#WaitingChildWednesdays

As part of our #WaitingChildWednesdays series on older child adoption, we wanted to share with you a family story. This family adopted an aging out boy from China almost three years ago.

This is a REAL story in the family’s own words (emphasis ours) that shows that adoption can be hard and take time – even after the finalization is official. But it is worth it.

On June 23, 2015, a Facebook video crossed our paths and we both felt this boy was our son.  We really had never seriously considered adoption for our family, and any idea of adoption had certainly never included a 14 year old.  We already had two biological children who were 9 and 13 at the time. But there was something about him, and after talking it over with each other, our children, our family and friends, they all felt it too.  We called seven agencies who all told us there was no way we could complete his adoption before his 14th birthday – October 19, 2015.  Our eighth call was to Great Wall, and after some lengthy discussion, they said it was highly unlikely we could complete our adoption in that short window, but if we were willing, they would help us try.  

Over the next couple of months, we worked with a sense of urgency like never before, and with a lot of help from above, we flew to China on September 11, 2015, and brought our new son home to America exactly three months from the date we completed our application for adoption with GWCA.  They told us we set a new record for completing an adoption in such a short period of time. We were proud, excited, and ready for all of our dreams to come true as a new family of five.

And then the real hard stuff started.  We had dental and medical issues to take care of.  We could barely communicate without the help of Google translate, and that wasn’t perfect and created additional challenges. We both worked full-time jobs and had busy lives and Isaac started school as an 8th grader with our other son two weeks after being in America.  Isaac was overwhelmed and frustrated and mourning everything he knew and thrust into a different life on the other side of the world.  For the first time, he was expected to brush his teeth twice a day, shower daily, keep the toilet seat clean, chew with his mouth closed, sit through a church service, share, follow a new set of rules and expectations, etc.  All the food was new and different, he could not escape the constant stimulus of a foreign language, he felt like an alien and could not talk to anyone. We were eager to listen to him pour his heart out and connect with us and love us and share every feeling freely with us.

I remember some particularly hard times that first year.  On a family vacation to a theme park in Orlando, he got upset about something and took off.  Once we found him, we were all so stressed and upset we had to go back to the hotel room. The next two days of our vacation, one of us had to stay in the room and try to keep him in the room while he emotionally melted down.  The other one took our other children to the theme park. Another time, he got upset and decided he was running away, and took off to the field behind our house. We could see him, so we let him stay for over an hour while we watched.  When he finally came inside, he was covered with huge welts from mosquito bites. I felt horrible.

Every night when I tried to sit him down and review English words, he would belch (or worse) repeatedly, or lay his head down on the table, or anything else he could think of to frustrate me until I gave up.  It often worked. We tried to limit his electronics, and he would melt down and rant in Chinese for hours in his room, and refuse to eat. We all worried about him so much and wondered if we had done the right thing for him by adopting him.  I would go to great lengths to cook anything and everything, somedays, all at once, because food felt like the only way we could make him happy. We walked on eggshells and tried not to upset him. Things weren’t fair and we kept the scales tipped in his favor in an effort to keep peace in our house.  When we had family and friends over, they usually got to witness the chaos firsthand. It was embarrassing and we felt like it was damaging to our relationships, and we withdrew from a lot of people in our lives. We loved him deeply, but often hated what we thought our family had forever become. We occasionally entertained the idea of disruption, but knew in our hearts that we would continue to destroy a soul that had felt the deepest sense of rejection at least twice in his life already.

That feels like a different universe to me today.  Somewhere between year one and year two, it got a little easier for us.  Somewhere between year two and year three, it became easy. And normal. And happy.  Isaac is an amazing person. He is very smart and earned all A’s and B’s during his sophomore year of high school.  He can read very well and we have no trouble communicating. He still has a strong accent and sometimes we all have to repeat ourselves, but he understands the language fully now.  He’s kept a part-time job for over a year and will work hard. He loves to play video games and has his license but is still a homebody.

We know him now.  We know his heart and his likes and his dislikes.  We know what makes him laugh and what motivates him.  He is always kind to animals and children. He is quick witted and clever and a good cook.  He is a good brother and has finally built strong bonds with his brother and sister. They laugh and play together, and generally enjoy each other’s company.  He loves us and loves being part of our family and he shows us that through his actions more than saying the words. Our last theme park trip was filled with joy and nothing but good memories together.  I can look back on those though times now and know they were the result of a complete lack of trust in us, fear of rejection, and the stimulus of a completely different world. He is truly a great son, and while the road was nothing like I imagined, this is what I hoped for him and for us.      

Older children are WORTH IT.

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My Adoption Story

Grace, a former adoptee through Great Wall China Adoption, shares her story about growing up adopted and reflects on how adoption has shaped her into the person she is today.

“I sit here with so many thoughts in my head not knowing what to write about, so I’ll start off with an introduction. Hi, my name is Grace, and I’m 17 living in Los Angeles, California. I was born in Kunming, China within the Yunnan Province sometime in April of 2000 and adopted when I was 10 months old by my two wonderful parents.

At the time, my parents were living in Buffalo, New York and from what I was told, they started the process of adopting me in 1998. I was told it was always the plan that my mom wanted to adopt. Slowly as I’ve grown up, I’ve learned more and more about my past and where I came from. Being adopted has been one of the best things that has happened to me but at times one of the hardest things that I’ve had to come to terms about. For as long as I could remember, I’ve wondered who I truly am and wondered why I was given up. For years I have visited that question of ‘why was I given up? Why wasn’t I wanted? And was I not good enough?’ Sometimes those type of things get to you, but my dad has been such a supportive factor in my life that has helped me with those questions.

Before I was seven, I started seeing a family therapist. I wasn’t sure why, but I took a liking towards her, and later I discovered it was because my mom had cancer. My mom was battling her second battle with cancer, and on July 12, 2007, heaven gained another angel. Being adopted and losing my mom at such a young age has impacted my life tremendously. I’ve felt lonely and abandoned for so much of my life, but my therapist has helped me with that.

Being adopted is something I always have and will carry with me, but it has led me to meet some of the best people in my life. I know five others who are adopted from China, one of whom I discovered is from the same province as me and another who has become one of my best friends. Recently, I asked my dad if he and my mom knew what they were in for in terms of how it may impact me psychologically, and he replied by saying it was definitely an unknown. People tend to forget that when you bring a child home, it may not be all rainbows and unicorn fuzz. For example, I’ve been told another one of my friends’ little sister reacts in utter rage about being adopted. On the other hand for my best friend and I, it has always affected our self-esteem, or sometimes some of my friends just never talk about it because it upsets them. There is a level of uncertainty that comes with adopting any child, but it is an outcome that I think is worth it, as it can change the entire fate of a child.

I have a lot of positives and great memories about being adopted, some of which occurred in elementary school where my best friend and I would pretend we were long lost sisters, or sometimes I would imagine I was secretly a princess and that my biological parents were really royalty. My creative, childhood mindset has morphed over time to my outlook on the situation and the brainstorming I’ve come up with over time. I have become more mature from an experience that happened to me as a baby, but I wouldn’t trade any part of it for the world.

Everyone asks me, ‘If you could, would you meet my bio parents? Or have you met them? Or do you know why you were given up?’ And at times those thoughts annoy me because growing up with my own questions, of course I’ve thought about all of those, and sometimes that’s all I’ve ever thought of. From time to time I still wonder why everything happened the way it has, but it has made me see the world in a different light. I have decided that I want to dedicate a part of my life and use my voice to become an advocate for child adoptions, bring awareness, and to find ways to help orphans.

I’m very thankful to not only my parents, but the people involved in taking care of me and helping my parents adopt me and become the person I am today.”

Resources

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Adopting a Child in Need of a Medical Expedite

The following post from a family is intended to shed light on what it is like to decide to adopt a child with severe medical needs and to pursue this adoption with a medical expedite. Adoption, in any of its iterations, is unique to every family. This post reflects their experience adopting a waiting older child from China. It is their hope that it will help families who are considering adopting a child with severe medical needs.

He received a care package from his new family, including a photo album of them!

“I do not know what it is like having a child with a severe, life-threatening medical condition.

But I soon will.

The weight of parenting a child with a complex medical need will soon sit firmly on my husband’s and my shoulders. Some parents face this reality in the doctor’s office after an ultrasound—that event so many expectant parents await with nervous-yet-joyful anticipation. Or they hear the news shortly after their child’s birth. Either way, it can be devastating news. Either way, that moment forever alters those parents’ lives. Their lives will already change because they have a new child. However, now they have a child with special or medical needs, and they must learn in a HURRY about the need and how best to care for this precious child.

Adopting a child with medical or special needs is different and backwards. It is a surreal experience looking at a list of medical conditions and determining what conditions you think you could handle or not. In a crude comparison, it is like choosing the features on a new car. It made us feel uncomfortable. That said, it is a crucial exercise because not every adoptive family is prepared for or able to handle every condition. This step in the process requires a lot of soul-searching and reflection. It requires researching a variety of conditions ahead of time in order to understand what each condition will require in terms of medical or therapeutic intervention.

Adopting a child with medical or special needs is also a transformative act of faith and love. It requires considering all the risks involved—the unknowns of the condition, the questions of life expectancy, financial and emotional hardship, long-term medical care needs, surgeries, medication, many sleepless nights, being misunderstood by family or friends, feeling isolated, alone, and afraid—and making a choice. Choosing to say yes to adopting a child with a severe medical condition means weighing these risks against what would happen if you said no. It is an important decision to consider carefully and prayerfully.

We were contacted on a Friday about whether we wanted to adopt a five-year-old boy with a severe congenital heart defect. Our agency did not pressure us into adopting him because they knew there were a lot of unknowns about the severity of his condition. One family backed out of his adoption because of the unknowns. Keeping that in mind, we requested his medical records to get as much information as the adoption agency could provide, and we set out to research all the terminology pertaining to his condition. (They had records from his hosting trip to the U.S., which not all waiting children will have.) All I can say is thank goodness for the Internet! Search engines were our friends that weekend because heart experts we are not.

We discovered that his heart condition was quite serious and complicated, which explains the devastation his host family felt after his pediatric cardiologist appointment during the hosting trip. It explains why the other family felt unprepared to pursue his adoption. I will be honest that after researching the different aspects of this child’s condition, we were scared. We doubted not whether we could love him but whether we could risk the heartache of truly knowing him, holding him, celebrating birthdays with him, and raising him up as our son in addition to going through all the doctor’s visits and surgeries only to face the possibility of losing him too soon. That thought is enough to stop anyone in his or her tracks when considering adopting a child like this. Were we strong enough to face such a devastating loss if it happened?

In the midst of this fear and doubt, I did a Google search for ‘adopting a child with severe congenital heart defects.’ I came across a blog post written by an adoptive mother who had adopted not one but four children from China all with severe heart conditions (not all at the same time mind you). She wrote that she questioned whether they should adopt one special little girl whose condition was truly life-threatening. This mother was not sure their family should risk adopting her because it seemed too hard, the risks too big for them. She wrote that she confided her doubts in a friend, and this friend asked one simple yet loaded question that changed everything for this adoptive mother: ‘Doesn’t every child deserve to be mourned?’

After reading that post, we knew unquestionably that we were chosen to adopt our boy. We knew he was meant to be our son, and we already loved him as our own. We resolved that the risks were worth loving him and giving him a forever family. We had faith we would be given the strength to do whatever needed to be done. We heard a whisper of hope that was loud enough to be heard over the shouts of fear, hopelessness, and uncertainty threatening to overwhelm us. We had to ask ourselves whether we would let fear change the decision we felt we were meant to make?

The next day, we contacted the agency to tell them we absolutely wanted to adopt this boy. Our agency would be pursuing a medical expedite for the adoption. A medical expedite adoption means the overall adoption timeline will be shorter in order to bring the child to the U.S. and receive the needed care for his urgent medical needs. How much shorter remains to be seen since we are still waiting to travel to China. Typically, adopting through the waiting child program can take approximately 12-14 months. As I am writing this post, it has been about 8 months since we applied with our adoption agency and began the dossier phase. We hope to be on a plane to China before the end of this year, so that is a shorter timeline than what is typically estimated. In the time remaining before we travel, we have some practical and heart preparations to make.

Even though it is an expedited adoption, not every step in the process can be expedited. We can go only as fast as the adoption systems in the U.S. and China will allow. Certain stages have gone much quicker, while others have gone no faster than a typical adoption. The whole process can feel very hurry-up-and-wait at times. Honestly, it is unbearably hard to wait for the next step in the process when all we want to do is bring our son home to start loving him in person and getting him the medical care he needs! The paperwork can be tedious and redundant. The encouraging thing to know is that adoptive parents seeking to adopt through the waiting child program and especially with a medical expedite will not be alone in the process. We have had an incredibly knowledgeable and compassionate group of people at the adoption agency helping us along the way. They have been honest, realistic, and completely supportive the entire journey, so we have not had to navigate any of this on our own.

Adopting a child with a serious medical condition is especially challenging and is not a decision we took lightly. The fortitude and resolve necessary to go through the process seems super-human at times. Yet, I will ask prospective adoptive parents to think about it this way: some of these children have been waiting for a family for one, two, six, thirteen years… Many of these children will never know the love of a family. They sit. They wait. They die. They age-out at fourteen in China. Considering that overwhelming reality, adoptive parents waiting ten, twelve, twenty-four, or more months is a drop in the bucket compared to the endless years of waiting for a family that may or may not ever come. What would it really take to love these children? Doesn’t every child deserve to be mourned? Doesn’t every child deserve to be LOVED? The truth is that not every adoptive family is a good match for every waiting child. But we would not have known what was possible unless we made ourselves available, step out of our comfort zone, and open our hearts to love.

We were not merely opening our hearts to the love we could give. Adoption requires a supernatural kind of love—a love that cannot be accomplished through sheer human determination. Our hearts and love are too weak to conjure up that kind of love. If we all possessed that type of love, these children would never have been orphaned. There would be no orphan or foster crisis in the world. Many of our world’s problems would not exist if we humans possessed such perfect, beautiful love. But there is a love like that out there. A love that is perfect and so much greater than any form of love we can imagine or demonstrate to others.

It is this love that is being worked out in our adoption process. My husband and I were called to let a power greater than ourselves work through our imperfect, impatient, easily frustrated lives and open our hearts to something so much bigger than ourselves. So much bigger than two people loving one child who has no one else. We were called to be available and to be willing to love someone more than we love ourselves. To love a child more than time, money, sleep, comfort, ease, and control. We have had to risk being misunderstood and looked at like we are crazy when we tell our story, but this kind of love is crazy!

Will it be easy? I seriously doubt it. It is, after all, adoption. Adoption means accepting a stranger into your family and forming trusting, loving relationships (I am referring to the much-dreaded adoption word: attachment). These relationships are not formed from the beauty and tenderness of holding your newborn child moments after he or she is born, though. No, this process begins in utter brokenness and abandonment. In adoption there will be tears, some of which will be joyful. However, mostly they will be tears of fear—the adoptive child’s and the adoptive parents’—born from the uncertainty of the future and the pain of the past.

Our pale, weak love cannot pick up these broken pieces and put them back together. Only the supernatural love of God is capable of that. It is armed with our confidence in this greater love and the miracles it can wield that we said yes to adopting our son. It will take A LOT of time. A LOT of prayer. A LOT of support from our family and friends. But when faced with the question of whether we could or should adopt a child with severe medical needs, we really felt there was no question. Only the answer: yes.”

If you would like to follow their adoption story, it can be found on their blog: www.onfaithandfamily.com

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Home with Caroline

For Down Syndrome Awareness Month, we checked in with Lindsey and Jesse, who adopted the sweetest girl Caroline last year. Once they saw her picture during their adoption search, they fell in love. At that moment, they knew they had found their daughter. When we previously spoke with Lindsey, she said, “We don’t see her as a little girl with special needs, we see her for her bright smile, adorable pigtails, and the daughter we will love with every fiber of our being.” This time, we hear about how life has been since Caroline came home.

To read more about their journey to find Caroline, visit our blog here!

Click here to watch a touching video of Caroline meeting her mom for the very first time!

Did you expect to parent a child with Down syndrome?

“We knew we wanted to adopt a child with special needs when we were first inspired to adopt by another family, who adopted a young girl with Spina Bifida and a boy with a cleft palate. We knew that we would be able to offer a child who needed some extra love and attention with those extra things. What we didn’t talk about or anticipate was falling in love with a little girl who had an extra chromosome. But we did, and our conversation changed from just the physical needs to what it meant to parent a child with cognitive needs.”

How has it been since Caroline came home? Have you experienced any challenges, and what has been rewarding?

“Having Caroline home has been so incredibly wonderful. She is so eager to learn and has blossomed at home and in school and her therapies. She is so loving and freely offers the best hugs with soft pats on the back and sweet kisses. She loves to be a big sister and comes running when the baby cries, waving a pacifier or stuffed toy to make sister happy again.

The greatest challenge I think has been navigating the communication barrier and having realistic expectations. We have a child who doesn’t speak English but communicates in her own way, and it has been a challenge to us as her parents to learn what that is. Not to mention we don’t know where to start with our expectations because we didn’t develop with her; she came to us with her learned strategies that we don’t know. It can be very overwhelming to not feel understood, and Caroline does struggle with expression and can shut down and give up when we don’t understand each other right away.

To combat this we are working with baby sign language videos and communication boards with pictures, and this has provided us with excellent tools to navigate this barrier and continue to work on learning from each other every day. Each week she learns a new word or two and speaks more and more clearly, and she is just as proud of herself as we are of her.”

Is there anything you wish you knew before adoption?

“Oh good question. We had such good advice like – manage your expectations, as in don’t have any! That way you won’t be disappointed but instead will be really happily surprised.”

Resources:

– Learn more about China adoption
– Visit the Waiting Child Photo Listing
– Contact a China adoption specialist!

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The Reality of Gotcha Day

Gotcha Day – it’s the moment that you look forward to from the second you begin your adoption journey and receive notification that you’ve been matched with your child. Countless families find it difficult to prepare for this moment, as it’s impossible to know how your child will react in the situation. While some children run into their Forever Family’s arms right away, others may need time to process the loss of their old life as they transition into the new.

The blog below was written by one of GWCA’s incredible Orphan Warriors about the challenges and triumphs that their family experienced on their recent Gotcha Day. While many families’ experiences may be different, this family does an great job of explaining the magnitude of the transition both for the kiddo and their new Forever Family.

The Day His Name Became Son

We knew it was going to be hard.

The sweet boy we’d been dreaming about for seven long months had been living in a foster home for the past three years. And from the reports both in his file and the ones we’d received in our updates, we knew that this shy and tentative boy was very well attached to his foster family.

We celebrated that our angel likely already knew the meaning of love, because we SAW love in his pictures, we saw love in his family’s eyes, and we EXPERIENCED the love his foster mama had for him as we read every word she wrote in each of her reports.

DJ definitely knew LOVE.

So we knew that taking him away from everything he’d ever known — not from a group environment where he’d never gotten to experience one-on-one attention, but from the home of a couple who loved him and another foster child from his orphanage so very well that he even slept in their bed each night — was going to be excruciating.

We’d asked in our update request if there was anything holding this precious foster family back from adopting this sweet boy themselves, and at the time, they just said they wanted Superhero 4 to have his own “true family.”

When we arrived at the civil affairs office for Gotcha Day, our guide and translator found out from the orphanage workers that DJ’s foster family was an older couple with biological children grown and out of the house who just loved children and took two at a time from the Wuhan orphanage to love and care for until they were adopted. The foster mama stayed home with the children and poured her entire life into them so that, even though she and her husband felt too old to raise these children again themselves, these children could experience LOVE.

Over the years, our little man lived with two different foster siblings and watched one of them leave for a forever family … all while he waited for his chance at “forever.”

But “forever” in fairytales is so different than the “forever” that happens in real life.

Because “forever” in real life means leaving behind to move ahead. And what this precious boy had to leave behind was an entire lifetime of love and care and attachment and relationship with a couple we will forever thank our God for giving to our boy.

All to move ahead with a family who didn’t look like him, didn’t speak like him, didn’t smell like him, didn’t KNOW him.

The hardest move of probably his entire life.

So when our family spotted the two nannies walk through the civil affairs door holding the boy we haven’t been able to stop thinking about for seven months, my heart nearly burst.

With joy for our family.

And with heartbreak for the loss of his.

As the nanny who brought him to the meeting place knelt down to introduce us to him, we all tried our hardest to give this precious boy a tiny bit of space. We found out that his foster mama had just dropped him at the orphanage earlier that morning, just hours before meeting us, and we couldn’t even imagine the kind of emotional roller coaster he was experiencing as one set of strangers took him away from his family and to another.

I could nearly feel my heart in my feet as I knelt down in front of the nanny who held our boy —the boy with the eyes so tender, so fragile, so scared, so broken, that I just wanted to close them and wrap them in love and transport them to a place months and months away from now to give him HOPE for a future I knew he couldn’t possibly understand.
But I couldn’t, and as Supersoldier videotaped and the boys and I knelt beside him, I could feel his fear and I could taste his loss.

His foster mama had placed a beautiful handmade silver bracelet around his wrist and sent him with a bag of treats and gifts. His clothes were clean, his hair was freshly cut and as he rejected the boys’ offers of banana puffs and cars and stuffed animals and snacks, I knew exactly what he wanted instead.

The woman he called his mama.

For two minutes, this boy they called “Long Long” let us just observe him and even gently touch the back of his hand, but when the nanny started introducing us as Mama and Baba and Ge Ge, his lip quivered and the flood gates opened as he cried for the only woman he’s ever known and loved: “Mama!”

My heart just broke for him. Superhero 2, who has more compassion for the pain of others than any other child I’ve ever met, began to cry. And Superman, without another word, immediately shut down and retreated.

I looked back at Supersoldier, and our eyes silently communicated what we knew we needed to do. He put down the camera, scooped up Superman, who was now sobbing, and took him to a corner chair, where he held him, loved on him and just let him grieve over the gamut of emotions we knew he might be experiencing in that moment.

I pulled in Superhero 2 close, and Superhero 1, the practical, logical, total rock of our little falling-apart team, stood up to grab tissues while two nannies, our guide and Superhero 2 and I sat on the floor with the little boy whose world had been thrown into total chaos.

With half the room erupting now in tears, our guide, who was a total God-send from the moment we met her, suggested we move DJ into the back play room, where the older boys and I could bond with him and she could take the nannies outside to ask my three single-spaced pages of questions. (You get one shot to ask questions. This former journalist wasn’t going to blow hers. :))

There, with the nannies out of sight, the older boys pulled out the slide and the piano and everything they could find to distract their new baby brother, and, without any other familiar person in sight, this precious boy who was still stiff and hysterical allowed me to pick him up for the very first time.

As I held him, my heart melted for us … and just broke for him — for his story, for what he’d been through that day, for the deep loss I knew he was experiencing again for the SECOND time in his life — and all I could give, all I could muster, were a few measly words that I kept whispering into his ear over and over again.
This is so hard!

You are so brave!

Wo ai ni. Chinese for “I love you.” Forever and ever and ever.

Nothing calmed him. Nothing distracted him. And over and over again, he kept looking over my shoulder and around the room and just crying out for Mama.
In my wildest dreams, I can’t even imagine that pain.

The boys continued trying to play with him and offer him snacks, and as they did, I just rubbed his back, held him close and prayed silently over his precious, breaking heart. I wasn’t hurt. I wasn’t offended. I was heartbroken for HIM … and simultaneously SO VERY GRATEFUL. Because I knew without a shadow of a doubt that, even as he walked this world an orphan, though his pain was great today, he’d had someone to show him love EVERY DAY.

What an incredible gift to have that kind of bond.

As I sent the boys to go check on Superman, who had curled up tightly in his daddy’s arms, I moved out to the room where we had first met. I sat on the couch, where Superhero 1 approached his new baby brother with his i-pod. For a moment, DJ stopped crying, and he looked at this bright yellow device in fascination.

Superhero 1 didn’t waste a moment taking advantage of the opportunity, and he immediately pulled up animated games that might distract his new brother for a moment.
I stole that moment of calm to make space on my lap for Superman, who I motioned from across the room to join us. Supersoldier brought him over, where he snuggled up beside us to meet really for the first time his baby brother. With four boys now on a lap and either side, I looked up at Supersoldier, who had spent his entire Gotcha Day experience loving on the first boy who ever walked through civil affair office doors. And I paused right there to thank God for that moment and thank God for that priceless man.

While my arms were wrapped around the boy whose world had erupted, the man God had given me as my best friend, teammate and partner in crime was loving on and comforting the boy who had just been reminded of the day his world erupted, too. Supersoldier told me later that after a few minutes of cuddling, Superman told his daddy that the reason he was crying is because it made him remember that he once had a mommy before me … and seeing DJ cry for his first mama made him miss his, too.

In all his wisdom, Supersoldier just held that boy we love so much tight and told him how much his mother loved him — that she loved him so much that she wrapped him in a blanket and placed him in the corner of a hospital ward in a place where he could receive the immediate life-saving surgery he needed in order to survive — all at great risk to herself. He retold Superman his story, and he told him how true love sacrifices self for the greater good.

“We don’t know your whole story, buddy,” Supersoldier told him, “and we maybe never will. But we do know this — your mama LOVED YOU. And so do we. And you are every bit as special and important and precious as each of your brothers. You and DJ just grew in our hearts instead of our bellies.”

That affirmation of love and belonging was all Superman needed to rebound, join the group and then joyfully jump into the distract-DJ game that all of us had been playing for the previous 30 minutes.

With three of four boys now sans tears, Supersoldier and I signed the official custodial paperwork (adoption registration and finalization isn’t until this morning) and followed our guide, who had graciously gathered everything we needed from DJ’s orphanage while we bonded, to the minivan that waited for us in the parking lot.
In China, there are no car seats. There are sometimes no seat belts. And there are no times when you do not fear for your life as your drivers are forced to play chicken with the merging cars and bicyclists that just don’t stop.

So I buckled up, pulled a still-sniffling DJ onto my lap and just held on tight as I prayed that we would make it long enough to experience our first day as a family of six.

Superman asked to sit next to DJ in the car, and, when he noticed how enamored he appeared to be with electronic devices, asked to use my phone.

From his place in the captain’s chair beside me, Superman turned on my cell phone camera and began snapping photos he could show his baby brother of himself. And at the exact moment he snapped his first photo, DJ stopped crying, looked into my eyes for the very first time and SMILED!

It literally took my breath away.

He looked at Superman. And then he looked up at me. And his eyes lit up and he smiled again.

I was just a puddle.

I squealed for the boys and Supersoldier to see this boy’s sweet smile, and when they appeared around the chair from their place on the back bench, he smiled again at them.

“Mom!” Superhero 2 exclaimed. “I was so sad inside because he was so sad missing his mama. But this smile makes me so happy and warm inside, and I’m so, so happy for him now!”

Superman giggled his infectious giggle and named himself the car ride photographer as he had the very important job of documenting DJ’s very first smiles inside our family.

The entire 15-minute ride back to the hotel, DJ smiled and observed and explored and giggled, and all of us who had prepared our hearts for MONTHS of total rejection and grieving just sat in awe.

Although we knew we were still at the very beginning of the journey, we knew it was God alone who could have transformed a devastated, grieving little boy into the content and contagiously happy creature now sitting in my lap. Even if for only a car ride home.

When we arrived back at the hotel, I prepared myself for another breakdown. Walking into a new room in a new structure with strange people was going to be scary, and I knew it could cement for him the goodbye he’d experienced earlier that morning.

But the boys, in all their brilliance, didn’t give him a chance to grieve. Within seconds, they’d busted out puzzles and Legos and books and toys, and they had him sprawled out on the bed with him just taking in all the entertainment they had to offer.

Supersoldier and Superhero 1 ran to the bank and the grocery store with our guide, and Superhero 2 and Superman stayed back in the room with DJ and me, where they looked at each other with twinkles in their eyes and then initiated DJ’s first pillow fight.
This boy who had experienced two different foster siblings but never older brothers paused momentarily, not knowing what to make of these two older boys tossing him pillows. But within seconds, he began laughing hysterically and immediately joined in on the fun.

For almost 20 minutes, these boys romped and wrestled and pillow fought their hearts out as we saw our first glimpses of our new boy’s fun-loving spirit and heart. His reports had described him as quiet, shy and very much against rough or loud activities.

Apparently until he had brothers.

Because it took all of five minutes for this boy to become the loudest and most raucous pillow fighter of the crew.

I just stood back and videotaped and allowed these brothers to bond the way our boys at home always have — through a little bit of physical play. They’re not big huggers, our superheroes, but they will romp and wrestle with each other all the live long day.

And the newest superhero didn’t waste a moment getting in on that crazy action.

By the time Supersoldier and Superhero 1 returned with water bottles and lunch (YUM, amazing dumpling cart down the way — we will definitely be visiting you again!), this boy’s shell had been cracked wide open, and he was a wild, free-playing spirit with an infectious laugh and a huge appetite.

He did have two small breakdowns during the day — moments where he looked around and realized that familiarity was nowhere in sight — but one lasted five minutes and one lasted 15, and he allowed me to hold him and love on him and snuggle with him during both. And although during the first one he called out for Mama, during the second, he just let me hold him and serve to fill her shoes.

As we ate our dumplings, Kathy, our guide, sat down to download all the information she had gathered from DJ’s nannies while we were bonding in the civil affairs office. She let me know that he took a nap every day from 12:30 to 3 p.m. and I should probably go put him down before she shared with me all the rest of the detailed information.

Not knowing what routines his foster mother had followed when putting him down for naptimes, or even where he napped, I just guessed from the notes about his co-sleeping and snuggled up in bed next to him.

I thought for sure we’d face Meltdown 3. After all, sleeping is a special and intimate thing, and I didn’t look or smell or snuggle like his foster mama did. But he snuggled up next to me, looked into my eyes and just smiled. He stuck his fingers in his mouth and within five minutes, fell fast asleep.

Supersoldier, who was snuggling on his other side, and I just stared at each other over the top of his snoring little head.

Seriously?! I mouthed at him. There is NO WAY that was that easy!

But it was.

Supersoldier took a nap with his newest son, and I carefully got up and strolled back in the other room, where I called Kathy to finish giving me all the information I needed about DJ’s diet, schedule and routine. I was still on Cloud 9 that this boy not only went to sleep at the drop of a hat but also apparently slept EVERY DAY for 2.5 whopping hours!
Until, that is, she told me what time he goes to bed every night.

10 p.m.

Are you serious right now, foster mama? 10 p.m.! 10 p.m.?! You couldn’t have thrown this turns-into-a-pumpkin-after-7:30 girl a bone?! Supersoldier and I no joke go to BED by 9 p.m. most nights, and last week, we even crawled into bed at 7:30 after tucking in the superheroes! There is no stinking way we can keep these eyes open until 10 p.m.!

Kathy must have noticed the glazed over panic in my eyes, because she reached out to me and said, “You try 8:30. Then 8. That’s a good bedtime for a child his age.”

Only the other three superheroes, who ALL still go to bed between 7 and 7:30 every night, heard this comment … and Miss Kathy pretty much ruined my life.

“Wait, 8 is a good bedtime for a 3-year-old?!” Superhero 1 exclaimed. “I’m 11 and I still go to bed at 7:30!”

Our perfect, early-to-bed life is now ruined. Ruined, I tell you.

After Kathy gave us the rest of DJ’s diet and routine information, she left us in the hotel room to bond, where we kept this shy boy’s world very small by filling our hours with coloring and Lego constructing and card playing.

In order to not disrupt the awesome, happy flow God in all His goodness had graciously established all afternoon, we decided to hit up the Korean restaurant inside the hotel for dinner.

There, this boy who was said to have a small to medium appetite ate EVERYTHING, from the kimchi to the Korean beef to the watermelon to the lotus. In fact, when all the other boys were finished (and these boys eat like horses), he kept shoveling in even the relish dishes.

Like the perfectly made fit to this food-loving, new-dish-exploring team. <3
As we took the elevator back upstairs, Supersoldier and I prepared ourselves for the meltdown we were fully bracing for at bedtime. We knew that DJ co-slept with his foster mama, and although we planned to put him in bed with us, we knew that we weren’t her, and our routines were not her routines.

We offered the bathtub that the hotel staff had graciously brought to our room (which was much less scary than the hard-pounding shower), and his eyes lit up as he tried to jump right in.

Superhero 2 asked if he could help with bath time, and this proud big brother washed DJ’s hair and helped him in and out and, when I put on a new diaper and dressed him in new striped pajamas, hilariously commented, “Ahhhh, DJ looks like a little robber! How cute.”
After bath and books and teeth brushing (which he was NOT excited about) and prayers, we ALL tucked ourselves into bed at 8:30 … and, as he drifted off to sleep, this boy who was an orphan 24 hours before looked up at me, touched my face and smiled.
And I thanked God for His grace, His providence and His ability to make all things new. <3

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The Building of Families

The Building of Families

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An Update on “L”!

Eight months ago we shared a story about a family reuniting with their host kiddo to bring her home forever. It was a reunion that they had been anxiously awaiting from the moment they had to say their goodbyes at the end of the hosting program. Although the family was certainly sad to see their daughter, “L,” return to China after the hosting program, they knew that they would be seeing her again soon as they had already begun submitting their paperwork to adopt her.

Throughout the month that L spent in the United States with the hosting program, she was able to see life outside of her orphanage and experience the love of a family. These experiences ultimately helped to ease their transition transition upon returning home as a family of three. Now, eight months later, L is thriving in her new family! Read our blog below to learn more about L’s transition and the many firsts she’s experienced in the eight months that she’s been home.

Click here to read about L’s journey home!

October

L loves to drive by and point to the EIU castle.  She begged and pleaded to go there and finally got her chance during EIU’s Homecoming.  She got to meet Billy the Panther and go to her first parade.  We visited Tent City and she cheered on the Panthers at her first football game.

We had a special afternoon with Papa Swing and Grandma Barb at Aikman’s Wildlife Adventure in Arcola.  The highlight was the Wagon Tour where we got up close and personal with the animals and even got to feed them.  The zoo is going to seem boring after this special trip.

This was her first Halloween and she enjoyed carving her first pumpkin.  Mommy also visited her school for her classroom Halloween party.

November

By this time, we have gotten our rhythm and routine down.  L is loving going to school and making new friends.  We enjoyed a visit from special friends and L loved all the extra attention. It’s always so great to catch up with good friends!

We visited Santa Claus at the Festival of Trees and enjoyed face painting with Kinsley and Charlie.  We also had a great Thanksgiving with family and friends.

December

L started the month with the Trojet Dance Clinic.  She loves to cheer and dance so it was no surprise that she loved it.  Even now months later, she randomly starts doing dance moves from the routine she learned.

L had been asking to go on a train ride so we obliged by having lunch with Santa on the Polar Express in Monticello.  She asked Santa for a dress because what girl doesn’t want a dress?!  It was a snowy afternoon and really set the mood for the trip.  She was just excited because she got to eat chips in her sack lunch.
L was the star of the Broadway Christian Church Christmas Program.  She sang her heart out and was very enthusiastic about her performance.  She kept up with the hand motions and was also one of the loudest.  Unfortunately, she didn’t know most of the words even after weeks of practicing.  She could sing Jesus very clearly, but that was about it.  Everyone still seemed to enjoy watching it.
Santa Claus found our house for Christmas.  She was very excited about him going up and down our chimney.  He left L a new bicycle.  She was awfully concerned because her bike was too big and she needed a little bike like her best friend’s.  A great ending to our 2016 and fun to see how much she has changed in one year.

January

We started the year by taking L to her first movie at the theater.  She did really well.

Due to the unseasonably warm temperatures, we were able to visit the St. Louis Zoo in January.  She loved visiting all the animals and can’t wait to plan another visit.

L celebrated the 100th day of school and enjoyed dressing up as a “grandma” with all her classmates.

This was our first year celebrating the Chinese New Year.  The holiday fell on Saturday, January 28th.  This was the first day of the Chinese lunar calendar.  CNY 2017 was the year of the Rooster.  We celebrated by making decorations and re-decorating our Christmas Tree, enjoying traditional Chinese food from the Asian market, and reading a few books about the holiday.  We also went to a special event at the Urbana Free Library.
We ended the month with L’s 10th birthday party.  We enjoyed a small party with close family at home.  She enjoyed the special cake [Peppa Pig] that Grandma Barb made for her, unwrapping gifts, and having everyone sing to her.  This girl isn’t shy about being the center of attention.

February

L and Baba enjoyed their first daddy-daughter dance at Broadway Christian Church.  They were a beautiful couple and had a great evening. L’s favorite part was going out to eat for “china food” beforehand.

L loves all things dancing, cheerleading, and gymnastics.  So when we have events that she can participate in, we try to take full advantage.  She is so limber and flexible, we have no doubt that with practice, she will probably excel.  This month she did an EIU cheer clinic and did a beginner gymnastics class through the Recreation Department.

April

As the weather has warmed up, we have spent more and more time outside.  She loves to play bubbles and use sidewalk chalk.  She is working on riding her bicycle but after a couple of falls, she is understandably apprehensive.  She has gotten so much stronger!  We did a fun science experiment where we inflated a balloon by the reaction of vinegar and baking soda.  She has also learned how to play baseball with a wiffle ball and bat.  Her hand-eye coordination has improved so much she learned immediately and gets tons of hits.

We had special visitors came over to play.  She was excited about eating pizza, doing puzzles, playing Barbies, and playing Go Fish. We were so amazed at how far she has come in interacting with other kids, playing, and communicating.  It was an eye-opener for us.  Especially since it had been several months since she had seen them.

We celebrated our first Easter.  She talked about wearing her special dress to church for weeks.  She enjoyed coloring Easter eggs and seeing which colors could be combined to make new colors.  The Easter Bunny found our house and left her a basket with some special treats.  Since she does not like sweets at all, the eggs that she found contained coins and she was very excited about taking them to the bank.  We compromised and she added them to her bank at home.

She also got to attend a birthday party for one of her classmates.  It was held at the Flip Zone.  She was very uneasy around the trampoline, but by the end, she loved it.  She practiced walking on the balance beam and can’t wait to go back.  She has made some great friends in her class and it was fun to watch them play together.

Overall, it is amazing to see how far L has come.  She has lost three baby teeth and has new permanent teeth coming in.  She has gained some weight and is now up to 38 pounds.  She has grown in height, advanced a shoe size, and started to gain muscle strength and fill out.  Her hair is growing and thickening up.  She begs to have long hair.  She loves to put together puzzles, build with Legos, and play Barbies.  Food is still her love language.  She out eats us most days.  She is always open to trying new foods and is such a good eater.  She loves to snuggle with Mommy and Baba.  She is absolutely in love with her “sister” Bessie.  Bessie is our dog and if you remember when she visited last winter, she was absolutely terrified of the dog and screamed bloody murder.  If you have had a recent conversation with her, she probably asked you if you had a dog, what its name is, if it is big or little, and whether it is inside or outside.  If you asked her dog’s name, you likely got the response “B-E-S-S-I-E.”  She really likes to spell the words that she knows.  She is doing great in school and above average in her recognition/reading of sight words.  It makes my heart-swell to hear her read the leveled readers that she brings home.  This girl loves math.  Her vocabulary improves everyday and her spoken English continues to get stronger.  Her handwriting is beautiful and she concentrates so hard to make every letter or number “pretty.”  Astounding progress for a girl who had never been to school, had never used a pencil, put together a puzzle, and whose coloring consisted of scribbling.  She loves to sing along to the radio.  One of her favorites is Hillary Scott’s “Thy Will Be Done.”  She loves to belt out songs in the car and exclaims, “I know this song.”  Still working on the concept that songs are made up of words:)  This girls loves to sleep.  Every Friday night she says “sleep long time” aka let me sleep in.

I’m not sure how we got so lucky for God to choose us to be her parents, but our lives are blessed by her presence every minute of every day.   She fills our lives with joy with her smile, orneriness, and sassy personality.

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My Heroes in Disguise – GWCA’s First Adoptee Shares Her Story

Shortly after GWCA first opened its doors in 1996, Samantha was one of three adoptees to come home with from China with GWCA’s very first travel group. Now, nearly twenty one years later, she’s studying in college and looking at all of the exciting options her future could hold. We asked Samantha to share her perspective on life as an adoptee, her connection to China, and the impact that her incredible family has had on helping her become the person she is today:

They say the best gifts are the ones money can’t buy, and I’m learning each day how much truth is in that statement. Appreciate the people who are genuine, kind, supportive, and who will love you no matter what. Twenty one years ago, I was granted God’s greatest miracle – a family.

Hello to anyone who is reading this! My name is Samantha. I turned twenty one years old this past February, and was born in Lishui, China. In 1996, Snow Wu established what you know as Great Wall China Adoption. Who knew one woman was about to change the lives of many orphaned children like mine? I was the first child to be adopted at ten months old from the Great Wall of China Adoption Agency along with two other girls, Meghan and Rachel, back in 1996. Life in the United States has truly been a blessing, and I owe it all to God and the people he’s put into my life.

I was adopted by a family that has been able to provide beyond a child’s basic needs. My parents, Scott and Angela, weren’t able to have children of their own. They prayed that one day they would have a family. God answered their prayers, and led them to adoption. Never in a million years did they think that adoption would be the route they would take. Of course they were scared, but there wasn’t anything more they wanted than to have a family. With a strong faith and the help of Snow Wu, their dreams finally came true. They flew across the world to find me. Four years later, they went back to China, and adopted my brother, Alexander.

Ever since I was little, my parents have always encouraged my brother and I to try new things and put ourselves out there; I don’t remember a time where we weren’t involved in some type of physical activities. My greatest accomplishment related to sports was when I decided to join competitive gymnastics at four years old. At eleven years old, I ranked twelfth in Texas for my division. I endured many long hours, days, weeks, months, and years of hard work to accomplish the success that I did at such a young age (4 ½ + hrs. a day).  I was not even in middle school at the time and learned to balance my academics, social life, and my extracurricular activities. After I ranked in the state I decided to leave competitive gymnastics and try other sports. I was able to play competitive volleyball, basketball, softball, pole-vault, tennis, track and field, and dance. I was honored to be named one the Silver Dancers in high school, whose team has ranked five consecutive years at the annual Nationals Competition. I’m so blessed for all of the people I’ve met along the way and the memories I’ve made so far. Through everything, my parents have made it a priority to be involved in me and my brother’s lives. Since day one, they have always been our biggest cheerleaders out there.

We were privileged to attend private school for the majority of our lives, where we grew in our spiritual faith and met people who would serve as a positive influence in our lives. Each year we are committed to going on a family trip. I’ve been extremely lucky to explore different cities, states, countries, and continents all around the world. I love travelling, hiking, going to concerts, shopping, interior design (DIY projects), hanging out with friends, blogging, and fitness. I’m currently in college where I am double majoring in Business Marketing and Public Relations, and have made the Dean’s List two years in a row. I plan on either becoming a wedding planner who focuses on destination weddings or being heavily involved in corporate event planning/sports entertainment.

We live in America, where dreams come true. If you’re scared of adoption, don’t be. I wouldn’t be the person who I am today, if it weren’t for the greatness of God, my family, and Great Wall China Adoption. Family doesn’t necessarily mean you’re related by blood. The people who will love you on your best days and even more on your worst days are considered family to me. My parents have hearts of gold, and will forever be my heroes. I know that whatever obstacles life throws my way that my parents will be there to support my brother and I, and they’ll have our backs like no one else. I’ll forever be grateful for my parents pushing us to be the best we can be, and teaching us to live a Christ like life every day. They truly inspire me like no one else I have ever met, and have taught me to stay true to who I am no matter what. I’m a strong believer that even though life can seem scary and unpredictable, everything happens for a reason. God has a journey for each and every one of us, so trust that he will guide you to the path you’re meant to be on. For my parents, their paths sent them across the globe, to find what they were yearning for, which was a family.

People ask me all of the time if I would want to meet my biological parents, and my response is always the same. The people who’ve raised me since I was ten months old are my parents, they’re all I’ve ever known, and having them in my life is all I really need. I wouldn’t trade them for the world, and will forever appreciate everything they’ve done for our family. Thank you to God, Snow Wu, my parents, mentors, and my lifelong friendships I’ve established in America. I hope someday I can leave an imprint on somebody else’s life like they have all made on mine.

If you’re interested in learning how you can begin your journey with GWCA’s China adoption program, contact our matching specialists or visit our Waiting Child photo listing today!

Resources

– Visit the Waiting Child Photo Listing
– Contact a China Matching Specialist
– Learn more about China adoption

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5 Things I Wish I’d Known Before Adopting a Child with Special Needs

Michelle, an adoptive mom and Orphan Warrior who has worked with GWCA to help advocate for countless children in need, recently wrote a post for Beautiful in His Time, sharing her advice for parents who are considering adopting children with special needs. Read the post below to see what Michelle wishes she could have known when she began her first adoption journey:

5 Things I Wish I’d Known Before Adopting a Child with Special NeedsThree and a half years ago, my husband and I fell in love with an 18-month-old boy from China.

He was precious. He was perfect. And he had medical special needs.

Having two biological children of our own at the time, we had no prior experience with caring for children with medical needs. And although my sweet hubby was a physician assistant very eager to love on a child he could provide for in our home, both of us, at times, wondered if we were really equipped to care for a child who would require multiple surgeries and daily assistance of some sort, especially when we had two other children in our home already.

Distant friends told us this would too drastically change our lives. Acquaintances told us our biological children would be ruined. People who heard our story asked why we would choose to disrupt our comfortable life — the life with two children in a comfortable home and no health issues to worry about. Especially when we had no idea what we were doing.

There were seconds, moments, throughout the adopting process when, even as we LONGED to hurry the process and hold the sweet man we had nicknamed Superman in our arms, we wondered if these people were right. If God really knew what He was doing. If we were really the Kents for the job.

It turns out, we didn’t know what we were doing. And God did. And those people with their sweet protective hearts and their very good intentions — their opinions, combined with our fear, could have robbed us of one of the greatest blessings of our lives.

THIS is what adoptive parent Michelle knows now that she wishes paper pregnant Michelle would have known then. Because the world was very good at preparing us for the HARD parts of adopting a child with special needs … and very silent on the topic of the BLESSINGS.

5 Things I Wish I’d Known Before Adopting a Child with Special Needs

1. Special needs aren’t scary.

Not when you fall in love with the face and the personality and the little spirit of the soul behind them.

The second I held that sweet 2 ½-year-old hand, Superman moved from a photo of a child “with medical special needs” to MY SON. And when the child is your SON, not a file or a case number or a medical record, there is nothing you wouldn’t do for him.

God replaced my fear with fierceness and my concern with courage, and suddenly, almost overnight, the scariest thing about our situation of caring for a child with medical needs was that WE ALMOST LET FEAR ROB US OF THE PRIVILEGE OF DOING IT.

Because perfect love casts out fear. God’s perfect love poured into our imperfect hearts for HIS perfectly wonderful son drove out our fear. When Superman became a FACE and not a FILE, special needs became not scary. Because we quickly discovered that what the world called “special” needs were actually some of Superman’s greatest superpowers —and what MADE him the spirited overcomer that he is.

It doesn’t mean there aren’t scary times — when Superman was waking up from anesthesia for the second time under our care and he asked with his eyes because he had a tube down his throat, “Am I going to be okay?”

When he was lying in a hospital bed on Day 6 of NPO — without any food or water for nearly a week — and all I wanted to do was sneak him a cherry tomato and a sushi roll, because I knew his favorite foods of all time would instantly cure the grumpies I’d been facing for days.

When he was in the operating room a little longer than I had imagined, and I sat twitching, waiting with other kid-less parents in the waiting room for someone to call my name.

But when the child is a FACE and not a FILE, a son or daughter and not a photo, fear goes out the window. And the only thing scary is the thought that you might have missed out on the most beautiful blessing of your life had you let some Latin words on paper define your future.

2. If God calls you, He will equip you.

We’ve seen it in our own lives. God doesn’t call equipped people; He equips the called (Hebrews 13:21). Because frankly, NONE of us are prepared and mentally, emotionally and physically equipped to parent children who require care we’ve never performed. Not biological parents who deliver children with needs they had never imagined; not adoptive parents who God calls to bring home children with needs they had to Google.

But just like God equips parents who DELIVER children with special needs — parents who research and study and devote hours upon hours to learning how to provide the very best care for the children God has given them — God equips parents who BRING HOME children with those same needs.

In His goodness and by His grace, God turns parents from WORRIERS into WARRIORS.

Biological parents.

Adoptive parents.

Parents who worry that they’re not enough. That they don’t know enough. That their patience and their skills and their temperaments and their knowledge are all not enough.

He equips. And in OUR WEAKNESS, He shows up STRONG.

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

3. Hospital stays make great bonding opportunities.

In his lifetime, Superman has had 14 casts and 10 surgeries, most of them inside our home. He’s spent several overnight visits at children’s hospitals across the country, and two years ago, he spent an entire week in a hospital without food or water following an intense surgery that made me quiver.

Before his last hand surgery, I asked Superman, who is missing a radius in his right arm, if he knew what we would be doing the next day. His reply:

“Yes. Doctor turn my finger, cut off my thumb and then Mommy and me watch Frozen and eat popsicles. Ready?”

This then 4-year-old boy wasn’t concerned about IVs, anesthesia or amputations; after numerous surgeries, he was concerned that he would get his Mama time. The time that I have learned is more precious than almost any other time we have in our chaotic, busy worlds. Because when we’re in the hospital together, we get to turn off our loud and noisy lives. We get to turn off our responsibilities and our phones and eat mediocre hospital food while we watch Frozen marathons (I can sing “Let It Go” in my sleep) and play checkers and read piles of books and snuggle day in and day out.

And even though I dread the pain and the tears that follow each surgery, I now treasure that special bonding time that the two of us get together.

4. Special needs are not a burden for our biological children; they are a BLESSING.

Perhaps more than any other concern our friends had when we shared we were bringing home a child with special medical needs was the concern that our biological children would be negatively affected.

That they would have to sacrifice too much.

That this would become a burden for them.

That they would get the “short end of the stick.”

The truth is, they do sacrifice. And it’s good for them.

They do give up occasional outings and fun things for doctor’s visits and medical appointments. And it’s good for them.

They do hear “we can’t eat that” or “we can’t do that” because of the medical needs or attachment needs of their little brother. And they’re fine with it.

In a culture that is raising children to believe life is all about them, that life is all about tailoring every schedule and every minute to their every need, our biological children are learning that life is NOT all about them. That sometimes the needs of others, like their brother, requires some sacrifice on their behalf. That loving others sometimes means giving up that school festival or that extra sport for the good of the team that still wants to maintain nightly family dinners and margin for important family conversations between doctor’s visits and guitar lessons. That their little brother gives up his time (and his sanity) to sit in copy rooms and class parties in order to serve THEIR needs. And that ALL of us in this thing called “family” do give and take in this life to make this family unit work.

And frankly, we haven’t heard once why it’s unfair that they’ve had to alter their lives after bringing their little brother home.

They adore this boy. They treasure this boy. They tackle this boy like he’s been part of their team their entire lives, and they are the first to dote on him and run to him and make him get well cards before and after every surgery.

They adore him. And loving a little brother with physical deformities and medical needs has taught them not to run FROM those who look different or spend more days in hospitals that the average person — but to run TO them.

So that this summer, when we hosted a 10-year-old orphan from China who had no fingers on his right hand, our children never even noticed. They never even asked. They tackled him with hugs and smiles and immediately invited him into their world to play for a month.

Compassion is worth far more than a few more extra-curriculars on our calendar.

5. Although we, in our selfish human nature, thought WE would be the ones blessing a child with medical needs, it turns out that HE was the one who blessed US.

I don’t want to paint too rosy of a picture. There are definitely hard days. When my husband was deployed, Superman was on cast No. 14 and driving back and forth to our ortho specialist an hour and 20 minutes each way with three kiddos crammed into the back of a Prius was not the joy of my life.

When our calendars are dominated by doctor’s appointments and occupational therapy assignments and we have to say no to birthday parties and playdates because we’re driving back and forth to children’s hospitals.

When we still deal today with some of the very same medical issues we faced the day we brought this precious man home, even after surgeries to correct them.

The difference is our attitudes. The difference is our perspective. The difference is that, ON THIS side of adopting, we know that it’s all worth it. So very, very worth it.

Superman was worth it.

The 132 million orphans still waiting for forever families to call their own — adopting them is WORTH IT.

If your family is open to adopting a child with special needs and you’d like to learn more about GWCA and CAN’s Waiting Child adoption programs, visit our website or contact us today!

Resources:

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From Found to Forever: A Life Changing Trip to China

“On my way from the hotel to meet DJ at his hotel!!…”  This proud mom wrote only moments before meeting the first of her two boys in China. “…A whole range of emotions right now. I can’t imagine what he is going through since he will be leaving everything he knows to come to America as our son. Praying that his precious heart is protected during this time of excitement, but also grief. It’s crazy that after all these months of paperwork and prayers, that I am finally picking up our son!!”

After participating in our Orphan hosting program and saying a difficult goodbye to one of her soon-to-be sons (“SC”), this amazing mom and her family have been hard at work to complete their adoption process and bring him home forever. During their adoption process, they fell in love with another amazing boy who was hosted by an advocate family, and their family grew by one more! Now, they’ve finally reached the part of their journey that they’ve been longing for – the trip to China to bring their boys home.

Below are the stories from both of the boys’ Gotcha Days, as well as an emotional visit to SC’s finding place. Check back soon for an update on this incredible family’s journey!

DJ’s Gotcha Day

God is so good and has answered so many specific prayer requests. The transition has been amazing so far with DJ. When we arrived at the hotel, both of us were a little unsure of what was going on. The orphanage staff told me that he had been asking every few minutes when I was arriving because he was ready to go. So much for less luggage, he came home with 2 backpacks and another bag full of toys! I need to buy another suitcase already. He had a whole backpack of just snacks for me. He told the staff all morning that no one else could eat the snacks but his mom! When we first started talking between us and the translators, he started to cry. He quickly told my guide that they were happy tears because he was so glad to finally have a family. He said that he has wanted a mom and dad of his own, forever. He has totally won my heart and already has me wrapped around his finger.

Showing me a book full of pictures from his childhood. What a HUGE blessing this is. They also gave me the outfit he came to the orphanage in as a baby. Both of these are invaluable gifts!!

After leaving the hotel meeting where we signed paperwork for guardianship for the night (our adoption will be official tomorrow), we headed to get our family photo. As we walked, I held DJ’s hand. At one point I had to let go, he quickly grabbed my hand again as we started walking. When we got back to the hotel, I gave him his Lego set and that kept him busy for over an hour. He is very inquisitive and asks a lot of questions, which has been difficult with the language barrier. We are slowly figuring things out though as we go. He is already working on English words and I’m learning more Chinese.

SC’s Gotcha Day

After months of work and prayers, I was reunited today with SC. before SC went back to China, Wayne and I told him that every time he saw the moon, he was to remember that we were in America praying for him. We were not able to tell DJ that (as we were not his host family), but we were praying for him as well. God has continually been gracious and merciful to us throughout this entire process. Today was no exception. I was blown away once again by God’s grace and compassion. He truly loves these children.

I had so much trouble sleeping last night. I was so excited for today that I felt like a kid going to Disneyland. Even DJ woke up and the first thing he asked was, “SC?” We ate an amazing breakfast and then piled into the van to drive to SC’s orphanage. Originally we were going to have the family day at the Civil Affairs Office, but it got moved to the orphanage. What a blessing that was! It was amazing to see where SC has lived the last 10 years. The orphanage was beautiful and colorful. You could tell that the workers genuinely love the children.

We were ushered into an office after meeting one of the chaperones from the summer hosting. DJ loved seeing her again. We did some paperwork for temporary guardianship (adoption is finalized tomorrow). I was blessed with another photo album book with baby pictures and pictures of SC’s childhood. We even have a note from his birth parents that they left with him and he was abandoned! After a few minutes, SC finally arrived.

It was so wonderful to see his sweet smile and to hug him again. We were able to catch up and talk a little with all the workers. We then all proceeded to walk through the orphanage to SC’s foster parents’ home, which was on the same property.

SC got to show me his bedroom, his awards from school, introduced me to his foster parents, and even played the piano for us. It was such an amazing opportunity. I feel so blessed to have seen and experienced this part of his life. At one point his foster mom started crying. She has cared for SC for 6 years and helped him when he had surgery on his foot. She also just said goodbye to another foster daughter last week. She was adopted as well. I was able to hug his foster mom and tell her how much we appreciate all that she has done for SC. It was beautiful, heart breaking, and surreal all at the same time. So many emotions in the room.

SC has been non-stop smiles. DJ and him are getting along as though they are long lost brothers and best friends. We spent the afternoon playing Legos, transformers, and we also took a little walk. One cannot forget food. Both of these boys can eat!! SC shared his snacks from his foster parents with DJ in the car. It was so sweet. He also brought out a bag of cookies and said it was for Baba and his sisters. He is so thoughtful!!

This evening we went to a Chengdu Opera where they have the famous mask changing show. Both of the boys had a blast.

SC’s Finding Place

Seeing SC’s finding place was special, but it also stirred up a ton of emotions. I happened to see a mom feeding her small baby and I wondered what went through SC’s parent’s minds when they sat him in an area they knew he would be found and could receive help. They had cared for their sweet baby boy for three months. They left a note on him. I still have to have someone translate it for me all the way, but they explained that he needed help with his foot. I cannot imagine the anguish they experienced leaving behind this baby they loved in order for him to get the medical help he needed.

Visiting this spot not only stirred up emotions for me, but it must have stirred up emotions for SC as well. It is one thing to read about and take training on trauma and loss, it is another thing to experience it first hand. About five minutes after we got into the van, I looked back to talk to the boys and I saw that SC didn’t look well. He looked distressed. When I asked him what was wrong via the guide, he told her that he was experiencing car sickness. This surprised me because he never once was car sick over the last two days or over the month he was with us this summer. Emily (our guide) quickly surmised the situation and said that he was probably experiencing a lot of emotions that were making him sick, and he didn’t want to admit it but say it was just car sickness. SC told me he felt nauseous and very dizzy. I looked it up and emotional distress can make people feel physically ill, including feeling nauseous and dizziness. It broke my heart to see my son hurting so deeply that he felt sick. I encouraged him to always feel free to express his feelings to us and I also told him how much we all love him. I told him that we would always be there for him and he can tell us anything and we will listen. It took him about 20 minutes to feel better.

It breaks my heart to know that our boys will probably always have questions, experience hurt and pain from their past, and feel lost at times. This is one reason I have tried to hard to document everything I can about this trip through pictures, saving memorabilia like newspapers, taking pictures of foster family members, and even taking pictures of finding places. All of these pieces will help me answer future questions, to the best of my ability, to help them through their struggle. This is why I also feel so blessed to have important things like DJ’s outfit when he was found, a copy of SC’s finding letter, baby pictures of the boys, etc.

We are now in Guangzhou, where we will finish the last of the paperwork for the US side. In the end, we will have the boys’ visas so that we can travel to the United States. When the plane lands, they will be US citizens. We have really enjoyed being adventurous this trip. Our guide told us where McDonalds, KFC, Starbucks, and Pizza Hut was located. I avoid those places in the states and I don’t plan on eating Western food while in CHINA!! We ventured out tonight and found a Japanese restaurant that had amazing ramen. SC took charge and placed the order for us in Chinese. He ordered the noodle dishes and coke for me, DJ and himself. I had to fake liking the coke because I really don’t like it. SC caught me making a face when I drank it. Oops! The boys LOVE their noodles and are so fun to watch. While we were waiting for the bill, the boys entertained themselves – SC found creative ways to use his wipe and DJ figured out if he put coke in his soup spoon, he could drink it backwards.

Some pictures from the journey:

Resources:

– Learn more about the China adoption process
– Learn about Orphan Hosting
– Contact GWCA’s China matching specialists to learn how you can be matched

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