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 spring of that year.
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. 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.