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What Plans?

Adoption can be an unpredictable journey. We never realized just how unpredictable.

by Michelle Edwards

My husband, Ted, and I knew adoption would be in our lives one way or another. But I also wanted the experience of being pregnant, so we "planned" to adopt our "second" child. I can't help smiling when I think how naive I was, and how plans never seem to go, well, as planned.

I became pregnant quickly, but the pregnancy ended up being very difficult. At 21 weeks, my contractions could not be stopped and I went into early labor. I gave birth to a little boy we named Riley. He lived a few short minutes. We were devastated. We mourned our loss for the next year. Many people tried to comfort us by encouraging us to try again, but it did not feel right. We wanted to adopt. There were so many children who needed parents, and we needed a child.

I was terrified of the possible heartache of meeting a child, falling in love, and then losing him or her, so international adoption seemed the safest route. My husband and I have always been interested in Chinese culture, and wanted to visit China, so our decision was clear. We were on the list for a child by April 2007.

Our excitement at completing our dossier turned to disappointment as the China wait time slowed to a snail's pace. We tried to remain positive and take advantage of our free time. We purchased a house and remodeled it with a plan to sell. Remember when I smiled about planning? The real estate market dropped, my husband lost his job, I became sick, and my trusty car blew a gasket! We could hardly believe all this was happening.

A year later, after my husband had found a new job and I had my health back (but our savings were still depleted), we realized we might need to look at other avenues to build our family. We sat in on a foster-parenting seminar, then took a leap of faith and decided to do it. Funny how hardships can embolden your heart to do something totally outside your comfort zone. We were assigned a seasoned social worker who "got" us and our recent challenges. She promised she would call only if there appeared to be a good fit.

Finally, one day we received the call. Ted and I could hardly contain our excitement as we pulled into the driveway and saw our boy with his foster family. He was absolutely beautiful! A long and scary 16 months later, we were able to adopt Nicholas.

Nick was an old soul, and he fit perfectly with us. We knew he would be a fantastic and caring big brother. We checked in on our China adoption, which was still inching forward. Again, as life continued to change, so did our hearts. We decided to switch to the special-needs program. It seemed like a perfect fit, since we live only three blocks away from an excellent cleft lip and palate clinic. We were excited, but nervous, as the adoption costs had soared since we applied to the program in 2006. I was desperate for a sign and I prayed that this was the right way forward.

Three days later we received a call from our agency about an 18-month-old girl with a cleft lip and palate who had received attentive care from a nanny in her orphanage. Toward the end of the call, the social worker said, "This is pretty unusual, but the nanny apparently spoke English, because she gave the little girl an American name: 'Riley.'" My body tingled and I started crying. Riley, the name we'd given our son who was born prematurely: this was the sign I'd needed.

We took four-year-old Nick on the trip, which was a wise decision. Our kids immediately hit it off, and are now the best of buddies. Riley is an amazing little girl! Adoption is not for the faint of heart, but I believe our difficulties and challenges make us better people, better parents, and better able to prepare our children for their lives. We are thankful every day that our family was made the way it was.


MICHELLE EDWARDS lives with her family in Pennsylvania. Follow their family adventure through adoption at

PHOTO: New siblings Riley (22 months, China) and Nick (4, U.S. foster) meet for the first time.



On our Facebook page we asked readers: Adoption stories often involve serendipity. Please share any amazing coincidences that arose on your journey to family. Here are some of your responses:

  • "When our son's birthmom started to consider adoption, she googled 'adoption' and 'Michigan,' and our profile popped up. She thought, 'They seem nice!' and called our agency, but didn't mention us. Her caseworker selected a few profiles based on the type of family she said she wanted--including ours! When we met, we discovered that we had both lost our mothers when we were 12 years old. I think our moms were up there working together to make this happen."
  • "I wanted to name my daughter Karina. My husband and sons wanted another name, and they won out. The night before we left for Kazakhstan, I asked my husband, 'What if her given name is Karina?' He said, 'What are the chances of that?' Less than a week later, when the doctor brought in a beautiful little girl and we asked what her name was, guess what the doctor said? Karina! My daughter loves hearing that story."
  • "My husband and I met at a sci-fi convention, and we met our son's birth grandmother at the same convention the year after we married. I always say VisionCon brought me two of the most important men in my life."
  • "Our then five-year-old daughter woke up crying one morning. She was upset because she had wished on a star for a baby brother, but her wish hadn't come true. That day, we got the call saying we were matched."
  • "I share a birthday with the birthmother of one of my sons. Our son was born one month early, exactly nine months after our last attempt at fertility treatment."
  • "I was adopted in 1966. My parents often told me about the day they met me and how beautiful it was. In the story they always mentioned another baby at the agency, who was waiting to be adopted, too. Fast-forward to 1998: I had completed my birth family search and was assisting others in my city. Whom did I end up helping? That other baby who was adopted from the same agency on the same day. Her parents had told her a similar story about the beautiful day they met."
  • "My husband is a cancer survivor, and we always celebrate the date he received the bone marrow transplant that saved his life, July 22, with a glass of champagne. When we received paperwork from Chinese officials saying we were approved to adopt, it was stamped 'July 22.' Finally, our daughter's birthdate is July 16. Her finding ad states that she was found when she was approximately six days old: JULY 22! No doubt she was meant to be our little girl."

Did your adoption journey go differently than you had planned? Tell your story at Adoptive Families Circle.

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