Tuesday, June 30, 2009

We Received Our Referral!!

Just when we had gotten used to the idea of waiting several more months, and RIGHT after I booked a ticket to go visit Sara in England instead, we got our adoption referral! Because I wasn’t expecting it and I always thought it would be a phone call, I was completely shocked yesterday afternoon when an email titled casually “referral” popped into my inbox.

I immediately forwarded it to Steve and called him. We opened it to see two adorable children, looking quite a bit like girls. As we tried to sort our way through the attached information we realized that they were—girls! We called Radu and he confirmed that yes, though we had requested a boy and a girl, we had been given two girls, ages 3 ½ and 5 ½. He said we were at the top of the list and had been waiting a very long time, and this was the first new sibling set that came available. They felt they should give it to us anyway. On top of that, we had to decide THAT DAY. Usually you’re given at least a week to decide about a referral, but because these two girls already had a court date in July, there was no time to lose. Before we hung up I did think to ask Radu whether it would be possible for us to accept these girls AND request a baby boy. After recovering from his surprise, he said it probably would, though he didn’t know how much it would slow things down.

The vast majority of people accept their referrals, unless there is a serious medical concern beyond what they agreed to take. We had assumed we would do the same—but getting two girls was just such a shock after expecting a boy and a girl. We knew we’d really need to think about it. (Adoption is so weird that way—you’re presented with all these choices you’d never have with a pregnancy, but since you have them you suddenly feel you SHOULD have them.)

We had only three real concerns: 1) How would Jasper feel about not getting a brother? 2) How would Ruby feel about having a girl so close to her age—and one even taller than her? 3)MOST IMPORTANT—Were these the right children for our family?

First we put Steve on speakerphone and consulted Jasper and Ruby. Much to our surprise, they were thrilled. Jasper said that, as the oldest, he certainly had enough boy power and muscle to balance out three girls, and to keep them under control. Ruby said she had never cared whether she was the biggest girl. We took the kids through several scenarios, trying to warn them about how their feelings might change. Try as we might, we couldn’t change their opinions—even hours later.

So, our next move was to call our families and ask them to pray for us. (Including my dad, who was on a conference call. “Interrupt him—it’s an emergency!” I told Carol.) We figured if we had to make this decision quickly, we needed all the inspiration we could get. As I said, our biggest concern was whether they were the right children for our family. Yes, you can look at the details in their files, but it’s really a joke to try to base your decision on that—in the end every child, adopted or biological, is a completely unknown package. Mind you, I did not begin this process necessarily believing there were specific children intended for our family. I had not wanted to go there—too much pressure on the system. I decided that if Heavenly Father loved all His children equally, He would surely be happy to see any two who did not have a family gain a family. After all, none of God’s children fall through the cracks. I think it’s really helpful for an adoptive family to become comfortable with this idea, because there are so many different cogs in the wheel of international adoption that it’s nearly impossible to believe each step with be inspired and perfectly executed on your behalf.

Over the past year of waiting, however, we have had some spiritual experiences that made us feel very distinctly that God did, indeed, have very specific children in mind for our family. I had a couple of blessings in which the Lord assured me that there were children born in Ethiopia but meant for our family, and that our taking them would bless multiple families. (I felt this referred to families in Ethiopia who would also be praying for the well-being of these children.) This is why we felt it was so important to have an answer to prayer yesterday about whether these children were right for us, even though we had previously thought a boy and girl were right for us.

We received the email at about 1:30. By 5:00 pm, all still felt muddy. No clear answer had emerged for either of us. I had consulted our adoption social worker and another Bountiful mother who had just accepted a referral for Ethiopian siblings. The mother told me she did not get a sure feeling until after she went ahead and accepted the referral. So, I had tried to make a decision and proceed—no dice. Finally, I got in the shower. Ha—you laugh!! But this is where I do my best thinking. All our big life decisions seem to be made there. In the shower I thought to myself, “Maybe the answer is not exactly either way. Maybe we should accept the girls, but also request a boy.” I met Steve at Pace’s (our other great life-decision haven), and told him my idea. He had thought about that, too. In fact, over the past year we had asked ourselves how we would react if we were asked to take three instead of two.

We went home to call Radu and ask him again about requesting a boy. While we were there, Susan, my great therapist who helped me through my pregnancy with Charles, returned my earlier call. While I was on the phone with Susan something happened. Through a combination of some things she said and, I think, just the final ripening of our day-long decision-making process, I suddenly felt overcome with feeling for these girls. My concerns melted away. Susan was right—there were so many positives about this referral. More importantly, as I told Susan details about the children, that they had come into the orphanage in December, I suddenly had a memory. I can’t believe I hadn’t remembered this all day.

Back in December of last year, in the early weeks, I began to have a strong feeling that something was progressing in our adoption. Maybe a child had been born, or a mother had passed away, or a child had been delivered to an orphanage—I didn’t know. I couldn’t really describe the feeling, except to say that I felt our adoption had somehow been consecrated, begun spiritually, by Heavenly Father—the wheels had been set in motion. A few weeks later, as I decorated for Christmas, I had the feeling that someone was missing and it wasn’t Charles. I felt someone was alone for Christmas and they should be with our family. I remember thinking at the time that someday when we got our children I would have to ask the orphanage what had happened to them in December of 2008. And now I knew: they had been delivered to their local intake orphanage on December 16th. As I had this thought I just started to cry. I had been thinking, sort of sub-consciously, negative thoughts of their father for giving them up. All of a sudden I thought that maybe during those first two weeks of December he was making the agonizing decision to give them up out of love—to give them a better life. Their mother had been dead for two years, and he must have tried monumentally to care for them for two years. Maybe the feeling I felt in early December was when their father had finally received his own answer to prayer to give up the girls, and their stewardship was beginning to be transferred to me. As soon as I stopped judging this father and instead saw his love and anguish, I was flooded with absolute certainty. I could imagine their mother, perhaps on the other side petitioning the Lord for them, that they might be loved and appreciated and given a family. I felt like she would say to me, “I know you only wanted one girl, but love my two. LOVE MY TWO. Take them both.” I thought of Susan’s suggestion that maybe this wasn’t a girl instead of a boy, but rather a bonus girl.

Well, Steve sat across from me and watched me sob and listened to me talk through the tears, and seemed convinced that we had our answer, too. We also both felt strongly that we should ask for a boy, too. And yes, we know that’s three! We happily accepted our girls late last night, and are still waiting to hear back about the possibility of adding a boy.

Here are the details:

Older Sister is 5 ½ (approximately)
Younger Sister is 3 ½

I removed the photo and further details for fear of getting in trouble--I thought it was ok to post after accepting the referral, but I guess I'm supposed to wait for a confirmed court date. Sorry!


emilysouthers said...

As I sat here and read this posting, tears streamed down my cheeks. I am amazed by the Swenson family yet again, who through all their trials still have room in their hearts. You guys are awesome examples to me, even Jasper and Ruby.

Emily, I think back to the conversation we had a few weeks ago at the end of Enrichment meeting. You were resigned to the fact that you would have to wait a long time for any adoption news, and now just two weeks later look at the progress and change that has occurred. I think you are right, as soon as you stop waiting for something to happen, it happens.

I am so thrilled for you all. Please let me know if I can do anything to support you in this next chapter of your lives. What an adventure! Your girls are absolutely beautiful and I can picture them clearly as a part of your eternal family.

Good luck. I'll be praying for you!
Emily Southers

Emily said...

Emily you are such a strength. I love reading your story and can feel the power of your words testify to this miracle. These two absolutely beautiful girls (and hopefully a baby boy!) will be so blessed to have you for their mother, and all of you to be their family.

What a great summer this will be. Can't wait to meet them! My prayers go to all of you as this continues to unfold.

Love you,

p.s. it's the three Emily's! you, southers and me! just had to note when coolness abounds...

Emily said...

double p.s.: ok, the shower is my sanctuary, too. I better check out Pace's more often!

it's just lisa said...

Thank you for sharing your experience. Your post brought tears to my eyes. I will keep your growing family in my prayers. Love ya guys. and Congrats!

ellen said...

That is wonderful news!!

Annabelle said...


It's Annie LaBelle. I have chills all over my body. How amazing... These children are very blessed to come into your home. You sound so happy and how this all unfolded seems very meant to be!

Best Wishes.

Sovic Clan said...


Words cannot express how happy I am for your family! Adoption is such an emotional rollercoaster! These girls will be forever grateful for all the sacrifices your family has and will make for them. I know I am so grateful for my parents adopting me! Good luck and keep us posted!


P.S. Will you still be going to England? Matt leaves the 11th for Preston, England.

Jeff and Michelle Galovan said...

Congratulation! They are so adorable and seem to fit right in with your family already! I know it seems silly but when I looked at their picture I saw so much of your biological children in them! I think this was meant to be and Im so happy for you guys! We cant wait to meet these girls!

Jamie said...

Emily- I am so happy for you and Steve and your kids. When I saw your update on facebook, I had to get to your blog to see what was happening! I have thought of you both often (especially when I got to Nauvoo!) The girls are absolutely beautiful and will be perfect for your family. What an answer to prayers.

Brooke said...

I'm sobbing reading the story and SOOOOO Incredibly happy for you and Steve and the kids. When do you go?

JenSav said...

Congratulations Em - how happy I am for you! I love your writing and story-telling and am thrilled that an answer - your answer - came. What an amazing December experience followed by confirmation. I wish you all the best as you prepare - you'll be a fantastic mother of 5 and maybe even 6!
Lots of love,
Jen Savage (P.S. I loved all your other posts too. I'm so glad to have your blog info.)

cari said...

I saw the picture of those girls and I could see them in your house already! They are so yours! Congrats on the new arrival!

colgoo said...

Emily and Steve!

I am SO excited for you! When do you get to go to Ethiopia?

Coming from a family where girls outnumber boys two to one, I've never felt that families need to be balanced gender-wise. And I'm glad you had spiritual confirmation on this one.

We were a little nervous when we found out about Helen. The way we were selected and the information we had to make our decision made it hard to decide. But, I had spiritual promptings throughout our adoption process that confirmed that she was to be ours. And, then, after we accepted the referral - my sister told me about a vision of my family she'd had during my patriarchal blessing that swept nearly all my doubts away.

Congratulations! Hope you have a wonderful visit to Ethiopia and that you'll be able to return for a little baby boy soon.


Corinne said...

Wow. This was so emotional - I found my way over here from your facebook page, I hope that's okay. Amanda told me you were in the process of adopting and I didn't know how far things had come - what an AMAZING experience. Amazing. I am thrilled for you and so touched by what you shared here.

Brandy said...

Oh, Em, this is great news. I cried and cried. xoxo It's amazing to me that you have so much insight and love for these girls that you've never met. You make my heart happy. You are in my prayers.