This post has been a long time coming. I shared with family and friends in our Christmas letter that we were adding another precious child to our family (that post is here), but I haven't added specifics until now for a number of reasons.
I think I've become a bit guarded in sharing info because many times the plan we were so sure God had for us has changed. With the loss of our first son late in my pregnancy, then the two and a half year ordeal it took to adopt Daniel from Guatemala, we learned that "His ways are not our ways." We were reminded of this (and His sense of humor) when we had to put our last adoption on hold because of the surprise blessing of Victoria. (We joke that she's our only biological child with a complete set of international adoption paperwork.)
I've got a bad case of not counting the chickens before they hatch, and yet I'm completely surrendered and at peace regarding this adoption and any future ones. We are getting close to bringing our new daughter home and want to share our journey with anyone who would like to follow and pray for us during these last few months of waiting for her.
This is probably going to be a long post (kind of an all or nothing blogger these days) so I'm going to break this info up into our most frequently asked questions. You can pick and choose to read what you're curious about regarding our adoption journey.
When there are so many children in the United States needing homes, why are you adopting internationally?
We have actually seriously looked into domestic adoption and are very open to foster care in the future. Once we got Daniel home we felt pretty burned by the whole international adoption mess and welcomed the idea of adding to our family with children in need close to home. But as we inquired about it, the need was often to have families willing to care for children for temporary amounts of time with the goal of reunification with the biological parents (which I believe should be the primary goal when possible). We have close friends who are foster parents--in some cases they ended up adopting these children, in other cases they have been returned to their biological families. God is doing some beautiful things in the lives of these children and those foster families who love on them as long as they can. But even though Daniel is doing so well, he is still healing from hurt in his past. He needs our home to feel like a place of permanence. It would be difficult for him to see children come and go, make attachments with potential siblings that might abruptly leave us, and possibly worry that his own placement in our family was temporary. We also looked at children available for adoption now, but most of the children we saw had been through so much trauma they advised them to be placed with smaller families or families without young children. Thus we felt this wasn't where God was leading us at this time.
Believe it or not, this was one of the most frequently asked questions with both of our adoptions. Not sure if it's asked out of curiosity or they are making a judgment of our choices (or both). But here's the funny thing--I've never been asked that question by someone who has adopted (domestically or internationally). I think adoptive families understand that we have all been enlisted into the same army, just called to serve in different branches. Some called to domestic adoption, some called to international adoption. Some led to newborn babies, others led to teens about to age out of the system. Some feel equipped to care for emotional needs, some feel prepared to care for physical ones. We may look divided into different camps (because it really helps to be part of a support group of parents adopting from the same country, dealing with the same medical needs, etc.), but we are unified by the shared belief that EVERY CHILD DESERVES A FAMILY.
Why did you choose to adopt from China?
I think I always knew I would would adopt from China. I grew up hearing stories of missionaries like Gladys Aylward and Hudson Taylor and my love for the people of China grew as I read about their ministries. We thought our first child would be from China after we saw a documentary about the crisis of abandoned baby girls many years ago before we had any biological children. We actually contacted an agency to start the process because at that time you couldn't have any other children in the home to adopt from China (that was 18 years ago). We were so disappointed to find out that we weren't old enough. (I think the minimum age was 30.) Fortunately we are well-qualified with our ages now and the size of our family is not an issue because we are adopting through the special needs program. There are many children in China waiting for a family and we felt led to adopt a child with moderate to significant needs who might not otherwise find a family.
We were also wanting our next child to be one of a different ethnicity. With Daniel being our middle child--it bothers him a bit that he doesn't "match" the rest of us. Guatemala is closed for future adoptions, but the precious children in China have that same silky hair and beautiful dark eyes as our Daniel. I know Daniel and his new sister will have a special bond because of their similar beginnings and I can't wait to see this relationship blossom.
Why did you choose this particular child?
When we found out I was pregnant with Victoria, we put our adoption plans on hold indefinitely. We planned to wait till little sis was a few years old to adopt again, so in the mean time we were just content to chip in to others' adoption funds and pray for the children listed on various waiting child sites till it was our turn to bring another home.
Well, May of last year I saw this photo on a waiting child photolisting.
We thought she was precious and we added her to our family's list of kiddos that we pray/advocate for. But logic told me that we already had our hands full with our youngest not even a year old. My schedule reminded me that we were too busy to take on a 6th child, particularly one with medical needs. (And I knew her needs must be significant for such a cutie to not have already been snatched up.) I was content with my justifications . . . until I finally took a peek at her video.
This is it.
To say I was smitten is an understatement--there was something so special about her. Such a sweetness in her voice and softness in her smile. I melted when I saw how her face lit up with the attention of the woman interviewing her. I loved how she--with her orthopedic challenges--was pushing her buddy (who seemed to be fully capable of walking) in the doll stroller. We all sat around our computer watching her video over and over. We quickly went from "wouldn't she be a wonderful addition to someone's family" to "wouldn't she be a blessed addition to OUR family."
We kept expecting to see the words MATCHED by her listing--confirmation that she wasn't meant to be ours--but the summer came and went with no celebration that her family had found her. I finally asked for Brad's blessing to inquire about her and the rest is history. I went into much greater detail in our Christmas letter, but it was the information in her file that made us sure that we couldn't say no to this precious girl. It was the love story of her birthparents (who gave her up with the hope of her having a better life) that moved us in such a way that we couldn't let the ending of her story be that she spent her childhood in a government institution. And we are absolutely overjoyed that God has chosen us to be this darling little girl's new family!
How old is she? Where is she currently living?
She was abandoned in a bus station so they don't know her exact birthdate, but estimated her to be a year old when she was found. They assigned May 30, 2009 as her birthdate. She has spent the last 3 years in the same government orphanage at the Social Welfare Institute of Guangzhou City in Guangdong Province. While we wish she had made it into a foster home or private care facility, we are very grateful for the stability she has had in staying in the same place her whole life. And in the photos and video we have of her, she looks they are taking good care of her.
What are her special needs? Does she know she has a family?
She was born with spina bifida and may have tethered cord syndrome. She also has some secondary challenges because of her spina bifida. We honestly don't know exactly what kind of care she will need or what can be corrected, but we think she is perfect already and will be thrilled with whatever healing God will provide. We did have a local children's orthopedic group review her file. They seemed to think she would need surgery, a series of castings, and a lifetime of physical therapy. We are excited to have such an awesome group of specialists only 10 minutes from our home.
But here's a neat God story. A couple months after those doctors said she would probably never walk independently (would always need braces on her legs and arm crutches), we received the below videos.
We were so excited to see that she was walking on her own and so impressed by her determination. A couple months later we had the privilege of meeting another mom who had adopted from our little girl's orphanage and was right there when those videos were taken! (Got to meet her adorable little boy they adopted, too. Thank you, Amy Hart!) It is her daughter in the background giving our little girl the lollipop in the first video. Anyway, after the video was taken, our daughter was very upset and said, "Can you do the video again because I want my new mom and dad to see that I can walk and I kept falling down!" Brad and I were so touched at how hard she was trying to please us and hope that she doesn't think we might change our minds. We are so very proud of her perseverance. Every single photo or video we've seen has her standing or walking. Those videos were taken in November of 2012 and she got a care package shortly after that we hope reassured her that we would never change our minds.
We got the photos below in February. If you've ever adopted you know what a treat it is to get new photos or video. Although it's sad to see how much she's grown since that first photo we saw of her, it is reassuring to see how happy she is in these two. And I know we are biased but we think she is just getting more beautiful. (And doesn't she look so much like Daniel?)
What are you naming her?
I am embarrassed to say that we haven't settled on a name. This is typical of us--lots of folks in our household with an opinion. She is called Xin Xin now so we will put Xin as part of her name. The agency had her listed as Ella--a name we love but aren't so sure goes well with Williams. All our girls have the letter V in their names (even two girls in Guatemala that we sponsor and love as daughters have V's in their names)--but are running low on options that everyone likes. If we go with a V, Evangeline is a front runner (but worry if we nickname Evie would be too much like our Ava). And all our girls have a name that ends with an A and in addition to Ella have Tessa, Julia, Elena, Jessa, Eliza, Audra, and Sofia on the list. If we ditched names with a V or ending in A altogether, we like Charlotte (after missionary to China Lottie Moon) and Josephine (nickname Josie), and I've always loved the name Lucy . Her birthparents abandoned her in an outfit described as white with flowers on it. (Sounds like they dressed her in something special so someone would want to rescue her.) So we are considering a flower name/middle name to honor her birthparents (Laurel, Rose, Lily, Violet).
Okay so now you see that our lack of deciding on a name isn't because we haven't bothered to think about it. We welcome any suggestions as we try to narrow it down. Oh how we wish she could choose her new name! We just want something as special as she is!
What has been your adoption timeline?
Others who are adopting from China like to compare timelines.
So here goes:
August 10, 2012--First inquired about Xin Xin
September 12, 2012--PA (Pre-Approvel)
January 21, 2013--Homestudy complete
January 29, 2013--I 800A submitted
February 21, 2013--Fingerprinted
March 5, 2013--USCIS approval
March 22, 2013--DTC (Dossier to China)
April 19, 2013--LID (Log in Date)
When do you expect to travel?
It all depends on how long it takes to get our LOA (Letter of Acceptance). We could travel any time from late summer to some time in the fall.
What adoption agency are you using?
We are using Lifeline Children's Services and can't say enough good things about every single person there who is helping us bring our new daughter home. This can be an overwhelming process and they have made every step as easy as possible. They have some precious children listed on their waiting child pages. Take a minute to look at these sweet faces. You just might find your son or daughter!
Thanks for your prayers and encouragement.
With Much Love,