Friday, November 30, 2012

November Ends, Forever Families begin!

As Waiting for Baby Stories helped celebrate Adoption Awareness Month,  we realized just how powerful telling YOUR story could be.  We read about Lindsay and Jeff, their struggle to begin their family, and the blessing of being matched with a little boy in Korea.  Please keep little Ari in your thoughts as well as his forever family as they anxiously await his arrival.

We then met Kelli and Luca who struggled as well to start a family, were blessed by the option of adopting a little cutie from Vietnam, and now find themselves overwhelmed at the fundraising aspect of adoption again as they try to grow their forever family.  You can continue to help this family bring Baby K home by visiting their gofundme site:

We watched as Ryan's birth mother turned an infertile couple into a family bursting with joy,  we learned the importance of adopting older children, and were given the opportunity to speak up on behalf of the thousands of families needing a tax credit for their forever families to be complete. Then lastly, we read about high school theatre teacher Amy's struggles and then the experience of a lifetime as her family of four grew over night to a family of seven by the act of adoption.

November may be ending and adoption may just lose a little sparkle in the limelight, but it remains to be an important part of our society, community, and world.  Please continue to fight for adoption rights, pray for families who are waiting to be matched or waiting for permission to hold their promised little ones, give towards these families when you have a little extra, and most of all, never take for granted your forever family.~Kassie

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Amy's Story~Part 5

Tuesday, January 12 dawned and progressed like any other day: afull day of school and teaching with the added stress of preparing for conferences.  Auditions for the musical had been successful; the cast was being finalized.  Life was normal.  By the time I returned home, all that had changed. 

A 7.0 earthquake occurred in Haiti.  Reports of the devastation began rolling in through the news.  No reports at all rolled in from Holt Fontana.  It was such a long night. 

Thomas and I headed to school without knowing anything.  I can remember the heart ache and worry so very clearly.  Both of us remembered so perfectly the ramshackle building where we signed court documents during our last visit.  The document was a spiral notebook with lists of signatures.  How could that ‘courthouse’ survive, let alone a stack of spiral notebooks?  What did this mean to our process?  But most importantly, how were the kids and the staff at the village?

By mid morning we received news that all children and staff at the village were safe and well.  Holt was trying to find out what this meant to the process.   The relief combine with the horror of the situation and the selfish feelings of worrying about our adoption were almost crippling as I struggled  through 6 hours of parent conferences.

We had 2 days of no word.  The yahoo adoption group was a massive list  of rapid fire question and answers.  People were headed to Haiti to wait in line at the consulate or attempting to get their kids out on their own.  Holt promised they were working on it and asked us to remain in the US and wait for an official process.  We contacted our senators and representatives.   We prayed.  A lot.

The first Friday after the quake NBC ran video footage of a military plane leaving Haiti with children bound for the Netherlands.  All children who were in process.  The Netherlands had decided that they would first get the children out and second figure out how to make them citizens.  The US had decided the opposite.  Too many unknowns, too many phases to be worked with, too much chaos.  Children should be left at the orphanages unless they were in danger.  Thomas and I were just ill.

No word from anyone the entire weekend.

By Tuesday progress had been made.  The US had decided that they would grant Humanitarian Parole to all children who met certain criteria.  It didn’t take long for us to realize that Via met the criterion and would be coming home.  The twins, we were sure, would never be allowed to leave early.  We had just been matched with them in November.

The criterion:  a signed and notarized contract of adoption, USCIS paperwork granting permission for the adopting family to bring an immigrant in to the country, proof that the parents had been to Haiti and met the child.
We were good on the contract.  It was the first thing we had done after being matched.  We had just traveled to Haiti in October.  That weird trip seemingly thrown in for no real reason?  Now that trip was a saving grace.  We had been to Haiti, our signatures were on file there (somewhere.)  We had photos with Via and proof we had been to the orphanage.  But the USCIS?  No way to fake that.  We had not been printed or even applied for the USCIS forms for the twins.  Heartbreak and elation.  Via was coming home, it was just a matter of time.  The twins were not and who knew what their time frame was now.

BUT WAIT—our dear social worker from Holt called me at school.  Had I looked at my USCIS forms?  No I said, I just knew I had them.  Look at them she insisted.  I dug them out (I had full files of the paper work at both home and school)  And there it was.  The answer to our prayers.  USCIS petition granted to adopt ‘ORPHANS.’  Plural.  When we applied for our USCIS paper work we were not matched with a child yet and we had said we were open to a sibling group.  We were approved for multiples.  Even though we had updated our prints and reapplied for the I600 3 times, twice specifically for Via, USCIS had never changed the forms.

Holt determined to use this loop hole to get the twins home. 

Monday, November 26, 2012

Amy's Story~Part 4

Mom and Dad are looking at adoption websites!

Six years after my hysterectomy I was sitting at the dining room table on a snow day.  My mom was spending the day with us to avoid boredom on the farm.  Unbeknownst to anyone I had started collecting adoption agency material because I had decided it was time to get serious. 

So I brought the computer and the promotional DVD’s to the table and mom and I starting watch and reading.  I remember it so clearly.  Mary Beth wandered through to the kitchen for a snack.  A minute later she wandered back.  Seconds later we heard her squeal with delight, “Anna come on quick, Mom is at the table looking at adoption stuff!”    I had just finished telling my mom that we weren’t going to say anything to the girls till we knew more.  Ha.  We all crowded around the computer and watched the stories of successful adoption.

At the end of the research I learned two things:  I was impressed with Holt International and our girls were totally ready to adopt.  Thomas had been ready to adopt for quite some time.  It was me who needed time to prepare.  I often look back and feel I waited too long.  I should have been ready sooner.  BUT God’s time is perfect and therefore, I will attempt NOT to second guess.

In May of that year, 2005, we went to Holt to talk about the process.  I had no idea what country we would adopt from; I didn’t care.  I wanted a child.  Thomas had been on a mission trip with Duchesne students the previous summer to the Dominican Republic.  They visited the slum along the Haiti/DR border and he saw little children wandering nearly naked, begging for their next meal.  When the director asked what country we were interested in he replied, ‘Do you have a Haiti program?’ 

“Are you willing to jump in to a new program where there will be a lot of unknowns?”  Man, I should have known right then we were in it for the long, longest haul.  But I knew that Thomas felt strongly about this country and the need.  We jumped in.

Over the next year I gave birth to a mountain of paper work.  The dossier and all copies weighed over 5 pounds when I mailed it.  Then the waiting.  With nothing to do.  Just wait. 

On June 6th 2006 I ran home after the last day of school to get the house ready to celebrate my father’s birthday.  The next day was a faculty workshop and the following day we were leaving for a family vacation.  The phone rang as I walked in the door.  It was our social worker; they had a match for us.  Talk about agonizing!  Before I could talk to Thomas at all we had a house full of guests!  That night we talked about this little girl, Vialancia age 2 ½.  The paper work would come the next day.  We were not supposed to make any decisions until we went over the medical records with our physician.  I am pretty sure my heart decided the minute I heard her name.  On our way to South Dakota for vacation we told the girls and the decision was made.  She was ours.

Fast forward 2 years.  Waiting and waiting.  Sending packages and praying for our file to move on.  Heads of state changed.  The process changed.  Requirements were added.  It was unbelievable. Late Fall 2009 we got a call telling us we needed to make a trip to Haiti to sign papers in a Haitian court.  A new step, BUT we were going to meet our little girl. 

We flew to Port Au Prince the first week in October.  We were met at the airport by Mansour, the orphanage director.  The drive through the city was one I won’t forget.  I had never seen poverty like that. And remember this was pre earthquake. 
We pulled in to the village and were guided down a path between small bungalows.  At the last little house many children were gathered on the porch steps.  Mansour spoke in creole and a tiny little girl worked her way through the crowd.  I held out my hands and smiling she came forward and let me hold her.  I sat down and put her on my lap.  She gazed up at me smiling.  We visited for just a short time as it was the children’s bed time.  It was so hard to walk away.

That night in our own little bungalow at the Kaliko Hotel just down the hill from Holt Fontana I told Thomas I knew we were supposed to adopt from Haiti again.  He said he felt it too.  We decided right then we would pursue a second match as soon as we got home.

We spent a magical day with Via at the resort.  We swam and read books, and colored and at snacks.  We let her skip nap in order to be together more.  Taking her back to the village, knowing we would fly away the next morning was so very painful.  At least I knew where she was and how to picture her in my mind. Before leaving we visited the rest of the little village and more children.  One of the house moms was holding a darling little boy.  I asked if I could hold him and she passed him to me.  He fit on my hip and snuggled in so sweetly I didn’t want to hand him back.  Mansour laughed and told Thomas to watch out or I would be adding many Haitian children to the family.

We flew home feeling bitter sweet.  It was so hard to leave our little girl behind.  However we felt better knowing she was being so well cared for and that she was healthy and happy.  We were also energized with a plan.

Within 2 weeks time we had found a pair of twins on the waiting child website.  Nine months old and perfectly healthy, but no family had been matched with them.  Upon closer look we realized that the little boy was the baby I held while in Haiti. 
A new paper chase was started.  We applied through the waiting child program to be matched with the twins.

The Friday before Thanksgiving Thomas and I left school early and headed home for a conference call interview., It was our chance to express why we wanted the twins and Holt’s chance to decide if we were the right family.  I remember before the call came Thomas and I discussed if we could really do this.  Can two teachers with student loans and house payments and car payments etc really raise 5 kids?  We prayed about it.  In the end we decided that if Holt chose us we would assume that God had chosen us. There had been other families who had applied for the twins and Holt had turned them down.  We would trust that whatever was meant to be would happen and we would accept it.

Twenty minutes later the phone call was over and while it wasn’t official,  the lovely woman all but assured us that the twins were ours.  Wednesday before Thanksgiving the official word came.  We were going to be a family of 5!

So here was our best laid plan:  Via would most likely come home the fall of 2010.  The twins were 1 year old.  They would probably come home the fall of 2012.  They would be potty trained and go right to preschool at Brownell.  Perfect.
 But you know what they say about telling God your plan….

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Amy's Story~Part 3

Pain to Joy

The Holidays of 1997 were wrought with grief on many levels.  As my family tried to put together a Christmas season full of prayer and joy and tradition we found inspiration in Mary Beth.  She helped us all to find meaning in the season.
Healing after loss goes on much longer than the time needed to celebrate the holidays though.

So it was with real joy and need that we celebrated a positive pregnancy test late in January of 1998. From the start it was a different experience.  I was sick from 5p.m.- 12a.m. every day for weeks.  #2 seemed to know that I needed to work.  Mary Beth was at daycare now as Mom needed to work in order to stay on the farm.  Everything old was new again as we learned the new normal.

That summer was spent planning and preparing for our second child.  I felt good and was truly excited about the coming of this second miracle.  By the fall and the start of school I had been to the hospital in false labor 2 times.  Had my step father been alive I am sure I would not have gone in; he would have known.  Alas, I was on my own and made the trip.

When real labor arrived it was very early morning and still 3 weeks too soon.  But we loaded up and headed in anyway.  I labored without making much progress most of the morning.  Around noon the nurse and a resident came to tell me they were going to lunch and I was stable.  They would see me in a bit.

Yep, 15 minutes later I was ready to go.  There was no time to do all the usual prep of the room or bed or even ready a nursery bed.  #2 came hard and fast and it was really scary.  So much chaos.

Even now I remember the fear and mayhem I felt .  It was all fine in the end, but so unsettling when it happened.  And then, there she was, Anna Marie.  I think from the very beginning I knew Anna would be my last biological child.  There was a bond there with a different intensity.  Through the coming years I would hold on tighter and become more emotional with every  first and last she went through.

I was right of course, she was my last ‘stomach child.’  Yes, that is the phrase we use in our family. No, I didn’t come up with it.

Within two years I had a total hysterectomy and began hormone replacement therapy.  It felt a lot like the lupron days, but the pain was gone.  Our family of 4 moved forward and grew and loved.  Waiting for me to be ready for the next phase of family building.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Amy's Story~Part 2

'This is the worst day ever.'  'This is the worst day of my life.'  'That is the worst.'  It is not hyperbole to say that most, if not all of us, have said these kinds of phrases.  I am pretty sure that I mutter, 'This is the worst.' whenever I am in a hurry and the copy machine won't work.  Car trouble, late for work, kids screaming, dinner burned, angry parent phone call, bad lesson plan, no work out time, kid won't sleep...
'This is the worst day ever.'

I have claimed many 'worst days ever' as I struggle through life's normal little challenges.  But if I am honest I know I have had one worst day ever and I can pinpoint it exactly.  And truly, though there have been tough times since, nothing has come close.

It was the fall of 1997.  Child #1 turned 1.  My dear step father, whom I was raised to call 'Big Jack,' but was in every way a father to me, was in hospice care at the farm and he was dying of cancer.  Late October arrived and well, my period didn't.  Sure enough soon came the nausea, though not nearly like I had with #1.  For some reason Thomas and I didn't share the news with anyone.  A week or so into November we told my mother.  There was quiet celebrating, but again, we kept the news within the 3 of us.  

My mother had turned the small den into a hospital room.  It was a central location, handy for my mother and hospice personnel and also allowed my step father to hear the chatter and functions of the family.  While most of the time he slept, I know that being near us all was what he wanted.  We all took turns sitting in the room with him.  We read, prayed, did our school work or talked. Though this wonderful man spent his entire adult life caring for pregnant women, I never told him about my pregnancy.  I guess I never really felt he was up to processing that information.  It is a regret I carry with me.

Early on the morning of November 19th I descended the steps and found the light in the den was on already.  I was usually the first one up.  Then I remembered that my youngest brother had early basketball practice at 6a.m. So he was up and out by 5:30.  I found mom bedside and crying.  My step father's breathing was very slow with long pauses between breathes.  He was very still though his eyes did open to look at my mom.  They had been praying together.  My mom and I wrapped up together our arms around each other, our hands around his.  I kissed him and told him I loved him and said goodbye.  My mother whispered to me to please go get Kelly.

It took forever to cover the 6 miles to Fort Calhoun.  I walked to the gym and stood quietly in the doorway.  Kelly looked up and saw me and walked directly to the locker room.  We held hands as we ran back to the car.  Kelly cried quietly.  He had gone to the den to hug mom and say good bye to his dad before practice, but he didn't know it was the real good bye.  

Kelly ran to the den as soon as I got the car parked.  I left him and my mother alone.  Stephen and Guy had been called and they would be home soon.  But Dad was already gone.

It was about this time my cramps started.  By late morning the cramps were pretty painful and I was scared.  There was so much going on in the house and so much to do that I felt very overwhelmed.  The big sister in me needed to take charge, but physically I wasn't able.  I gathered my brothers and with the help of my mom and husband explained that I was pregnant but cramping and needed to stay quiet as much as I could.  

The next morning arrived and I was worse.  The house felt heavy with loss and awkwardness as we tried to plan and forecast for the next few days.  What would dad want?  What had he already specified?  What time was the mortuary appointment?  Things no one considers normal conversation.  While dressing for the mortuary appointment I started to bleed.  I found my mom crying in her bedroom and added to her woes.  She was able to pull herself together enough to give me advice, make the call to the Dr. and send Thomas and I on our way.  

A pregnancy test at the Dr. office confirmed that I was pregnant.  Nothing else looked good.  I was cramping, spotting heavily and my blood pressure was way too high for me.  They loaded me with all the preventative meds they could and sent me home to keep my feet up.  I missed all the planning and preparing work being done for the funeral.

We returned to a house full of step brothers and sisters in law and distant relatives.  Weird casseroles on the table.  Mary Beth entertaining them all, but heartbreakingly searching for Grampy.  I went straight to bed.  Within an hour the cramps worsened, then grew unbearable.  The bleeding started in earnest and I found myself on the bathroom floor praying for it to stop.  I could hear the commotion on the floor below.  My heartbroken mother playing hostess.  I should have been doing this work for her.

There is no way to write about the next steps of the process that isn't somewhat disturbing and intimately personal.  However, I feel compelled to share it, because it MUST be a common moment to women who have suffered similar events.  So here I go.

I remember a horrendous cramp and it felt for all the world like labor.  I was alone and so scared and I remember being so very cold.  I climbed on to the toilet because I could feel fluid, blood I was sure, and the toilet seemed the natural place.  There was an intense pain that doubled me over and enormous pressure pulsed through my mid section.  And then it was gone.  I fell to the floor I know that.  I also know that I did 2 things in rapid succession.  The first was to look back at the toilet to see a small mass there.  Nothing more than a golf ball sized round of tissue.  Nothing to indicate life or humanity, though I know that is exactly what it was.  The second thing is still a mystery to me, one that humbles me and fills me with shame and regret.  With what must have been shock and probably reflex, I reached up and flushed the toilet.  

By then Thomas had heard my collapse and run upstairs to find me.  I told him and we cried together.  Then I panicked.  I remember saying over and over, 'I flushed the baby.'  Thomas did his best to quiet me.  The Dr. was called.  Meds given. Again, with my mother's help,  I was put to bed and to sleep.  

The next days were trials of emotional and physical strength.  The rosary, funeral, luncheon.  The endless cards, flowers, family, friends parading in and out of the house, church, mortuary to share their love and prayers.  And only a few knew what I was carrying in my heart.  The man that would have been there to counsel and guide me through this natural, but heartbreaking event, was gone.

These days deserve to be called the worst.  These days are a fogged mess as I try to look back at them and writing about it, while difficult, really is therapeutic. 

But you don't have to bury a family member and have a miscarriage to make a miscarriage horrible. 
It is horrible all on its own.  There are things that people say:  something must not have been right, it wasn't meant to be, you can try again, you are lucky you were only a few weeks along.  

When you have gone through this, all these things are stupid.  They make you angry.
And if you know that infertility is a word you are fighting, then that miscarriage represents what you thought was a miraculous success.  You know how thoroughly your hopes have been dashed.  You feel that while yes, you can try again, you won't be pregnant with THAT baby again.  That baby is gone.  And you know that seems immature and you know the physiological things that the Drs. tell you are logical and true.  But hearts don't heal on logic.

Even as I write this I know some will finish it and think, 'Yes but...'  because the rest of my story is happy.  By January of 1998 I was pregnant with #2 and she arrived healthy and happy.  Two biological daughters when so many couples go through much more and never have that experience even once.  Please know that not a day goes by when I am not aware of just how blessed I am.

How to end this lengthy essay about loss?  We prayed and hoped and talked to each other.  We didn't turn away God or each other.  And while not all of us get an answer from God that is one we would choose, knowing that the lines of communication are open is enough to help healing begin.  What are the most important elements needed for healing after a loss?  For me, faith and my spouse.

Oddly enough I come back to those two things on many days, from those that seem to be the worst to those that are pretty darn good.  Thankfully, I am never without either.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Spread the Word...

Meet the VanWinkles. Lucas, Kelli, Corinne, and....soon to be announced!  This family is adopting for the second time and need our help to spread the word to raise funds.  Please consider helping this forever family grow by clicking on the following link to read more about their story:

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Amy's Story~Part 1

As I get older and learn to open up and share with people, I realize that the word that changed my life is pretty darn common.  Endometriosis.  So many women have heard that word in diagnosis and then heard the potential treatments and felt completely bereft.  I remember a period of relief as I came to grips with a real ‘thing’ causing my pain.  That felt good.  I wasn’t nuts; the pain was real and caused by something. Whew.

But, I distinctly remember sitting across the big old Dr. desk hearing the prognosis for my future as a mom.  Start having children now.  At least start trying.  Now. 

Super.  I wanted a big family.  I was 24.  Dating a great guy, but only for about three months.  How could I tell him that ummm, now was the time for me to have kids.  By the way, do you want kids?  It seemed overwhelming.

From that point of being overwhelmed I made the decision to try Lupron as  a treatment.  One shot a month, instant menopause.  No period, No endo.
I didn’t ask many questions.  I didn’t research or google or ask around.  I just stuck a hip out and said go. 

I was completely unprepared for the side effects.  Hot flashes and chills were the least of my problems, though they plagued me hourly.  My heart raced.  My weight dropped.  My hair fell out.  I was a nervous wreck, the anxiety almost crippling.

 The pretty great guy I was dating, well, he hung around through all the ups and downs and down furthers of Lupron.   When I had my second shot and the side effects got worse it was him that said enough was enough.  By this time I was a ‘hot mess’ but so in Love with this man.  He proposed.  I said yes.  We went to the priest, who went to the archdiocese and 5 weeks later we were married.  I cried as I called to cancel the appointment for the 3rd Lupron shot.

As I look back on that horrendous time in my life, I am struck by several things.  Primarily how amazing it is that God puts the right people together at the right time.  If anyone ever doubts that God has a plan I think the summer and fall of 1995 in my life are clear indicators that there is a reason for everything.  But I am also struck by the events that led me to such an invasive and difficult treatment.  Truly, I asked NO questions.  I didn’t do any leg work.  My step father, the man who raised me, was an OBGYN in Omaha for 40 years.  He told me to trust this Dr. Only after I began to struggle did I start looking in to Lupron and drugs like it to find out what was happening to my body.  I can’t believe that.  How could I have so blindly agreed to such a huge change:  menopause at age 25?

The thing is, I know that so many women have gone through this and worse in the pursuit of a family.  It challenges you physically, mentally and spiritually.  Don’t even mention financially,.  Holy Cow.  Yet couples choose these struggles all the time. 

I ask myself every now and again, If God knew what my family path was, why did he let me struggle so?  Nearly every step I took to put my little family unit together was a challenge.  Why? 

I met a beautiful woman on my first and only trip to Haiti.  She had been waiting to bring her son home for more than 2 years.  Just like us.  When we said good bye to our son/daughter she and I held hands and cried as we walked back to the hotel.  I said to her, Why?  If God is watching and he wants these children to have homes, why can’t he move this along?

She said to me, ‘Everything is God’s time.  And God’s time is perfect.’

I wish the faith to believe and live by that statement had come to me much earlier.  But I cling to it now and with perfect hind sight vision realize it is so true.

~Amy B.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Ryan's Story

The following story was forwarded to us from a dear friend who prays for us.  We wanted to share with you in hopes that you would be encouraged. Blessings~Nick and Kassie

Moments with You, Daily Connections for Couples
Open Arms
He makes the barren woman abide in the house as a joyful mother of children.
Psalm 113:9
Recently a young man named Ryan shared with me this very personal story:
When my sister was born, there were problems during my mom's pregnancy that made her unable to have more children. So my parents decided to pray for a miracle. They got down on their knees and prayed at the side of their bed every night for an entire year, but nothing happened. One year turned into two. Two quickly turned into three. Three turned into four. Four years of praying. Four years of hurting. Still, nothing happened.
Right about that time, there was a young couple in high school. They had been dating for a while, but the girl said, "This isn't the guy I want to marry, and if I'm not going to marry him, I don't want to keep dating him." So they broke up. But a short time later, she found out she was pregnant with his baby. She didn't know what to do--didn't know if she should tell her parents, didn't want them to be upset or mad or disappointed.
Finally, she just couldn't take it anymore. She broke down one night and told them. They didn't know what to do either. They already had four kids. One more mouth wasn't going to help things... . They started meeting with a counselor, looking at options, shedding a lot of tears, and trying to decide what to do.
But the Lord took my parents' inability to have more kids, and He took that young couple's high-school indiscretion, and He meshed them together. On August 31, 1970, my parents, Jim and Shirley, brought me home from an adoption center.
That's how I became a Dobson.
That's the power of prayer. That's the power of adoption. And that's the power of a family.
Infertility strikes so close to the heart, but talk about adoption is its redemptive response.
Ask God to increasingly make Christian families like yours available and open--havens of hope to millions of orphans. And if you know an infertile couple, please pray for them.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Adopting Older Children

This was taken from the Holt International Blog. Please take time to read and leave a comment on your experience adopting older children or the fear of adopting older children and what your concerns are.  We would love to hear from you!

Adopting an Older Child: Is Fear Holding You Back?

 Shila Ann Henderson is the mother of 10 children, five adopted through Holt, three of whom came home after the age of five. “Some people think it’s too late for older children to be adopted, especially kids who have always been waiting,” says Shila. “Some think children who have experienced a harsh life will never overcome the effects. Those people have never met our Lan Lan, adopted at the age of 11, our Ningjie, adopted at the age of 10, and our son, Vu, adopted from Vietnam at the age of five — the sweetest, most loving children in the whole world!”
By Shila Ann Henderson
Christmas is going to be extra exciting this year with our recent addition of 8-year-old Ningjie. She is already talking about what Santa might bring and I can imagine her huge eyes, filled with delight, seeing gifts surrounding the glimmering tree. Gifts with her name on them. My husband and I will marvel at our own gifts—ten children, including five adopted through Holt International, and three of them after the age of five.
Lan Lan’s referral picture.
Last year, I felt God calling us to adopt two children. As soon as we were matched with then 11-year-old Lan Lan, I kept coming across a Bible verse and felt an absolute certainty that God had two children for us to bring home (which in retrospect, proves, once again, that I have no future as a prophet!).
At that time, in June 2010, China’s Special Focus program hadn’t yet been instituted. China still had the ruling of adopting only one child, at one time, unless they were related. Our agency had the same rule.
And yet . . . I was so certain about two that my husband agreed to pursue the possibility. We had our social worker write our homestudy for two. She probably thought we were strange for this request, because as already stated, it wasn’t possible to adopt two at once, and we already knew Lan Lan didn’t have a biological sibling.
Over the course of our adoption of Lan Lan, we inquired about the possibility of adopting two older children. China began the Special Focus program in September, making it a possibility. We even reviewed the files of several children aging out, but always decided it wasn’t meant to be.
It was confusing.
But, we brought home Lan Lan and immersed ourselves in loving her and teaching her about unconditional love. It was an exhausting time. Our hearts and home were full.
And yet . . . so often, especially in the quiet of night, I wondered about that second child from China. Were we meant to bring another child home? Was there a missing face at our dinner table? I couldn’t shake the feeling there was. I had this unrelenting feeling about someone missing.
Lan Lan today, two years later.
And yet . . .my husband thought our quiver was feeling rather full. He wasn’t saying no. But he wasn’t saying yes. He did say that if we were going to adopt again, it had to be a child who felt like a perfect match.
Over the course of the next few months, we kept talking. Praying. Wondering. Mostly, it was me doing the talking, praying, and wondering.
We looked at many beautiful faces. Boys. Girls. We narrowed our definition of a child that might fit into our family. Lan Lan only wanted a sister–she felt surrounded by brothers. And we knew that if we were to adopt a girl, Lan Lan would do best being the older sister.
Several times we inquired about the possibility of a child fitting the narrow age gap we were requesting. Fitting the special needs list that we felt comfortable with, especially hoping for an older child who might have a hard time finding a home. But there never seemed to be a match.
And yet . . . someone was missing. We began updating our homestudy, just in case . . . .
And then one night I clicked on Holt’s waiting child page.
And there she was.
I haven’t always recognized my children the moment I saw them–true of both birth and adopted children.
But this time? I can’t explain it. I just knew.
It was very late at night, so I couldn’t share with my husband until the next day. Honestly? I didn’t expect him to have the same reaction. I was really beginning to accept the fact that child number two was a figment of my imagination.
His reaction? Mirrored mine. Her soul-filled eyes. And the way the light came down on her hair. A little girl with several special needs we already had experience with. An older girl who had been waiting for a family a very, very long time.
We just knew. She was our Mei Mei.
My husband requested her file that very day. Soon we were matched.
And the rest, as they say, is history. We brought Ninjie home in March.
Lan Lan (left) traveled with her parents to China to meet her new sister, Ningjie.
When people hear we have ten kids they first have to recover from the shock. Ten? Really? How’s that possible? How do you afford it? How big is your house?
Honestly, kids are as expensive as the lifestyles we choose, and while our current home has plenty of space, we think it’s good for kids to share a bedroom! Each child is truly unique; a gift from God. It is a blessing to see each child grow and learn, and it is especially rewarding to witness the blossoming of our children adopted at older ages. I wish more people would consider adopting an older child.
In many ways, adopting an older child is like raising any other child. All the “firsts” come quickly—first time riding a bike, first time celebrating a birthday, first time dressing up as a dragon slayer for Halloween. It’s an awesome experience to unearth buried treasure and watch our kids learn to play a board game, play the piano, or simply, play.
In other ways, adopting an older child is nothing like raising any other child—they never take for granted the food in the cupboards, the goodnight hugs, or the smiling faces surrounding the table. It’s humbling to teach a child to trust and to love. It’s a leap of faith.
Adding a child to the family always takes that leap of faith—whether that child comes through birth or adoption. Adopting an older child can take an even greater stretch. Our fears can overcome us as we worry about the effects of institutionalization, possible health and behavior issues, and our own ability to attach and love. Honestly, we fear how our lives will change. As parents, we know that fear! But we also know the victory of putting fear aside and listening to God. The joys of adoption are infinitely greater than the challenges, and there are so many older children just waiting for the chance to be loved!
When I see the faces of children, especially older children, waiting to be adopted, I glimpse their often challenging pasts, but I also see their potential! Each child has gifts just waiting to be released! I see the toddler just waiting to fill a loving home with shrieks of laughter and delight! I see the bashful 8-year-oldjust waiting to wow her mommy and daddy with her role as a flower fairy in the school play. I see the rambunctious 12-year-old boy just waiting for his chance to play team sports. Maybe he’ll be the star, or maybe only a benchwarmer, but regardless of his position he knows his parents will be in the grandstand, ready to cheer like crazy when he finally makes his debut.
And now it’s my turn to ask the questions. Have you ever considered adopting an older child? Is fear holding you back? Is one of the waiting children meant to be yours?
Some people think it’s too late for older children to be adopted. Especially kids who have always been waiting. And waiting. Some think children who have experienced a harsh life will never overcome the effects. Those people have never met our Lan Lan, adopted at the age of 11, our Ningjie adopted at the age of 10, and our son, Vu, adopted from Vietnam at the age of five — the sweetest, most loving children in the whole world!
I know that on Christmas morning, as we watch Ningjie, the newest addition to our family, grin from ear to ear, we will know she was meant to be ours. We will be so very thankful we took that leap of faith, high-jumped over our fears, dodged the questions about our sanity, and welcomed her with open arms into our lives. Now . . . and forever.

Helpful Resources for Adopting Older Children:
Listen to Archived Holt Webinars:
Listen to Archived webcasts from “Creating a Family”:
Reading Material:
Sibling Attachment and Older Child Adoption by Abbie Smith, MSW, Holt Director of Clinical Services
Stories from Families Who Have Been There: