Very early on in our journey towards adoption, it became very clear to us that we wanted to have more than one child to call our own. Nadine and I remember the exact moment where we realized we were going to build our family a little bit faster than normal! We had just met with an incredibly helpful adoption official back home in Edmonton, Alberta. As soon as we got into our car, we turned towards one another, made eye contact, and slowly understood what it all meant.
“You realize we’re going to adopt two boys at the same time, right?” I broke the silence.
“Okay. We can do this. Right?”
It sounded insane. It sounded really difficult. It sounded like the right thing to do.
607 days later, on May 5th, 2019, we brought our second son home.
Everyone, meet Finn.
We love him, and so will you! Finn is a young man of extremes. On his toughest day, he can throw a tantrum like no other, but his smile and laugh is impossibly contagious. He tries everything his big brother can do, and even leads the way when the situation demands it. Oliver had never actually touched a snail until he saw his little brother go for it first.
We don’t know Finn’s birthday. Sometimes that’s just the nature of stories like his. As with his big brother, we’ll keep what we know about Finn’s story private. It will be his to share one day. To the best of our knowledge, we’ve chosen March 28th, 2017 as the day Finn was born here in Uganda. That makes him almost 7 months younger than Oliver.
On the first night we brought Oliver home, we snuggled him close, and as a brand new family, we prayed together for Oliver’s little brother. Every night after we did the same. We would pray that God would look out for our little boy, and that he would bring him home to us soon. We had expected things to move quickly, to be honest. We thought that within a few months of bringing Oliver home we would have our second child.
Getting matched with Finn was as big of a fight as it was to find Oliver. We had to navigate complex systems marred with misinformation, and it has been a long journey to recognize that the welfare and safety of children like ours is simply not valued enough to be worthy of the attention of those meant to act as their guardians and caretakers. After directly engaging with the adoption and childcare system here for two plus years, it is a devastating conclusion to come to.
So many people are doing their best. People who run the orphanage that raised our boys before we could find them. People who work for NGOs and private organizations that reunite children with their families, lift people out of poverty, and safeguard and protect children. I’m sure there are politicians and government officials who feel they are doing their best too. They are simply actors in a system that is set up as an afterthought. These children really are forgotten.
As hard as it was to bring Finn home, to complete our family, the last two months since have been a complete mess. Finn was desperately ill when we were matched with him. He was so ill, that we brought him home just a few days after we met him in the orphanage. From finding out we got matched, to bringing him home, it was just 9 days. Most people have 9 months to prepare for a new addition, right? I’m not an expert, but that’s what I’ve heard.
We had nine days. Finn came home with a horrible chest infection, open sores over his body, fungal infections, complications from malnutrition, and parasites in his stomach. As we tried bonding with this incredible little man, we couldn’t even cuddle or hold him properly. One by one, we all got sick as a family even as we tried to nurse Finn back to good health. We got wiped out.
The last two months have been full of hospital visits, tests, needles, drugs, more than Nadine or I have ever experienced in all of our time living in East Africa. Personally, I’ve been stretched far more emotionally, physically and spiritually than I thought possible. We’ve had to cancel attempted celebrations for Nadine’s birthday, Mother and Fathers Days, and even our 10-year wedding anniversary. We got as far as the north-end of Kampala before we turned around to head to a clinic, and then home.
Our record to date for changing diarrhea-filled diapers is 11. That is eleven diapers, generated by two boys, in one day. And I couldn’t even tell you how many stool samples we’ve had to deliver to laboratories over the last 8 weeks.
There have been many nights where Nadine and I have confided in one another: “I don’t think I have what it takes to do this again tomorrow.”
Have you ever been driving on the highway, and forgotten to gas up at your last stop? When your fuel gauge gets to empty, and you’re constantly staring at it, wondering when your engine will stop? Nothing else matters, just that needle. You’re desperate to get to the next station, but you don’t know if you’ll make it.
That’s what this feels like.
All of this, while experiencing the incredible joy of watching Oliver become a big brother, and watching Finn come out of his shell and start showing us who he is.
It’s felt impossible, but also perfect — It’s been complicated! Just as Oliver was given to us, we understand that Finn was meant to be part of this family from the very beginning. He filled a hole that was Finn-shaped. His humour has added to our joy as a family. He loves our dance parties, just like his big brother. He loves to swim, he loves to adventure. He’s obsessed with riding his blue boda boda, just like Oliver. He also loves Belle, which is a prerequisite for any good Guenther.
It is perfect. Despite that needle pointing directly at that giant “E,” we keep on going.
Something happened today that helped me figure out why we keep on going. I was reminded a little bit of how I was raised, and what it means to be a Canadian in just a real, honest way.
This morning we woke up to cold, miserable rain. I made the boys breakfast. After, they asked to see the rain outside. Nadine got out our rain jackets. We dressed for the weather. We went outside and we played all morning in the rain. It was the most fun I’ve had in a real long time.
I’ve done that my whole life without even realizing it. Canadians: When bad weather hits, when something unexpected happens, we just put on more clothes, and get on with the day. If a blizzard is coming in overnight, then you set your alarm two hours early to get to work on time. If there’s two feet of snow lining the sidewalks, then you put on your snowsuit so you can walk to school. I was raised in the northern-most populated city in Canada. I never got a single snow day.
Just like when you become a parent, you don’t get to go back to sleep if it’s raining outside. You can’t call in sick. You wake up, you dress for the weather, and you get to work.
Today I watched my family giggle themselves silly as rain poured down on us. It was impossibly perfect.
The last big lesson we felt God was teaching us was about plans. Sometimes we make plans. But God’s plans are better.
God is teaching us something new in this season. He’s teaching us that the notion that He will never give us anything more than we can handle, is false. It’s not true! God’s plans for us may very well be more than we can handle on our own. It’s the incredible thing about his plans for us. They aren’t designed for us. They are designed for us to accomplish together with Him. God wants me, when I’m so focused on that fuel gauge, to “lift my eyes up to the hills” and remember “where my help comes from.” – Psalm 121:1
Nadine and I need to express our gratitude for every one of you who have been remembering us, praying for us, sending us love. Friends forcing us to say “yes” to meals being brought over. Late night trips to the hospital. Cookies for the boys. It’s meant so much. It’s helped us get through all of this.
I’d do all of this again, knowing that I would get to watch my boys become best friends. I would do all of this again to see them cuddled up on the couch, Nadine reading them a story before bed. I never imagined this was how my family would come together. It’s not because years ago, I didn’t even know that we’d be adopting, it’s simply because I could have never, in my wildest dreams, imagined anything this good.
And that’s why tomorrow, I’ll dress for the weather and do it all over again.
Josh (Daddy x 2)