Having kids, whether they're abandoned toddlers with special needs living in a Chinese orphanage or babies grown in our own bellies, always requires a leap of faith and a little confidence. I think that Daddy and I gained some confidence that we would be able to be your parents (and your sister's parents) because we were familiar, not just with this parenting thing, but also with raising kids with special needs. When we learned that you might need surgery on your hands and your feet, I even knew a great orthopedic surgeon, a woman who has successfully gotten Isaac back up on his feet (literally). So there are some skills you learn as a parent that have direct applications to other aspects of parenting. And then there are some skills you learn as an adoptive parent that have other real-world applications.
I'm not a very assertive person. I get a lot of work done and set my own personal goals high, but that's different from being assertive. When I was a kid, my best friend was always the mom when we played house, always the teacher when we played school. I desperately wanted to be the mom or the teacher sometimes, but I didn't want to upset the balance of our friendship, so I kept quiet. I'm a great person to have around when someone needs work done, but not such a great person when someone needs me to have a hard conversation with someone. I hate conflict and want people to think I'm nice and pleasant.
But when we were adopting Rose, I learned to be a little bit assertive. About halfway through our wait, I found a great website that laid out exactly how to navigate the adoption process as quickly as possible. That required emailing people and asking them to send PDFs in addition to paper copies, which shaved off several days in the process each time. It required me to follow up with people, to make sure things hadn't fallen through the cracks, to ask hard questions, and to push a little bit. It was hard, but it brought results-- I think we probably traveled at least a week earlier than we would have if I hadn't learned to be assertive.
This time around, I was pushy from the start. Last time I let our social worker do her thing and only emailed her when she contacted me first. Last time I got in touch with our adoption agency only as a last resort. Last time it took us seven months from our initial application to getting our dossier to China.
This time, I followed up regularly with the social worker. I emailed the adoption agency whenever I had a question. We walked in early for our fingerprints with USCIS, which I wouldn't have dreamed of doing last time (it's a government agency! they gave us an appointment on a paper with an official seal!). We only had to do about 80% of the work this time that we did last time to get our dossier to China (we were able to reuse some of the state background clearances and some of the official documents, like birth certificates), we're hoping to have our dossier on its way in less than a week, about two and a half months after we decided to add you to our family.
A week after we started on our paperwork for you, we started another big project around here-- redoing our backyard. It started out innocently enough (just like you-- I was just "maybe thinking about" adopting again "sometime in the future" when we found you). We needed to have the trees in our front yard pruned. But we asked the tree guys if they could take out the forest of trees in our back yard, and they said yes. They said they could also demolish the old fish pond, a falling down shed, and the old stone fireplace, remove about ten tons of rock, level the yard, put in new sprinklers, build us a mulched area for the playhouse and the swing set, and put in new grass to make the whole yard beautiful. And while we were doing that, we decided to finish our fence, but in order to do that, we needed to have a retaining wall built. And then we discovered that the ancient pool heater didn't work, so we replaced it. And then we decided we needed a new pool shed to go with the new pool heater. But the new pool shed needed a vent, which required an HVAC person. And since our old nasty pool cover was destroyed in the process, we needed a new pool cover.
It was a lot of work-- you get the picture? In fact, it reminded me a lot of adoption paperwork
I found that I was a lot more assertive with the men who worked so hard on our yard than I might have been if I'd never had the experience of wading through mountains of adoption paperwork. When they didn't show up when I thought they would-- I called and asked rather than waiting for them to show. There were times when things when slower than I'd hoped (one step that should have taken a few days held the whole project up for several weeks), and since I knew there was nothing to be done about it, we just kind of rolled with it (another skill you and Rose have taught me). When I was unhappy with how things were done (which only happened once), I let the person know and requested that they fix it. When I felt we were being overcharged, I let Daddy deal with it.
With any luck, the yard should be finished just about the same time your paperwork is logged in in China and the real wait, the hard, unpredictable LOA wait, begins. But at least we know what we're getting ourselves into this time, and we know that at the end, we'll have you. We've gotten a couple dozen pictures of you over the last few days and you are chubby and adorable and we can't wait to get to be your parents.