I've always thought adopting was a neat thing, a wonderful thing, but not something I was called or equipped to do.
I supported those who adopted - was their biggest cheerleader - and we financially supported two children through Compassion.
I just never thought we'd actually adopt.....
Our Adoption Journey BeginsFour years ago we began a gut wrenching struggle with fertility and miscarriage. We'd not had ANY trouble conceiving any of our three biological children and nothing had changed as far as we could tell. After each miscarriage, my OBGYN would tell me how she just couldn't understand medically why. After a particularly scary late miscarriage that landed us in the ER for an emergency DNC my OB ordered even more tests - we had no answers. Just a deep sadness and a longing in our heart for more children.
I would be at the park and count my kiddos and when I got to three I just knew there were more....Then our pastor began a sermon series on the vulnerable around us and I swear he mentioned adoption or orphan every Sunday (and continued doing that for at least a year - unknowingly confirming our hearts desire throughout our whole process). I knew God was speaking to me and I began researching. It was new, scary, and overwhelming. But with such clear direction from God I jumped in with two feet.
My hubby is more cautious with everything - everything in our life. It usually takes months and months of prodding from me to get him to do anything. So after daily conversations about adoption he told me to go ahead with whatever I needed to get the ball rolling.
In late November 2015, we signed on with Madison Adoption Associates (we had dear friends who had completed 2 successful adoptions through them and after some research they seemed like a good fit). Our friends always completed their adoptions by finding the kiddo first and then starting their process - from beginning to end in only 9 months. So I was hopeful by August we would be done - we weren't. We didn't find anyone right off so we went the LID route, getting dossier all together and logging in first and getting matched afterwards, but more about that later.
So as Christmas approached and everyone was busy wrapping presents, I was busy deep cleaning my house for our homestudy, filling out forms to get new birth certificates, scheduling calls to get approved for 2 children at once (because God had laid it on my heart so we were ate least going to get approved for two, but really didn't' think we'd adopt two!) and hounding our social worker to get it done!
Our social worker was nice, but not super competent. She had availability for 2 hours a week, on Saturday morning. Period. UGH! So it took foooooorever! The forms she filled out were filled with mistakes and typos. It was so frustrating. Then our homestudy agency had additional training requirement that was only offered once a quarter so we waited (everything else done) for this silly training that got canceled due to a snow storm. Can you sense I was getting frustrated?! We finally got it waived, homestudy done, immigration form sent off, and the paper chase began.
There was miscommunication along the way that slowed things down by another month, but through all that gut wrenching frustration we knew God was in control and that he had the perfect timing for us to get the perfect kids for our family.
Our paper chase was incredibly tedious since every form had to be notarized locally, certified by the state it was issued in, and then notarized by the Chinese embassy for that particular state. So because of the different states we were born in, married in, and our jobs were based in - we ended up having to hire 5 couriers to go into LA Chinese Embassy, New York Chinese Embassy, Chicago Chinese Embassy, and Texas Chinese Embassy. It was busy and we were sending out FedEx overnight mailers left and right, but I got it done.
Meanwhile I was scouring the listing from our agency and others for a kiddo that spoke to my heart. I learned TONS about medical conditions and adoption in general. And God began softening my heart to a particular need.On May 23, 2016 we finally sent our Dossier to China (DTC) and began waiting to get logged in. We were logged in the system June 13, 2016 and then we began the next period of waiting - this time waiting to get to the top of the list to be offered a file.
We found the adoption process to be a series of hurry, hurry get that form done followed by lengthy, excruciating waiting; repeat!
I scoured the listings all the time looking for a child that pulled at my heart. I found one (whom I still pray for), but after having his file reviewed by an International Adoption Specialist we knew he was more medically challenging than we felt we could take on at the time - we would have needed to move to accomidate an impending wheel chair.
Other than his little face none of the orphans I saw spoke to my heart. I wondered if any of them would; was I being to picky? Were we kidding ourselves and spending all this time and money and never would feel this elusive "right child" would magically appear?
So we waited, and waited, and waited. Finally, after what seemed like FOREVER, on August 31, 2016 I saw an adorable little boy who took my breath away from MAA's site as Special Focus (more severe special need). I knew without a shadow of a doubt that he was ours and without even checking with my hubby, I put him on hold. I just knew!! He agreed!!!! The next part was tricky, because we were suppose to match with minor need LID child first and there wasn't much time to find a 2nd file before they couldn't catch up to each other, but we had faith that God was in control. Don't get me wrong, I worried, worried, and ate some chocolate too - but we mainly prayed!
Why we decided to adopt two at once is a whole other story - it was a many month process of God speaking to our heart, opening doors in amazing / miraculous ways, and continuing to make it clear that although the thought of adopting one (let alone two) orphans was scary - GOD WAS IN CONTROL and we were suppose to adopt two at once.
The next month was a whirlwind, my sons file got stuck in process and my daughter, who we got a whole month later, surged ahead. We couldn't figure out what was going on. Our agency kept contacting their Chinese contact and they finally decided it was a coding error on China's end. They had to release the file and then Madison had to quickly re-lock it before it accidentally ended up on another agencies list and we could loose him - forever. It was scary....but God was in control and Diana from Madison was amazing. We re-locked his file and started to wait again for his file.
As we waited, I networked within the amazing adoption community and was able to find pictures of my son from volunteers who'd met him over the years beginning when he was just a couple months old - what a treasure to have those early pictures! We grew increasingly excited about meeting our little boy who had the sweetest face, even though he apparently didn't smile.
Our daughter was a different story. We couldn't get her back story or any updates on her (her file was already 7 months outdated by the time we got her file). Then, to make things even scarier we sent her a birthday cake through a local lady who couldn't deliver it because "she was in the hospital". We were in the dark about what was going on with this little girl we were going to call daughter. We told our agency who worked to get an update - apparently she was having heart surgery. WHAT?!?! We had no clue she needed heart surgery, what kind of surgery, or how she was doing. Even scarier they warned us we may not be able to bring her right home depending on the surgery. It was scary and confusing. This little girl was really a big question mark to us.
She was released and got our birthday cake just days before we arrived to picker her up. Spoiler alert, we got to bring her home as planned - praise God!
Then the agonizing wait for TA began. Prices for airline tickets were skyrocketing. They had been stable at an amazing $500 each round-trip for months, but it was now December and tickets surged to a whopping $2000 each. We agonized,but knew that God had clearly guided us each step of the way and provided for everything we needed.
We were (and still are) incredibly grateful to have had some wonderful friends in our lives to walk through these "trenches" with us. These friends listened, empathized, helped, and PRAYED us through this adoption. It has been a long, emotional, amazing, and bumpy road - and, if we're honest, the tough times are probably just getting started!
One of the things we loved about working with Madison was we didn't have to wait for a group travel date! So we worked closely with Diana to get all of our "ducks in a row" coordinating with Richard (the in-country coordinator) so that when we had the 2nd Travel Approval December 16, 2016 we booked our consulate appointment the same day and were on a plane 6 days later!