January 8, 2018.
Shawn and I had just returned from Houston, where we photographed and beautiful wedding. I had written this blog post just 7 days prior. (If you haven't read it yet, go- it's a great precursor to this one!) The kids were back at school after Christmas break, giving me some quiet time in our house – something I treasure dearly. Somehow, I had finished up all of my work for that day, and had decided to sit down and draw. This is something that I have been wanting to focus more on as of late, and so I signed up for an online bootcamp. It’s been really fun so far!
January‘s assignment for the bootcamp was to draw the contents of my purse, so I had dumped everything out on the table and was giving it a go. And then the phone rang.
For four years, I had imagined that moment. When I would look down and see a Virginia number pop up on my screen (our agency is located in Virginia). There have even been a few times that I’ve received a call from Virginia and it turned out to be a telemarketer! They didn’t get the warmest response :-). But this time, it was real. It was happening.
I picked up the phone to hear our agency coordinator say, "Hi Lissa, it’s Leah – do you have a few minutes?" Um, yes- I have many minutes. However many minutes you want to have!
Leah then said the words I’ve been hoping to hear for so many years..."So we received several referrals, and I have a file for your family to review..."
In Chinese adoption, adoption agencies receive files on specific children from the Chinese government, and then they are able to match those files with the families on their waiting lists. There is no rhyme or reason, nor cadence to the frequency in which they receive files, and it often takes quite a while for the files to travel through all of the necessary offices within each government for them to finally arrive in the hands of the adoption agency. This is one reason that most of the children adopted from China are at least 18 months old- it simply takes time for the files to reach the agency's hands, and children keep growing. :)
They then refer those files out individual families, one at a time. Our specific file was exclusive to our agency for a period of 21 days, and in order to keep the process as efficient as possible, we needed to be able to review her information, and make a decision within 72 hours – so that if in the case that we chose not to accept this referral, they could then refer her to another family. So, we needed to make a decision relatively quickly.
Leah talked me through the files she had on our daughter.
She is almost two years old, born 1 day and 1 year after our daughter Liv.
There was a newborn photo included- which is unheard of and something we are so thankful to have- and a very small passport-style photo of her at one year old. The rest of the files were all medical records that had been translated into English. I talked with Leah for a half hour, and then called Shawn, still in total shock.
Shawn was up at our store, which we were in the process of closing down for good. He had been working his tail off for at least a month now, working from 9 AM to 7 PM, and doing everything he could to make sure the transition was smooth. I hardly even knew what to say other than. "we got the call! THE call!" I don’t think he had any idea it was coming.
The next 45 minutes seems like hours as we waited for Leah to email us her photo, and the rest of her files. I had dreamed of opening this email together with Shawn, sitting at home – but when it came down to it, we couldn't be in the same place and just didn’t care anymore! We had a new daughter!
When the email finally came, I just cried. There are so many details about her and her story that our evidence of God‘s great love for us. Even now, weeks later, I am realizing on a daily basis how detailed and specific an extravagant our God is in the way he loves us. Those are the things I want to be sure to share here in this space.
Once we received her information, we knew we needed to get a few consultations with doctors. Our pediatrician took time out of his busy day (hello flu season!), just look over our files and discuss them with us. We were also able to speak with a group of doctors who offer this service for free for adoptive parents. We are also very thankful for Dr. Chambers of Children's of Alabama who reviewed her files for us as well and went over every detail. Dr. Chambers is not only an international adoption specialist, but she has daughters adopted from China as well, so that was extra comforting to me. Once we had the doctors' professional opinions, we were all in.
At this point, we submitted our LOI (Letter of Intent to Adopt) to the People's Republic of China, and would wait for a LOA (Letter of Acceptance) before anything was official. It was a tough few weeks not being able to be public about our referrals we waited, but at least we had some photos to look at 1000x a day!
Once we received the official LOA, we celebrated! And began a new mountain of paperwork, haha...
Remember how I mentioned her birthday earlier? Our daughter was born on February 25, 2016. This is a big deal because we wanted at least a one year gap between Liv and our newest addition, which is another part of the reason we have waited so long (17 months). (Our agency won't refer us any children that didn't match the requests we had made when we first began our adoption process- i.e. gender, age range and special needs we were comfortable with). I couldn’t believe it when Leah told us her birthday – it is literally one day and one year after Liv's! I feel like this is such a special detail because over the past few years, I have had many desperate conversations with God where He has graciously heard me ask why we continued to wait over and over. I feel like in giving our new daughter a birthday literally one day and one year after Liv's, he saying to me, "See? I didn’t make you wait one more day then you needed to".
I also think that it is no mistake that we received our referral at the same time we were closing our store. Shawn has been more available to help than he has in the past 6 years and right now I am SO thankful for that. We have about 1000 plates spinning right now and I have needed his help so much. I also know that the Lord has used our new daughter to plant hope in our hearts when we could be focused on the end of this chapter.
You may have noticed I haven't shared much about her medical needs or any photos of her yet. We have decided to wait until we are with her in China to share photos of her, and wait until we are back home and can see our doctors here to share about her medical diagnosis. I can tell you- she is adorable, as big as Liv already, and that her medical needs (as far as we know) are surprisingly low-maintenance and do not seem to inhibit her whatsoever. Thanks for being understanding about this- her privacy and her story are worth protecting and are really hers to tell, so we want to be sure to honor that. I do plan to share more about her medical needs specifically- simply because I think that is one of the things that concerns people most when considering international adoption- but we want to make sure we have the best understanding of everything first, and that will take a few doctor visits here in the US first. :)
So, she will be two by the time we receive her China. This makes me very excited and also very nervous to have a two, Three, and seven-year-old – but I can’t have been the first, right?!?
To answer a few other questions I have received, I am just going to list out a few things below:
She does not know any English yet, and we do not know any Mandarin, really – but we are going to do our very best, and trust in time will be speaking the same language :-) One friend recommended learning simple words in Mandarin and teaching her sign language to bridge the gap. I love this idea and plan on doing that. We also have some helpful apps.
We do not know our specific travel dates yet, as we are waiting for some paperwork to process, but we hope to travel in April. Our trip will be about 2 1/2 weeks, and we will bring her home permanently. It is just one trip. During our time in China, we will go through several appointments, a medical review, and wait for her visa to process. When she lands on US soil, she will be an American citizen!
We plan to take both Knox and Liv with us, as we believe they would be present were we having a new biological child, we want them to be part of our new daughter's story as well.
Thanks for reading! I'm planning another post specifically about our trip to China next. Feel free to leave questions in the comments section- I think adoption is awesome and want to educate as much as I can about it.