by Tracy, mom to Aidan Hope from China with microtia
When I was in 7th grade, I purchased a used book from our county’s Book-mobile service. It was called The Family That Nobody Wanted, by Helen Doss. It was the story of a young pastor’s wife, unable to bear her own biological children, who desired to be a mother more than anything. She and her husband chose to adopt children that were considered “undesirable” by the 1940’s-era foster and adoptive systems. Many of these children were “un-adoptable” because they were of foreign, unknown, or mixed ethnicity. I believe that the Lord used that book to plant the seed of a dream in my heart to pursue international adoption.
When Todd and I began to date during our sophomore year of college, I sat him down and shared my heart for adoption with him. It was so important to me that he realize that it wasn’t just a dream to me. I really believed it was a calling. I remember that day so clearly. We sat by the creek that ran through our college campus and he promised me that he could pray about it when he prayed about our future. I have been so honored to watch God “water” the dream of adoption as a calling in Todd’s heart since that day. We’ve dreamed together as a married couple and there’s always been an understanding between us that this was the path God had called us to. During these past 18 years of marriage, even as the Lord was blessing us with four beautiful biological children, we still carried a sense that our family was not yet complete. Each of our kids is gifted, smart, and talented; but more importantly than that, they all love Jesus deeply and they, too, believe in this “family mission” to which God has called us.
In April 2006, we began our adoption journey through Living Hope Adoption Agency, founded by Samuel and Lily Fang, former Chinese citizens who are deeply committed to bringing together “Forever Families” through the mission of this agency. We had just recently moved to the Philadelphia area so that Todd could further his career in Human Resources at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Our dossier was logged into the CCAA on December 15, 2006. We started hearing almost immediately about the lengthening waits and tried to settle in to the idea that we might not see a referral until sometime in late 2010. The idea of that never really sat very well with us. We had never intended that our children be so spread apart in age; we had a deep desire that all four of our biological children get an opportunity to live at home for a good long time to really bond and connect with our adopted daughter.
During the months that we waited, we learned MUCH about the process, about ourselves, and about the Lord’s will for our lives – which still continues to unfold before our eyes. It was difficult at times to wait; but He gave us several tangible encouragements along the way, including a “life verse” and a name for our new daughter. We were to call her Aidan Hope. The “life verse” thing is something the Lord did for me in each of my pregnancies. Next to the verse, in the margin of my Bible is the date “April ‘06” – the month we signed the application contract with Living Hope. The verse He gave me for her, and I believe for our journey to her is Psalm 71: 5 & 6: “For you have been my HOPE, O Sovereign Lord, my confidence since my youth. From birth I have relied on you, you brought me forth from my mother’s womb. I will ever praise you.” In old Gaelic, the name Aidan means “little fiery one,” and with everything she had to survive in order to come home to us, we believed God for a fiery fighter spirit to rise up in her!
While we prayed, lived our daily life, and waited for the process to progress, we found ourselves thinking more and more about the Waiting Child program. At the June ’07 reunion sponsored by our agency, we sat with a couple whom we had enjoyed getting to know during various other agency events. They shared with us and others at the table that night that they had recently felt moved by the Lord to put their family dossier onto the Waiting Child list. The things she shared that night really made sense to us. The conversation at dinner that night was the spark of a flame that I couldn’t ignore any longer. After many conversations, Todd and I requested the informational packet about the Waiting Child program in October 2007.
As happens far too often in so many homes, further conversation got tabled simply by the logistics of a busy household. We were focused on tightening up our budget, raising our kids and trying to keep up with a very full calendar. October became November became December. But I couldn’t walk by the desk without feeling like I needed to read the packet one more time. Finally, Todd and I agreed to spend January praying and even fasting during our church’s corporate yearly fast period for direction regarding special needs adoption. By the end of the first week of the fast, we had our answer. We shared the next step of our journey with a couple close friends and our immediate family. We spoke with the kids over several dinner conversations. By the end of January we were ready to mail in our application for the Waiting Child program. The fact that all 6 of us could agree upon the kinds of needs that we were able to consider was like the proverbial “icing on the cake” for us. We had worked closely with our agency to identify and define each of these specific physical conditions that we “checked off” on the application and also enrolled in the International Adoption Health Program (IAHP) at Children’s Hospital Of Philadelphia (CHOP). They provided counseling and evaluation services, and will continue to work with us throughout Aidan’s first years at home. They have already been an amazing source of support and guidance in plotting the course for Aidan’s care and treatments. We stand completely amazed that God brought us to the Philly region for Todd to work at CHOP and for our future daughter to be cared for by the best pediatric hospital in the country!
Immediately, we began to feel a new excitement rising up in our home. At the very same time that we were submitting our application, the CCAA was releasing its new “shared list” – an on-line pilot program that has had many bumps and foibles since its release. Ultimately, it exists to allow for a greater number of children to be available to a greater number of parents. But, as with any pilot program, there were kinks to be worked through. We heard story after story of “lock-ins” that fell through and stories of older children with more severe needs dominating the lists. We hung in there and pressed in to the Lord, trusting Him for wisdom and discernment.
In mid-June, our agency presented us with a file that they believed to be a good match. She was an adorable toddler with vague but seemingly manageable diagnoses. We felt as if this could be our Aidan, and told the agency to lock her file for us. Unfortunately, this turned out to be one of those sad stories of a referral that fell through. At the time, we were deeply saddened but willing to accept that this was not God’s plan for our family. We continued to pray for that little girl but turned our attentions to readying a nursery and waiting for the Lord to bring His best for the Whitney Gang. On Monday, July 14 we got the call that would change The Gang forever. We had found our Aidan Hope.
Aidan Hope BoNing was born with Microtia of the right ear. This means that she will likely be deaf in her right ear for life. However, her particular instance of Microtia is not part of another larger syndrome or any other birth defect (as can often be the case with Microtia). She is developing her speech and language skills at a wonderfully exciting pace. We’ve begun the journey of evaluations: meeting with audiologists, ENT’s, speech and language therapists, and our pediatrician to coordinate the course of treatments and interventions that Aidan may need as she grows. It’s been a little like going back to school, learning a new vocabulary and studying up on the suggestions each specialist shares with us. I love an opportunity to learn new things and this has certainly satisfied that! Recently, our doctor at the International Adoption clinic commented that Aidan has adapted remarkably well. That she was lucky to have us and to have such a wonderful transition. But the doctor got it wrong. We are the lucky, no, blessed! ones. Her presence in our home has enriched our lives beyond measure. Her laughter and her mischievous little grin have filled our hearts in a way that none of us can accurately put into words. She IS our daughter, in every sense of the word. No matter the hardships and the pain that we faced while waiting for her, it has all been worth every second of the journey. There could be no other child who fits so perfectly into the empty space that was waiting just for her!
Many people have asked us about the financing of this journey. We above all else want to acknowledge the provision of the Lord along the way. We feel confident that we were been faithful to do our part: trimming extras from our budget, putting money aside, hosting yard sales, and selling out-grown toys and extra furniture. I even took a part-time job for a short season to help put some extra away. The kids were also very generous with their time and money, often dropping birthday money and chore change into our “Adoption Jar” when they heard the voice of the Lord in their hearts. Several family members and friends have graciously and generously given money to help bring Aidan home. God has provided in amazing ways so far, and we are excited to see what He will do to help us pay off the debt that we did have to incur to finalize the trip. We had been expedited by the CCAA due to the earlier failed referral and again, were graciously helped by friends and family to get the travel expenses covered until we came home to pay it off. I have never spoken so openly about the debt, mostly because it was fairly unexpected and it all happened so fast. We have applied for grants (and did before we left) and really our only regret is that we didn’t know then all that we know now about the financial aid that is so available to families who adopt special needs. If you find yourself wondering how you can possibly afford an adoption, do some research! There is help out there and you CAN bring a child home to his or her “Forever Family!” Just don’t wait as long to seek out the help as we did.
Finally, to those who wonder if they are called to adopt a special needs child, I would say to surround yourself with people who will pray with you and for you in the decision process. People who will be honest and real with you about the “every day” of a special needs child. We were fortunate to have several people like that who were willing to share their story and their journey. It made all the difference in the world. We have also been blessed by a very supportive and loving extended family. Along the way we have done everything we could to include them in this journey; after all, she is their family now too. There is just no way I can describe to you the utter joy I felt when I saw my Dad holding his Chinese-born granddaughter up for his congregation to meet. Or the peace I feel when I see my daughter leaning in to kiss my sister. She is not just mine. She belongs to us all. I’m so privileged and honored that the Lord has given me the gift of bringing her to the whole crazy lot of us!
Feel free to visit our family blog here.