When a single image changes your whole life…
We began our adoption process in a way that was, likely, different from many. I was checking my email, and literally, on a whim, I opened up an email I normally wouldn’t have. And there, staring at me, was my son. It rattled me to my core – we were not looking at adopting, we were not looking at adding to our family, and yet….
My son was staring back at me in this image. I knew it wasn’t just me, as my then nine year old son walked up behind me, knowing nothing of this child – not that he was an orphan, or that I had just had this crushing realization – and said, “Mom? Why is my brother in that picture?” I called my husband, and told him – at 4:00pm, while he was at work – and he put me off, telling me that he would be home shortly and we could discuss it further then.
Until he came home, saw the image, and was just as shaken as the rest of us.
Let me back up a little bit (flashback moment!) and start at the true beginning of this story – that of my now eight year old biological daughter, Claire. Claire was born with a sensorineural hearing loss. We began to learn American Sign Language, because that seemed the natural thing to do when you have a child born who cannot hear. We became actively involved in the Deaf community. We decided, at that time, to adopt what would be our fourth child, so that Claire would have another deaf or hard of hearing family member. And then life happened.
My husband is active duty Air Force, and we were whisked off to Germany. I got pregnant, kiddo number four was born, and life moves on – and to even push us further from that point, at three years old, Claire’s hearing was miraculously better. We still have no explanation for it. Only God. We are reasonably sure that things played out this way because we would, unbeknownst to us, be bringing home a deaf child a few short years later. One who would need a family that had language to share with him already.
So, flashing forward again. Here we are, in the living room, staring at the computer screen.
We cried. We prayed. We wrung our hands about how we would ever afford this on enlisted military pay with four biological children at home. We stressed about “the rules” involved with adopting from China (there were a few that we knew at the outset we’d need waivers for). We prayed some more – and then, we called. Because our son was waiting for us in China.
We began the process and, miraculously, we were granted every waiver we needed. Our needs were met in ways we did not expect. We carefully cut back on all spending. We sold some things. We used up a lot of our savings. We fundraised. Somehow, every dollar that we needed came – right when it was needed – down to our tax return that came the same day as our travel approval – the money we would use to buy airplane tickets.
Our then ten year old son (the same one mentioned earlier), decided he wanted to come with us – “Mom, he’s going to need a brother with him. Grownups are scary.” We told him, truthfully, that we could not afford to bring him along, and he said, “That’s ok. I’ll do it myself,” – and he did. He raised over $2500 selling $4 wish bracelets, doing a Tag My Bag fundraiser, and picking up dog poop around the neighborhood. He raised $500 more than he needed, so he started a grant fund for other siblings to also be able to go with their parents to China. He has since given away four grants to help kids go with their parents to meet their new siblings!
Were we scared? Yep. Probably half crazy, too, but at the end of the day, Max is our son. His ayi, who took a special interest in him, told me, “I always wondered why he waited so long. He was waiting for you.”
So, eleven months after we started, we came home with a child who is profoundly deaf. We have been home, as a family, for about seven months. In some ways, it’s turned life upside down in ways we expected. In other ways, we’re routinely floored by some of the ‘new’ ways that life has changed (have you ever tried to explain to a ten year old deaf child in a language he doesn’t understand, how, exactly, you should wipe your bum?). But in all the ways that really count, Max has settled right into our family, as though he was meant to be here.
Because he was.
A single image changed all of our lives. Forever.
– guest post by Olivia