Angels and Marigolds: Waiting on Adoption Referral Psychosis

by Elizabeth Hunter on January 14, 2010

In between compulsively checking email for news from Rwanda, I thought I’d take a moment to start a blog.  I wish I had thought of this sooner.  The truth is I have pretty much been compulsively checking email for  adoption “news” for the past five years.

The trouble with the email checking began back in 2005 with the adoption from Guatemala of our beloved Wynne.  It continued through 2007 with the adoption of our little heartthrob, Theo, also from Guatemala.  Amazingly, here I am in 2010 in the middle of our THIRD adoption and, like a light bulb, it hits me: no matter how frequently you check email, there is nearly always  time left over in the day.

We are currently waiting on the referral, which for adoption newbies means those  first precious photos, medical info, and official word that a child has been chosen for your family.

What’s really  spiritual and cool is that we know that the Sisters at Home of Hope Orphanage in Kigali, Rwanda,  have sat together in prayer and chosen the children for our family and one other family, the Pawlaks (whom I am compulsively emailing) and that all the medical tests have been done.  We have been told we should hear any day. What’s not so spiritual and cool?  “Any day” can take a long time. Especially in cultures that do not buy into our American “time is money” philosophy.

So it was that late last week,  after 11 months of relative levelheadedness, patience and perseverance  (excluding two weeks in late August when, on route to a family  vacation in Montauk, Tim took a little midnight bus detour from Chinatown to DC to hand deliver our  dossier– a humongous portfolio of paperwork related to adoptive family’s life that has been signed by representatives from every conceivable level of U.S. county, state, and federal government, sporting colorful seals & stamps, and  including six separate sets of fingerprints–to the Rwandan Embassy.  We  then spent our entire vacation trying to figure out why a fedex messenger could not seem to gain entrance to the Rwandan Embassy  to pick it up and deliver it back to us.),  I got smacked down  hard and fast with  WAROP:  Waiting on Adoption Referral Psychosis.

Wynne, 2007, on our first trip back to Guatemala since her adoption.

This surely will someday be a recognized medical condition and another adoptive parent invented the term.  It comes on when too many excruciatingly important  things have been out of your control & in the hands of governments thousands of miles away for too long. Or even scarier in your own country with government agencies with fuzzy phrases like “homeland security” in their names.

It comes on after you have had the dozens of little setbacks inherent in any adoption, and  you have talked yourself down over & over again with great maturity, you think (taking the high road, seeing the big picture, trusting the process, letting go, taking responsibility for your mindsets, etc.) until one day, without warning,  you just…  snap.

And suddenly, you won’t be  spiritual a minute longer: YOU HAVE TO HAVE NEWS RIGHT NOW!  And you get to thinking that by continuously checking email you can MAKE  the said document appear in your inbox.  It starts to feel logical.  It starts to feel real. It becomes your job to will this thing into existence.

I won’t go into all the other symptoms.  But if  you find yourself dreaming that you are pregnant and misplaced one of your other children. Or you start  having serious conversations with your daughter who is assuring  YOU that “the angels are bringing the babies really really soon, Mommy.”  And you start to  really brighten with this news. As if it’s a sign…well, I’m just saying, you might want to email me.

This morning, Theo was walking around the house with his dump truck full of musical instruments singing a song.  I tried to listen in and all I heard was “Angels and Marigolds.”  Huh?  Then I realized.  He’s singing “Angels and Miracles”  a tune by his favorite  musician, Uncle Rock (awesomest kids rocker,

And for some reason, I start thinking about our  two previous adoptions.  How although at times it seemed to  be anything BUT miracles (rewind to the five months we spent in Guatemala in 2007, right before they closed the Guatemala adoption program,  where our case was “thrown out of cue for approval” on the flimsiest of technicalities and  Tim, my husband, had to buy a suit from the open air marketplace in Antigua,  find someone to press it,  hire a driver to take him to  the capitol, armed only with a large chocolate cake, plates, forks, and a basic command of the Spanish language (although he has an excellent local accent!) and try to plead our case with the authorities.

And looking back on it now, I see, in the midst of all the craziness, there was Theo.  Our perfect child.  And I don’t mean perfect in the fawning way of all parents.  I just mean “the child we were meant to have.”  And  all the  years of unexplained infertility, the refusal to pursue medical treatments, the praying for a child at the  sacred springs  of St Winifred’s well in  Wales, the years of longing, the uprooting, the  wondering why, why, why– fall away  and all that is left is the miracle of a child finding his forever family.

And that’s exactly what adoption is like:  angels and marigolds.  It has nothing to do with logic, the pull you feel when it is your  time to adopt a child.  A force that pulls you across the world and beyond the limitations of what you thought you could handle. A beautiful, crazy ride where you are being asked to give up everything you ever thought you knew, any feeling that you have  that you can  control events and circumstances by the force of your will. You have to throw it all away.  You have to rediscover the faith of a three year old child.

{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

Stephanie January 14, 2010 at 11:25 pm

Thanks for this.
I’m so grateful to be a part of your lives and to get to witness the whole unfolding for you guys. Can’t wait to meet the new members of our community here that we have built – all of us crazy parents and all of our crazy kids.
Lucky kids.
Lucky parents.
Deep breaths – it’s all going to work out. But, I can totally relate to the impatience – I have none whatsoever.


srah hryniewicz January 14, 2010 at 11:39 pm

congratulations on the new blog —- you are off to a rip roaring funny (all too familiar) start! I look forward to reading your story unfold


C January 14, 2010 at 11:43 pm



mom January 15, 2010 at 1:07 am

Wow. Terrific blog. Can I share with others by giving them your blog cite? How will I know if you get this comment. I love you.


mom January 15, 2010 at 1:09 am

wow! terrific blog. keep it up. I love you.


elizabeth hunter January 15, 2010 at 1:34 am

Thanks, guys. I truly appreciate it. And yes, I’d be honored if you share this with others!


Kristy Pawlak January 15, 2010 at 2:27 am

Great blog–yep, we’re right here with you! And do you mean to tell me that checking my email every 5 minutes is NOT going to make the referral appear?


Sue Sullivan January 15, 2010 at 5:44 am

Elizabeth, this is great! Even though I heard a lot of these experiences when you went through them, I found it entertaining and connecting to read them here. Plus, there’s little details I didn’t know that really add to the story, like Tim’s suit. I love, love, love the pictures too.


Stacey January 15, 2010 at 10:51 am

Dear Elizabeth! Thank you so much for your lovely – heart-rending and heart-filling – blog post! I can’t wait to check back!


elizabeth hunter January 15, 2010 at 2:02 pm

Thanks, Stacey!


Lisa @ Sacred Circle January 16, 2010 at 7:42 am

Elizabeth… you have brought back our own journey of adopting our son Noah from Guatemala full force…. so much that I’m moved to tears by your words. You put that heart-aching journey in a beautiful light. I keep forgetting that we have to exchange adoption stories! I’m so excited to read your updates as they come, and to witness the amazing miracle that it indeed is…. :)


elizabeth hunter January 16, 2010 at 10:24 am

Thanks, Lisa. I didn’t know your son is from Guatemala, too! Love to hear your family’s adoption story sometime soon. xxxooo


Syd January 17, 2010 at 4:38 am

This was lovely to read.
Well written.
What a process!
Very informative!
Thanks for sharing


elizabeth hunter January 17, 2010 at 10:22 am

Thanks, Syd! Glad you found it.


Cilla Utne January 17, 2010 at 11:42 pm

Wow, you brought back a longing for Guatemala, and for adoption all at once! We’re contemplating # 2, and Africa (“Africa, ike George” Mateo says when asked from where we should adopt next – he refers to curious George, a slightly different, yet similar adoption story from a long time ago :) ). We also hear rumors of Guatemala….who knows though. Haiti is on the radar since one horrific past week…we’ll see.

In the meantime, thanks for starting this blog, and thanks for giving me inspiration to write more on ours…it’s been almost a year!! Hugs to you, Tim, Wynne and Theo (oh my, is he georgeous or what?!) Congratulations on almost news…are you bringing back more than one??


elizabeth hunter January 18, 2010 at 1:28 pm

Hey, Cilla, which Curious George book are you talking about? Need to read it!


Cilla Utne January 19, 2010 at 6:17 pm

:) the very fist one, called “Curious George”.

The story is leaning more towards describing how slaves were captured (eek!) than an adoption story, but since Mateo interpreted it as an adoption, that is what it is! The man with the yellow hat also puts George in a zoo at the end of the book, so not sure what Mateo in his bright mind makes out of that… any rate, he loves the book and I’m probably over analyzing it!


Christine January 18, 2010 at 6:54 am

Liz, love your blog, what a fantastic start. I hope that you get word soon. How long between referral and travel? We are in the middle of the wait for a referral of a daughter from Ethiopia. Is it okay if I link your blog on mine? Mine is:



elizabeth hunter January 18, 2010 at 7:09 am

Thanks, Christine. Yes, by all means, link it to your blog. I’m going to check yours out, too! Elizabeth


Bonnie Fine January 18, 2010 at 1:03 pm

This is great. You should write a book about your experiences.


Rita Wood January 18, 2010 at 3:12 pm

Dear Elizabeth and Tim,

Mike and I would like to wish you luck on this 3rd adaption. May your future child have a good soul and bring you much joy. I had no idea it was such a process! Hope everything goes more smoothly from here.



mom January 18, 2010 at 5:08 pm

Reread your first entry. Want more. Subscribed.


Laura Grill January 18, 2010 at 8:24 pm

Beautifully written. Those hopeful of Rwanda and other international adoptions will find help and hope in your blog.


Phil January 19, 2010 at 10:58 am

What a heartfelt Blog. Your belief is so strong that your wish must be answered soon.
You and Tim never fail to keep your hopes up.
Thanks for sharing your joy of Wynne and Theo’s
arrivel and now I look forward with you for the new arrivals.
Your Blog is beautiful and I would like to share it.
Bless you, Tim and the children. Philxx


George Simonoff January 19, 2010 at 12:11 pm

Great blog Liz. It’s impossible for outsiders to know what goes through the heart and mind of a person immersed in this wonderful and loving endeavor, but your selfless sharing has brought us a little closer to that and for this I am grateful.


Laura Grill January 26, 2010 at 8:40 pm

Just read the update on your original blog. Hope you’ll soon hear that all the paperwork is completed and that your new baby is ready for you. Laura


Luz Baez February 5, 2010 at 10:10 am

Hello Elizabeth,

I am so amazed of all things you and your husband have accomplished…and also the miracles that are about to occur…I work with your husband in telecom…I had mentioned to him after my mishap I have been seriously thinking of adopting myself…In light of the issue with Haiti it has me thinking even more..My thing is I don’t know where to begin or where to go or even how to begin…any insight would be great.
Thanks for your time.


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