Friday, February 25, 2011
Adopting a Waiting Child: Sarah's Story
There was nothing my husband or I could do about the wait to adopt a child, but we could do something fun and worthwhile with our time. He focused his spare time on enjoying the outdoor life of fishing and hiking. I focused my energy on my hobby of entering cooking and recipe contests. One day our two hobbies collided as I was called as a finalist at a national cooking contest scheduled for the same time he was planning to be out hiking the Appalachian Trail. So we decided to combine our two trips. We would drive south together, attend my cook-off and then I would drop him off at the trail. Once on the trail, he intended to hike for three weeks and would be without cell phone reception most of the time.
The day of the cook-off was gorgeous weather and tons of fun. After not winning a cash prize that day, we headed back to our hotel to relax and to get ready for our drive the next day when we would be saying goodbye for a few weeks. Kevin turned on our laptop computer and at about the same time we remembered that Great Wall China Adoptions had planned to post a new waiting children’s list that day. We logged on and read through many of the files. We were reading the special needs files more out of curiosity than anything. We had never fully considered the waiting children’s program because we knew that in a few short months our dossier would be at the top of the pile and ready to be matched with a non-special needs infant. Our empty nursery soon would be full!
He was the first one to read through the list and then he passed the computer over to me. After a few minutes, he said, “Did you read the file about the 13 year old girl?” Actually, I had not yet. So I opened her file. No photos were included but I read the few pages of text about her. After 13 years of walking on this earth there were just a few sentences describing a young girl who had endured much in her life yet still after seeing many younger children being adopted she had asked that her file be sent out in hopes of finding a family .
At this point she was 13 years old and just 8 months away from being considered “too old” to be adopted. On the day a Chinese child turns 14 he/she is no longer available for international adoption. On a 14th birthday when many kids are excitedly opening presents and eating cake, a boy or girl residing in one of China’s orphanages is experiencing the first day of the rest of his/her life … a life without the hope of every being adopted internationally.
Something in this young girl’s file clicked with both my husband and me. We talked endlessly about “why” we had decided to adopt and finally were able to put it into words. We simply wanted to be a family. I wanted to be a mom and he wanted to be a dad. Together we wanted to be parents and to be part of a family with a child. We thought back and laughed at how we had contorted our faces when in one of our adoption seminars we had been asked to draw an image of what we thought our child would look like. We had no set ideal image of our child – no race, no gender, no age and no size. So, we had drawn a stick figure with an arrow pointing to the image labeled “our son or our daughter.” We knew the rest of the information would be revealed to us in time and we were excited to meet the person who would one day replace that stick figure drawing.
We stayed on an extra day at the hotel to give us time to talk more and to think. We sat together and carefully went over each question on the special needs adoption request form. We said we realized as first time parents that we lacked the background in having raised a child through the teen years, but we actually saw a huge bonus in our ability to spend all of our time with our child. As first time parents, we knew we would have the extra time needed to help an older child to learn English, to be there to help with homework and studying, to help our child adapt to a new culture and to simply be there for “whatever”.
The phone call that changed our lives came in the early morning hours on July 5. We had stayed up late watching fireworks and were still in bed when the phone rang. The voice on the other end said, “You’re parents! Run to your computer and I’m sending you photos of your daughter.” We almost fell down the steps trying to race to get there! We kept hitting the refresh button on the email until finally three pictures arrived. There she was …. our teen daughter! We were parents!!
The next few weeks were a blur. The nursery came down and the teen girl room went up. We talked with our school system about what options our daughter would have. We secured an English tutor. We chatted with other parents about what things their teen kids liked. We filled our daughter’s new room with all things girly and pink. We bought an Ipod and Kevin’s Chinese students helped select some current Chinese music to put on it. We packed and we flew off to China.
And we’ve never looked back. We’ve been home 3-1/2 years now. Our daughter is 17 and in high school. I would by no means attempt to tell you that it’s been an easy road. Sarah knew no English when we met, she left her country and her friends behind to start her new life and she had to get to know two crazy Americans who showed up and wanted to be called “mom and dad.” But the one constant thing in our lives is family. We experience the ups and down together. We are family.
Kevin and Debi Bracker