Fitz had just come home from work. After routinely asking him about his day, I tried in vain to listen to him above the normal chaos of a house with 6 young kids whose Daddy had just gotten home from work. As I waded through the thick mass of toys and toddlers which had become my home, one sentence filtered through to me. “His name is Philippe, and he is eight years old…”
Much, much later, when the kids had been tucked in and some of the chaos of the house sorted out, we lay side by side in the darkness of our room. I asked him again to tell me about Philippe. It seemed an old student of his, Conor Shapiro was working in Haiti, and his family was adopting a young boy. When Fitz asked Conor’s mom about it, she immediately told him about Philippe…another little boy needing a home. He said he would go home and talk it over with me. But there was no talking needed. From the moment Philippe’s name filtered through to me that afternoon, another Fitzsimmons child was born.
Adoption was not a brand new idea to us. After making several trips to Honduras, Fitz and I spoke of adoption often. We even got as serious at one point as to start looking into the requirements of several different international adoption programs. But as time went on, we soon had six children of our own, and the idea became something more distant…something to put off until our children were a bit older. It became a vague, fuzzy vision of a foreign, exotic looking toddler with six older siblings to spoil him or her. Not once in our brief discussions did Haiti come up. Not once had we talked about an older child. Most certainly we had never discussed taking on a child with serious illness.
As we have found out, yet again, life rarely turns out as we expect it. After going through pregnancy and childbirth six times, I thought, “How hard could this be?” We started first with the appropriately named ‘home study’ process. They do actually study your home. After interviews separately with the social worker at her office spilling our lives out, and then an interview together, she came to our home to interview our kids and inspect our home. I was nervous to the point of being nauseous. Would we pass this test? Would we be acceptable parents? If things were found to be wrong, what would that mean…that I had already failed as a parent six times over? Throughout this process, one thing kept me sane. It was a picture pinned up to our bulletin board. The little boy was Philippe, and he was eight years old…
Over the next several months, that picture on our bulletin board became an accepted part of our house, of our family. One morning I awoke to the sound of two small voices in the kitchen. Charlie, 5, was asking EJ, 7 where babies came from. EJ, with his infinite patience, was explaining to Charlie that God puts the babies inside the mama, and when they are ready, they come out. Charlie replied with, “so Mama had a baby inside her, and then another, and then another, and then another, and then another and then another?” “Yes,” said EJ. “Well what about Philippe?” asked Charlie “Well, God knew Mama was tired, and so he decided the next baby would come from Haiti,” answered EJ. “But Philippe’s not a baby,” pointed out Charlie. EJ, again showing his patience, replied “Well God knew a baby wouldn’t be much fun for us to play with, so he made him 8.” As I lay there listening to them, I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or to cry. Our kids had made common sense of a situation which we had pondered over for hours about how to explain to them.
Now, many months later, I sit here in the dark thinking about that little boy. He is lying in a hospital bed far, far away from us. I have spent the last several days contacting every government official I can think of who may be willing to help. Each conversation starts the same way, “His name is Philippe, and he is eight years old…” I have politicians in three states fighting for us to help get our son home. The US Ambassador to Haiti is pleading with the Haitian government to make an exception, waive some requirements and let Philippe exit the country in order to be rushed to the US for medical treatment. There is nothing more I can do now but wait. It’s an excruciating feeling as a parent. We know we have done our best, and we hope we have reached the right people, touched the right emotions, and helped people understand the imperativeness of this situation.
So for now, we wait. I hold on tightly to our six children here with us, and am thankful for their good health. I pray daily for Philippe’s well being and hope that he will be here soon. A stranger stops, noting how many children we have. After commenting to the kids on how many brothers and sisters they have, Margaret quickly pipes up, “We have another brother….his name is Philippe, and he is eight years old…”