Twelve years ago I had a dream birthed in my heart of mothering a child from China. In my mind’s eye I saw a sweet little girl, jet black pigtails, and pink bows. I had just spent time in the country, and even at a young age saw the crushing weight of the reality of many children’s lives in China.
Also the history of girls there was something that had made its way into my heart. Something was deposited there that got buried deep, and took a long long time to grow.
Fast forward almost exactly twelve years, and my husband and I just went back to make a little one part of our family.
The story however doesn’t look exactly like we thought it would…
My husband Zach and I got married in 2005, finished college and graduate school, and began our lives together. It played out very typically. We had our sweet daughter Clementine Rae when I was 25, and he was 23. We thought about adoption after her, but the looming cost, and our fragile finances kept us far away.
Almost exactly two years to the day we had our son, Phinneaus Archie. My husband was content at this point.
One boy, one girl. Perfect, right?
Adoption continued to weigh on me. My husband agreed to look at adoption, mostly because I was driving him insane with it. We decided to look at the Ethiopia program and, again the time wasn’t right and we walked away.
We decided to let go of the adoption dream, and speak of it no more per my husband’s request, and try for one more biological child.
We were blessed with August Anthony quicker than we ever expected. Three kids in under four years and I was tired, at capacity and feeling very complete in our family.
I kept my promise to my husband and spoke nothing to him about adoption again. I was, in fact barely holding it together being a varsity softball coach, wife and mother to three, and teaching full-time. Surely adoption was for those better put together, with more resources, and who were – what I deemed to be – better mothers.
We were done having children.
This is a hard door to shut. However, it just so happened I had a medical oddity, a five pound fibroid, that ended any chance of physically bearing any more children. So 18 months after I had August, at age 30, my own body wouldn’t allow me to bear more children, and drastic measures were taken to remove that fibroid. I felt oddly at peace with it, even though initially it was devastating. If we weren’t done before, we certainly were now.
Just over two years ago, my husband went on a week long fly fishing trip to Montana with a friend. I stayed home and fed the kids boxed mac and cheese for a week, and cried myself to sleep more than one night. I was stressed, overwhelmed, and unsure if I was cut out for all I had on my plate.
My husband had a great trip. He came home refreshed, rejuvenated, and with a vision.
He pulled in from his trip while the kids and I were playing out front. He sat down on the lawn. My level headed, non-impulsive husband said, “Julie we are missing someone in our family. I know it will be hard, and I know it seems impossible. But I believe there is a little girl named Helena who will be a VanDeHey.”
We both knew I couldn’t have Helena, so I knew he was reopening the adoption discussion.
After hearing my dream of adoption spoken aloud again after all those years, it came alive. I agreed to venture down the path. At first we were doing adoption through foster care. One girl, under three. Basically a unicorn.
We stayed on the foster care route for a full year, until a friend’s Facebook post pleading for families for little boys from China popped up in my feed.
From that day forward we charged toward the waiting child program.
Here is where the story takes a turn. My husband was dead set that we were missing a daughter. We already had two boys, we wanted to even the score. We had a name, and a vision in our hearts. We believed we needed a girl to make our family complete.
One night after looking over all the pictures of all the children on our agency’s site, my heart changed. I had a moment of conviction then and there about what adoption is, and who adoption is for. I was reminded of how I always wanted all girls growing up, but that is not what was in the cards for me. I also had the overwhelming feeling of how thankful I was that I didn’t get to decide who my child was.
I was so thankful that my hopes of all girls didn’t happen. My heart was filled with gratitude as I thought about my boys, and how I didn’t even know I needed them. I was so thankful – and blissfully aware – that I do not always know what is best for me.
In that moment we decided that we did not determine the makeup of our family to this point, and we did not want to determine the makeup of it from that point forward.
A switch flipped in us, and we realized that children need families.
All children need families.
And quite frankly they need them sooner rather than later. Where there is a need someone needs to step up and say, “count me in”. So we marked “either gender” knowing exactly what that most likely meant. We were opening our family, our lives, as broken as they were, to a child. Any child. We were letting the chips fall where they may knowing that in the end, the times in our lives when we loosen control often yield the most beautiful results.
On November 28, 2016, we held Mathis William Meng in our arms for the first time – almost exactly nine months from start to finish. He is our forever, and we are beyond honored to call him our son.
There wasn’t a day of his life that we were not coming for him.
That early October conversation on our lawn, where my husband dreamed of Helena, was the last month of time in his mother’s womb. From the moment he arrived here earthside, we have been coming for him. Every moment he has lived in this world he has been wanted and pursued.
He isn’t Helena, but that vision, or dream, or intuition my husband had wasn’t a mistake. It was a catalyst, and we are grateful.
Without the thought of “her” we would never have him. I am so thankful that we held that dream with open hands and hearts and allowed a new, just as wonderful dream to fill it’s place.
Parenting a son, or three sons, or ten sons isn’t missing out. When I look back on not having three daughters like I envisioned when I was young, I thank the Lord that he gave me my boys.
He is a good Father and knows us best.
I am not a saint, or a great white hope. I am no martyr or philanthropic hero. I was open to answer the need. Boys need home, friends. Girls needs homes too, but for some reason or another families wait for them while boys wait for families.
I urge you all, as you begin this journey or even if you are already neck deep, to consider reexamining your heart, and your life, and be willing to possibly let go of the vision you had of pigtails and bows.
We did not mishear from God about Helena.
God knew us well enough to know that was the way we would be called to adoption. He knew we were so set in what we deemed “perfect” for our family that He would have to meet us there to lead us to Mathis.
We now have three sons and one daughter. It isn’t even, it isn’t perfect for bedrooms, and there is a lot of pee on our bathroom floors, of which I am only mediocre at cleaning. But there is one less orphan in this world. Mathis will know the love of a family for the rest of his life, and will not be part of a generation of lost orphan boys.
We have no intention of adopting more (famous last words I know). But if we do, I will go back for whoever is there for me, and select the “either gender” box once more. I would be elated to one day have another little boy that calls me mama.
The best thing about boys who are loved is that they grow up to be great men. And I cannot wait to see what kind of man out little Mathis will be.