Monday, February 18, 2008

Dear Katya

It has been coming up more and more lately... your name. The thought of you. It happened again today, in conversation with a total stranger. For me, this means the thought of what almost was. And the strange desire for what I still wish could be. You, here, with us.

In just the last week, your story has come up in conversation at random times, with people who never knew the saga of our efforts to adopt you years ago. I can not tell you why this is happening now, after so much time has passed (nearly five years!). Yesterday, Curt told me he found your photo in some old things. He told me that even though we never got to meet you, he misses you. Just last week, I found the folder I had begun of important papers we would need if we got that far in the adoption process. I remembered all over again the daily trek to the computer to see if there was word of you. If our contact would have news of your availability. If this would be the day we would find out you could be our daughter, against all odds. It was an absolute rollercoaster of emotions.

We had unwittingly gotten locked into an overseas custody battle. Them: the people in Italy who wanted to continue hosting you, but had no plans of adopting you. And us: the family who so desperately wanted to give you a permanent home with sisters and brothers. But first we had to get the Italians to relinquish their prior claim on you as their host family. It was highly unlikely, we were told, that this would happen. People told us that the Italians especially like to get a good child to come through the hosting program because they could use them to work. Cheap labor, one person told us, and rolled her eyes as if to say, "What are you gonna do?" We knew what we were going to do. We were going to get you out of there and home with us. That was our intent, at least. It became my personal mission, even to the detriment, I will admit, of our family. I got so focused on you I stopped seeing the children I did have.

And then your country stopped all adoptions. And the Italian family refused to relinquish their hold on you, claiming that they were suddenly going to adopt you. Our contact said they were probably lying, but we couldn't prove it. And so, our hands were tied. And I will always wonder about you. You are never far from my heart. I still see your best friend, the little girl who introduced us to you, to your story. She is good, and happy. Please know I tried everything I could to reunite the two of you. I can't imagine how powerless that must have felt to say goodbye, knowing that your best friend was going to a strange country and you would never see her again, nor would you know where she was in the world.

I know your birthday is in February. I do not know how old you will be or even what specific day it is. Perhaps God is reminding me of you because of that. Keeping you still on my mind so I will not forget to pray. I will admit, I am sorry to say, that in the busyness of life I have gotten bad about remembering to pray for you. I have made my peace with knowing that that is the role God decided I would have in your life. And if I can't know you on earth, then, perhaps I will someday meet you in heaven. Perhaps you will walk up to me on the streets of gold and say, "I am here because of your prayers." And I will know in that moment as I give you the hug I have waited so long to give you that it was enough. I am still hopeful that you will come to know Jesus in spite of the odds against that in your country. I am hopeful that you will not become another statistic, another throwaway child falling through the cracks.

I will never forget the woman who told us that to bring you into our lives would be a mistake. That you were "bad." My heart broke to think that someone would pronounce you as bad or damaged goods. It breaks my heart to think that any child would come to believe that about themselves. But your face made it painfully real to me. The pain and loss you have experienced in your short little life-- the utter hopelessness you must feel each day-- grips my heart like a fist. It is odd to say you miss someone you have never met, but I miss you too. And I wish that I was powerful enough to find you and bring you home. But our experience-- and the many avenues and tactics we tried-- taught me that I am not.

Some days I am relieved that it didn't work out, to be totally honest. To hear of what the adoptive parents of internationally adopted children have had to endure seems harrowing. Words like reactive attachment disorder and post traumatic stress related to extreme abuse stick in my brain like flashing warning signals. I have friends who did adopt and they have gone through so, so much. Many are weary and exhausted now, yet hanging onto hope that God's plans for their children will be accomplished one painful step at a time. To think of what you could have done to our family-- to the environment of our home-- makes me thank God for allowing us to dodge that bullet. That He closed that door because for whatever reason it simply wasn't part of His plan for you or us. And most days-- most moments-- I walk in that truth and do not question the outcome.

But then there are the moments when I find some reminder of you or hear a song that makes me think of you and I wonder. Were God's purposes accomplished or is your story simply another example of living in a fallen world? I remember one time when I was praying about you, begging God again to intercede, and He whispered as He has so many times since I prayed "Lord, break my heart with the things that break yours." (A prayer no sane human should ever, ever pray. Take my advice.)

"You asked," He said.

And my eyes filled with fresh tears as I glimpsed the heartbreak our Heavenly Father sees all over the world. Those tears were not my own. My heart broke for you and for all the children in the world who go to bed at night without a mommy and a daddy to love them. Without medicine or a warm bed. Without security or love. And I think of you seeing our photo and hearing the words from whomever sat you down and explained that we wanted you. I wonder what that must have felt like to hear for perhaps the first time in your life. "Do you want to be a part of this family?" they asked you. And you said yes.

But we never came. I hope that someone explained it was nothing you did. I hope that someone cared enough to tell you that this was about government red tape and not desire. What I wouldn't give to somehow make sure you know that. And so, I have asked God to whisper those words to your fragile heart, to wrap His loving arms around you when you are all alone. To let you know that your life has already mattered.

I make you this promise: I will still come and get you if God ever opens that door, though you and I both know how highly unlikely this is. I still mean the words to this song. Every single one.

With love on your birthday,
The Woman Who Wanted To Be Your Mom
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Valerie said...

Wow, Marybeth, I didn't know you had tried to adopt in past. I can't even imagine the pain and frustration of the work and wait, only to have to come to crashing halt. I know very well the roller coaster of international adoption and I can appreciate the grief mixed with relief you're feeling. If I promise to come over and retrieve the shark next week, will you share your story? I'll share my own internationally adopted daughter with a February birthday :-)

Carol said...

Wow. That was powerful. That is still sinking in. What an incredible story. Thanks for sharing and letting us have a peak in your heart.

Cheri said...

My heart breaks for the things your heart breaks for. I am saying a prayer for Katya tonight and also for you.

That is so beautiful.

Laura said...

This mother's heart is aching for you, dear friend. I can't imagine how difficult it must be for you when February rolls around. I pray that your Katya is loved, wherever she is. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted. May he comfort you.

Billie said...

wow. this was a powerful post for me. we are in the process of our own international adoption. your words remind me again why we are doing this. thanks.

Laura said...

Praying for you and your sweet girl Marybeth.

Sarah (Genesis Moments) said...

Marybeth - I read your post yesterday about your speaking, etc. and it was so powerful and now I can't find it to comment. I just wanted to say that you are in my thoughts and prayers as you begin homeschooling again and experiencing the joy God has planned for you today, tomorrow. God is already using you in mighty ways. Be encouraged! This post is powerful too. You have an incredible way with words and experiences.

Right now, I have to go to the doctors for my daughter's strangely swollen finger. Ever have a child pinch or bump something and the infection spread under the skin? Its weird looking. Gotta love the things kids put us through.

God's blessings to you today!

Anonymous said...

Wow, Marybeth, what a very powerful post. As the mom of an internationally adopted child, I know well the feeling of holding a picture and the incredible love that can be felt~ even before meeting. The longing and ache, to hold that child in your arms, well, it's physical. And to not have any closure~ oh how hard that must be. I will pray that you will meet your precious Katya in heaven one day.

I wanted to say, too, how much I appreciate your transparency in your homeschooling post. Your writing is at its very best when you are sharing from your heart.

Thank you~ you've really touched me this week with your writing.


Amy Wyatt said...

This is a beautiful post. We will be praying for you and for Katya.

picketfencemom said...

Hi Marybeth,
I had no idea that your family had tried to adopt. My heart was breaking just reading your words...for you and for Katya. She would've been so blessed to be your little girl, and you would've received such a blessing to be her mom. But God, in His wisdom, knows...and I pray He will keep giving you a sense of peace...and that He did indeed whisper your prayer to Katya's heart!
Thank you for sharing this touching post. A lot of us have absolutely no idea what children in other countries (and our own US too) go through. I am so sorry!

It's been crazy busy around here lately, so I haven't done much commenting. Keep Chad in your prayers. He is scheduled to have a third hernia repair surgery tomorrow. The last one was only a year ago, and he doesn't do well with anesthesia! And several of the children are sick. I don't feel too good myself. It's February...guess it was inevitable!
Thinking of you,

PS...I totally relate to the above post as well. Sometimes we have to admit that we do indeed need the prayers of others. And sometimes that makes us feel vulnerable..I've been there too! Thanks for your honesty!

Julie said...

What a beautiful heartfelt post. We are considering adopting and adding to our family... but wonder what God has planned for us.

kmom3 said...

This is so beautiful. So beautiful. Thank you for sharing this. The thing is, I cannot help but to think how blessed Katya still is. No, she did not get to come to your home. Yes, she is still with another family. But God let someone know her name. He let you know her name. He let your family know her name. Now He has let us know her name. Precious Katya. Isn't that what we long for? For someone to know us and to love us? And so she is prayed for and loved. And the prayers of the righteous availeth much. The prayers do reach her and touch her. You are still a mother to her. A mother who prays for her, which is one of the greatest things we can do for our children.
You have a beautiful heart. Thank you for sharing it!