by Ellie, mom to Tia from China with VSD
If you would have told us 3 or 4 years ago that we would choose a special needs adoption I can guarantee you we would have said NO WAY! You see before we began our adoption journey we had two healthy biological children and had chosen not to have any more – partly because we didn’t want to take the risk that our next child would not be healthy. We were a very happy and very typical American family. In 2002 we returned from a 6 month job posting in Eastern Europe where we saw first hand the poverty and hopelessness of that part of the world. Add that to the fact that I had a great desire to add another little girl to our family, and we felt God was calling us to begin the adoption process. We felt led to Romania and we were matched with a gorgeous baby girl in January of 2003. Unfortunately, our adoption was put on hold while Romania reworked their laws. Our hearts were breaking. As we waited we began to sense that perhaps there was a little boy for us in Eastern Europe. In 2004 we adopted our then 19 month old son from Ukraine. When we met and brought home Elijah we thought he was perfectly healthy, however as time went on we became concerned that he was not developing speech. We were heartbroken for him, and for ourselves when we discovered before his third birthday that he has a neurologically based speech disorder. Our beautiful son would need years and years of therapy just to learn how to talk. Our perfect little world changed for us at that time. We were destined for so much more than just being what we thought was the perfect family. Our son worked really hard to learn to speak and over the past 4 years has totally surprised and amazed us with his progress. It is a sobering reality when we think that Elijah would never have learned to talk in an orphanage in Ukraine. This was not the path we would have chosen for our life, for him or for ourselves however we feel incredibly blessed that our lives were destined for so much more! Elijah was meant to be our son and we were meant to be his family.
The doors to our little Romanian Princess closed completely in January of 2005 when Romania outlawed International Adoption with no grandfather clause. How we grieved the loss of the opportunity to adopt the precious little girl we thought would be our daughter. We kept busy with our three children and Elijah continued to progress after he started preschool in the special school district. In 2006 my husband’s job took us to Australia and it seemed we would remain a family of five. In February/March of 2007 We felt very settled, Elijah’s speech had exploded and I became overwhelmed with a sense that we should adopt again and this time a little girl from Asia. I shared my heart with my husband and amazingly he agreed! Of course we really were only considering a non special needs child. We researched all the countries we were eligible for and eliminated those that were too complicated to adopt from while living overseas and those where the wait was too long. That meant that China, the country I wanted most to adopt from, was not an option. After considering Vietnam and settling on Taiwan I contacted the agency that we felt had the best program and requested their application.
Over the past months I had been following adoption blogs and every time I fell in love with a little girl I would find out she was from China and had a heart condition. I kept thinking that if we had known that our son would have a special need we probably would never have adopted him. We also knew that requesting non special needs did not mean we would get a child with no issues. I wondered if God was trying to tell us something? I didn’t hear back from that Taiwan agency although previously they had been so quick to respond to my emails. The very next day I read a post on a Waiting Child yahoo group written by an American family living in Australia and adopting a little girl with complex medical needs. How exciting to find another American family adopting while living in Australia! We would need to go through the same process they were going through – and hadn’t known quite how to proceed with a social worker, immigration and the required Australian Visa’s. My new friend explained to me how their adoption was proceeding and she shared the China Waiting Child program with me. WOW – I thought my heart would burst – this was so obviously what we were meant to do – our daughter could be in China after all! Of course we have excellent insurance that would take care of any medical needs that a child would have and I had been so drawn to little girls with heart conditions! God had orchestrated this all so perfectly! After speaking to their agency we looked at their next list of waiting children, there were no little girls with heart conditions although there was one little girl who was already matched who stole our hearts. Not one other little girl spoke to us at all (and there really were some precious little girls on that list!). I wondered if this little girls family would not go through with her adoption as I could think of nothing else but her. Because of the overwhelming desire to adopt this one little girl by the time I knew for certain she was already matched I honestly did not feel I could pursue a child I did not have those same intense feelings for. I knew we would wait for the next list – perhaps our daughter would be on that list? In the meantime we got our paperwork ready and we were just waiting for our last immigration approval when the next list came out. We had asked the agency to give us a referral rather than us having to make a painful choice. If we didn’t feel anything for the child referred to us there was the option to look at the other children on the list.
The day we were given our referral is one of the most amazing days of our lives. I knew after the previous experience with the list that I may not feel anything for the child and I wondered if I would know if this was our daughter? When we opened the email we saw the little girl being referred to us was just 13 months old and we had hoped for a 2 year old. She had a heart condition – a VSD (ventrical septal defect: basically a hole in her heart) – and OH MY! she was beautiful!! I was shocked at how completely this picture of this serious looking little girl in the darling red outfit stole both mine and my husband’s hearts. This had to be our daughter! Immediately I wanted her so badly! Of course we knew we needed to consult a cardiologist just to see the challenges we were up against. My sister is a neonatalogist and she had a cardiologist friend who would look the paperwork over, but it would take a week or so. I didn’t think I could wait and my sister just said to me: “it is not really going to matter what he says is it? You’ve already fallen in love with her!” and I knew it was true, this was our daughter! We proceeded with the paperwork and brought home our little Tia 6 months later. Tia couldn’t be more perfect for our family. Although she had surgery before we brought her home she does still have a hole where the patch didn’t quite take. The cardiologist isn’t concerned and asked us not to come back to see him for another year and a half. To be honest her asthma has been more of an issue at this point than her heart. It really doesn’t matter anyway because she was born to be our daughter. Sometimes I look at Tia and I see that beautiful scar and I am reminded that God created Tia’s heart that way because without that heart condition she would never have been our daughter. Sometimes people tell us how lucky Tia is to be in our family however anyone that spends any time with this precious (and precocious) little g irl always tells us how lucky we are to have her as our daughter. We couldn’t agree more! We finally feel our family is complete and we are so incredibly blessed!
Feel free to follow our beautiful daughter’s progress on her blog.