Maybe I should be watching Thunder over Louisville on TV (for all of you non-Louisvillians, it is the pre-Derby fireworks show) or really, I should do laundry. Or I should go to bed since I work tomorrow. But I can't stop thinking about last night.
Late last night, we went to the airport to welcome home two families and their children from Ethiopia. One family welcomed home their fifth child, the third by adoption. I love this family, the Monks family. Their daughter, Efrata, is a beautiful almost 11 year old girl. This family already has daughters close to her age so it was a natural fit for them.
Meeting Efrata and hearing about their experience left me sad for the all the other older children who may not find a home...who may stay in an orphanage until their 18th birthday, similar to a child in our foster care system who never finds a stable home throughout their bouncing around. I don't know the statistics but I do know from experience that people rarely adopt children 5-6years or older. It is scary. There seem to be more unknowns. I mean, we did this with Tedi. (Chernet will be 5 when he comes home).
What makes my heart heavy even more is the fact that for the older children with HIV+, life without a family could mean so much.... think of the seven year old girl who does not find a family. She then grows into the 16 year old girl. She knows she is supposed to take this medicine everyday but it is a lot work. Then she starts having sex because who ever really sat down with her and explained that taking the medicine is important to not passing on the disease. And moreover, she likely has no access to condoms nor does the man she sleeps with.... so he may walk with HIV and because of the lack of protection, she may end up pregnant. But you have heard that babies rarely get HIV from their mother.... well, that is only when the mom takes her medicine daily. Then, this girl delivers her baby. Even if this little baby does not get HIV from the delivery, what is the mom to do? Does she give her baby breast milk that surely has HIV in it OR does she mix formula with water that may be infested with typhoid, parasites, or other water-borne diseases that we do not see here in America? Well, the baby has a better chance of living with adequate nutrition with the HIV+ breast milk rather than the disease-laden water.... and here we are, repeating the cycle. Don't get me wrong....we have a "cycle" here in America, but this cycle rarely involves deciding between HIV and death.
So you see, I am sitting here while the laundry needs to be folded and I now hear the loud booming of the fireworks since we live downtown but are not close enough to see them.... I am sitting here knowing I can not save every kid, though I sure do try with this blog, my conversations and every day life.... but it is not enough. I struggle with Not Doing Enough. Each of these children are God's children just as Tedi is mine and I can not fathom knowing they will never have a Christmas or be tucked in or have a book read to them or have someone tell them "I love you" merely because they were unlucky enough to have been orphaned after infancy or toddler-hood when they were "less cute" or had "less trauma" "less issues" "less attachment concerns".....
You may be thinking.... "Well, Natalie, if you feel so strongly about this... why don't you adopt an older child... older than five with HIV or even without." Well, I would not say all of this if it was not something that I ponder, pray about and struggle with. I don't know what it means for my family right now. Does this mean I will never adopt a younger child or even an infant? Of course, not. Never say never. Does this mean that every child I adopt from here on out will be older or be HIV+ or be both.... again, no. It does mean I will speak out and advocate and encourage others to consider these "older" children....to consider "HIV." Yes, we may move down this path at some point, but for those of you in the process, waiting to matched, pondering adoption, or advocating....consider the kid a little bit older...a little less cuddly and cute...that may be ready to braid YOUR hair rather than wearing headbands in theirs. Just think about it...because I sure am...I am struggling with it right here with you.