AUBURN — Spring and Rich Gouette have three kids, an 11-year-old boy and two young girls. Louise and Brian Johnson have three boys; the oldest is 6. Each family considered adoption last fall, yearning to add to their young broods, but the time didn’t feel right for either. The Gouettes had their house up for sale. Moving invited uncertainty. The Johnsons prayed about adoption, leaving the decision with God. They weren’t yet feeling called.

And then, an earthquake struck Haiti in January.

The sale of their house had fallen through and the Gouettes couldn’t see waiting any longer. They connected with a Haitian orphanage through friends and immediately fell in love with a 9-year-old boy named Augenson. He was the one.

Then came news that he wasn’t alone.

Augenson had brothers, 6-year-old Wisler and 2-year-old Wisly.

“We were just in agony: ‘How do we separate the brothers?’” Spring Gouette said. “I put the word out on Facebook, ‘Here’s the deal …’”

Her friend, Louise Johnson, saw the note. That was it. Her family would adopt Wisler (pronounced wis-lay).

The Gouettes decided to take the leap and adopt Wisly (pronounced wis-lee), too.

“We always thought we’d go bigger, so, we’ll go bigger,” Spring Gouette said.

The Auburn couples are ready to tie their families together and embark on what could be a months-long, or even a years-long, wait.

There are plenty of unknowns. They’re not sure exactly how old the boys are, how long their mother has been dead or how long ago their father abandoned them. The brothers ended up at the Wayom Timoun Orphanage a year ago May, found wandering the streets of Port-au-Prince, holding hands.

After meeting their sons-to-be last month, there wasn’t room for doubt.

“We were both really worried, ‘Is he going to like us. Are we going to like him?’” Louise Johnson said. “In the first minute, all of that just fell away.”

Introductions

Both families worked with a Maine adoption agency, St. Andre’s Home, over the winter. Adopting hasn’t come easy. There have been home visits, evaluations and plenty of fundraising. The Johnsons, who’ve hosted a yard sale and are holding a raffle, figure they’ve spent $10,000, with $4,000 left to go. The Gouettes have spent $17,000, with $4,000 or $5,000 left.

They’ve paid for lawyers, for documents to be authenticated and for pages to be translated into French.

“I knew it would be a lot of work and take a lot of time,” Louise Johnson said. “This whole thing has been a fall-in-our-lap sort of thing.” When they’ve felt like they’ve reached a hurdle, something’s gotten them over it.

The Gouettes’ final details have been turned in. The Johnsons hope to complete their dossier this month. The families decided to visit the orphanage together in June to make it clear to the boys that the intention is to keep everyone close, even if they’ll live a few miles apart.

Louise Johnson said it was jarring to see Haiti still so collapsed and so poor. They passed “mud pies” on the ground, baking in the sun, bits of butter, salt, water and mud that offered the most down and out something to chew on.

“I can’t wrap my brain around how that is happening, (when) three, four blocks away the (United Nations) is passing out food rations,” she said.

To get to the front door of the orphanage, they had to step over a sewer.

Once inside, Rich Gouette, who’d taken an earlier trip solo, made the introductions.

Spring heard her husband say, “‘Augenson, this is mom,’ and I remember patting Wisly on the head,” she said. “Somehow, in the blur of the moment I don’t remember, I crossed into a new life. Holding them and smelling their hair, their cheek on your cheek, just kind of clinched the deal.”

The other family bonded, too.

That night, Wisler, her new son, fell asleep in Louise Johnson’s lap. “He hasn’t had a momma to snuggle him for a long time,” she said.

‘It’s been amazing’

The brothers have distinct personalities. The youngest, Wisly, is a funny guy who walks with a strut. Wisler is outgoing and loves basketball. Augenson is more reserved. He enjoys soccer.

Louise Johnson said she was struck by the sense of community in the orphanage, which used to house 40 children, and since the quake, is up to 60. She’d traveled with a supply of snacks and saw that whenever Wisler would ask for a treat, he’d grab four or five. She caught on that he was taking them to share with the kids who weren’t being adopted.

One day during their visit, out for ice cream and fries, she and Brian noticed him carefully cradling his leftovers in a napkin and little white ketchup cups.

“We helped him wrap it up. The first thing he did, he went to find his friends,” she said.

Both mothers, who home-school their kids, speak French and studied Creole before the trip. On their lesson plans once the boys are home: teaching them English.

Before they left, the families explained, as well as they could, the steps involved in adoption, that there would be waiting ahead and that soon, they’d visit again.

Augenson spotted the Gouettes’ stack of paperwork. “He was like, ‘Passport? Visa? Are you taking me to Miami?’ In their minds, the U.S. is Miami,” Spring Gouette said. “The last morning, he play-acted the whole thing. ‘Mom, mom, the government is saying yes.’”

Eleven central and southern Maine families are adopting from the same orphanage, run by Pastor Rigaud Antoine, most after hearing about it from friends, she said. It will give the kids, and parents, a wide support system in Maine.

“They’re going to have their friends, and we’re hoping they don’t lose their Creole,” Spring Gouette said. “It’s been amazing the way it all worked out. I believe there’s someone at the helm, pulling the strings.”

She and Johnson are keeping blogs about the experience.

[email protected]


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.