…and for those of you not “down with the lingo,” that’s “Prospective Adoptive Parent.”  And this part of my story is one of the reasons I went blog-silent for a solid quarter of this year.

I’ve written before about how involved we’ve gotten with our church’s Hispanic ministry.  I’ve mentioned my now-very-close friend Reina a number of times, and that she escaped February’s house fire out a second story window while 6 1/2 months pregnant.  Well, for months before the fire I was driving Reina to her pre-natal appointments and helping with paperwork and with understanding the insurance system here in our state.  ‘Cause it’s daunting even when you’re used to living here.  Completely overwhelming when you speak another language, haven’t been here long, weren’t planning on a pregnancy, and reside squarely in the working-to-survive class.

Then add a house fire and the loss of every dollar and every identifying document you own, two and a half months before your due date.

“Vulnerable” doesn’t begin to describe it.  For nearly a month after the fire, she was so stressed out that the only thing she could keep down was bananas and a little bit of water.

But, because of our already-blossoming friendship, I got to be one of the people she and Carlos trusted in the process of preparing to bring their first daughter into the world.

A little gal who’s half Salvadoran.

They’re poor.  They don’t have nearly my masters-degree-level of education.  They’ve had a couple landlords take advantage of how desperate they were to find housing in time for the baby’s birth.  And life is going to present some really tricky twists for their family in the future, too.

But they’re family.

It wasn’t lost on me that if we weren’t stuck in waiting-mode in El Salvador I would never have been as available to be present with them as much as I was. Nor would I even have known them if we weren’t already adoptive parents of Latino kids, waiting to adopt more Latino kids.

But we are, and we are.  And I met my newest little friend Diana at the hospital just a fews hours after she was born and introduced the twins to her just a few days later.

Adoption, happily, was never placed on the table for this family.  They gathered the support they needed, they remained together, and they’re working out the details.

But – because of how we became friends in the first place – I thought of the many families of kids adopted from Central America who didn’t remain together.  My own brother’s and sons’ first families included.  And then of birth families anywhere – even here in the States.

Families – birth mothers, at least – who were convinced (usually by others, in addition to their own self-doubts) that they couldn’t possibly provide what was best for their kids.

And maybe some of them really couldn’t.  Maybe some of the kids truly would have died, would have suffered tremendous set-backs in life, or would have been unwanted.

But I wonder how many of those birth families were just families like this one that I know:  not prepared at first for a pregnancy, economically stretched already, and/or belonging to a racial or ethnic group that suffers discrimination and can’t see a way around that disadvantage.  But without the friendships Reina and Carlos had already formed with people who then wanted to help.

A support network of folks who just happen to have “connections” they need.

As I spend all this time my friend, I can see myself through her eyes.  That doors open easily to me.  That I think nothing of walking into an office with an application for assistance and expecting that if I follow the process, my request will be granted.  That I know where to find information online, can read all of that information in English, and understand it.  I have a map in my phone, a van with seating for 7, an extensive education, a credit card I can swipe at any time and buy whatever I think I need, U.S. citizenship… and fair skin and blue eyes.

It’s been easy for me to help her get through a process that felt impossible for her to navigate on her own.  It just takes a lot of time.  That’s been the hard part for my North American brain to accept: that there is no short-cut or more efficient way to be present for a friend whenever she needs it (within reason).  And that the reward is the relationship (well, that and the awesome Spanish tutoring she quietly provides every time she corrects my grammar).

So this spring, physically I was driving folks around while they applied for housing or went to an appointment, helping with English, collecting and delivering donations to the victims of the fire back in February, throwing a baby shower, and pretty much pitching in wherever my gringa-ness and social network could be helpful.  But at another level, I realized I just got to be a part of what is, in my opinion, the better solution than adoption: helping families connect with resources, so they don’t have to separate to begin with.

There’s no way I could spend this much time with another person, too.  Especially not as a home schooling mom.  But I don’t think I have to.  I think Reina’s my one person, at least for this season.  [And when it comes to helping a “Gringa” raise Hispanic sons, I’m hers.]  And for this season, even as we re-update our adoption paperwork for a third time, I’m thankful that these friends of mine aren’t one of the adoption statistics like my kids, their other family, and we are.

We obviously believe adoption is the best thing for some kids, or we wouldn’t do it.  And, yes, we’d like to have more kids right here in our own family.  But while reflecting on all of that, I find joy in working in this situation so that adoption never needs to come up in the first place.