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The Day the Lotus was Matched with Us... and All of You!

We’ll just cut right to the chase on this one – we have a match!!! It has been one Merry Christmas indeed sharing this news with our families even though we have been sitting on the secret for two weeks. I guess all of this waiting really has made us more patient! It was quite the challenge not to call all our friends and family the second we found out, but we knew “introducing” the lotus to our families in person would be that much sweeter for us all. It was so very worth the wait.

While we’re not allowed to post her pictures, name, and detailed information just yet, we did want to share our experience about the day we were matched with this 18-month old bundle of joy. Feel free to email or call us if you want to hear more about our new daughter or see the photos of her privately. We’re beaming new parents over here and are happy to talk alllllll about her.

Here’s how our match day went down…

The Call

It came on a Tuesday afternoon – December 10th, 2013 – completely out of the blue. I was sitting at home working when the face of my phone lit up and read Eugene, Oregon (where our adoption agency, Holt, is based). This could only mean one thing, and my heart nearly leapt out of my chest. Everything in me wanted to just pick up the phone and yell “We say yes!”, but I somehow mustered a simple nervous “Hello?” instead.

It was Holt’s China Program Director, Beth. With a voice full of excitement, she beamed that she had a file for a little girl she would love to share with us. Having already agreed Kevin and I wanted to be together when hearing any information about our match, I stopped Beth and asked if we could call her back together in 30 minutes – Kevin’s precise commute from work. I hung up the phone and called him. He was home in 20.

It was a gorgeous sunny and clear, cold December day. It had snowed that morning and there was still some powder on the ground. The phase of the moon that day made it visible to us even in the full sunlight. The moon is something we have always used to connect with the lotus – we share the same one after all. So as we were about to make the most important phone call of our lives thus far, that visible moon meant she was asleep, soundly and peacefully we hoped.

After sharing a hug and some preliminary tears, we took a couple deep breaths together and returned Beth’s call. Once again, her voice was filled with enthusiasm that nearly matched the electricity in our hearts. Following protocol, she only described the general information contained in the file – the child’s age, approximate birthday, the city and orphanage she lives in, when and where she was found, plus her past and present medical state. Our agency asks that we don’t share these full details publicly for protection of the orphanage and our child’s identity, but what we can tell you is that she is unequivocally ours and we are hers. We didn’t even need to hear half the information above to know this. Throughout the 15 minute call, we couldn’t bear the suspense any longer, and so we asked Beth to please send us the file.

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“Meeting Her” for the First Time

Knowing it would take about an hour for the email to reach us, we tried to distract ourselves by catching up on each other’s day. Admittedly, neither of us can recall what the other had to say. Our minds were racing and reeling with all of the information we just received. Some of it pleasantly surprising, hopeful, and as reassuring as it could be given our child is in someone else’s care. And some of it expectedly tough, heartbreaking, and scary for the exact same reason.

We sat there tightly clinging to one another around the computer, separating only to compulsively hit the “refresh” button. We were nervous, excited, and eager, but somehow calm at the same time. After hearing about her on the call, we knew she would be our daughter and we her parents. But the anticipation of seeing the sweet face belonging to the child we already love so dearly – sight unseen – was palpable.

Then there it was – the email from Holt containing everything known to date about our daughter. We took another couple of deep breaths together and then clicked the email. There were a few attachments and since we knew the photo was in the file written entirely in Chinese, that’s the one we chose to open first. After scrolling through a couple pages of beautifully intricate characters (and Kevin endearingly trying to pronounce her name as if it were Spanish), there she was. Our little lotus! A tiny 1 x 1.5 inch headshot of the most precious baby girl we had ever seen. She had the gentlest little smirk on her face that almost seemed to say to us “I choose you too”.

We both instantly burst into tears, and I simultaneously into laughter. I was absolutely overwhelmed with a joy so immense it caused both reactions.

Nothing could have properly prepared us for that moment. It is truly a unique experience seeing your child like this for the first time. There’s no easing in with a swollen little newborn face that has not yet fully revealed its features. She’s a toddler and there is already so much life and experience in her eyes, and expression on her face. We couldn’t take our eyes off her. We studied that little face, scanning it for any clue about her personality and demeanor.

We kept scrolling through the file, written in a language we have yet to understand. And then there were more photos! FOUR more photos! And these were full color, head-to-toe, 4 x 6 inch shots of her in action. We now gratefully have five pictures of our daughter to help piece together her story with her. We know we are lucky to have these. But the most recent one shows her already on hands and knees ready to crawl. This – like so much else about adoption – is bittersweet.

We shot a private video of the referral phone call and of the moment we opened her file. Honestly, we did so mostly because we knew a few details would be sacrificed to our nerves, and we want to have every answer possible for her when she one day asks. We look forward to sharing this full video with her when the time is right. There is absolutely no mistaking our authentic love for her when watching our reaction – it was even strange to play it back for ourselves. I have known Kevin for 20 years, and myself for an obvious lifetime. I have never seen us like this: our tears, our body language, our eyes, the moments during the call with Beth that nearly brought us to our knees. “It’s a good orphanage” she said, and we both melted.

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About Her

She is already 14 months old in the report and photos, and another four months have passed since the file was produced in August. That makes her approximately 18 months old now (we say “approximately” because her birthdate was only a guess based on when she was found by a police officer in the summer of 2012). She’s a tiny little peanut, but her cheeks are chubby. “She eats”, I remember repeating under my breath after seeing her little Michelin Man arms, “she eats”. She has mesmerizingly deep, dark eyes and short fuzzy black hair that stands up on end. Her little fingers are long and have dimples. She can curl her tongue!

Although the photos do not show all her emotions, we can both clearly see in our minds what she looks like when laughing, crying, frustrated, determined, silly, scared, and happy. We look at her picture approximately 1,000 times a day, and her face is framed and scattered throughout the house like she is already here with us. We simply can’t get enough of her.

After spending some time with her photos, we opened the version of the same file that had been translated into English. This report is quite thorough and gives information about when, where, and how she was found. It lists physical measurements and lab results, details about a couple of hospital stays, and a handful of developmental milestones. Finally, it describes her daily routine and some of her favorite things – this information we take with a grain of salt because apparently our baby girl “likes sports”. A copy and paste error from a previous report, we laughingly assume.

In terms of accepting the referral, it didn’t really matter to us if the details of the report were accurate or not though. She’s our little girl and we love every inch of her. The report and her photos are all we have and they certainly gave us some added peace. We hope someday they will provide the same for her.

The hour after “meeting her” for the first time was filled with polarizing emotions. We were relieved but nervous. Overjoyed but heavy. Tender but fiercely protective. We were certainly in some degree of shock. But what happened over the course of the afternoon is truly indescribable. All these other emotions yielded to a purely natural, raw, unbreakable love which is somehow still growing.

We will never be able to tell our daughter about the day she was born, which breaks our hearts to pieces. But we will be able to tell her the story of our journey to become a family and how securely nestled in our hearts she was before we even met her in person. Telling this to someone – our child included – might seem unbelievable. I’m still taken aback at what this “motherhood” thing actually feels like despite seeing it in my own Mom’s eyes for years. But it will be completely undeniable when she is able to one day see if for herself.

So What’s Next? When Does She Come Home?

We had one full week to give our formal acceptance of this child as our daughter, of which we took less than a day. Although nothing any medical professional could have told us about her file would have kept us from wholeheartedly accepting, we had already paid $500 many months ago for the file review service at the Vanderbilt Children’s International Adoption Clinic. We felt we should hear them out. If nothing else little lotus, your parents are prudent, sometimes to a fault. Waiting for Dr. Rothman at Vanderbilt to call us back was the only thing that kept us from accepting the match the moment we finished reading the report.

We have submitted to the CCCWA in China our official Letter of Intent to adopt this child, and so now we wait again. This time, with a little less left to the imagination and a little more to cling tightly to. The longest part of the haul for the two of us is now behind, and the toughest part ahead. It will take at the very least four months until we’re approved to travel to China to pick her up, so it will likely be early April at the soonest (or so we estimate). But if we’re asking the lotus to stay strong, we can do it too. In fact, I just got a little boost looking at her photo one more time today… go ahead and make it 1,001.

We Remain Blessed

So here we sit, after an unforgettable week in Alabama telling family about the big news, and introducing them to their new granddaughter, niece, and cousin. Monday night we surprised my family (the Callaways) with the annual family calendar, in which the lotus was the December cover girl (thanks Aunt Sue!). Christmas morning we sent Kevin’s Mom and Step-dad into shock, with Debra making it about 15 seconds into the video we made her before losing control and breaking into tears. Thursday afternoon we shared the news with the lotus’ only cousins, Colin and Hannah, through a photo puzzle that I think their parents (Kevin’s brother Cameron and his wife Tab) figured out within seconds. Yesterday, we spread the news at the Brown’s annual gathering via a suspicious picture frame in Kevin’s Dad’s gift. And finally, just this afternoon we finished the rounds by telling Kevin’s other side, the Wiginton’s… all 40 something of ‘em. Sprinkle in a few early announcements in Nashville before we left and some phone calls in between, and whew… what a whirlwind!

As if we didn’t already know how lucky we are (and she is!)... seeing and hearing the shared joy on these faces and in these voices has confirmed that we have the best support group ever. We’ve said it before but it’s worth repeating: a journey like this wouldn’t be possible without the friends and family who are reading this right now, so we will be forever indebted. There’s no doubt that the lotus has felt your love all week (and maybe even heard some squeals of joy). Now when we send our prayers to her, we have that loveable, chubby little face to focus on. It’s more than real now. She’s ours. She's ours!

The countdown is on until we bring her home for good...

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"I am a lotus flower – delicate, fragile, yet strong... floating, unfolding, and blossoming into the life where I belong.”