always had a heart for India," she explained. "I was always drawn to the culture, the people. I love Mother Theresa - everything about her I admired."
So much so, that during her sophomore year at Lipscomb University in Nashville, Holmes organized a mission trip to India to work in an orphanage for a month. That sealed the desire in her heart to adopt one day from the country. Soon after that trip, she said, she met Robert, who was also in favor of the idea.
They planned to adopt after having biological children, but it didn't happen that way. So the couple, non-denominational Christians from Spring Hill, decided to adopt first.
"We prayed about it and felt God put it on our hearts," Holmes said, not just about adopting, but adopting biological siblings, one of whom would be an older child. But adoption professionals discouraged them.
Holmes had been warned of reactive attachment disorder in which the child fails to bond with the adoptive parents. She said that was her "worst case scenario."
The couple was also disturbed that instead of being encouraged in what they believed God was telling them to do, they were being dissuaded. About that time, they were referred to Catholic Charities to do their home study and began working with Amanda Bennett, one of the international adoption counselors, who, contrary to their previous experience, supported their mission, and probed them to think even more deeply about the basic questions adoptive parents are asked: their reasons for adopting, their expectations, their ability to handle special needs.
"She made it feel normal, just like having your own (biological) children," Holmes said of Bennett. "She was the most level-headed of all the people we dealt with."
Their biggest obstacle was finding an agency willing to take on their desire to adopt siblings. They are now parents of biological sister and brother, Bhumi, 5 (pronounced "boomie") and Aaro (pronounced "arrow"), 2. They brought them home from India last February.
Despite the dismal prognoses the children were given, they are healthy and thriving. Holmes said they were told that Bhumi had a moderate developmental delay because she could speak fewer than 30 words at 4 years of age, but her mother says she is "insanely brilliant" and actually could recognize three languages when they brought her home.
Aaro was non-emotional and deemed "failure to thrive" due to gastrointestinal issues. He was also born to an HIV positive woman who was medication non-compliant. Today, Aaro is HIV free, has no dietary restrictions and "laughs all the time," his mother said.
Cox also reports that Genevieve is thriving, smiling even during the usual childhood illnesses. "She has such a joyous spirit," she said. "Her happiness is infectious. She's a happy, joyous little lady!"
Like Cox, Holmes, too said to trust the process and God's plan.
"Nothing of what I feared most came true," she said. "In fact, it's better than I ever imagined."
Although Bhumi and Aaro were in the same orphanage in Mumbai and knew they were siblings, they didn't understand what that meant and had virtually no interaction. Seeing them grow into that full relationship has been an unexpected delight.
"It was amazing to me how God works," Holmes said. "He brought something to our family. God's going to do something for you, but he has a greater purpose than the process."