Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Very Last Blog Post for Our Journey to Claire

Today was Claire’s third birthday. It was a hard day for me, because it was a realization of how much we’ve missed in the first three years of her life. When Connor turned three, we had so many memories. We only have five months of memories on her third birthday. I cherished every moment with her today, and I am so excited to see all the memories we make over the next few years. We have a lot of catching up to do!

It’s hard to believe that it has been one year since we received Claire’s referral. One year since that night Greg and I woke up Connor long after he’d gone to bed so we could gather around the computer and wait for the e-mail that held our daughter’s picture. One year since I cried at how beautiful she was and how good it was to see God’s promises kept to our family. We’ve been home for five months, and I can’t believe how much everything has changed. We’ve been so busy, it’s hard to write on the blog or keep up with anything, quite honestly. So many people have told me that I needed to write our whole story, from the beginning through our first weeks at home…the good, the bad, and the ugly. So, this is what this is, our whole story and then “Journey to Claire” will be put to rest because the new journey has begun.

Adoption has always been in the back of my mind. I can remember being in high school and thinking about one day adopting. Throughout my life, I had been around people who had adopted, and it always just seemed like such a beautiful thing. I can remember talking to Greg early in our marriage about the possibility of adoption. He felt a little leery of the idea. He’s the practical one….too expensive…too much risk. I can’t remember at what point in our marriage I began praying for God to change his heart, but I prayed because I knew this was something that I wanted to do.

Connor was three years old, it was the Spring of 2007. Greg and I were feeling that it was time to add to our family. We had decided that we would try to start getting pregnant and then I had a big “God moment.” We were downtown at the Dogwood Arts Festival, walking to watch the parade. I saw a little Chinese girl with her family and it was a feeling I’ve never experienced. I had jokingly, always said I would adopt my next one from China because I had such a terrible pregnancy and delivery. All of the sudden, it wasn’t a joke anymore. God put it on my heart then and there that this was his calling for us. Thank goodness I had sunglasses on because I began to cry and continued to cry the rest of the afternoon. I knew Greg was not fully on board with adoption, so I prayed the rest of the afternoon and evening for God to open up his heart that night. I had decided that night that I would ask him to pray and consider for our family to take this next step. When we talked that night, for the first time he seemed open to the idea. He said we could look into the finances and see how it would work. And then from then on it just seemed to unfold.

When we first set out to adopt, we were being led to China. We chose an agency, went to a seminar, and began the wait for me to turn 29 ½ so we could fill out the application. From April to November we thought our little girl was in China. Strange things kept happening, little “God moments” to keep our focus on China. Even though we could not yet apply due to my age, we kept waiting and kept our focus there. As the months went by, the wait began to get scary. People had been waiting for years to receive a referral from China, and adoption was slowing down. We came to the realization that it could be five years or more until we would receive a referral. We prayed for patience and for God’s guidance, and finally on an afternoon in November, we decided that God was asking us to look elsewhere. We looked at other countries, but nothing felt right. I didn’t get a peace about anything, until a couple of days later, Greg called me at work and told me about the Taiwan program. He called around to different agencies, but their Taiwan programs were closed due to long waits. He randomly called one agency, Shiloh Adoptions, and they informed him that their healthy children program was closed…..but wait she said. She informed Greg she had just received an e-mail about a new healthy children program opening up and gave him a number to call. Greg called and there we were…the first family on this new program’s wait list to adopt from Taiwan. You cannot imagine that evening, sitting there, realizing that God had led us to China for seven months…..had Greg call all those other agencies….just in time for him to make a random phone call, minutes after the agent had received an e-mail about a new program. It had to be one of the amazing orchestrations of God that I had ever experienced. All that time….just to lead us to here. Unbelievable.

We immediately got everything in order and began the long paperchasing process. By April, everything was off to Taiwan, and on April 10, 2008, we logged in at Cathwel orphanage, and began our wait for a healthy infant girl….or so we thought. In December we visited Taiwan and met with the orphanage director. She really encouraged us to accept an older child, or one with special needs. She said because we already had a son, our wait for a healthy girl would be very, very long. We left that day feeling so sad and confused. Throughout my life, throughout my big decisions, I have always prayed for God to show me what his plan is for me and to give me patience to walk in the direction I am supposed to go. That day, I left the orphanage without peace. We were so confused.

We returned to the States and decided to press on and wait. I cried , was angry, and begged God to not let the wait go on. It had not even been a year since we logged onto the waiting list, but it was painful. Connor was getting older and we never wanted our children so far apart. My focus was never on the wait, it was just always asking God why our children had to be so far apart in age. There were days that I thought of dropping off the list and just getting pregnant. There were days it was just too much. We so desperately wanted another child, and we wanted our children to be close in age. Every day we waited was another day Connor was older.

Time went on, June came. I had worked through a lot of anger. I had worked through the feelings of…God, I am obeying your calling. I am doing what you asked, why are you making us wait for so long? Why do our children have to be so far apart in age? I had finally surrendered to God two days earlier. I told him I’d wait, be faithful to his promise, and that I would trust. I was sick in bed and Greg came running up the stairs. It completely startled me because he was supposed to be at work. “We got a referral!” I remember sitting up and the feeling was so surreal. As an adoptive parent, those words are the most important words that you could ever hear. After we rejoiced together, he told me it was not what we had expected, and that the referral was scary and something that we needed to talk and pray about. He told me it was for a little girl about to turn two, born to a mother addicted to heroin, and also HIV positive. This little girl was born HIV positive, but had fought off the antibodies passed to her by her birthmother and was now officially declared healthy and eligible for adoption. She wasn’t even from Cathwel Orphanage. She was from Harmony Home, another orphanage in Taipei that our adoption agency had just visited months earlier. The first words out of my mouth through my tears were, “NO!” This was not what we set out for. We set out for a little infant….a healthy little infant. As the day pressed on, I was so sad and confused. We made a lot of phone calls. Talked to people who had experience with children exposed to drugs. We had a friend who is a doctor look over her medical records. That night I went to bed not knowing what to do.

The next day, I woke up and knew that day we had to make a decision. I think I began praying as soon as my feet hit the floor and I never stopped. As the day pressed on, my heart began to change. I found an old fortune from a fortune cookie that I had eaten from the week we decided to adopt in April of ’07. We had gone out to eat Chinese and celebrate the beginning of our journey. My fortune read, “The one you love is closer than you think.” And here she was, born a few months after we had began the adoption journey. Alive almost this entire time as we waited, only a few years apart from our son. That night as we sat and talked while Connor played at VBS, I told Greg, “ It’s really scary , but I think we’re supposed to do this. “ We agreed that we would try to contact our agent that night. They had just visited a few months earlier and maybe someone had met this Hsiang-Ting and could confirm that she was healthy, and perhaps maybe even had a picture. Our agent had sent off an e-mail to Taiwan to try to figure out which one Hsiang-Ting was, they had all gone by nicknames, so she wasn’t sure.

About 11 p.m. on Friday, June 19th we received an e-mail forwarded from Taiwan. Our agent had asked if Hana could help her remember who Hsiang-Ting was, as a family with her agency had just received her referral. At the bottom of the e-mail, our agent wrote, how is Mei-Mei? Mei-Mei was a sweet little girl who they had all just fallen in love with during their visit. Hana wrote back, “Hsaing-Ting is Mei-Mei!!!!” I saw the name Mei-Mei and ran upstairs to get my journal. In the Spring of ’07, I had been writing in my journal about the whole adoption. I had even scribbled some girl names that I was considering . In the margin, I began writing out names with Mei or Mai in them. I didn’t want any of them for names for our daughter, but I felt that I needed to write them down for some reason. This moment was the reason. I had written down those names, so that when I saw the name Mei-Mei on my computer screen, I knew that this was our Claire…..this was God telling me, don’t be scared, this is your child, the child I promised you all along. After realizing Hsiang-Ting was Mei-Mei, our agent began to e-mail us pictures and videos. We sat around the computer and saw the most beautiful girl we had ever seen. We couldn’t believe we had finally found our Claire. I remember seeing her picture for the first time, crying, and just saying out loud, “That is Claire! That is our Claire!”

Months went by, as we waited to travel. There were so many problems with court, paperwork, etc. Everything that could go wrong, went wrong for us. Our agency even told us that they had rarely had a family have this many problems. A few weeks before we left, we encountered some huge problems. Some of them got worked out before we left, but we went to Taiwan unknowing of when we would return. We had gotten all of our problems in the States with immigration straightened out, but there were two things that had not gotten taken care of in Taiwan, and while we knew they would be taken care of soon, we went ready to spend two weeks to a month in Taiwan. We were asked to consider putting off our trip until everything was taken care of, but on a conference call with our agency, Greg and I told them that we’d rather be stuck in Taiwan a month with Claire, than at home another month without her.

The day after we got to Taiwan, we spent an entire day at Claire’s orphanage, an amazing experience. It was so obvious how much Claire was loved…how much all of the children were loved. That night when we got back to the hotel, Greg received an e-mail that told us that all of our paperwork problems were fixed, we could go home on time, and that Claire’s birthmother would be a the meeting the next day. Once again, God had worked everything out.

February 6th, I watched my little girl walk across a hotel lobby. We were so happy and she was so sad and scared. It was such an odd moment. Such happiness coming from us, such sadness coming from a little girl being ripped away from everything that she had known. I loved her instantly. I held her all day and I felt like she was mine all along. It was so surprising to me to feel that way. I felt like her mother from the first second I saw her face on the computer screen.

The first month we were home was very, very hard. She was grieving, adjusting to a new country, trying to learn a new language, trying to get used to strange people, and it made for a lot of very rough days and nights. She frequently had very loud tantrums and woke up with night terrors several times each night. Now, five months later, it is so hard to believe how far she has come. She still has challenging days, but they are far outweighed by the good ones. She is speaking fluent English, loves her family, and is about the prissiest little girl you’ll ever meet. Even though things haven’t been perfect, and toddler adoption comes with many challenges, she is the little girl that I always dreamed of. My mom and dad tell me all the time that I may not have birthed her, but she is me through and through.

Happy Birthday Claire! Mommy loves you! I’m so thankful God made you for us. I am so thankful that God spared your life from a horrible disease. I am so thankful your birthmother loved you enough to send you to the other side of the world to be loved and taken care of. I promise to give you a happy life full of love and many adventures. You were worth the wait, sweet girl!


Sarah C said...

Such a beautiful God-orchestrated story. I love when he gives us such obvious signs like having you write out her name before you even knew her. Thanks for taking the time to share your whole story.

Lisa said...

I have followed from afar but need to say this.........your followed your heart & stayed the course through delayes, anxieties, fears and "bumps in the road"..........your faith steadied you and HE brought you all together in his grace & love.

This was beautiful as is your family.

Thank you for sharing your Mama's heart with us.


Mimi said...

Thanks for sharing your beautiful story. What a blessing to all our lives little Claire is. It is strange, but I loved her from the first moment I saw her little picture too.

Robin said...

You have written your Journey to Claire so beautifully. I had tears in my eyes reading how you felt and how you came to find Claire. I have been following your journey form the beginning and am so happy for your family. Thanks for sharing you life, experiences and grwoing family. Best wishes as you live, love and grow together.

Krista said...

Thanks for sharing your story. Adoption is such a spiritual journey and though each story is different, they are all the same in the we end up with the child God has for us. I love your story and your daughter is very lucky to be in your family.

Sandra & Steve said...

Thank you for sharing your story. I found your blog after you had arrived home because our journey to our daughter in Taiwan was just beginning. We are still waiting to travel. Knowing your thoughts and how you came to find your beautiful baby girl, well, its just truly amazing. Our first child came to us as an infant from VN and our second girl (7 yrs old) waits for us in Taiwan. All the best to you and yours.

Annie said...

Thank you so much for sharing the story and I have enjoyed following along. I hope you will consider adding a post or two in the future, because I was so interested in following along with her journey of joining the family, and how you worked on attachment and transition with a toddler adoption. Blessings to you and your family!

The McDades said...

What a great story!!! Right mow my family is going through the whole adoption thing and sometimes I wonder why adoption is so hard?? We are so happy for you and your family. Thanks for letting us follow your adoption story and for giving us hope for ours.
Shannon McDade

Linda said...

What a beautiful story! I recently adopted my own daughter and I could not be happier. I found a lot of great advice about being an adoptive parent at I hope you can find some helpful advice as well.