It’s been 3 weeks since we announced that we are in fact adopting from China–and indeed that we’ve been at this for quite some time. We’ve not been intentionally quiet or neglectful about the details many have asked about since then. We genuinely have a gag order from China and our agency not to disclose identifying information or pictures until we cross a certain milestone in the adoption process – which God-willing will be very soon. There is much we want to share about the ‘who’ we are adopting but for now, we wanted to take a moment to explain the ‘why?’ and ‘how-come-you-didn’t-say-anything-about-it-before-now?’.
Adopting from China has long been on our hearts. Indeed we’ve been praying about since around the time we brought the boys home from Guatemala. Something about all those babies stuck in orphanages in a country with a one-child policy…knowing that many of them were “imperfect” by society’s standards but who nonetheless deserved a chance at a life. A chance to know what ‘love’ means. A chance to know intimately the meaning of simple, everyday words like ‘mom’, ‘dad’ and ‘family’. In our hearts, we knew someday we would go there. But the daunting process, the considerable length of stay in country – especially since we have little ones still – the long flights, the steep costs, the scariness of adopting from a Communist country, the nebulous idea of special needs adoption…it all just seemed too far out of reach.
And yet God has a way of stepping in and simplifying the impossible.
Can I get an Amen?
Long before our third child arrived through a (surprise) domestic adoption, we had already begun collecting info packets from various Chinese adoption agencies. Sarah’s arrival in 2010 seemed to only have delayed the decision a bit because before she was even 18 months old we decided to revisit the option once again. But the ‘impossibilities’ just kept plaguing us. Emotionally, it would be a nightmare to leave our kids behind while we traveled to the other side of the globe. Logistically, it would be a nightmare to bring them. And how could we possibly manage bringing home a child from institutionalized care, likely with significant (behavioral, emotional, developmental, medical) needs? Surely we were (are?) ill-equipped and unqualified. But like so much in life, we were reminded:
God does not call the qualified – He qualifies the called.
The desire could not be erased from our hearts. Our children longed for another sibling. Our table was still missing someone. Much of 2011-12 was spent in serious prayer and discernment, discussing whether this was something we really could/should do. Then one day in prayer, I happened upon this verse which would replay itself in our minds and hearts:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and rely not on your own understanding;
In all ways submit to Him
and he will make straight your paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6)
It was clear that we could ignore the call no longer. It was now or never. Either we were going to pull the trigger or not. Time was ticking and we weren’t getting any younger.
Shortly after New Years in January 2013, we made that leap and signed the application with Chinese Children Adoption International
. We told close friends and family but we remained largely guarded about our plans even as we gathered documents for our home study and dossier. There was much uncertainty about the road ahead and many questions that we simply could not answer. This was a leap of faith like none other so we opted not to make a public announcement until we had a face to ‘make it real’.
July 2013: the completed dossier = “the ultrasound”
Now this was not our first rodeo. We have twice before assembled a dossier for an international adoption but this time the paperwork through us for a loop. It just took f.o.r.e.v.e.r. to the get the necessary documents, seals, approvals, doctor’s appointments, authentications, etc. We are fortunate to live close to DC and the Chinese Consulate here so we could expedite the documents from the US State Dept and Chinese Embassy but it still took many months longer than we were expecting. We were at peace with it all though. There was no rat-race this time. Things just got done when they got done. Progress just seemed to happen at its own pace and we truly didn’t stress about the length of time it was taking.
We knew we would be paper-ready when the right child was ready for us.
US Immigration notice – that blessed final step in US paperwork
We were pretty open to lots of different special needs but had some frequent discussions with our 11 and 8 year old boys about the wide variety of special needs and the kind we were likely to see. We wanted to gauge their comfort levels. I won’t go into details but suffice it to say that our boys are remarkable. They have such a beautiful, simple and broad capacity to love. There were some conditions that they clearly found…overwhelming – and we took note of this – but they were largely open to the idea of a sibling with a disfigurement and/or disability. My heart swelled as I would hear them talk about how they would help protect him/her.
Finally, on Thanksgiving weekend, we received word that our dossier was in the hands of the CCCWA (Chinese Center for Children’s Welfare and Adoption). We were now on the waiting list to receive a referral. We were given an estimated wait time of ~6-8 months before we’d be contacted about a referral of a child. So we settled in for a good long wait.
But without any paperwork to complete, the process became all that much more remote for us. The concept of going to China to find our next child was still that distant dream. For good or for bad, life with three kids, homeschooling and managing the hum of home life was keeping our minds occupied elsewhere. Not gonna lie…this was an unexpected but welcome change from the anxious tire-spinning we experienced with the last three adoptions. I even recall remarking to Mike just about a month ago about how I had to keep reminding myself that we have an adoption waiting in the wings. That life really is about to change. That we really were doing this thing.Then then suddenly, 14 months after beginning the process, it got real.
The phone rang on the evening of 2/26 (three months into our 6-8 month wait). We had dinner guests that night but Mike had just left to take Isaac to a Boy Scout meeting. Sam and I were playing a rousing game of Sorry! with our dinner guests when I got up to check the caller ID: incoming call from CCAI.
At 8pm at night?
It can’t be…
I played it cool and told our dinner guests to keep playing without me and I took the call upstairs.
The voice on the line told me, ”We were not expecting to be able to give you a referral so soon but we have a file for a little girl that we think would be a great match for your family.”
I listened as he gave me what little information he had. It was brief and heart-wrenching. A 15mos old baby girl. She had been found abandoned as a newborn and was very, very ill when she was brought to the orphanage. She spent a full month in the hospital receiving treatment which has left her with a large scar. She recovered from the illness but the scar that remains is what classifies her as ‘special need’.
I hung up the phone. My husband was out and I still had dinner guests downstairs. I wasn’t about to tell anyone but Mike first. I took a moment to collect myself and walked downstairs to finish the game. I kept it casual, not letting on that there was anything going on – but I was stifling the desire to scream and dance. Our guests left a little while later and shortly after that Mike and Isaac got home. He gave me a look. He had seen an email come in on his phone. And email with an attachment. We put the kids to bed, got a glass of wine and together sat down on the couch, opened the laptop and clicked on the email from our agency containing the medical files and pictures.
We just stared. Disbelieving. Here she was–our first glimpse at our daughter from across the globe. She was more beautiful than I ever imagined. Fourteen months of ‘adoption TTC’ all came down to this moment when she was born into our hearts. We gave ourselves a few moments to read the files, allowing it soak in for a few minutes. But we couldn’t wait any longer to tell the kids. After all, they were still thumping around upstairs at 9:30pm so we called them downstairs. We told them the news and showed them the pictures. They were ecstatic but it was our oldest, Isaac (who is 11) who took that extra moment to quietly process it all and then said, “Wait…so she’s perfect?!”
Perfect for our family.
Perfect and cherished child of God whose life, like all life, was created for meaning and a purpose.
More to come when we can share it…