I am a son of Haiti. Not by birth or marriage, but by heart. No matter the legacy I leave behind, I will always be a son of Haiti.
Long before we married, my wife and I talked about adopting and about changing the world through a life saved from harsh conditions. Noble, right?
So, after 2 kids of our own, and ten years of marriage, we began the journey. In February 2006, we put our money where our hearts were and began the paperwork to adopt from Haiti.
After submitting our forms, we were told adopting from Haiti took 9 months to a year, barring any foreseeable problems.
Two years later, my wife and I found ourselves in the position of having processed all the paperwork, having all the documents finalized/notarized/legalized/supersized, but still, no child.
Soon, we were told.
Finally in February of 2008, a full two years after we started the process, after we had seen pictures of a boy we prayed for by name and talked about with our kids, after all the waiting, we decided to go to Haiti to see our son–and bring him home.
Now Haiti is not for the faint of heart. It is a tough, poor, corrupt, harsh land that is also beautiful, simple and open. It is not somewhere you take your family on vacation, but it is somewhere you go to find your heart.
While I have seen a lot in my short life, I’ll admit that some things still take me by surprise.
We arrived in Haiti, picked up our son from the orphanage, and then checked into a hotel for the week. Our goal was simply to spend time with him while hoping to finalize his visa.
While there, we discovered our file needed to have an “irrevocable relinquishment” by the birth mother, stating that she understood that in giving her child up for adoption, she would be cutting all ties to rights and privileges the child would receive, which sounded harsh to me.
Would I ever seek to cut all ties to my son or daughter, knowing that wherever they go, I never will? She would be doing the one thing we find impossible to do to our children–abandon them and release them so that in that abandonment, they find life?
And if we found the birth mother, would she sign a document she has already dealt with once if not many times?
I went back to the hotel, unsure that anything was going to happen. Our adoption agent went to work calling around and securing a time to meet the birth mother back at the orphanage where three years earlier she had brought her son, looking to give him the life she could never give him.
In Haiti, when someone gives you a “set time” for anything, the time is never held tightly. It’s what people affectionately call “Haiti-time”. It means, “If I get around to it great, if not, no worries.”
To our surprise, not only was the birth mother found, she was waiting for us early the following morning at the orphanage. In fact, we later learned that she came to visit her son often, just to be sure he was doing well.
Upon meeting her, I was drawn to her simple beauty and calm strength. What was she thinking? Would she be angry with us for taking away her son? Would she feel remorse about the experiences she would never have with the son she may never see again?
All these feelings and questions were before me, and yet, there she stood, speaking to the child quietly. She was not the kind of mother I expected to meet. She was kind, articulate, respectful, wonderful and above all, quick to offer help when we needed it.
As the day wore on, she sought to help me in conversations with other Haitians, especially when it came to getting information on Jayson’s medical history or talking to the consulate guards. To be honest, I would not have made it through the day without her.
The day was a whirlwind of twists and turns, with more surprises than a fun house, and in the middle of all the commotion, here was the birth mother, a mere 21-year-old woman, holding my hand as we went to the American Consulate for the last time that day.
How could she not be torn? She not only signed the irrevocable relinquishment and helped us with the medical records, she did it without a harsh word toward the adoption agent, the vice consuls or us. Her actions showed acceptance of the circumstances that allowed us to help her son, while she could not.
I know that wherever I go, I will always be impacted by the simple gestures of this young woman who showed me courage and belief in all that I was doing for and with her that day.
When all the documents and the signatures were complete, the Haitian son was ours. He became a brother to my children, a son to us. He was brought into our family!
And yet, I suddenly realized that while I was going home, I would forever be a son of Haiti.
While I had brought a Haitian child into our family, he brought me into his world as well. Walking the streets and dealing with people marked me with a passion and a resolve to never forget my son’s heritage. He was poor and sick from birth and now has medical services and resources to become all he was created to become. He was in a place that was dangerous and unpredictable, and now placed within the safety and security of my family.
It hit me that even though I was born in America, my past was very similar to those within Haiti: unsure, sick, poor, with unbelievable odds against me.
And it was God who reached out to me, to adopt me, and to help me, when I could not do it on my own. He called me out of the prison I was in and released me to be a helper to those who were in the same boat behind me. While I may believe I am done with Haiti, I am not. My son’s heritage is always with him, because his roots are Haitian, which molds the future before him and releases the abilities he will use.
It is time to redeem what is before us, to be who we were created to be. The journey toward adoption is done, but the adventure is just beginning.