Family Stories

At No Hands But Ours, we love family stories. Since our inception in 2008, we’ve featured a wide variety of family stories – and we continue to add new stories regularly. Please use the links in the right sidebar to click through to stories on specific special needs, or you can scroll down this main page to read all our family stories.

If you are home with your child from China, and would like to have your family story featured here, just use this form to let us know.


What’s in a Name

October 2, 2019 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

Every adoptive parent dreams of how they will “meet” their new child…

Will they see him or her on an advocacy post and be flooded with warm fuzzies?

Will they get “the call” or open an email to an endearing face that will change their family forever?

I had been dreaming about this moment for over twenty-five years. Yep, that’s a bit of a wait! At age six, my parents bravely moved our family to Russia right after the Iron Curtain fell in the early ‘90s. We spread God’s love in a once cold and shackled land, especially visiting orphanages.

One of my clearest memories from our time there was playing in a room full of love-starved little children. When it was time to leave, a boy probably four years old clung to my mother’s leg and had to be pried off by the nannies. I begged through tears, “Please, let’s take him home! He can sleep in my bed!” My little mind didn’t understand the labyrinth of international adoption, just that this little boy needed a home and we seemed to have room in ours for one more child.

I carried this heavy burden of wanting to help vulnerable children in my young heart and never forgot his pleading tears.

Fast-forward many years later to when I was dating my now husband and I told him adoption was part of my “plan A” for growing a family. Thankfully, God had been working in my husband’s life too, as he was able to see firsthand the need for adoptive families when he visited Romanian orphanages on a youth mission’s trip years prior. Although I wasn’t a big fan of his last name, I agreed whole-heartedly to becoming his “Mrs. Mann” in 2008.

Through a turn of events that can only be accredited to God’s sense of humor, we ended up moving to China as teachers a few years later, despite my serious concerns about Chinese food. Orange Chicken and I weren’t good friends and I couldn’t imagine a whole country filled with nothing but Panda Express-ish cuisine. Thankfully, my stereotypical ideas of Chinese food were completely and utterly wrong! This American quickly learned that there is no such thing as “orange chicken” in China, only oily goodness that I’ve craved every day since.

I had high dreams of going into orphanages and rocking crying babies, however foreigners weren’t allowed into the orphanages in our city. However, we did have the privilege of walking beside friends who adopted from China and had another friend who ran a foster home, so we were able to learn firsthand the desperate need for adoptive families for precious Chinese children.

But we didn’t qualify yet to adopt from China and would still have to wait many more impatient years. During the waiting season, God taught us lessons of trust and faith in Him despite serious battles with the one-eyed monster, Mr. Fear. We, who lived in China, knew the language, and celebrated the culture, but were almost paralyzingly scared to dip our toes in this mysterious world of adoption. Thankfully, our loving heavenly Father built a solid worldwide community around us and led us to a church with numerous adoptive and foster families once we moved back to the States. Plus, He gave us a blonde-headed, blue-eyed little girl, growing our family in His perfect timing and perfect way.

Somehow, I found No Hands But Ours and gobbled every post, researching and preparing for the day we could say “yes” to every one of China’s qualifications. It gave us such strength and encouragement that we weren’t the only crazy ones wanting to bring a child home from a culture much different than our own.

Finally, on November 28, 2017, with pounding heart, we sent in the initial packet to our agency and eagerly began combing the advocacy websites for our precious little boy. (At that time, you could be matched at any time to a Special Focus child.) We sweated over and Googled every special need on the MCC (medical checklist) and wondered how in the world could we provide for a child with possibly significant medical needs on our teacher’s salaries.

I begged my husband daily if we could request the file of each precious little soul that paraded across my computer screen. I thought he’d never, ever say “yes!” But then, one day about two months into the process, I saw a profile that caught my eye.

It wasn’t his piercing eyes or seriously adorable look that captured my attention. It was his name.


Yes, the very same name as our last name, minus one letter. His file said the nannies called him “Man Man” and he was ten months younger than our daughter. Ironically, his special needs listed were delayed development and anemia. Through our friend’s experience with children coming from institutionalized living into her foster home, we were already prepared for a child with global delays in speech, motor skills, and cognitive abilities. And funny enough, I had anemia as a teen and already knew quite a bit about it. (So much for those hours of becoming Dr. Google!)

Even though his name seemed like a pretty obvious flashing sign from God that he was ours, we spent a week praying, struggling, and asking medical professionals to review his file. We got opinions that his needs could be anything from minor to serious, making us realize that we just needed to trust God and say a resolute “yes” to this precious child who already shared our name.

A few days before leaving to bring him home, we joined a chat group with the other families in who were in our travel group. We noticed that one family was coming from the same city as our son’s orphanage, which just so happened to be only two-hour fast train from where we previously lived in China. To make a long story short, this adoptive mom used to be a social worker at our son’s orphanage and gave us so many details about our son’s wonderful first home. And the icing on the cake? She not only lived in our same state and city, but just a few minutes down the road from us! Today we go to the same church and our sons play side-by-side while we have community group together in our home. Astonishing!

Our new friend also told us that his orphanage was formerly part of the ICC (International China Concern) partnership program, making this the sprinkles on the icing of an amazingly orchestrated-by-God cake! The man who founded ICC previously attended our church in Hong Kong and we had heard, seen, prayed for, and given to support their work with orphans in China for years.

Only God, in His almighty sovereignty could plan that our son with our last name would be cared for in a place that we were already praying for and that we would be placed in a same travel group as someone who previously worked in his orphanage and now lives a few minutes away!

Sometimes you have to take a giant leap of faith in the adoption world and say a daring “yes” to a child with so many unknowns. But it’s been a beautiful thing to stand back and be awestruck at how God was weaving the beautiful tapestry of our son’s life all the while, making him a perfect fit for our family. God’s impeccable plan was beyond what we could have ever imagined and on November 28, 2018, we made him officially a “Mann,“ one year to the day we started the adoption process.

Two days after our son, whom we renamed “Titus” (because “Man Man Mann” would be just slightly confusing!), was placed in our arms, we had the privilege of visiting his first home and family. We are so thankful that he spent his beginning two years of life in a colorful and caring place, however our hearts left burdened for all those precious souls we left behind. It felt like a flashback to twenty-five years ago, when the seed of adoption was planted deep in my heart.

We brought our three-year old daughter with us to China and as we were leaving, she asked, “Where are mommies and daddies for these boys and girls? They need mommies and daddies too, just like my brother.” We are so grateful God is at work in her young heart and she already has big plans of filling our house with as many brothers and sisters from China that she can!

Titus has transitioned splendidly into our family and most of his developmental delays have been addressed with a nurturing family atmosphere. Now, he’s able to jump, climb (furniture is his specialty!), swim, run, and do just about everything his big sister does. He approaches life with caution, sitting back and observing before diving into something new. For example, it took him about three months to step into the pool on his own, however once he realized it is a safe and fun place, he’s been our little water bug ever since!

His language abilities are still a bit delayed, however he is adding to his vocabulary every day, with his most favorite sentence being, “I want more bacon!” We are so grateful for our daughter who has become his personal translator and can understand about 95% of what he says. Most of the time though they seem to communicate in their own little language and their adorable tight-knit bond is nothing short of miraculous. Their favorite activity to play together is loading their backpacks with toys and pretending to fly to China…to bring back another brother or sister of course!

And after a few months of home-cooked meals and green smoothies, his anemia has been resolved! He’s gained five whole pounds and grown two inches in the last ten months, mostly due to his love of bacon!

Of course we couldn’t shake our daughter’s pleas or the faces of the beloved children we left behind, so we started our adoption journey again this summer as soon as we were able. We know some families are surprised with a child whose needs are much greater or different that what was in the file, however we are thankful our son’s special needs have been easily manageable, allowing us to pursue another son or daughter as quickly as possible.

They say hindsight is 20/20 and that is definitely true in adoption. We wish we could take back those wasted hours and squandered energy worrying about how we would be matched to our son. We spent many hours lying awake at night doubting if this new child would truly fit into our family, bond with us and our daughter.

If only we could have seen a snapshot of our home today, with our son and daughter spending every waking moment playing, laughing, and learning together.

We wondered how we could afford the adoption expenses and life with a child possibly having major medical needs, only to see now how God has provided everything that we need. And we worried how we would preserve our son’s Chinese culture and identify with his given name. Never in a million years would we have guessed he would get to keep his name, just adding an extra letter to it. He now interchangeably calls himself “Titus” and “Man Man,” while we marvel at how our little man is flourishing in our family!

So what is in a name?

Every child is just one courageous family’s “yes” away from being called son.







– guest post by Brittany: email || Facebook || Instagram 

With Open Doors and Open Arms

September 2, 2019 by nohandsbutours 6 Comments

Our son Falcon’s adoption story began three years before he was born. We were in China adopting our first child, a baby girl, through the NSN program. Touring her orphanage, I remember cresting the top of the four flights of stairs, excited to hear the sound of little voices. We asked our guide if we could play with the babies. The director of the orphanage quickly said something to the nanny who, in turn, looked toward us with eyes cast downward as she closed the door.

“No. You cannot go in there because these children have some special medical problems.”

The shame on their faces imparted so much. What would it be like to grow up in a place where you were hidden away? As we were ushered down the hallway to the NSN baby play room, I remember whispering to my husband right then and there, “We’ll be back and we’ll do a special needs adoption next time.”

Four years went by, during which time we adopted our second and third children, both with special needs, through U.S. foster care. Our family was happy and thriving, but those kids in China behind the closed door had not stopped tugging at my heart.

I’d written our children’s names down in my prayer journal and added one more name to the list. I had envisioned adding a little boy with cleft lip and palate to our family. He would be called Falcon, and we’d keep his Chinese name as a middle name like we had done for our daughter. Since I didn’t know the middle name, out of the blue I wrote down Falcon Xin Bao.

Another year later, we sent in our application to adopt two children through China’s Special Focus program. We had fallen in love with a five year old girl we’d seen on an advocacy site. When we got her file, we learned that her name was Xin Ai. Wow. I had intuited half of her name “Xin”. We let our agency know that we also wanted to be matched with a little boy. We checked off many different special needs that we were open to parenting.

One month later we got the call. Would we be interested in a baby boy with a third degree cleft lip and palate? His name was Tian Bao. That was all I needed to hear. Bao. It was the second half of the name I had written a year prior (at a time when China had only been allowing the adoption of one child at a time)!

We opened his file to see a beautiful, stoic baby boy in a puffy blue snowsuit. He had the deepest, most soul-piercing eyes, a unilateral cleft lip and palate and a little squished nose and he was perfect!

In his file was a photo that we weren’t as prepared for, showing the inside of his mouth. His cleft was severe and complete. Later, our surgeon would share that it was one of the widest clefts he had seen in over thirty years of specializing in craniofacial plastic surgery. At the same time, he was very reassuring and confident that he could help our son.

One day during the wait, we received an update about our son that included a new photo. There he was, with his lip already repaired! Someone had done an amazing job! We’d later find out it had been repaired by Smile Train.

This was great news, as our doctors had explained that once the lip repair is done, it functions as a brace to bring the sides of the palate closer together.

We traveled to China and the day finally came for us to meet our son! He was so quiet and tiny, malnourished with a fever of 104 degrees. He looked exhausted, as if he had traveled seven thousand miles to get to us. He walked straight into our hearts. He clung to his Daddy like a baby koala.

Whenever his Daddy had to pry him off of his chest in order to take a shower, he cried and pounded his fists on the bathroom door of our hotel room. I vowed to put a smile on that face as soon as possible. It only took a dose of Tylenol and a couple hours with his family to make that happen!

In order to give Falcon time to bond, we waited seven months once we got home for his second surgery. This was to be his palate repair and placement of tubes in his ears (common among cleft- affected kids). He went in with a smile, as I choked back tears watching them roll him through the doors of the operating room. It was terrifying to bring a child all of this way and then have to let go and trust that he would recover.

It was Valentine’s Day and we couldn’t think of a better way to share our love than to have a lunch date in the hospital cafeteria waiting on our little guy to come out of surgery. This time, Falcon had a family right by his side the whole time. His big brother prepared him a bed on the couch and snuggled by his side as soon as he got home. My husband and I set up a mattress and took shifts.

Each of Falcon’s surgeries has been one overnight stay in the hospital. My husband and I alternate who stays over with him because it truly is great bonding time. His surgeries have been spread about two years apart.

Next was a palate lengthening surgery, and then a bone graft. The bone graft ended up being a little bit tougher because they took the piece of bone from his hip, which hurt more than his mouth! This kid is an amazing warrior and always bounces back within three days of surgery. Good pain management and lots of ice cream go a long way!

The hardest thing for Falcon, and for us as a family, hasn’t been the surgeries; it has been the coping with his grief. For the first four years of his life, he struggled with speech apraxia. He didn’t have the ability to speak clearly. He had a lot of emotions trapped in there, and it was a frustration that I didn’t feel prepared for! He had severe tantrums between the ages of three and five.

One evening when Falcon was four years old (he’d been home two years at the time) my husband locked his keys in the car and needed me to meet him in his parking lot at work with the spare key. I loaded up the kids and we made the hour trip to deliver the key. Once together, we all went out to dinner at a nearby Chinese buffet. Dinner went the usual way with staff all whispering and gazing in awe at our mixed family of hungry kiddos.

When it was time to go, Falcon had followed my husband up to pay the bill. I came to fetch him on my way to the restroom because he was infamous for having to go potty at the most inconvenient times and I knew he wouldn’t last the hour ride. He refused. Using one of his only words, he said, “No,” very seriously. I went to take his hand, insisting. “No!” he said. So I picked him up and carried him to the restroom. He screamed bloody murder! It was out of place, and the stares were palpable.

We got to the restroom and he screamed the whole time in the stall scrambling like a frightened squirrel to get out. He clung to my legs for dear life. He was acting like I was taking him away forever.

Then the realization sunk in. He thought I was about to abandon him in the restroom while Daddy snuck out the door with the other children. I was broken for him.

At two years home, I had thought he was so secure in his family. Although his speech was only a few words by then, his receptive language was spot on. I knelt down and cupped my hands around his elbows, looked him in the eyes.

“Falcon, did you think I was going to leave you here?

He peeped out the tiniest squeak of a “Yes,” his eyes brimming, his whole body shaking.

“I will never leave you Falcon, you are a part of our family forever. You are our little boy and we are Never going to leave you. We love you! You are coming home with us!”

He collapsed into me. I carried him out to the minivan and buckled him into his car seat, still whimpering. On the way home, all of the kids fell fast asleep, except for Falcon. He was a sentinel in fight or flight mode.

A thousand times he asked me wide-eyed, “Where’s Daddy?” And I’d point out Daddy’s tail lights in front of us. When we turned down our street and neared our driveway, Falcon started clapping and exclaimed one of his first words, “Home!” His voice was different, relieved, the fear had left it, and was replaced with a new and deeper trust and joy. “Home!” he repeated.

“Yes, Buddy, We’re home.”

After that, the little feeble, fearful boy vanished. Falcon became absolutely fearless. At five years old we went to camp and this pint-sized Spider Man was suited up and climbing the ropes course so high I had to hold my breath just watching him. His confidence soared.

Falcon also became a ladies’ man. At the restaurant where we frequently eat Sunday brunch, he charmed our favorite waitress. One day, he presented her with a plastic ring from the gum ball machine, and asked her to marry him. She played along happily, flattered that he didn’t mind she was fifty years his senior. Falcon’s beaming smile is recognized everywhere we go. He always makes a huge impression on people.

Something I never tire of is watching our children rally around one another. Our community pool has four sections. So far, being the youngest and smallest, Falcon had been swimming in the second section. He desperately wanted to gain the privilege to swim in the next section, which is over his head, without a life jacket. He knew in order to do this he would need to swim ten laps without touching the bottom of the pool. His big sister and big brother swam the whole ten laps, one on either side of him. With Falcon’s tenacity, and that kind of support, he can do anything he sets his mind to.

Although this article focuses on cleft lip and cleft palate, this special need is not Falcon’s identity any more than the root canal I just had, is mine.

Falcon is just a boy who happened to need some surgeries.

He is nine years old now and is preparing to get partial braces (as he’s missing two adult teeth). He still takes speech class, but can order his own food at the restaurant and is understood perfectly well. Falcon is full of joy, loves beating everyone at Monopoly, and training to one day win American Ninja Warriors. He likes watching PBS on his Kindle Fire and can floss like a boss. Falcon is very talented at building in Minecraft.

Falcon is the most adorable, caring, and obedient child. In third grade he was given an award for being the “Most Understanding”. We couldn’t be more proud of our son’s transformation. We are blessed to be continually witnessing the gift of him unfold.

And that Chinese name? It means Heaven Treasure. And that’s just what he is.

guest post by Charmaine

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