“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life” Proverbs 13:12 NIV
Tapanga at her 3rd birthday party, July 2008
While we were not Christian then, when I think back on our wait the above proverb resonates in my spirit. It is as if it was written for our situation, it fits so well. The process of getting Tapanga into our home was no small undertaking. As I mentioned in Part Two, Sally’s fateful phone call came in April of 2008. Tapanga did not move into our home until April 2009. Heart sick? Yes, we know all about that. The process of preparing for Tapanga’s placement both tested and grew our patience. Dylan and I were so eager for Tapanga to join our family, to fill a hole we had not previously realized existed, that we had next to no patience for the time it took to complete the requisite steps. If only we had known then how perfect and seemingly planned the timing of the events would end up. Maybe the wait would have been easier if we had faith and trust on our side, but that is simply not who were were then. Our faith would come in due time, but on this leg of our journey we felt alone. Us and our family against a system that seemed designed to keep our girl out of our waiting arms.
While going through the extensive process of becoming qualified to have Tapanga in our home, we accomplished a number of personal milestones as well.
University Convocation 2008
The first accomplishment was my graduation from the University of Alberta with a BSc. in Medical Laboratory Science, in June of 2008. This marked the end of five years of disciplined hard work for both myself and Dylan. While I attended school, Dylan worked in a lumber mill. In his time there, Dylan worked very hard and learned all he could, making the best of an unpleasant situation. The environment of the production line he worked on was incredibly hostile. Add to that the physical stresses of an active, often dangerous, job and it’s no surprise he was counting the days until he could leave. With my degree now in hand, he quit the job he hated. He applied for, and was hired to, a position as an apprentice Heavy Duty Mechanic at General Body.
I was also awarded a permanent full-time position in the University of Alberta Hospital’s Anatomical Pathology Laboratory. Previous to that I had been working in that lab as a casual technologist, so the transition to full-time was as exciting as it was natural. We were finally at a place where we were both happy with our jobs, and we were filled with hope for our future, with Tapanga in it.
Some memories from Tapanga's early visits with us, 2008.
I think the biggest challenge to the adoption process was our age and life experience. I was 24, Dylan 25; and we were unmarried with no “children of our own.” How could we hope to raise this troubled little girl at our age and with our lack of experience? We didn’t know how we would do it either, but we believed with all our hearts that we could.
Now that we had assured everyone we were serious and had cleared those first personal hurdles, it was time to take on the list children’s services had for us. We had to fill out financial forms, give detailed personal histories, have home visits with a counsellor, and complete kinships/foster care courses. Understandably we also had to complete criminal record checks and child intervention safety checks. I’m sure there must have been more we did, because it seemed every time we completed a checklist item and thought we were nearly done, there would be another task handed out. We wanted so badly to have Tapanga in our home that every delay was incredibly frustrating. We had no grace for waiting, no understanding of why the process was taking so long.
One factor that further complicated and delayed the process was that children’s services would not allow her to move in with us until a PGO was in place. Children’s services needed to be certain there was no chance Tapanga would be returned to her family of origin before she could be placed with us. It would be too damaging to her to move in with us, only to be sent back to her birth family.
During the process of preparing for her transition she remained with Hugh and Sally and would visit us nearly every other weekend, sometimes in Barrhead but often at our home in Edmonton. As the months drew on, she began to anticipate why she was visiting us so often. She bonded with us and wanted very badly to be our little girl. Her desire to move, to have a forever family, often resulted in challenging behaviours when she would return home to Hugh and Sally. Consequently there was five people waiting very impatiently for the process to be completed!
Photos from Tapanga's nearly week long visit with us,summer of 2008.
While the wait was hard for us all, there were blessings in this time as well. The delay gave us time to completely renovate her future bedroom, and build an adjoining playroom. Our house was tiny, but we were creative and built her an amazing little space to call her own. We also used this time to form a strong bond with Tapanga, and to allow her to adjust to our home. These times together are something we will never forget. Hugh and Sally even left Tapanga with us for nearly a week when they went to British Columbia to visit Hugh’s brother Ken, and Ken’s family. Our week together was filled with a number of memories including a trip to the Valley Zoo, a build-a-bear visit, and a “trial-by fire” moment!
A glimpse of her room. In the top-left photo she is climbing from her bedroom into her playroom. Bottom left is a view of part of the playroom.
Having no experience with small children, when Tapanga developed a high fever we had no idea what to do. Looking back, it’s startling to see how naive we truly were. We did not even know what her temperature was beyond “too warm, I think,” because we did not even own a thermometer! At a complete loss as to what needed to be done, but knowing action was needed, we packed up and drove from Edmonton to Barrhead’s emergency room. At the time that seemed the best solution, as we knew we would be seen more quickly in Barrhead than in Edmonton. We were further reassured by the simple fact that my parents lived in Barrhead, and were home.
Our ER visit was unforgettable. The doctor on call was furious that this small child had a high fever and had not been given any medications. We were so completely green that we had no idea that all we needed to do was give her a dose of Tylenol or Advil! Completely flustered, feeling guilty and absolutely incompetent, I explained our situation to the kind and understanding nurse on call. I think she then must have spoke with the doctor because when he returned, his bedside manner was much more kind. However despite telling him that my parents were home, and that we would stay with them, he insisted on admitting Tapanga. Dylan spent that night, his birthday, asleep on the chair beside her. Trial by fire indeed! I think that was one of the first moments where we really wondered if we were in over our heads. Were we really the best choice for this little girl, would we be good enough? I thank God for our supportive family, and for our love being stronger than our fears.
Our poor peanut, likely already running a fever. June 2008.
As time marched on we continued our visits. We were originally told that Tapanga would move in within a month of coming under a PGO. The PGO status came November 17, 2008; Tapanga would be with us for Christmas! Or so we thought. At this point we did what any loving, soon-to-be parents would do. We went to Toys-R-Us and spent a small fortune on presents for her first Christmas with us! She did not move in before Christmas, but we did have her with us. She spent Christmas morning in Edmonton with us, and then we drove to Barrhead to spend the next couple of days with our family. Tapanga also spent the time between Christmas and New Year’s in Edmonton with us.
We expected this to be our first Christmas with Tapanga in our home. She may not have lived with us yet, but she was with us nonetheless. December, 2008
At this point in my life I was strongly atheist, and “meant to be” was just a cute little term that didn’t have a whole lot of meaning for me. Looking back now I can see the divine timing present in the process. Tapanga was not meant to live with us yet. We were not married!
Dylan and I married in Puerto Vallarta Mexico, February 18, 2009. It was a beautiful ceremony more than forty family members and friends attended. Tapanga was not among them.
I remember being disappointed Hugh and Sally could not bring her along, even though I understood the reasoning. When the tickets were purchased Tapanga did not have her PGO status yet. Her future was still uncertain, there was still a small chance she would no longer be in our family when we went to Mexico. While I realize the earthly reason she was not present, in retrospect I see a higher reason. Dylan and I got married, and had our honeymoon, without our future child present. That only makes sense, doesn’t it? She was not our daughter yet, and she was not at our wedding. We were also able to have one last child-free vacation, a luxury we have not enjoyed since. Though I was a little sad at the time, looking back I am so glad. It was as it was meant to be.
A few favourite pictures from our beautiful day.
When we returned from Mexico at the beginning of March 2009, our wait was nearly complete. The time for Tapanga to move was drawing closer, but there was to be one final hiccup. I was asked if I would be able to take a leave of absence from work to allow Tapanga to transition into our home, and I had anticipated taking two to three weeks off. Children’s services wanted the leave from work to be one year, an interval I felt unable to take. Upon further consideration they said that two to three months would be sufficient, but I did not feel I could take that long off work either. I did not realize at that time that I could have applied for employment insurance and taken nearly a year off. When I told children’s services taking two to three months off was not possible, I was told I needed to take the time off to transition her or she would not be placed in our home. This was around the middle of March. I was heartbroken, angry, and confused. Was everything we had worked so hard for about to slip through our fingers? Or would we have to survive on a single income for two to three months? I was at a loss, what were we to do? I phoned my parents and my in-laws, sharing my frustration and fear.
Fortunately, children’s services reconsidered their stance. They decided that because we had been bonding with Tapanga for over a year, and had spent countless hours with her in our home, she would not need a long interval to adjust to her new placement. It was decided that three weeks at home with me would be sufficient.
“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life” Proverbs 13:12 NIV
Tapanga finally officially moved into our home as a kinship-care, pre-adoption, placement Monday April 6, 2009. While her official move-in day is recorded as April 6, we were on Hugh and Sally’s doorstep bright and early Saturday, April 4, to pick up Tapanga. Our long wait was finally over.
We were taking our girl home.
Home at last.
A new and exciting journey was about to begin, but we had no way of knowing what else was in store for us!