I’ve sat down at a keyboard more times than I can count to write this story….the story of how we made our family complete. And yet, how do I put into words this exhilarating, exasperating, and sometimes exhausting adventure (which, incidentally, is excellent "practice" for motherhood)? Still I keep trying, knowing that it is a story that needs to be told for our daughter, our sons, and future generations of our family.
Unlike so many families who adopt, we have 3 biological sons and did not have any fertility issues. We chose permanent birth control after our 3rd son was born and before I gave in to my intense desire for a daughter. Now, my husband was slower to jump on the “I think we should adopt a daughter” bandwagon. But over the course of a couple years (yes, years), we would occasionally talk about it. Finally, in December of 2010, we decided it was time to either take the plunge or forget it altogether. Our sons were, at that time, three, five and seven.
We told family at Christmas and, honestly, reactions were mixed. They were concerned and uneducated and didn’t understand. After all, we already had a family. Looking back I understand their worry. At that time we couldn’t explain things to them….we didn’t know anything ourselves yet. And yet it changed nothing for us.
So the research began…..
At first, we were really drawn to international adoption but as we researched into different countries and their requirements, we quickly became discouraged. The King was nervous about international adoption and the travel involved while leaving 3 young boys behind and we kept hitting roadblocks. I was stubborn though and continued checking internationally. I was nervous about domestic adoption because I was afraid we would never be chosen because we already had 3 children. But after a time it was clear that God wanted us to stay in
America. By the middle of January 2011, that decision
was settled and we found American Adoptions.
I was impressed by their website and then discovered that a family at
our church also adopted through them.
After speaking with that family and chatting with Justin at American
Adoptions, we had a lightbulb moment. They
couldn’t do our homestudy in IL so we also found our homestudy agency. Another friend had worked with . I spoke to Maria on the phone and had another
lightbulb moment. We’d found our
agencies. Illini Christian
I was intensely nervous about the homestudy and application processes. But I got over it quickly. The King was more relaxed about all of it from the very beginning. After the first visit with Maria, before which I spent a week cleaning and scrubbing the house from top to bottom, I was able to relax. She was wonderful and friendly and put me totally at ease. It was clear she was working on “our side.” Getting our homestudy ready was no longer as stressful….but it was nearly a full time job. It was still by far one of the easier parts of the process (and I can’t believe I am saying that).
While we were completing our homestudy, we were also completing the application and paperwork and profile information for American Adoptions. The hardest part about all of that was writing the essays. I enjoy writing but I have never, ever, in my entire life said anything in less than 250 words (as you can tell from this story). And yet with lots of editing and help from friends we got them completed at nearly the same time as we finished the homestudy.
Oh the happy dance we did when we turned it all in and went active on July 26, 2011. At that point we knew it could be any day. Either agency could call with a match at any time. We have been very open about the process since nearly the beginning (once our kids knew there was no need to try to keep a secret.) After all, how can people become educated about something if those who experience it don’t share? People asked questions and we answered them. The only thing we knew for sure was that we would be getting a baby girl and she would be from somewhere in the
USA. If I could have gotten a shirt that said that
or recorded it to play back, I would have saved so much time. That was my primary answer to all the
questions. After all, we didn’t really
have a lot of other information either.
In August, I was on a hike at a nearby State Park when my cell phone (which I NEVER put down) rang. It was the American Adoptions number. Could it seriously have happened so quickly? Thankfully, I was not alone with the kids because I went into a happy panic almost instantly. I had to sit down right there on the trail to take the call. It, unfortunately, was not “the” call but someone suggesting we do a video profile. We decided to go for it. It certainly couldn’t hurt anything.
Since so many friends knew of our adventure, the baby gear started coming in. One friend gave us (GAVE!) 3 garbage bags of the cutest newborn-12 month size baby girl clothes. Another gave us a crib mattress. We got a swing, bouncy seat, bottles. The only thing we didn’t have was a crib and a car seat which for safety reasons we wanted new anyway. Then my sister bought us a brand new beautiful crib and a close friend who I trust lent us her infant seat. God was sending His “ravens of supply” before there was a demand. It was overwhelming and encouraging during those difficult days of waiting. I spent some time decorating a nursery with all the wonderful gifts that we had received. And still the wait went on.
As 2011 turned into 2012, I got more discouraged. Again, the King’s faith was much stronger and he took the passing of each month and the new year much more easily. But we had now started this process a year ago and were looking at updating our homestudy. During this time, my best friend delivered a healthy daughter and my sister got married and delivered a healthy daughter. Soon after the new year my best friend found out she was expecting a surprise baby again. As we approached the one year anniversary of activation, we did some updates on our profile as well. During the long wait, I emailed Angie monthly to find out how many birthmoms had seen our profile. After a time this was not encouraging and Angie kindly suggested I not ask for a while. But I couldn’t help myself. For one, I was curious but I also wanted to feel like I was doing something. Illini had contacted us a few times about situations but only once did we ask to be shown to the birthmom. She selected another family and the feeling of rejection was intense.
And still we waited. We discussed at what point, we would “give up.” After all our boys were now five, seven, and nine and we didn’t want too much space between our new daughter and our youngest son. But we couldn’t fathom giving up. And then we waited some more. Until October 19, 2012, when the phone finally rang and it was the call we had been waiting for 20 months to get. And that Friday evening at about 5:00 pm, we learned in a very personal way that God has a fabulous sense of humor. After we did a happy dance and absorbed the information we got, I called my mom to tell her the fabulous news and get her set up for babysitting the boys while we traveled. She was in shock that a) it was finally happening and b) how God worked it all out.
You see, our daughter was not a newborn. She was 20 months old. Math was not one of my strongest subjects in school, but even I can see quickly see that this means that our daughter was born about the time we decided to adopt domestically and started our adoption process; which means that if her mother had chosen adoption at that time, we would not have been available. It also meant that the spacing between children was all worked out (funny how God solves those little “problems). Another little tidbit we discovered was that our daughter was born in the month that the King was born and on the date I was born. After learning more about our birthmom, it felt like she was a long lost sister. Just little things felt familiar. For examples, her mom loves to sing and perform. We had chosen a name for our daughter but then we learned her given name. Very quickly, we knew that we would not change it.
After telling my mom all of this she decided that we had to clean the whole house (she was not wrong.) After all, we were expecting a newborn and thought we’d have time to baby proof. We’d run out of time to do that. Plus we had to clean all the newborn stuff out of the nursery. We wouldn’t be leaving until Sunday evening so we spent Saturday cleaning cleaning cleaning and were so tired that we actually slept Saturday night despite our excitement.
After a long drive to
during which we were able to talk to the foster mom who had the care of our Princess since Friday and get some pictures of her, we met her on Monday October
22. She came to me immediately although
she warmed up to the King more slowly. (This slow warm up to daddy has been something we have continually worked on and she is SO much better. I am still her first choice but he is a much closer second than he was 5 months ago.) We
also learned that birthmom wanted to meet us.
I was really unsure about this. After all, the Princess would know her and would feel the separation all over again. She had already been through so much in the last week. But since she wanted to meet, we settled on a time at a nearby park. We got there early to play with the Princess and we saw her birthmom and Ashley walking from the parking lot. As her birthmom walked up she was smiling and she said “Hey baby! Are you having fun with your new momma and daddy?” The Prinsess ran to her and they shared a big hug before she gave the King and me a hug. We visited for about a half hour and it was wonderful. Meeting her was the best thing we could have done. Before she left, she gave our daughter a hug and said “You are such a lucky girl. You have a momma and a daddy. We don’t know anyone who has a momma and daddy. I love you, baby.” As she walked away strong and dry eyed, I realized that she will be forever the person I think of when I hear of a woman’s strength. There are all kinds of love and it takes the totally selfless love of a mother to say goodbye to her young child to give her a life different from what that mother can provide.
We have now been home 5 months and it feels like the Princess has always been here. She has fit into our family seamlessly. We’ve celebrated her homecoming, Christmas, and her birthday! We have good days and bad days, she is 2 after all. It would be untruthful to say it has all been roses. But the joy outweighs the sorrow and the love of family and friends outweighs the ignorance of strangers. As I come to the end of the story of our adoption adventure, I want to keep writing because, in truth, it is only the first chapter of many. I can’t wait to see how the pages of the rest of our family’s story are filled. But in all of them, we will not forget the lesson that God’s plan and timing is perfect and that great things come to those who wait.