by Ryan and Beth, parents to Mason-Kate from China with cleft lip and palate
Growing up, I was fascinated with adoption. My neighbor was adopted, “Annie” was my hero, playing adoption agency was my favorite pretend game and occasionally I wondered if I was adopted and my parents just weren’t telling me about it. During college, I studied social work, volunteered at a children’s home, and interned for an adoption agency. Although adoption was always on my mind, I never dreamed that I would actually be given the opportunity to adopt a child. My husband, Ryan, and I had discussed children before we married but mostly he said “one at a time” and I said “even number, 2 or 4”. Fast forward several years, our first son is born….I agreed with Ryan at that point, “one at a time”….the reality of caring for a child 24/7 was huge! Fast forward 2 years and our second son joined our family. He was born in less than 2 hours, no pain medication. I developed some complications following his delivery and required surgery when he was just 6 days old. Although I did have a quick recovery physically, mentally it took a toll on me and for quite sometime I didn’t feel as though I could go through that again. Fast forward 4 years, and we were jumping for joy the day we saw a positive on the home pregnancy test. Two weeks later, I miscarried. It was at that moment, in the drs. office, that Ryan promised me that we could go to China for our baby girl if I were to miscarry again. During that conversation, I do not think either one of us knew what was to come. Six weeks later, I miscarried again. With the first miscarriage, the dr. stated that “these things happen, there is no reason you cannot carry a baby,” etc…..the second time, he did not know what to say except that he was sorry for our loss.
A few weeks later, I reminded Ryan about our agreement in the drs. office. He was unsure of adoption. To answer some of his questions, he attended a conference that our agency-to-be was hosting in Atlanta. He came home and was ready to go to China the next day…. from that day on, we focused on our daughter in China. We paperchased, we met friends who had been to China to adopt and we entered the adoption blog world. Then we began the WAIT, oh the WAIT.
Thankfully, we had our two boys to keep us busier than ever. However, the boys were growing older which meant the age gap between them and a baby sister was growing wider, and all the while, the wait for a child in China was unpredictable. I decided to see a fertility specialist and after a lot of thought we decided to proceed with surgery to determine exactly why I was having trouble carrying a baby to term. The morning of surgery, I went in, got prepped and laid there scared to death. The surgery was scheduled for 10am and they were running behind. At 10:30 am, I sat up and announced to Ryan that I was going home. I cried as I told the nurses and the dr. who had felt my pain that I just couldn’t go through with it. I called my dad who said to me “Beth, your baby is in China. One day you will go and get her.” From that day on, people as well as their own stories began to enter our lives one by one. I met a girl whose husband used to do cleft operations, I met a speech therapist who gave me the ups and downs on cleft speech issues, I started reading blogs of families just like mine who were joining the waiting child program, Ryan received a random email about how to financially care for your special needs child, we were told a miraculous story of a man (now an attorney) who was born with a severe bilateral cleft, we talked with families whose biological children had dealt with heart issues.
The Waiting Child program was not something we had given a whole lot of thought to. I specifically remember where we were during our homestudy visit when our social worker asked us if we would be willing to accept a referral for a child with a minor, correctable special need. Our answer was no, we wanted a healthy baby girl between the age of 0-12 months. However, as I read the blogs/stories of children who were labeled special needs and saw them united with their families through the Waiting Child program, I was overwhelmed with the number of children who were available for adoption with correctable special needs. Amazing. I suggested that we fill out a medical conditions checklist for our agency. To my surprise, Ryan agreed wholeheartedly, he never flinched. His approach was “what is meant to be will be”. Although we checked off several needs we were willing to take on, I knew in my heart that our baby girl would be cleft affected. We filled out a checklist and less than six weeks later, we were matched with our Mason-Kate. She was just 10 months old and had a repaired unilateral cleft lip and unrepaired cleft palate – 3rd degree, 4th being the most severe. Ryan and I were on the phone with one another as we opened up her referral picture file. At the time, we had dial-up internet (sigh). As I sat on our home computer waiting to see her face, Ryan said with a little surprise (referral pictures can be a little less than flattering at times) in his voice “she is really cute” and I could tell he was smiling. Moments later I saw that face, those eyes for the first time and I knew she was ours. Now, almost a year later, I still look into those beautiful eyes and just marvel at how she came to be in our lives. Ryan was right, what was meant to be will be.
Today Mason-Kate is a beautiful, more than loved, silly, prissy little two year old girl who has flourished. When I look at Mason-Kate, I see my daughter, I don’t see Chinese, or cleft lip, I see the prissy little two year old girl who has us all wrapped! She had her palate repaired 6 weeks after our arrival home and she receives speech therapy once a month – she is on target and above for speech but we continue to get services for evaluation purposes.
We began a blog for family and friends to follow along while we were in China. We continue to update our blog weekly. Please visit anytime here.