It wasn't even a month ago that I wrote the The Story of Us. I told you that Chazzo completed our family and I said that because that's what I always say. What I didn't say is that for a while, like a maybe year, I have been getting little nudges about a baby girl. I'm not talking about life altering information here, just like what ifs. And I could have been making it up. I've watched lots of my friends have and raise babies and I'm no spring chicken, so maybe my body was telling me it was time to get going or miss the boat. Maybe it was all this testosterone I'm surround by on a daily basis and me needing some pink in my life. Maybe it was just God. I'm not sure. But a few months ago, these little nudges started to get a bit stronger and I decided to test the waters.
I have a friend in Rwanda who runs a pretty incredible orphan prevention ministry. They work with the local government in our area to support mothers and families in the most vulnerable of circumstances and lock arms with them to care for their most vulnerable family members, babies. "If a mother passes away or is unable to care for an infant, the cost of formula often far outweighs an average weekly income. Through sponsors Hope for Tomorrow provides bottles, health insurance, weekly formula, powdered milk, porridge, fresh fruits, infant cereal, and sugar." And they don't just meet nutritional needs, they have built a community addressing emotional, social, medical, and spiritual needs of the families as well. Mothers learn life skills and go to literacy classes and are empowered to support themselves and each other in the future. It's a beautiful thing to watch and it's, oh, so needed. Often the needs of the community are beyond the capacity of the rapidly growing ministry. If you follow along with us on Facebook or Instagram, you know that last fall our family fostered 9mo old twins, Denny and Denyse, through Hope for Tomorrow. Anyway, I mentioned to this friend that if she happened to get a call about a newborn baby girl, with no family, needing a home, we would be interested in fostering. "It's a definite possibility", she said. And we waited. And prayed.
A bit of background, we wanted her to be a girl because, even though the boys are grown, we have a very set, and sensitive, family dynamic. (Hint: our "baby" was not thrilled to be giving up his seat.) Also, as future husbands and fathers, I really wanted the boys to love a girl. We wanted a newborn because we have been reading (well, I have been reading and sharing) so much about how formative those first few months are for development and adoption was also, obviously, in the back of my mind, but Rwanda has been closed for international adoptions since 2010. However, if you know me, you know I tend to be a bit stubborn in my faith and I'm not scared to take a leap...
The first call we got turned out to be a boy and, to honor the family we already had, I felt like I should say no. (I didn't actually have you say the word "no", it was more implied once 'she' was a 'he'.) It messed me up. So, when we got the next call about a 6mo old girl, I talked to the boys about it and we all agreed there was no way we could say no. And we said yes, but as it turned out, she wasn't meant for us either. Little did we know our girl was going to make her presence known in just a few days.
It was shortly before 5am on a Sunday and I was dead to the world. My phone was ringing and I was dreaming about being late to class. (??) It was JD. I answered, wondering what he could possibly be calling about at this time. He said, "Tara, there is a baby at your gate." I shot out of bed. Surely, this was a dream....
She was only 5 days old and we named her Ishimwe Myla Jean. The boys chose her Kinyarwanda name which means to praise or give glory. Myla means merciful and Jean (after my mom) means gift of God. And we do praise Him for the sweet, merciful gift of her. She didn't officially come home for 5 more days. We met at the local government office and I signed paperwork as her foster parent, promising to "care for all needs, financial and otherwise, for the life of the child". It was a terribly awkward feeling sitting in the room, holding my girl, surrounded by 6-8 government officials and JD, speaking on our behalf. I was trying hard to translate all the Kinyarwanda as they discussed a plethora of things, including my family, my business, and our future. The honor is not lost on me that this room full of Rwandans would entrust me with her precious life. And precious doesn't even scratch the surface; she truly is a dream and we are all over the moon.
From here, we're not entirely sure what the future holds. What we know now is that we are all healthy and happy and together. Myla isn't just lucky to have us, we prayed hard for her and the day she showed up was the "luckiest" day of our lives. I can say the same thing for each one of the boys and I know they would say the same thing, collectively, about our family. One of the topics the officials discussed in the room that day was if I was willing to adopt her. I thought I was going to pee myself (because YES and as far as I knew that wasn't possible) and JD very calmly said, "We can be discussing that." What we didn't know at the time is that, last month, for the first time in 7 years, Rwanda very quietly reopened international adoption. And so, again, we wait. And pray.
To be honest, it feels a bit sticky to talk about this.... This perfectly imperfect family we have built is not, in any way, legally binding; yet it is, in every way, forever. Myla isn't adopted, but maybe one day she will be. The boys are past the age of being adopted so they won't ever have that chance. Both of those things are hard and sad and not as they should be, but my kids are my kids and no label they could be given would change anything for any of us. (Except for their ability to come to the States!) What I'm trying to say is, the details around adoption are a million times touchy. Each story is unique; most are painful and all are personal. I've said before that I feel very protective of the boys, of their hearts, and of their stories. I care deeply about the way they are portrayed or perceived. Honestly, a lot of times I care about it more than they do, but one day I think it will matter to them. None of us, including Myla, ended up together because things went the way they should have. We are all part of a beautifully redeemed Plan B. The boys are able to speak for themselves, or to tell me what I'm allowed to speak about them. Myla isn't and I won't do that for her. I'm happy to share about our family, through my own experiences, but I don't plan to share her specific and private details on this blog or anywhere else.
We appreciate your love and support so much!! We love sharing about our lives and love showing off what we believe God has done for us. The boys feel special knowing that you know their names, and care about them, and are cheering them on. They love reading your comments and seeing your 'likes' and 'loves' come in. They grew up differently than Myla will. They had so many people looking after them and their lives were constantly on display, whether they liked it or not. (And they mostly liked it, they didn't know any different.) Myla will know only us. Her family. She didn't get to chose this, but I will do my very best to make sure that she knows that she does get to chose who she is in this world; she isn't defined by her circumstances and she doesn't owe her life or any parts of her story to anyone for any reason.
And the world spins madly on. Myla is a rockstar baby; eating, sleeping, and pooping like a champ! Our sweet friend, with Hope for Tomorrow, has been so kind to help us get situated a bit. We bought formula and diapers and are borrowing clothes and blankets, and a little Moses basket for her to sleep in. For the last couple of months, I've been ordering a few things here and there to Grandma's house in Oklahoma, anticipating a baby girl's arrival at some point.
Unfortunately, long before we knew anything about Miss Myla and her grand entrance, I had a 3 week trip planned to States. I leave next week. My bestie is getting married and I get the immense honor of standing next to her! I wouldn't miss it for the world, but I sure will miss my crew and time with my baby girl. The good news is, I'll get to stock up on all the things she needs and Grandma gets to come back to Rwanda with me and meet her! While I'm gone, Myla will be staying at our house, in her routine, with one of the No.41 girls; she'll be getting an early start 'going to work' at No.41 every day. (As you can see, Frank is also on the job!) The boys will be wrapping up their final exams for the year and it'll be a party when we're all back together. Several people have asked about a registry for Myla and we did create one at Target. It's linked here, if you're so inclined. Again, we love you and we are so grateful for your love and support. Thank you for sharing in our journey. xo