“All really great flying adventures begin at dawn.”
We woke up at 3am to catch our (first) flight from Birmingham, Alabama to Port-au-Prince, Haiti on Saturday, February 21, 2015, and we watched the sun rise up above the clouds at 40,000 feet. I had thought about what it would be like to meet our son at least a thousand times up until that day, but I never once thought about how beautiful the space between us would be.
What a gift to be able to sit up there IN on our way to him! I will never forget how peaceful that part of the adventure felt. God speaks so clearly through the colors of a sunrise. Makes me emotional just thinking about it.
Kevin’s best friend (and my best friend Suzanne’s hubby), Billy, was so sweet to offer to travel with us for the first few days of our trip. He captured lots and lots of photographs, and even recorded a video of our first time meeting Sweet P.
(Kevin, Sweet P, me and Billy)
We are so grateful he was able to get away for a few days at the last minute, and I’m looking forward to starting a scrapbook and “gotcha day” video with his images and footage. Billy and Suzanne’s kiddos call us “Aunt Layla and Uncle Kevin” so it was such a treat to be able to introduce Sweet P to his “Uncle Billy” on our trip!
(By law, we aren’t allowed to post photos of Sweet P’s face until his last name has been legally changed to Palmer.)
We met up with our contact (Leah) from Three Angels Children’s Relief at the Miami airport, and the four of us boarded our (second) flight to Port-au-Prince around 10am. We landed in Haiti just after noon, and after a very….uh….wild ride (they don’t have traffic lights or signs- aaah!), we finally pulled through the gate at the guest house a little less than an hour later. (I blogged about the guest house last week, but I’ve since added a lot more photos if you’d like to go back and see more.) This next part is a little blurry, but I *think* we all figured out which rooms we were staying in, changed clothes, and then walked over to the Angel House orphanage together. We may have eaten lunch in there somewhere too, but since it’s the day we met our son, I have a hard time remembering much else than that!
This next photo was taken within a couple of minutes of meeting Sweet P:
He and Daddy were already making each other smile, and Mama was tickled listening to them be silly with each other. 🙂
We got to spend 14 days bonding, and we had the best time together…
He loved misting Daddy with his water bottle- ha!
Coloring (he’s a lefty!) was another one of his favorite activities.
I loved it when he wanted to be held by both of us at the same time! 😀
Here are a couple of short videos I posted on Instagram while we were there. His voice makes me smile so big! 😀
He speaks Haitian Creole at the orphanage, French at preschool, and (a little) English when he was with us. It is amazing how quickly he picks things up. Such a little sponge!
We also had two very important appointments while we were on our trip. One was at the US Embassy in Port-au-Prince, and the other was with a Haitian social worker, right there at the orphanage. The Embassy appointment was set for 7am on March 4th. Alix and Christine (from Three Angels) picked us up just after 6am, and we made our way back down the mountain. It was a long and very bumpy/dusty ride, but we made it just in time to stand in line (outside) until 8 o’clock. The street and sidewalk were full of people and vehicles that morning, but here’s a photo I found online that shows the tent we were waiting in line by:
After they called our names, and we went through security, we waited in a huge waiting room for another couple of hours. There was easily over two hundred seats in there, and almost every single one of them had a person on it. We found four open ones at the farthest end of the room, and an embassy officer called us up to window #26 (out of 29) shortly after 10am. She just wanted to verify some things with our paperwork. When we were finished, she told us we could go ahead and sit down. About an hour later, she called us up to window #27 (or was it #28?) and said they “had a little problem”. Our hearts sunk. She went on to explain that the officer who was going to do our interview had to go in to a Visa meeting for the next couple of hours. We were relieved that was the only “problem”, and decided to head back up the mountain to the guest house for lunch.
We drove back down the mountain around 12:30pm, and our interview only took a few minutes once we were called up to the window again that afternoon. Kevin and I stood side by side, opposite the officer who was seated on the other side of the glass. We answered her questions together, under oath, and her cheerful demeanor helped to put our minds at ease. We had waited so many months (22!) to get to that window and complete that step. I told Alix and Christine I felt like crying AND doing a cartwheel on the way back out to the car. 🙂
Our appointment with the Haitian social worker happened the next day, on Thursday the 5th. She and her driver pulled in through the big black gate at the orphanage around 10am.
(Photo by Nikki)
Sweet P, Kevin and I were waiting for her right by the front door because he LOVES to watch the “machines” come in. I feel like I’m probably not supposed to talk too much about the rest of this step of the process yet, but I will tell you that Sweet P greeted her with a “Bonjour, Madame” and a kiss on the cheek (it was ADORABLE!), and that everything went great. It was very apparent that the social worker cares very much about the children she is matching with their forever families, and we are so, so grateful for her kindness and her passionate heart.
We have been interviewed so many times (and by so many people) throughout this process, but that was the last interview.
* e x h a l e *
We flew home on Saturday, March 7th- and although it was extremely hard to leave our Sweet P, we couldn’t have had a better bonding trip and we’re excited to be on this final leg of the journey! And speaking of the journey, a lot of folks have asked me what’s next as far as our timeline goes, so Kevin did a little research on the remaining steps that need to happen before we can bring our kiddo home. Keep in mind, these may not all be exactly right, and there’s no way to know how many days/weeks/months any of them will take:
-Central Authority delivers or rejects authorization for the adoption based on the Haitian social workers evaluation report. (This is where we are right now.)
-Exit IBESR (Haitian Social Services)
-Parquet– About 11 court-related steps involving the Dep. of Justice, Dep. Foreign Affairs, Archive Office, Notary, and Immigration Office.
-Adoption Decree (3) steps– 1st legalization: Parquet Court, 2nd Legalization: Ministry of Justice, 3rd legalization: Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
-MAE (Ministère des Affaires Etrangères) Ministry of Foreign Affairs must legalize the signature of the person in the Ministry of Justice.
-Attestation– After court papers are finished, the Act of Adoption must be sent to the National Archives and they declare that the signature on it is legal.
-MOI– Ministry of Interior. All adoption passports must go through the Ministry of the Interior for approval before Immigration will print the passport. (About 15 documents are needed in total)
-Adoption Decree (Sweet P becomes a Palmer!)
-Medical exam of Sweet P by US Embassy approved doctor
-I600 provisional approval
-Passport printing phase: Dossier in Haitian Immigration waiting for the passport to be printed.
-Final I600 App
-US Visa App (3-4 weeks?)
-Travel to USA!
We’ve heard that it could be another year before we get to that last step, but since this is a brand new system and we’re one of the first families to go through it, there’s no real way to know exactly how long it will be. We are able to visit Sweet P two more times between now and homecoming day though, so that will give us something to look forward to every few months while we wait.
And speaking of waiting, I’ve also heard from a lot of people who say they would love to adopt from Haiti, but they don’t think they could handle the wait or leaving their child after the two-week socialization trip. If you are one of those people, I’m here to tell you: with God at the helm, you can absolutely do it.
Especially if He’s been whispering to you about it already.
2 years and 4 months in- the weight of this process is undeniably that heaviest thing I have ever felt Called to carry. But we have an incredible Lifting Partner, y’all. And because He is concerned more about how we carry things than how long we carry them, He is always RIGHT there. Sustaining us, encouraging us, and protecting our hearts, every step of the way.
We’re 2 years and 4 months in, and I have held my son. I have memorized the map of his bones. I have absorbed the sound of his voice and the direction of his gaze. I have been captivated by the rhythmic rise and fall of his tiny chest as he sat in my lap and played with whatever was on the table in front of him. I know his joy. It flooded out of him like a thousand sparkling rivers, and it’s still splashing around in my eternally grateful heart.
The wait doesn’t have a thing on the one who is SO worth it.
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