Tonight, my daughter cuddled up with me in the dark before bedtime.
“I’m so frustrated, Mommy. I want my little brother now! I don’t want to wait any more. This is making me lose my temperature!”
After I sorted out that it was her temper she was in danger of losing, I had to admit all of this is making me lose my temper, too. But I hope, oh how I hope, that we only have a couple more months to wait.
November is National Adoption Month, and it seems fitting as we are in the final stages to talk a little about our Journey to Jupiter, as I’m calling it.
We began this second adoption journey in February of 2014. Our daughter had been begging for a sibling. As an only child, I didn’t know what to make of it—most people told me it was a passing phase. “Distract her with a puppy.” “Just wait—she’ll forget all about it. They all do this.”
She did not forget. And at age 3, after I’d taken her to see a puppy, she firmly announced from the back seat: “I don’t want a puppy; I want a baby brother!”
When she was asked in Chinese class at age 4 to draw her family—the very first picture of us she’d ever drawn—she included him. He has been with us in her mind almost from the beginning, and she has waited these two interminable years, watching as her other friends had siblings, as we kept promising her a sibling who never arrived.
She grieved when she realized that she would not take me to the hospital and bring home a baby brother in triumph. She fretted nervously that she did not want him born from someone else’s tummy, because he belonged to us.
She dreamed of him, that they had flown to Jupiter together in a rocket ship. (She started calling him Jupiter after that). She dreamed that he had saved us all by being able to answer riddles that none of us could answer.
She made plans for how they would play together, how she would change his diaper and feed him, how she would read to him once she finally learned to read. (I truly believe a large part of her impetus to read is so that she can read to him).
She spoke of him every day and every night, sometimes weeping or falling into an outright tantrum because she missed him so badly. “I have so much love in my heart to give him,” she would say to me at night.
Her heart, it seemed to me, was broken without him. We could no more deny her that wish than we could deny her food or love.
We knew that attempting another adoption would be difficult. But we really had no idea just how difficult it would be. I knew that the wait had nearly killed me before, and I tried so very hard to be patient. Part of the problem was expectations. When we were finally finished with the major paperwork and logged in with the Chinese government in November 2015, we were told that because we wanted a boy, it could literally be any day.
There are many more boys available than girls, because Americans overwhelmingly prefer girls due to the perception that girls are not valued in China. (It’s much more complicated than that, especially now). In a panic, we began a fundraiser, thinking we’d likely be matched by January and be traveling by May of 2016. We were worried that we couldn’t raise the final payment in time, and we’d had a lot of home and automobile repair issues. And I hadn’t (and still haven’t) sold another book. Having our expectations set so high made the months that ensued even worse. When I asked for a status update in March, I was devastated to hear that our agent thought we would probably not match until October. (Turns out she was pretty much right).
Then in June, we were told we were at the top of the list. Any day now. Yet again.
We had two false alarms—one for a child we knew we could not parent due to his extremely severe needs. Another for a child I saw on an advocacy site and fell in love with on sight as I had with our daughter but who was snatched away from us at the last minute (or so it felt) because we could not raise the additional funds needed to transfer to his agency. As in publishing, there are many complex issues in adoption that no one talks about. Losing a child in this way was one of them.
After we lost him, I swore I would stop trawling the advocacy sites and lists daily. We even expanded the needs we were willing to accept because our adoption agent felt we were being far too narrow. I told myself I would just wait patiently for our miracle.
I couldn’t do it.
I couldn’t stop looking for him. I felt in my heart that he was not coming to me because I had to find him. One day, I saw a boy on an advocacy site whose face spoke to me, whose little swagger made me grin.
I asked to see his file. Here is where I go aside and tell you that when we started this journey, my husband and I called him by a certain Chinese nickname. Admittedly, it’s a popular name for little boys, but still…that’s what we called him to ourselves.
Imagine my surprise when I opened his file and discovered that the nickname we’d been calling him is actually his name! It seemed quite providential.
His need was not any that we’d listed, and it was truthfully a bit scary to me. He was older than we’d hoped (though still younger than our daughter; we are not allowed to adopt out of birth order). But I looked at his face and knew that if there was any way he could be ours, he might just be The One.
Unfortunately, he was with the same agency that had also hosted the file of the boy we lost. When I inquired about him, I barely dared hope. But since his designation was different than the other boy (another complication in this complex process), they could transfer his file to our agency. The only problem was that two other families, clients of theirs, were already looking at his file. If they said yes, we’d be in the same boat we’d been in last time.
I don’t think I breathed for about a week. Then, finally, the other families passed. It’s perhaps hilarious—I was relieved and panicked at once. Had they seen something we’d missed in his file? Had their medical team cautioned them against him? (Ours had said yes).
Finally, on a day that had been immensely sad (attending the funeral of a friend who had died unexpectedly), I got the news that the boy’s file could be transferred to us.
We could have our Jupiter.
I still have trouble believing it, and am scared that it is all a lie. But we received our Letter of Approval from the Chinese government last week. It’s official. We’ve found our son at last.
This week, we closed our adoption fundraiser and the funds have been sent to China for our son’s orphanage care donation. We are grateful to so many friends, family, even a few strangers (!) for their generosity in helping to bring our son home.
As with every night, I’m putting my daughter to bed listening to Disney tunes. “A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes” from Cinderella (my daughter’s favorite movie) is playing. I will never forget all the fairy godpeople who helped make my daughter’s deepest wish come true.
I do not forget either that our deepest joy will for a while be our son’s deepest sorrow. Adoption, however it ends, begins in tragedy. My daughter still mourns her birth family fiercely, and I am sure he will do the same with the foster mother who has cared for him. But deep down I hope he will come to feel that we have made his dreams of a family come true, too.
A dream is a wish your heart makes
When you’re fast asleep
In dreams you will lose your heartache
Whatever you wish for you keep
Have faith in your dreams and someday
Your rainbow will come smiling through
No matter how your heart is grieving
If you keep on believing
The dream that you wish will come true
(Songwriters: Al Hoffman, Jerry Livingston, Mack David; Walt Disney Music Publishing Company)
“We are only half a family now,” my daughter said tonight. “But soon we will be whole.”
Thank you, everyone, for making our dream come true.