Of Course It's You

We had our first ultrasound today!

Isn't he beautiful??? Sorry, but in this journey, you need as much laughter as possible. It helps keep the balance of my constant thinking of who we hope will be our son, checking my email for updates from our agency, looking at our online banking to see if our personal checks have cleared for authentication (they all did yesterday), and communicating with hundreds of other parents adopting from China. Seriously, the support I have found in different yahoo and Facebook groups is unbelievable. I learn new things everyday! I am connecting with lots of moms who have adopted from the orphanage where our little guy is living. Some of them are leaving for China soon, while others are more in line with where we are in this process, meaning some of us could possibly travel together. It is very, very exciting! While support from our friends and family has been amazing, it is so comforting to know other moms who are having similar feelings, asking similar questions, and announcing big checkpoints in the adoption process.

Soon after Christmas, I just had this peace that seeing our son or daughter for the first time was going to happen soon. It didn't logically make sense, but it is just the way I felt. I really began to wonder, what will he/she look like? What does my baby's eyes, nose, lips, smile, hair, skin, fingers, tummy, and toes look like? It was the same feeling I had when I was pregnant with Noah and Liam. For 9 months I wondered what they would look like and couldn't wait to see them for the first time. Then, in that moment when they were placed in my arms, I took one look at them and immediately thought, "Well, of course this is what you look like. Of course. I've known you all along."

Going through the international adoption process, you see so many pictures of orphans. Beautiful, each and every one, fearfully and wonderfully made. I saw dozens and dozens of children with various medical conditions, some minor and some more extensive. I saw babies, and I saw teenagers. So much heartbreak for all of these kids who had to grow up in buildings without a mom or dad to show them unconditional love and meet their daily emotional, physical, and spiritual needs. Initially, I would look at each child's picture. Is it you? Are you my child? Am I your mom? Each time remembering that we felt called to adopt a child with CL/CP. Because it was so heartbreaking to look into these children's eyes, I sometimes stopped looking at their pictures - yes, I shamefully admit it. Instead I began to look at the medical conditions written under their names. I would then look at the VERY VERY VERY few children with CL/CP. My heart would only break for those few children raher than dozens and dozens of times. I began to wonder, how will I know? Will God give me a sign? Am I becoming desensitized to seeing these pictures in a way that will prevent me from knowing when I see my child? Everyone says, "Oh you will just know. You really will just know!" I trusted their words and God's leading in my life.

When we got the phone call from our social worker asking us to consider adopting a child without a CL/CP, we were in shock...even a little upset and taken aback. She knew our intentions...we had been clear. Why was she asking us this? After many tears and many, many tears after that, the shock of the situation subsided. I read through that little boy's file and viewed all of his pictures. While staring into those sweet eyes, I thought to myself, "Of course it's you. Of course. I've known you all along." It was the SAME EXACT feeling I had when I looked into Noah and Liam's eyes in those first minutes of their sweet little lives.

And that's when I knew.

I knew.

This little boy is my son.


Adoption Timeline

In some ways, this adoption seems to be going by so quickly, and in others, it is taking forever! Here is an update on where we are in our timeline. You can see that we have accomplished a lot in the past several months, and we still have lots of waiting ahead of us.

07/19/12 - Felt calling to adopt a child with CL/CP
08/04/12 - Made the decision to adopt
09/06/12 - Submitted application to Lifeline Children Services
09/24/12 - Submitted application to a MLJ for Home Study
11/02/12 - Submitted binder to MLJ with Home Study requirements
12/18/12 - Finalized Home Study Report completed
12/20/12 - USCIS received our Immigration application
12/31/12 - Fingerprint appointment date and time received
01/23/13 - 10:45 a.m. Call from Lifeline - saw our son!!!
01/23/13 - 11:00 a.m. Fingerprint appointment at USCIS
02/11/13 - I-797 Approval - Allows us to bring a child into the US
02/21/13 - State Authentications
               - Chinese Consulate Authentication
               - Dossier to China (DTC)
               - Log In Date (LID)
               - Letter of Intent (LOI)
               - Pre-Approval (PA)
               - Letter of Acceptance (LOA)
               - I-800 (Immigration Application for our son)
               - National Visa Center
               - Article 5
               - Travel Approval (TA)
               - Depart
               - Meet Our Son!!!
               - Consulate Appointment
               - Home!!!
This process has been a lot of work and a lot of waiting all rolled up into one. My faith and my heart have grown leaps and bounds the past 5 months, and someday, our son will come home. Whenever I feel myself questioning this process, I immediately remember something our social worker sent us in an email when we were feeling discouraged.
"My friends, adoption is redemption. It's costly, exhausting, expensive, and outrageous. Buying back lives costs so much. When God set out to redeem us, it killed Him." Derek Loux
Then I remember, every document submitted, every minute waited, and every dollar spent...it is worth it.


One Step Closer

Two weeks ago while waiting in the parking lot of USCIS for Ryan to arrive to get our fingerprints taken, I posted this on Facebook...

Fingerprint appointment with USCIS. This is our last step, and once we receive approval for immigration, we will send our dossier to China! Then China will assign us a log in date, and then we wait to be matched! It's a bit of an emotional moment. We've worked so hard to get here, and I am confident that we will see our son or daughter for the first time soon.

I questioned myself. Really? You really think you will see your son or daughter SOON? Determined and confident, I decided that yes, defying all logic (because we wouldn't get matched for at least 2 more months), I really believed I would. I closed out of Facebook and was looking at my phone.

It rang.

It was our agency.

Our social worker was on the other end. "What a coincidence that you are calling! I am in the USCIS parking lot waiting for Ryan to go get our fingerprints," I said with such surprise. Then I heard the words, "This might really overwhelm you, and I'm not sure how you're going to feel about my call.... I was talking to our coordinator for one of our orphanage partnerships, and she was asking if I knew of any families who were open to adopting a boy...and well, we have two boys, and we would like you to prayerfully consider adopting one of them."

Was this really happening? My mind was spinning!

"There's just one thing," she said. "Neither of them have cleft lip or cleft palate. I know that's really where your heart has been...." The conversation continued a bit longer, and I told her that I would talk to Ryan. She said to let her know if we wanted to see the full file for either or both children.

Ryan pulled into the parking lot, and I got out of the car in a daze. "You're not going to believe this call I just got." I went on to explain the conversation while we walked into the building. After an elevator ride and a quick security check, our fingerprints were taken. We were in and out in less than 10 minutes. We went to the lobby and looked at the pictures of each perfect, precious boy. This was so unexpected, and we didn't know how to proceed. We decided that we needed to call her back and let her know that if a child with CL/CP would have a more difficult time finding a family than either of those two boys, we needed to wait. Ryan went back to work, and I went to pick up the kids.

When I called our social worker, she let me know that boys have a much harder time getting placed, as so many people adopt from China specifically wanting a girl. Ryan and I have gone into this feeling like we don't pick the sex of our biological children, so we wanted God to pick the gender of this child, too. She then affirmed something we learned in our required education for adoption that most people adopting a child with special needs check CL/CP as a condition they would accept. Therefore, those children get placed fairly easily, especially since there are so many children with CL/CP in China. It was truly the fact that they were boys.

I went home and put Liam down for his nap and popped a movie in for Noah. I pulled up the information about the two boys and just cried. And cried. And then I cried some more. How could we pick one when they both equally needed a family? They were both so much. I would look at one and cry...and then look at the other then cry. After an hour or two, I called Ryan and asked if he was feeling drawn to one child more than the other. He said, "I don't know why, but I am really wondering about the second little guy." "Me, too," I said. "I can't explain it, but I feel the same way." We agreed to ask for his file. Our social worker sent it to me soon after, and I read each word and looked at each picture.

Heart beats fast
Colors and promises
How to be brave?
How can I love when I'm afraid to fall
But watching you stand alone?
All of my doubt suddenly goes away somehow

One step closer...

I had dinner plans with my friend, Kerri, that night, and let me just say it was a total God thing because she was just the right person to process my thoughts and feelings. About halfway through dinner, I shared what happened earlier that day. I cried and cried some more. Kerri spoke from her heart and from the perspetive of the strong faith that we share, and I left our dinner that night with so much more peace in my heart. Ryan and I went through everything that night and decided to send his file to the International Adoption Clinic at Riley the next morning. Dr. Keck would be able to review everything and give us as much information possible so that Ryan and I could make an informed decision.

I worked Thursday and Friday....and fell in love more and more with each passing hour. I must have looked at his pictures 5,000 times. I researched the city and orphanage where he lives. I began learning about all of the wonderful things that are happening in that orphanage to support the needs of children placed in their care. My heart grew bigger and bigger for this little boy. After my last meeting on Friday, I was able to talk to Dr. Keck. She went through everything with great detail and shared everything in such a caring, knowledgable, and kind way. We are so lucky to have her on this journey! I left work, and on the way home, I finally let guard down.

I have died everyday waiting for you
Darling don't be afraid I have loved you
For a thousand years
I'll love you for a thousand more

We did request some updated information on him but have not received anything. It doesn't matter. We are in love and believe so strongly that he is our son. Our son. We let our agency know that we wanted to pursue adopting him (YAY!!). I worked a good part of a day getting together Letter of Intent (LOI) paperwork. The idea was that as soon as we received our immigration approval (which is why we had fingerprints taken), we would send off the LOI and also begin authenticating all of our documents for our dossier. We could have pre-approval two weeks after submitting our LOI. Then we would just need to wait to be Dossier to China (DTC), receive our Log In Date (LID), and our LOA (Letter of Approval).
I mailed everything to our agency, crying as I left the post office. I was thinking about how there is a little boy across the world who has NO IDEA we love him...I mean really love him and want to be his family forever and ever. I had dinner with my friend, Abigail, from Hanover that night and just enjoyed the time with her, talking about where life was taking both of us. It was the perfect end to a really exciting day in this adoption process.
Then I got an email from our social worker. It said we were not allowed to submit our LOI afterall...not until we received our LID, which we hope to get around mid-March...like 5 weeks from now.
Time stands still
Beauty in all she he is
I will be brave
I will not let anything take away
What's standing in front of me
Every breath
Every hour has come to this

One step closer...
I have died everyday waiting for you
Darling don't be afraid I have loved you
For a thousand years
I'll love you for a thousand more

Now we wait. And most importantly, we pray. We pray that it's God's will for us to bring this little boy home. God has closed several doors over the past year, and we have celebrated each one, trusting that He would lead us to His will for our lives. And He did. He said, "This (Adoption) is what I'm asking you to do." We were scared, and I initially begged him not to ask me to adopt a child with CL/CP. But in no time at all, He made it clear that this was an opportunity to be obedient to His will for our lives. We embraced God's dream for our lives and dove in. It was a door we have loved walking through...always taking one step and another step and another step closer to meeting our child. Please pray with us that we receive our immigration approval soon. As soon as we do, we can authenticate our dossier (can take 3 weeks), send our DTC, and receive our LID. Then, we can submit our LOI in hopes that China will allow this little guy to be our son. I pray that at the end of this journey, I can hold this sweet child, my new son, in my arms and sing these words...
And all along I believed I would find you
Time has brought your heart to me
I have loved you for a thousand years
I'll love you for a thousand more

Christina Perri "A Thousand Years" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rtOvBOTyX00

*Please know that we cannot share specifc details about this little guy until much later in this process. Please be patient and just pray. We never want to do anything to jeopardize his ability to come home to us.

*Also, please pray with us that the other little boy finds a family soon. He is so so adorable, and needs/deserves a family just as much.

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