Sixteen long months. Our adoption journey had officially begun sixteen months ago. Had we been going for another “home grown” child, it could have been possible for me to begin the planning stages of his first birthday party by now. Sixteen months was longer than Braden even lived in Mississippi, his birth state. Sixteen months of paperwork was behind us. We had given our blood, our fingerprints, and the words from our hearts to prove that we were worthy of adoption. Now all that was left to do was wait for the call letting us know we had a potential match.
Back in August, the kids and I hand delivered our dossier documents to our adoption agency. A big reason was because I could not bear to simply stuff these into an envelope and trust another mere mortal with no vested interest in our adoption to get the documents where they needed to go. I didn’t trust that whoever delivered them wouldn’t spill coffee on the envelope or drop it in the rain or let it fall between the seats of the delivery truck. (Adoption Induced Insanity? I think so.)
The main reason was that I wanted to make this real for the kids. With the exception of four home study appointments and numerous trips to the notary, the kids couldn’t really fathom who was making all the adoption magic happen. When we got there, the girls ditched me immediately in favor of playing with another child that was there. Braden assumed the role of my grown up accomplice. He sat across the table from our China coordinator and eyed her as she looked through all our paperwork. She explained the next steps to us, and when Braden asked for a timeline, she told him that he could expect to know who his brother would be around Halloween. I felt rather confident in her guesstimate since she told Braden, so we set our sights on Halloween.
Part of me thought that maybe there was ALREADY a file there, and we just had to wait until our paperwork was logged in to receive the referral. So when we got news of our log in date of September 10, we cheerfully waited for the phone to ring. I feel a bit guilty saying that out loud since I know so many families who waited many months, if not YEARS for the referral call. We didn’t get a call immediately, so I began perusing the Waiting Child section of our agency’s website. I saw one little boy whose special needs didn’t meet any of our criteria. Plus, he was older than we had hoped to adopt. Still, I requested his file and started trying to justify to myself why we shouldn’t wait, and we should just adopt him. We didn’t get the file immediately because another family was reviewing it. This made me anxious to say the least. After a couple of weeks of waiting, I assumed the other family had moved forward with his file, and I felt at peace with it. This little boy was not meant to be ours. However, a few days later, I got a call saying that he was still available. We got his file, and Kevin and I fervently researched all we could with the information we had about him. After much prayer, we knew this was not our child. It was a hard thing to say, making that call to the agency that day. I felt sad about surrendering his file, but at the same time, I felt at peace. His needs were not what our family could manage, and it would have been a disservice to everyone involved to pretend that we could. God had a lesson for us in all of this, and that lesson was, “You are not forgotten. I know your hearts, and I am preparing a way for you.” You see, when we completed our special needs checklist for China, this little boy’s needs were none of the boxes we checked. (All of China’s waiting children have a special need, ranging from very mild to severe. As an adoptive family, you are allowed to state which needs you feel your family is willing and able to accept.) I believe that when God pushed me to see this little boy’s file, it wasn’t so that our family would step forward for him. It was so that our hearts and our minds would be opened to other needs that weren’t on our checklist. When I called the adoption agency that day to surrender the little boy’s file, I told our coordinator that it was really eye-opening to do research on other needs and that we would take a look at any file, regardless of our checklist, that she wanted to send our way. I told God that I was sorry for trying to take over and that we would now stick to our original plan of waiting for the agency to match us with the child who was meant to be in our family.
SIX DAYS later, in the midst of a crazy busy week, with no time to even think straight, we got THE CALL. I had just dropped off my mother in law at the airport and rushed back home to get Waverly down for a nap. As I was walking downstairs the phone rang, and I saw our agency’s phone number on the caller id. Our coordinator started out her call just as she did every other call she made, “Hi Brandie! NOTHING’S WRONG.” I love her for that. There are so many calls that deliver news of delays or setbacks; hearing those two words every time I answered the phone allowed my adrenaline to settle and my breathing to return to normal. She told me about a little boy (a baby!), and she gave me a brief overview of his history. I think our call was maybe three minutes long before I said, “YES, YES! Send me the file!” We had 48 hours to decide. Eeeesh! 48 hours! When in the next 48 hours would we have time to research, to talk, to schedule time with a pediatrician at the international adoption clinic? We had school conferences, tumbling lessons, baseball practice, church youth group, a moms group meeting at our house, 5th grade girls from church coming over to bake cookies, a house to clean after we recovered from a long weekend in Canada. I was a little panicked, but in retrospect, I am thankful. Our busy-ness didn’t allow time for overthinking. We had to pray and go with what God told us. To be quite honest, I fell head over heels for that sweet little face at first sight. Kevin called me on it. “You love this baby,” he said the night that we got his file. I cried and said, “Yes.” All the months and months of waiting had led us to this milestone moment, and it was overwhelming. The happiness, the fear, the uncertainty mixed with certainty. We knew going into international special needs adoptions that there would be unknowns. We would never know our baby’s family health history; we would never know if his birth mother sought prenatal care; we would never know her reason for abandoning him. (Dear Lord, was she even the one who left him? Did a family member “help” her by taking him in the wee hours of the morning?) We would never know if it was a money issue or a social issue that kept his birth parents from keeping this perfect little newborn baby. What we did know was that regardless of what an international adoption pediatrician told us, we were in. Long before the 48 hour window expired, I sent an email to our agency with the title “Phillips—100%!!!” and followed with our Letter of Intent to adopt a baby boy who had already worked his way into all of our hearts.