Our family story.
It’s not what I expected. Ten years ago when my husband and I decided it was time to start a family, “my time” likely caused God to laugh because nothing, really, has happened according to my desired schedule.
Ten years ago we were the ideal parents. My husband and I went to a preconception appointment to make sure both of us were healthy. I took the right prenatal vitamins, exercised, and ate well. A year after that appointment; still no pregnancy. It didn’t bother me because honestly, I wasn’t in any hurry to get pregnant. I thought it would happen eventually because that’s just how it works, right?
Sex does not automatically equal a baby for a married couple. Bitterness revealed to me pregnancy did seem to happen for teenage girls, crack addicts, and people who didn’t plan it. Seriously? What was I doing wrong? Why was I being punished? Why did it seem like everyone else could have a baby?
These were all emotions and judgments and roller coasters I rode during a three-year infertility battle. I now know better. There’s always a bigger plan, but at the time I couldn’t see beyond my own frustration at the lack of control I had in over our family planning situation.
Fast-forward two years.
Our first IUI failed. After the second one, I thought it had failed too and just went about my life because this was my new norm — disappointment, failure, doubt. Then, I discovered I was pregnant – but two days later, I had a miscarriage — while my husband was out of town for work. This was the beginning of raw, never-before-felt emotions. These intense feelings surfaced when I comprehended I had only two days with that little life growing inside of me before that life turned into a soul and headed to heaven. Never an overly emotional person before this experience, I wasn’t prepared to handle the incredible sense of loss and emotional pain. All the time we’d waited. All the negative pregnancy tests. All the no’s and now do this or take these shots at 5:37pm. A life that came and went so fast. Could I call myself a mother when my baby lived only two days? Because I wanted that title so, SO bad.
We were back to waiting, something I’d gotten real good at, but not by my choice.
We had to wait so many months after the miscarriage before trying again. Five months later, I was pregnant again — on our own. While this time I got to see a moving baby on screen and hear the heartbeat, I spent the next 10 weeks visiting a high-risk doctor because of the baby’s implantation location, only to be rushed to the emergency room because I had a cornual ectopic pregnancy. I’d never even heard of that before my night in the ER, the last night we had with our second baby.
If I thought our infertility then a miscarriage was trauma, I was wrong. Having infertility, then a miscarriage, and then a rare ectopic pregnancy where I lost my right tube, cutting our future pregnancy chances by 50% and losing a second baby, that was trauma. It broke me.
But I give praise for being broken.
Being broken felt like walking barefoot on nails, fire, glass, and lava at the same time. I have never, ever, ever, in my life felt so much emotional anguish as I did the year we lost two babies. It was life-changing. To go from waiting as patiently as one could to achieve such a tremendous heart’s desire, to getting it, only to have it snatched away — twice. If I think back on it, I can still feel the indescribable painful emotions and how only time and a lot of prayer has helped smooth over those sharp edges.
After losing our second baby, I surrendered all my control to God. All of it. Every bit of it. I realized I had no control over whether I could have a baby, much less when. It was completely in God’s hands. I joined a special Bible study for women who had experienced infertility, pregnancy loss, or were on the adoption journey. I also joined a women’s Bible study at my church where I was the only one in the group who was not a mother. Really, God? That’s what I thought at the time. How cruel to put a mother who’d lost two babies in a group with all successful mothers. But, imagine how amazing it was to walk that journey with those women and share with them my news when I got pregnant again four months later.
My third pregnancy was joy — real joy. I got to hear a heartbeat and see him move. While I still had to see a high-risk doctor due to my previous cornual ectopic pregnancy, every appointment always looked good this third time around.
And then we had him. And he was beautiful. Our son was born with a congenital hand disorder, which was not something I’d envisioned and thought, here we go again, God. But there He was, still working on me and working in my son’s super young life already.
I literally can’t describe the incredible joy I felt with this child. Our losses had been redeemed. I felt more love than I could’ve imagined because I knew what it felt like to lose not one, but two babies, and now, finally, I could hold the child we were meant to have. It didn’t matter to me his hand was different. He was freaking alive and I freaking loved him. He was my proof I achieved motherhood, and I was gonna be the best momma ever.
And let me tell you, this kid is awesome. I look at him in ways I know I never would have if I hadn’t experienced losses and grief and pain and frustration and disappointments. I know how amazing it is he is here, in my arms, because there was a time my arms were empty.
Within three years, we knew we wanted to grow our family again. While my third pregnancy had been so smooth, I was still at risk for having another ectopic. My doctor said I could easily carry another child, but now with a baby at home to care for, I didn’t feel I could go through that potential emotional journey again or risk my living son not having a mommy.
So I prayed about it.
I was reading the book “The Circle Maker” when I felt overcome with a calling to research China adoption. I mean, like the Holy Spirit rode me piggy-back, tapping me on the shoulder repeatedly, heavy on my heart, leading me in this strange direction. So I researched and discovered this terrible orphan crisis. I felt overwhelmed again, like I needed to do something immediately. If I had a dollar for every time someone asked me, “Why China?” I could’ve paid for our entire adoption from that source alone. Ask God why. He’s the one who wanted us to go on this journey. I didn’t question it or resist it or try to suggest an alternative. I just had to share this calling with my husband, and thankfully, he was all in.
Adoption was the ultimate walk-by-faith journey, although looking back, I see where the Lord planted seeds of what would grow. A close friend in college had been adopted from Korea. That was my first time meeting and knowing someone who’d been adopted, and from Asia at that. Then, after losing our precious babies, I joined the In His Time Bible study group where other women were on the adoption journey, so I learned a lot from them about the process, etc. We also live in a town where Asian is the highest minority.
Our journey to China took three years.
As I joined our agency’s China Families Facebook group, I saw women posting about how hard the wait was. Pfft, I thought. If anyone could handle the wait, hello, it would be me.
But it was hard. I went right back into control mode, trying to win the Dossier Olympics by completing all our paperwork in record time. I am a working mother in Corporate America; I know how to get stuff done, and did I ever get paperwork done, only it didn’t matter. The psychologist who did our psychological exam told me God was likely laughing at me because there was nothing I could do to make His intended journey for our family go any faster. She was 100% right.
That didn’t make it any easier though.
Left and right I’d see other adoptive families getting their referrals. I’ll admit I felt like God forgot about us again. I couldn’t understand why we had been obedient and answered His call, yet here we sat empty-armed for this little girl. I felt ready for our family to grow. We had love to give, a room ready for her. Why?
Then my mother got injured.
In a hospital. Right before our son was about to start kindergarten, my mother got injured in a hospital 800 miles away from where we live and work. I am only child. My parents are divorced. Fast-forward to my mother coming to live with us for a few months. Lots of doctor appointments, four more hospital stays and multiple surgeries. In the middle of all this, literally, in the middle of all this — timing — we get a referral for a little girl, but her special needs were extremely severe. We decided to say no to that door, and although that wasn’t an easy decision, we had peace about it and saw her go on to be adopted by a lovely family. That was not our daughter. If we’d said yes, we wouldn’t have the daughter God truly intended for us.
It gets better.
My mom was able to go back home after five months with us. She flew home on a Monday. The next day, I got a call from our agency about a little girl. This was our daughter. Just like I had known we were called to adopt from China, God stayed true to His end by confirming for me so clearly this is why He’d had us wait. For her.
Get ready for some chills.
I’m such a decision maker by gut feelings, and while I had that with her referral, God just wanted me to be absolutely certain He’d called us to adopt her. Her birthday was our wedding anniversary. The American name our agency had given her was the name of the town where my husband and I first met. And the actual day we met our daughter was the anniversary of our first date, which we always celebrate every year relentlessly (also the date of the first sonogram to see our son). And last example of God doing big work here, my first published book officially released when we were in China, the day before we got our daughter.
I don’t believe in coincidences.
And while I am a writer, there’s no way I could’ve ever imagined or crafted such a story as the one God designed for our family.
Sometimes I just stop and am in awe of our family story. While my heart will always be broken for those two little babies I won’t get to meet until heaven, I realize I wouldn’t have my son if things had gone differently. He is awesome and such a blessing. Without the trauma of my second pregnancy and joining the special Bible study groups, I may not have been open to adoption or learned about what was involved, let alone traveling halfway around the world to get our daughter.
Throughout our adoption journey, I watched other family experiences through their private Facebook groups. I’d say 99% of the journeys looked likes roses and rainbows. No frustrations, no challenges. The 1% of the time people shared the real life, not-so-pretty moments, that’s what helped me the most. Because it was so hard!
While I didn’t doubt God wanted us to have this child, I did question why? I expected our little princess to be developmentally delayed. Nope. She was a sass-puss threenager completely fluent in Mandarin and could’ve taken Gold in exquisite tonal expressions, brushing her own teeth, and pee-peeing on her own with no assistance.
The first night was indeed a honeymoon.
Nights two through the first three months felt like hostage torture. I mean that in all honesty, truthfulness, and reality. I am fully aware of the trauma she experienced prior to us becoming her family and how it revealed itself emotionally as she was thrust into our family dynamic suddenly through no choice of her own.
On top of grieving, trauma, and change, she was 3 years old — the hardest age in life, at least in my limited parenting experience so far. Throw in no English, missing American everything, and two Type A introverted parents, we struggled in China. I struggled even after we were home in a familiar environment.
Our daughter had never been taught boundaries. She was way too independent for her age, and it made me sad she’d been forced to survive that way to get her needs met.
But God stayed faithful.
Anytime I struggled or doubted, I prayed for help and He answered, and we all survived. As a working mom, even before we went to China I stressed about not being able to stay home for the three to six months our agency recommended. Thankfully our wise and practical social worker said this that helped me release the guilt: “God knew your family dynamic before He placed this child with you.”
Yes. God knew this little social, extroverted hot mess would actually thrive in preschool, which may not be the international post-adoption norm. In fact, she sees school as a reward and feels like such a “big girl” to go like her big brother. I can’t even tell you how much she is thriving and LOVES, LOVES, LOVES going to xuexiao. Loves. It.
Her English is improving by leaps and bounds, her socialization needs are met, and everyone is happy. You are likely wondering about our attachment.
She is attached.
Our daughter attached to us more quickly than we did to her. Her meltdowns were/are seriously WWE smackdowns in that tiny little body. Her threenager behavior irrational and testing. She was the cutest little girl, but behaviorally, it wasn’t love at first sight. Nope. That love will have to mature and grow over time, and it is evergreen. But she loves her mama. Oh, she loves mama. She certainly had to warm up to me, but she did and it’s on. She is a complete mama’s girl.
Since our son has a congenital hand disorder, it seemed like no big deal to us to be open to special needs. Our daughter has two special needs: a congenital heart condition and spina bifida. We didn’t list spina bifida as one of our considerations but went through the paperwork hoops to add it because why not? This was our girl. All the appointments I went through on our journey to pregnancy, with our son, with my mom — piece of cake now with our daughter. No big deal adopting a child with special needs, and no reason to feel guilty if there is a special need you know your family can’t handle. There is a wide range of special needs from mild to severe. I encourage everyone considering adoption to be open to special needs because those children are indeed special in amazing ways.
Now there’s one less orphan in the world. I am a better mom because of both my kids and the difficult journey God allowed in my life. I never would’ve imagined this story, ever, but I wouldn’t change one single thing. Having experienced my own grief over loss before our adoption, I can completely, without a doubt, understand the sacrifice my daughter’s mother made and the grief she must have felt the day she let her go. I think about our daughter’s birth mother when I get to brush this precious head of hair at night or when she smiles so big at the sight of a cute dress or can’t wait to show me her latest Lego creation. These are moments I don’t take for granted and feel sadness the woman who gave her life misses such sweet memories.
But if I hadn’t known loss myself, I wouldn’t feel so deeply about my daughter’s birth mother’s loss.
Just as I look forward to meeting my two babies in heaven one day, I pray our daughter’s mother will know Christ so she can meet her daughter again and see the beautiful girl she was meant to become, which is probably working for NASA or being an Olympic gymnast. She’s that amazing and resilient and headstrong.
If you’re considering adoption, go for it. Pray for guidance and the long journey. Waiting is hard, but get out of your comfort zone because there are millions of kids living outside of their comfort zones everyday with no one advocating for them.
– guest post by Christie Gibson, working mom and writer