Back when we submitted our paperwork to adopt our second child from China, we thought we had it all figured out – been there, done that. We were the proud parents of a 3 year-old daughter whom we adopted from China in 2005. We put together the mountain of paperwork, completed all of our requirements and off to China the dossier went. We also knew that when we received our next daughter, her name was going to be Sarah Rose. We realized it could be a bit of a wait compared to when we adopted the first time (a total of one year from the exact moment we decided we wanted to pursue an adoption until we received that ever-precious referral photo!) We had no idea what was in store for us over the next few years…
Fast forward 5 years, paperwork renewed 4 times, a second home study completed when we moved from Virginia to Oklahoma, our original adoption agency going out of business, and a very impatient 8 year old girl wondering when we would ever get her little sister. We were beginning to think that our joke might come true – our daughter would be a freshman in high school before we would travel to China again!
A few people had spoken with us about the possibility of going the “Special Needs/Waiting Child” route to complete our family. We really didn’t give it much thought. Honestly, we did not consider ourselves “special” enough to deal with the myriad of issues that could come with adopting a child with special needs. The traditional non-special needs adoption was our comfort zone, we understood the process, and we wanted a child as young as possible.
After a few friends followed their hearts and adopted children that were on the Waiting Child lists, it piqued our curiosity. These children had little to no health issues; they lived the same lives as their siblings. Why would they be considered “special needs”? At this point, we started poking around the waiting child page on our agency’s website. We were still hesitant to make that leap – what if the issues were more severe than what we would be told up front? What if the child refused to attach to us because they were older? We came up with a million reasons why we were not able to consider this option. So we continued to wait, and wait, and wait.
I always believe that God speaks to us when we are ready to open our hearts and listen. He spoke to my husband in a dream when we were first considering adoption. He told us we would have a daughter with dark hair and what her name would be. We figured that was a sign that we needed to act upon! As we had been lurking in the shadows of the Waiting Child list, we received the monthly update, listing the existing waiting children. Honestly, we had not looked at this list in a long time – typically I just deleted it as soon as it hit our inbox. However, on June 8th last year, something made me open this email, open the website, and there he was – this adorable little boy with a repaired cleft lip. As I read his profile, I called my husband over to read it as well and it just kind of hit us out of the blue – we wanted more information on this little boy. Immediately we sent out a request for information and waited (it was a Friday night, so we knew we would probably not hear anything until Monday.) We tried not to get too excited, as we didn’t know if his file was still available. We cautiously told our parents, also warning them not to get overly excited, as we did not have a lot of information on him yet.
Monday came and we received an email with a comprehensive overview of this precious child. It didn’t take long for us to fall in love with his sweet little face smiling at us from each picture we opened on our smartphones. Once we had an opportunity to review all of the paperwork, it became apparent that he was supposed to be a member of our family.
Throughout the process of submitting the necessary paperwork, one of the questions posed, was the impact on our family a special needs child would create. As a parent we realized that a special need wasn’t an impact, it was simply taking care of your child. Yes, we realized this child would have additional medical needs, but after we did our research, it wasn’t as scary as we originally thought.
Due to the fact that we kept our paperwork up to date, it was amazing how quickly the process flowed. From the time we first saw our son’s photo, it was exactly two months later that we were sitting on an airplane on our way to China. Needless to say, it was an extremely dynamic couple of months. We had to move our preparations into warp speed. All of the things we didn’t think we would have to worry about for quite some time became extremely important. We needed to get a bedroom ready, we needed to childproof the house, and pull out all of the baby items we saved from the first time around.
While we were in the throws of preparation, we realized we didn’t have a name for this little guy. Of course we couldn’t call him Sarah, as we thought it might make him the subject of ridicule and he would probably object to that, as he got older! We started throwing out names, but we just couldn’t figure out what to name him. After a couple of days struggling with this, his name came to us and we all liked it. His middle name came as an idea from his big sister, and we kept part of his Chinese name as part of his middle name. The most difficult part of this whirlwind preparation was complete! Now all we needed to do was board a plane to China and go get our boy!
Our trip was an amazing event for all of us, especially our daughter, as she finally got the sibling she had been wanting for so long. The morning we received our son was filled with excitement, anxiety, and great anticipation. We wondered if he would want to have anything to do with us? We had prepared our daughter and ourselves for the possibility that this little boy would cry and not want to be with us initially. As the many children arrived that morning, each family experienced something different – some children cried, and some appeared shy. After 5 ½ long years waiting, we spotted our son being carried into the room. As they placed that precious little boy in our arms, any fears we had about not being able to parent a “special needs” child disappeared – he was simply our son and we all loved him immediately. Despite the craziness of the office, the noise and number of people everywhere, he didn’t cry or try to get away from us; he came to us immediately. Although he was only 15 months old at the time, it seemed as if he knew that he was becoming a part of our family and he was happy with that! We will always treasure the memories of his first smile and laugh brought to us by his sister playing with him.
In the beginning of this process we thought we had it all figured out. We knew exactly how this was all going to play out – we would get our referral, travel to China to bring Sarah home and live happily ever after as parents of two girls. As you can see, life does not always follow the path that you expect it to. Had we not opened our hearts and minds to the prospect of a Waiting Child adoption, we would not have our son. Not a child with a special need, but our 2 year-old sweet, energetic, sometimes stubborn, rambunctious, and amazing addition to our family. It goes to show you that not everything in life requires the best laid plan; sometimes the best things come from moments when you open yourself and your heart to possibilities.