Her name meant beautiful, and the cheeky little girl who smiled out from my computer was. There was mischief in her face and a joy that leaped off the screen and straight into my heart. Her eyes were closed, but I knew what color they would be. Just as I knew that in the eyes of the adoption community this beautiful girl had three strikes against her. She was over the age of five. She had a visual impairment that could not be corrected. She did not look like the dark-haired, dark-eyed Asian doll most people dream of when they begin the journey to adopt from China. She’d been born with albinism, and everything about her was different.
My hands shook as I forwarded the referral to my husband who was waiting anxiously at work and who was on the phone with me.
“Her hair is very white, and she is so beautiful,” I typed.
And then I hit send, and the referral we’d received less than a week after submitting our SN paperwork zipped to my husband’s computer. We both agreed that the blond-haired child was the daughter we’d been praying for, and we accepted the referral a few hours later.
In the days that followed, I printed off the photo of my cheeky new daughter, and I carried it in my wallet. I brought it to church, to the dance studio where my older daughter took lessons and to the college where my son took piano lessons.
“Did you hear?” I’d ask with excitement. “We got a referral for a beautiful little girl.”
And I’d pull out the photo and pass it around.
How old is she? Can she open her eyes? Are her eyes pink? Is she blind?
Those were the questions I was asked over and over again, and I always answered calmly, “She is almost seven. She can open her eyes, but they are very light sensitive. Her eyes are blue and she may be legally blind, but she can see.”
And the more I said it, the more I wondered….Can I do this? Can I parent this child? How will I incorporate a child who may be legally blind into a house with four active kids? She is almost seven, what if she doesn’t want to be adopted? Can I deal with her anger, her acting out, her aggression if that is what she comes home with? How will this impact my other kids?
Can I do this?
The question haunted me as we waited for LOA. I knew Cheeky-girl was my daughter but I was so afraid I could not be her mother. Supportive friends and family would often say, “It is so clear that God intended her to be your daughter. Look at all the things that happened to bring her into your family.”
And I would agree, but, while my heart knew that Cheeky was mine, my head kept throwing out questions.
I am a practical person by nature, a planner, a person who likes to know what’s coming. It was not practical to adopt a child with three strikes against her, and I couldn’t plan when I had such limited information. As for what was coming, I had no idea, and that scared me more than anything.
I prayed. I really did. All the time. Every day. “Please, Lord, if this isn’t the right thing, slam the door shut, don’t let us make a mistake.”
And the door stayed wide open, beckoning for me to step out in faith, to step through the open door and to whatever waited on the other side.
TA seemed to take forever, but was really very quick. Before I knew it, I was on a plane, flying to China and my new daughter. As we waited for her to arrive at the civil affairs office, my stomach was sick with dread. I was sure I’d made the biggest mistake of my life. Every horror story I’d ever heard about older child adoption filled my head, and I was almost speechless with fear. My husband was rock solid and confident, and I envied him his calm assurance.
And, suddenly, Cheeky was walking around the corner, carrying a strawberry ice cream cone and wearing a huge, happy grin. I called out to her, and she looked up. Even from across the room, I knew she saw me. Her smile grew wider, and she waved. The two women who were walking with her said something, and Cheeky hurried forward, threw herself into our arms, into our lives, with hugs and kisses and “I love you”.
She’s been home three months, now, and things have gone better than I ever could have imagined. Cheeky’s vision is poor, but her functional vision is great. She runs and jumps and plays like any other kids. She does not trip over things or bump into walls. An outsider would never know that Cheeky has a visual impairment.
Three weeks ago, Cheeky had surgery to correct strabismus and to dampen her nystagmus. Both procedures were successful, and Cheeky came through with flying colors. She takes ballet class, attends Chinese language school, and is already pre-reading in English.
And she loves. With her entire being.
She adores her sister and her brothers. She loves my husband. As for me…. we click, Cheeky and me. She is that hole in my heart that I only half-realized needed to be filled. She is my second girly-girl, my “I can do it!” kid, my child who never, ever gives up.
All those fears and worries, all that wondering I did, it helped me prepare for the worst, but in the end, I got the best – a child who can love and be loved, who is bright and vivacious and funny, and who has no concept of the limitations the world might want to put on her.
Three strikes against her?
Not my sweet, cheeky girl. All she has are gifts and a path of opportunity stretching out before her.
What a blessing, what a joy to mother her along the way!