In my post on January 4th, I shared the story of the call that ended our Taiwan adoption journey. Today, I'm going to finish the story. So in memory of legendary radio host Paul Harvey, "and now the rest of the (too long for radio) story..."
I've had many painful, "why this, " and "why me" moments in my life but I really think this one took the prize for being the most hurtful and devastating.
The days and nights following that call on January 4th were terrible. Not only was I was in the process of telling loved ones we were moving in a few weeks, getting a house ready to put on the market, and fretting about all the unknowns of the new year, I now carried the grief of losing a child of my heart. Few know this but our Taiwanese baby was not the first child of our heart we had lost. Seven months earlier, we had lost another child we thought was intended to be our daughter. I cannot write about her but losing her was not easy emotionally. Two times we stepped out in faith and waited and endured (Taiwan MUCH longer than the other situation) and two times we were told, "no." Two "miscarriages"of the heart were more than I thought I could bear.
Don and I were certain our adoption journey was over. Done. Finished. In some ways it made perfect sense. God knew we had reservations about being older parents, the ever-growing age gap between Lindy and her unknown sister, and now concerns about how we could possibly pay for an adoption along with the move to a much more expensive area. We weren't sure why we had been taken on a roller coaster ride of epic proportions since April 2007 (when we started the process) if the answer was inevitably, "no." We weren't sure why he'd allow us to spend so much (unrecoverable) money on a process that didn't result in helping one of His own. We weren't sure why the brain surgery in 2004 that had finally gotten us off the fence and led us to pursue adoption was now the event keeping us from being parents again. The whys definitely outweighed what we felt sure of during those days but we were sure we were getting off the ride.
Since we were no longer on the journey and in the throes of packing and decluttering we gave away almost 16 bins of clothing, shoes, and baby stuff to those who could benefit. I remember touching each outfit, remembering my sweet Lindy in it, and trying to push out the pain of the hope I had felt of seeing another raven-haired daughter running around in it. I also remember feeling the sting of how time had gone so quickly with Lindy and how I'd hoped for another chance. The grief was tremendous. In fact, as I write I'm weeping because it still feels terribly real and my heart aches for those who've also suffered this loss and for those who will.
I wasn't getting out or socializing much at that point mainly because I was so busy at home preparing for our move but I also wasn't feeling too festive, either. Besides family, my biggest source of support was my friend, Elissa. Whether it was a dozen roses on my doorstep, a call, or an email, she KNEW from experience what I was going through and was equipped to minister to me in a special way.
I consented to breakfast at our favorite meeting place on Thursday, January 20th, one year ago today. During our extended visit we shared tears, anger, and laughter. Elissa didn't really like my message of being finished with our journey. She reminded me God detests the idea of orphans more than I do and told me if God wanted us to be parents again, He'd bring our child to us. I really tried to not be cynical and faithless and shoot her well-meaning words down but here were my thoughts:
1. Yeah, right.
2. How's that going to happen? If I get pregnant for the first time ever at this age that would be cruel and wrong.
3. I'm pretty sure the stork doesn't deliver.
4. I'm not lookin'. Period. End of subject.
The irony is that not only had Elissa suffered from a miscarriage of the heart when the Nepal program suddenly closed in 2009 (on MY birthday, no less), Elissa had thought they didn't have any viable options available to them but God had other plans for them when (through me, a totally frowned on sidebar conversation in MOPS, and a forwarded email), He brought Hope to them.
I don't know what time it was when we finally left our booth but I went home and decided there wasn't enough time to do something industrious like get rid of all the recipes I tear out of magazines or dust, so I did what anyone would do, get on the computer. Did I mention I hadn't been feeling very social? I really don't think I'd been on Facebook much (or at all) since the "call." I decided to take a quick peek and see what was happening in the world of social networking and that is when IT happened.
I am sure the Facebook "newsfeed" has changed 100 times since that day but at that time I think you saw EVERY friend's status, as well as every website or group you were a fan of or liked. I used to scroll back to see what I had missed but I was WAY too behind to do that. So, all I did was start with the feed that popped on my screen. That's when I saw her. That's when I felt electricity and a sensation close to that of January 25, 2006. That's when I laughed out loud and said, "Who is she?" That's when I saw a postage stamp-sized picture of the happiest little girl only to find it was OUR agency announcing the launch of their new special needs/waiting children photo site. I clicked on the link, requested a password, and before I knew it I was searching their site, and subsequently requesting the file of the adorable little face I'd felt that spark over.
I am sure I set off bells and whistles at our agency when I requested the information because they pretty much knew they were about to lose us as clients. I also remember I had to run and get Lindy from school. However, RIGHT before I had to leave I got into her file and discovered her nickname was "Mei Mei" and her first name was ACTUALLY Mei. I remember saying, "Really, God, really?" As you can tell by the name of this blog, "Mei Mei" is what we had called our little lady. I know that's pretty normal and not original because it means, "little sister" or "little girl" but we really had not (officially and collectively) chosen a name for her. I did know I wanted to use Mei and had always thought it'd be cool if Mei was part of her name but I had never encountered a child from China with that name. (I'm sure there are some I just wasn't aware of any.) I also remember thinking I was not in the business of looking for signs anymore and in NO WAY was I going to get bogged down with these details. I just wanted to look at her and find out about her because she was so stinkin' cute.
As I read her file, I did not feel fear. I believe I had the peace that passes understanding. I think it is important to document that during our long wait I had requested files of other waiting/special needs children. In honesty, I had tried to "make" myself feel love for other children and when I read files, watched videos, and saw photographs, I felt fear. I did not feel the assurance that I was meant to be their mom. I wanted to but I didn't. I never quite understood that and suffered from silent guilt as a result.
I know this is the longest story but I think it is an important one to document for our family and today felt like a fitting day.
When Don came home from work that night I was an emotional mess. I think I was an emotional mess most of last year but I remember as he washed the dishes (love that man!) I told him about my breakfast with Elissa and then about the adorable little girl called Mei Mei. I remember asking in tears, "Why am I looking at children and requesting files? We are through. We are not in a position to consider a special needs child with all we have on our plates." His answer, in typical Don fashion was, "I don't know why you're looking at files." I was thinking he might say, "You're grieving darling. You don't want to close this chapter of our lives..." Oh, wait, that's my own self-dialogue writing scripts of what others should say.
I continued to think about Mei Mei all evening and into the next day. That Friday, I received a call from the supervisor of the Asian program at our agency sort of fishing about our interest (because we had told her we weren't interested in anything 10 days earlier) and informing us about the program. She explained that they had her file and had been tasked with matching her with a family. She also explained their committee would meet at the end of the month and they would consider all the interested families and make a choice. She made it very clear people were already lining up for Mei Mei and we needed to make it known ASAP (like no later than the beginning of the week) if we wished to be considered. She mentioned one of the hugest considerations for the committee would be who could get Mei Mei home the fastest. It was then she told us some very shocking and pivotal news:
OUR DOSSIER HAD NOT BEEN PULLED FROM CHINA (as requested two years earlier when we moved to the Taiwan program)!!! WE WERE STILL LOGGED IN! For those not familiar with the lingo, it meant we were still in line, waiting for a child in the eyes of China. Furthermore, we were current on everything else because we recently and begrudgingly had just shelled out lots of money to update our fingerprints and a home study.
I tried to remember all the details so I could relay them to Don. I recall giving him all the information and trying to spark conversation but it just didn't really go anywhere. He wasn't saying, "no." He just wasn't saying anything. Meanwhile, I could not get her sweet smile out of my head...
Fast forward to Tuesday morning. As I drove the 14-17 minute commute to Ladies Bible Class, I decided to call and check in with my mom. During that brief call I told her about Mei Mei and how I could not get her out of my heart or mind and that the feeling I felt for her was pretty much "love at first sight." She basically told me she didn't understand and was under the impression we were through and moving (literally) on. I remember feeling short and frustrated and telling her I didn't expect her to understand. It is imperative to note my mom was being very protective of my heart. She has had to pick up the pieces over and over and glue them back together and I know she was thoroughly confused and surprised by my revelation. At that point I had to go or I was going to be late.
Normally after class I would go have lunch with my friend, Ashleigh. However, for some reason I didn't that day. I went straight home and not long after I got home I got a call from my mom. I don't remember her words but the essence of the message was that she loved me and would support whatever decision I (we) make. I asked her if she wanted to see why I was so smitten and she said, "yes." I immediately sent the little pictures and thanks to some high speed internet, she opened them right away. You would have to know my mom to fully appreciate what ensued. I recall there was a REALLY goofy, giddy, girlish giggle (how's that for amazing alliteration) and then she said something like, "Would you look at her? That's her. That's our Millie Mei. She belongs in our family. I know it." There were some tears of joy and excitement. I went on to share all I knew about her, the process, and the urgency of taking action if we wanted to pursue her.
I strongly believe her reaction and blessing helped me have the courage to tell Don what I was feeling and thinking. It is not easy for me to say what I want. I often don't really have a preference but the more I thought about Mei Mei and prayed about it, the more I knew I would always regret if we didn't at least put our names in the hat. If we didn't get chosen, then we would know God had spoken again, accept His answer, and keep on going.
I nervously told Don my desires and he said, "Okay. I'm good with that." What? That simple? Yep. That simple.
Well, we asked our agency to consider us, prayed for several days, and at the end of January discovered we had been chosen to be Mei Mei's parents. As you know, that Mei Mei became our Millie Mei on October 10, 2011.
After three months, she still seems foreign to us at times but when I look at her I can't miss that she is a living, breathing testament to God's faithfulness to us and our family. Every time we wanted to blow off having fingerprints done or getting a medical exam, or having another social worker come visit, something held us there and told us to keep going. We signed and had a letter notarized asking China to withdraw our dossier but it didn't happen. I hadn't been on Facebook but got on at that moment and saw her on the page. I could have missed that but I didn't. God's fingerprints are all over this story. I even see His fingerprints when I think about all the stuff we gave away. The only stuff we had to pass down to her was what still fit Lindy last year and/or what was still in her drawers and closets. Everything else was gone (except for the stuff a couple of stubborn friends gave back). Well, Millie is a BIG girl. She'll be three in a month but she's 33 pounds and wearing size 4T and a size 8 or 9 shoe. I literally take it out of Lindy's closet because it is too short and basically put it right on Millie or in her closet. Thank you, God, for your provision in these tighter economic times. More than that, thank you for your faithfulness!
Millie is asking me for lunch. It is time. It is also time for me to end this story. So I'll sign off in a non-original way. "And now you know the rest of the story."