I still can’t believe it’s been an entire year since Brooks became ours…
One year since a tiny, pale, very sick little boy reached for two strangers in a musty Chinese conference room.
One year as a family of five.
One year of learning and adapting and fighting for a little boy born over 7,000 miles away from the place he now calls home.
I’ll never forget my husband tapping me on the shoulder that day as I was completing yet another form where I promised to take proper care of Brooks. Very calmly and quietly, he simply stated, “There he is.”
I looked up as three women breezed through the door carrying our 17-pound baby boy and headed straight for us. They knew exactly who they were looking for and within ten seconds of entering the room, one of his nannies was standing next to us. I barely had time to throw my husband’s phone at our guide so she could record the moment.
He then reached his arms out for me to hold him, and a collective “Awww!” filled the room from the nannies and other adoptive parents waiting to meet their children. His nannies smiled and reassured him as he began to interact with us. He had been dressed to the nines in a beautiful four-piece panda suit, with new shoes and carrying a favorite rattle. The nannies giggled as they shared with us that he had been saying “mama” and “baba” on the van ride to meet us, and they beamed with pride as our 13-month-old son showed off his skills as a new walker.
Fifteen months of paperwork, prayer, and tears were behind us, and our whole lives as his parents were beginning.
If I’m being honest, up until that meeting, I’d been terrified of this moment. I’d spent the last four months staring at the two pictures we had, re-reading all six pages of his paperwork, and trying desperately to create meaning out of each and every word we knew about him. I spent many countless nights staring at my bedroom ceiling worrying about whether or not his medical issues, which, according to the file, seemed so incredibly minor and insignificant, were actually accurate.
I had read so many stories of families who brought home very different children than they had expected, and I worried about all the things that his orphanage could’ve missed.
Would he attach easily?
How many therapies would he need?
Will his brother and sister accept him as their brother?
What will people say when they see a Chinese child with Caucasian parents?
How will we communicate with him?
The list went on and on.
I knew we’d been called to adoption, and I had a peace in my heart that this child was my son. None of that had ever been in question, but the fear of the unknown consumed me. On that day, in that stale conference room that reeked of burnt coffee and cigarettes, something in me changed. As that bundled baby boy accepted puff after puff after puff out of my hands, I felt myself slowly exhale. In that moment, I realized that he, just like my other two, was just a normal baby. He was going to do all of the typical baby things his brother and sister did, even if it looked a little bit different or happened on a different schedule. Developmental delays, premature birth, anemia… or not… he was just a little boy who needed a family.
Why had I been so afraid of him?
Over the last year, we’ve learned a lot about the little boy who once kept me up at night. He sings a mean Wheels on the Bus, points out every airplane that passes, and throws half his food on the floor, just like his older brother did. He loves candy, hates milk, and fights getting strapped into the car seat, just like his big sister did. He lives for goldfish and cars and says, “Mine!” if you try to take his toy, just like every other toddler I know.
The past year has been one of growth and change. We now manage Brooks’ asthma, which was a surprise to us, but after our initial few months home, we seemed to get in a groove with his medications. His head circumference, once a little bit of a concern to doctors, has leveled off and his anemia is completely gone. We are medically stable for the moment, and for that we are so grateful.
Today, Brooks is thriving in preschool and has begun naming colors, shapes, and engaging us in games and songs. He knows his mommy, daddy, brother, and sister, and we look forward to enrolling our strong little guy in gymnastics in the spring. He is the happiest and friendliest little guy you’ll ever meet and excels at greeting everyone he passes, stranger or not.
I think the biggest thing I’ve learned this year is simply this: we needed him. Not just another child… but him. When God called our family to adoption three years ago, I don’t believe it was for any other reason than for this boy.
Brooks completes our family in a way we never knew we needed, and I thank God every day for not letting my fear be bigger than my faith. He is our peacemaker, our funny guy, and lets his big sister smother him like the living baby doll she always wanted.
There were so many moments throughout our adoption process where I wanted to throw in the towel. Moments when the agency was invoicing us for more than what we had available to give them, or when the doctors told us his head circumference could indicate a neurological problem, or when we were asked yet again why we weren’t just trying for “our own” baby. It would’ve been easy to say no and walk away when things got tough, but I think back now at all we would’ve missed and am so glad we stayed the course.
Many people like to applaud us and tell us how lucky Brooks is to have us, but the truth is that we needed him much more than he ever needed us. He’s a gift to us, and one who is going to do big things in his life.
We’re just the lucky ones who get the front row seats.