Alyosha's Adoption Story


After I hacked out Taavi's birth story and linked to Moses' birth story that I wrote in December, I realized that this blog would simply not be complete without some homage to Alyosha's adoption story too. So buckle up my peeps because here it is, the tale of my first baby coming into my little world.


The story begins long before our son is born.  In 2006, after a few short months of marriage, Eric was devouring The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dosteovsky. The main character, as you may know, is named Alyosha.  Pure of heart, a friend of children, sinners, and atheists, a "defender of mankind", Alyosha is the Christ figure of the novel.  His is a beautiful character, one that you can't help but fall in love with.  One night Eric has the most intense dream of his life and wakes up shaking and drenched in sweat.  In the dream he hears the voice of God speaking to him: "you are my little Alyosha".

The next day, Eric tells me about the dream.  He pauses, glancing at me sideways, shyly.  "If we have a son one day, what would you think of naming him Alyosha?  I think I'd like to.  If God as a Father speaks that over me, I would like to speak it over my son."

I move my pancake around the plate with my fork.  "We'll see."


On our 3 year anniversary, coming home to the island of Java after a celebratory vacation in Bali, we decide to adopt.  We put off having children throughout our missionary training school, wanting to wait until we had put down roots in Indonesia to bring a baby into the family.  And finally, after 4 months in country, we have begun the conversation.

I've always wanted to adopt and Eric is open to it too, so we spend a month praying about whether to have our first child biologically or through adoption, the idea of children languishing without a loving family sitting heavy on our hearts.  With no lightning from heaven to direct us, we eventually settle on adoption because, well, because we want to.  After looking at dozens of countries and their requirements (adoption from the U.S. foster system is not a possibility when you live on the other side of the world), we finally commit to Uganda after finding it was one of the few countries whose stipulations we actually met.  (Age, length of marriage, no need for documented infertility or residence in country, etc.)

Eric installing something necessary for gas safety before the American social worker came from Germany to do our home study.  (Ex pat adoption is no walk in the park.) That's our Indonesian house helper looking on and yes, that's our entire kitchen (the sink's behind her).

Ceremoniously installing a smoke detector- a requirement for a U.S. home study and an anomaly in Indonesian homes.  Beside me is our drinking water that we replaced every few days. Behind me is our washing machine (we line dried everything) and the door to the bathroom (i.e. squatty potty and bucket bath area).

A copy of our finalized home study, though I can't remember why our names are covered in this photo.

In less than a year we have our home study and immigration paperwork complete.  We mail it in to our adoption agency while on a short visit home to Dallas, so excited for the next step: being matched with a child, a darling little girl aged 0-2 whom we would name Evangeline.

Instead, I sit in the kitchen of my in-laws house and read a very different email to Eric out loud.  The agency says they have received our paperwork but there are currently no girls in the orphanage who have not already been matched with a family.  Our options are to wait for a girl, for them to look at orphanages outside of the one they work closely with, or to consider a boy.  We discuss it and I write back immediately, telling our case worker that we'll need a day or two to think about it.

It was supposed to be a girl.  All year we've been talking about a girl.  People have even begun giving us pink gifts! But I don't want to wait. Is it wrong to ask them to look at other orphanages? They said they could. But is it wrong when there's a boy right there, waiting?

In the meantime we take the train with Eric's family to a used bookstore.

We walk through the double doors and I thank God one more time for air conditioning.  I make a beeline for the parenting section, eager to feast on the stacks and stacks of resources usually denied to me in my native tongue.  To my delight, there is one tiny shelf specifically devoted to adoption.  Hungrily, I scan the spines until I see one that makes my heartbeat stop.

With eyes the size of saucers, I carry the book like our priest carries the Bible during Mass: gingerly, reverently.  I find my husband, the love of my life, and wordlessly, I hold the precious manuscript up before his face.

His eyes grow just like mine have.  He laughs.  I laugh.  We hug each other tight.

It's a boy!


Four months later our plane touches down on Ugandan soil.  We've come from Indonesia and we roll suitcases with most of our worldly possessions inside.  We won't go back after this.  We, a new family of three, will move back to the States to begin life together.  Eric is going back to finish his undergraduate degree and then get a Master's.  A new chapter of life is unfolding for all of us and we feel the weight of it hanging heavy.

Goodbye to our best friends and beloved teammates. Goodbye to the dream we thought we had.  Hello to our son. Hello to a future that is still a blur.

The car is stuffy but the views are splendid.  Our driver points out sights now and then and bears with our ignorant questions.  I comment on how it reminds me of Kenya and he is clearly miffed.  They are very different, he maintains.  Eric squeezes my hand and we share nervous smiles.  45 minutes until we meet our baby.  30 minutes.  15 minutes.  We're here.

As if in a dream, we enter the modest house.  Sounds of life pulse everywhere: toddlers eating porridge, nannies conversing in beautiful tongue, an infant protesting a diaper change.  They begin to lead us into the baby room, the room that holds our future, and I pull back Eric's t-shirt to stop him.  Give someone your phone to record it, I whisper-beg. He complies, she presses record, and we pass the threshold of the door.  We pass into new life and a Something that we could never have envisioned.  I become Mother and he becomes Father and this orphan baby sucking formula in a bouncer, he becomes Son.

We bend down low before him.  Hello Alyosha, I whisper.  I'm Mama.

Someday, the light will shine like a sun through my skin & they will say, 'what have you done with your life?' & though there are many moments I think I'll remember, in the end, I will be proud to say, I was one of us.

(Brian Andreas, Storypeople)