I have a very special post for you today, my friends! Prepare yourselves for one of the most inspiring and heartfelt posts you've read in awhile. I read it three times (consecutively) when I received it, because it is just that wonderful. Please read and enjoy!
Hello, Trial by Sapphire readers! My name is Mary Susan, but I often go by my much easier nickname “Mae” or as my sister calls me, "Mae Mae."
I have a lifestyle blog over at Two Hoots & a Holler where I blog about everything from growing up on a farm to being married to a musician to my journey as an adoptive mother. When Lindsay asked me to write about my experience as an adoptive mom thus far, I was so excited! I’m very passionate about adoption and anytime someone’s willing to listen I’m ready to talk! So here we go…
In 2010 my husband and I decided to start the adoption process (yes, it’s 2012, and our child is still not home yet but that’s a different story). My husband and I had always wanted to adopt, so when we decided 7 years into marriage that we were ready to start a family, we chose to adopt first and have biological kids second.
So, in 2010, we began months and months of research. Searching for answers to a million questions: What agency? Where should we adopt from? International adoption or domestic adoption? If we have to be foster parents first, would my husband’s erratic work schedule allow for all of the meetings and the visitations with biological parents? What’s our age range? Will we be open to a child with special needs? What kinds of special needs? Boy or girl? Is a sibling set okay? If so, would we accept a sibling set of 2, 3, 4, or even more children? The list went on and on. For a number of reasons, we chose to adopt from Ghana, we were open to a sibling set of 2, all children under the age of 6, and the gender didn’t matter. We put in our application, finished our homestudy, completed our educational classes, and by April 2011 we were on a waiting list.
Then in the summer of 2011, our adoption coordinator gave all adoptive families access to photos from her 2 ½ week summer trip to Ghana. As I eagerly scanned through these photos, looking at the landscape, the beaches, the markets, I noticed a sweet, beautiful, baby girl… I didn’t know anything about her other than she was living in a part of an orphanage for children with special needs. As the months followed, I often thought about her, although I didn't know anything about her story.
Then, months later, in September, I woke up in the middle of the night, very restless. I couldn’t sleep and finally decided to just get out of bed. I wandered into the dark living room, sat on the couch, and turned on my laptop. I very quickly landed on my coordinator’s blog (a blog I read often). I was struck by one of her most recent posts titled “Baby O”. In her post she described a little girl needing a family. She was developmentally delayed. While it was suspected that she had Cerebral Palsy and Microcephaly her specific needs would remain largely unknown until an adoptive family brought her home to their American doctors. According to her blog, this child was being called “Baby O” as she had no official name and O was the first letter of her orphanage. She posted this picture of the baby’s body (full pics aren’t allowed on the internet until a child is through court) and I immediately recognized it as the body of the sweet girl I had seen in the pictures from her trip months before.
I quickly logged back into her photo account, searched through those 900 photos and found the pictures I had seen that summer of this little girl. She was absolutely adorable and her eyes were stunning.
I felt a strong connection to this child. A very strong connection. I woke up my husband. He sat up, read the blog post, and looked at the pictures with me. What did this mean? We hadn’t planned on adopting children with special needs, although we had found ourselves talking about special needs a lot in the weeks prior. From then on, we began discussing special needs more seriously, we began speaking with friends who had raised children with special needs, and we began praying about it… a lot. We thought about this baby… we prayed for her… we gazed at her photos. We began calling her Abiella... (you can read why HERE.)
After a weeks of praying, researching, and begging God for discernment, we knew without a doubt we were to move forward. Filled with unspeakable peace, true desire and crazy excitement, we sent our coordinator an email asking, “Is Baby O still up for adoption?” It was the weekend, we knew we may not get an answer for days, but sure enough, on a Sunday morning in the fall of 2011 at 1:30 am, we got a reply. It began with, “Mary Susan, my heart just about leaped out of my chest! Yes, she’s still up for adoption!” After reading more about her story and praying some more, we replied, “We’re so in love with this child. Let’s move forward.” And that’s what we did. Two days later, we were filling out final paperwork and preparing to submit our dossier.
Although we knew we had to wait through months of court dates and paperwork before she could come home, we wanted to meet her as soon as possible! So 8 weeks after sending that email, we were on a plane to go meet our baby girl for the first time. You can read about that day HERE. Here is a picture taken of us when we met for the first time:
The meeting was overwhelming. In just five minutes, she smiled at my husband and me half a dozen times. We couldn't take her from the orphanage, but everyday that week we took a taxi there, sat under a tree, and visited with Abiella. She was strong and beautiful and happy.
Eventually, we had to go home and say goodbye to our precious baby. We were told court might happen before Christmas and that she might even be home by February! However, months came and months went and by the middle of May court still hadn’t happened. I was devastated. This waiting period was unbelievably hard. The day I spotted “Mother’s Day” on my calendar I fell apart. I was determined to get away. I needed to get out of town and have a change of scenery. So my husband planned a quick trip to the beach for Mother's Day weekend, and on our drive there, we got a phone call. Abiella had gone to court (yay), but the judge couldn’t possibly “understand why an American couple would want to adopt a child with special needs.” She was afraid we had been “misled.” So, she did something quite unexpected, she ordered us to appear in court a few weeks later and tell her in person that we knew of Abiella’s needs. While this was an unanticipated development, I was THRILLED that I would get to see Abiella in just 2 weeks! We spent the next few days at the beach planning our short-notice trip to Africa and daydreaming about seeing Abiella again.
Two weeks later we boarded a plane to Ghana, spent three days with Abiella in our hotel room, stood in front of a judge, and became an official family of three!! Our time with Abiella was unbelievable and a true unexpected blessing.
Today, we’re back at home without Abi... We're waiting on more paperwork… adoption decrees, birth certificates, visas, passports, 1-600s, etc. Waiting is incredibly difficult, but as our friends say, we’re one day closer than we were yesterday.
Throughout this waiting time I have found great comfort in reading other adoption blogs, connecting with mamas going through waiting purgatory, and working hard to prepare for when she comes home.
If you made it to the end of this post then you’re a real trooper! You can follow more of our journey over here. I write about all sorts of things, but I keep all of the adoption posts labeled under the adoption tab on the left. Blogging has been a blessing for me over the past year and I’d love to follow your journey too :) So, come introduce yourself!!
Thanks for letting me share about my experience Lindsay!! You're the best!!
Mae, thank you so much for sharing your story! This is just the beginning of something amazing and special, and I'm honored that you chose to share some of it here! You and your husband are wonderful! I'll be anticipating your post about Abi's arrival!