I know I've told this story at least once on this blog, but I am posting it again to link up with 'Show Us Your Life - Adoption Stories' so that I can share our wonderful story with others that might be considering adoption. Without a doubt adopting Ana Kate has been one of the greatest blessings in our lives! I have such a heart for adoption and if there is any way that I can advocate for adoption I will....it is simply AMAZING! So here it is:
I have two beautiful girls…Whitney (who is 19) and Ana Kate who is 3. When Doug and I got married Whitney was 13, so he had quite the initiation into parenthood. After we had had been married for 2 years we decided it was time to have more children and we knew that we wanted at least 2 more. Whitney never missed an opportunity to let me know that she didn’t appreciate being an only child, so we took that into consideration.
I initially brought up adoption to my husband. At the time I wasn't really sure where my passion for adoption came from…I just had a weight on my heart for all the children in the world that needed a family and I believed this was the path to our child(ren). I now know this is something God put on my heart. We both prayed about it and did a lot of research on adoption and soon decided to move forward. One thing I want to be clear about is that we chose to add to our family through adoption. Many people think that adoption is for those who cannot get pregnant and the ‘last option’ after failed fertility treatments. That isn’t always the case. Adoption was our first choice...and that is true with many adoptions.
So then came all of the decisions…domestic (open or closed), international (which country)….we read a lot of books and finally decided on international adoption for a variety of reasons, but mainly it just ‘felt’ right.
We began searching for an agency and chose ours based on 3 main things:
1. Christian based
When we first talked to the couple that ran the agency we thought they were wonderful and we soon realized that not only did we attend the same church….but we attended the same Saturday night service! This was a wonderful 'coincidence' and gave us the feeling that we were on the right path.
Then came ALL the paperwork…
Once we made the decision to adopt internationally we reviewed the countries and decided on China mostly because of the stability and reliability of their program. The paperwork involved in international adoption is mind numbing! I embarked on a 3 month process to put every relevant detail of our lives into a huge dossier to send to China. This involved full physicals and blood tests, police background checks, financial statements, fingerprints for the state dept., etc. I really never knew before how complicated this process was.
As the dossier was nearing completion and there was nothing more left for me to ‘do’, I began to read obsessively about international adoption and specifically China adoption. I read every blog that I could find and I realized that while the current wait for referral was 14-18 months they were predicting that it would get longer. One day I stumbled onto a site that said for those just beginning the process, the wait for referral would most likely be 5 to 6 years! After hearing that I couldn’t stop thinking about it….could it really take that long? Shortly after that Doug and I went out to dinner one night and out of the blue I said to him. "We talked about adopting more than one child, right? What if we ask our agency if we can start a 2nd adoption now…from Vietnam?" He agreed with me, our agency agreed, and I quickly started compiling our 2nd dossier! I now know that that thought didn't come from 'out of the blue', that is was God's way of leading us to our daughter. Vietnam was a program we had originally talked about, but the process was not as structured and we knew that there could be a lot of changes along the way. This was very scary and why we had avoided it at first. Our agency had urged us to consider Vietnam (they have 3 daughters from Vietnam) and had a heart for that country. So again we felt that God was working to make sure we were on the right path. Once our Vietnam dossier was complete all we had left to do was wait...
And wait, and wait. Wow...this was the most excruciating part of the entire adoption process. There are just so many unknowns and it was a very stressful time for us (me in particular). I had stress on a level that I had never before experienced. I had heart palpitations and other classic symptoms of anxiety. I would pray and pray and try not to be anxious, but I couldn't seem to overcome it. I eventually had a mild case of shingles brought on by stress and I decided I needed to just calm down, but that was easy to say and hard to do! I convinced myself that once we had our referral I would finally be able to relax. Oh, how funny that sounds to me now.
Finally, on March 15th of 2008 we got our referral for a beautiful 6 month old baby girl. Her pictures were amazing…she had the biggest dimples and looked so happy and healthy. I couldn’t wait to hold her in my arms. Of course once I had those pictures my anxiety kicked into overdrive...there was no relaxing! I prayed for her daily and constantly worried....is she healthy, does she have enough to eat, and is someone holding her when she cries?! I continually worried for her and I knew that I would never really relax until I held her in my arms.
After almost 3 more months of waiting we finally got our travel approval on June 6th, then the very next week (June 13th) we were on a plane on our way to Hanoi. We finally held our baby girl on June 15th, 2008 which just happened to be Father’s Day…so that was really special for Doug. We had our adoption ceremony the next morning and Ana Kate was officially ours!
Looking back on our adoption I would have to say that year of waiting was one of the most difficult times in my life. But every minute was more than worth it because Ana Kate has been one of the biggest blessings in our lives! She is an amazing girl with an amazing spirit and I thank God for leading us to her! This is a poem I found during the wait and it fits so perfectly.
THE GIFT OF LIFE
I didn't give you the gift of life,
But in my heart I know.
The love I feel is deep and real,
As if it had been so.
For us to have each other
Is like a dream come true!
No, I didn't give you
The gift of life,
Life gave me the gift of you.
So there it is...very long, but our wonderful, amazing adoption story. If you would like to read more about our adoption journey (and see tons of pictures) please look back over my June 2008 archive here on the blog. Our baby girl is amazing and we love her so much. A few months ago after spending an afternoon with my friend Amanda (who was expecting baby Amelia) Ana Kate and I had the most amazing conversation. We were in her bedroom and looking through her picture album of Vietnam. She was looking at her tiny baby pictures from when she was only a few days old and she said, 'Mommy, I wish I was in your belly before I was born.' It was one of the most precious things I've ever heard and absolutely amazing considering she is only 3. To think she grasped that concept blew me away! I just told her it didn't matter, that she was Mommy's girl and we found each other and that's all the really matters. We both said a prayer of thanks....and we do that often.
I took this picture of Ana Kate before school this morning....she is growing so fast!
I have to include that we are still waiting on our China adoption (it's been almost 4 years now). We are in the process of switching to the special needs program and I will update this blog as we proceed with that process.