I'm one of these women who can't imagine life without children.
So when Allan and I had been married about two years we decided to have a baby and went about it in the normal way. But nothing happened. After about 10 months I went to a doctor, who ran some tests.
When I heard "You'll never have biological children" the bottom just fell out of my life. I cried all afternoon. Allan cried too. Then we picked ourselves up and decided that if it wasn't going to happen "naturally," we'd get some help.
So we went to a fertility center. They told us that the success rate for some of the options open to us was only 25 percent. But we wanted a baby. In fact, we wanted more than one baby. We'd have the infertility treatments, even though they were very expensive and there was no guarantee.
They ran tests on me--very painful tests--and they discovered that what could have been relatively simple to "fix" was actually more complicated. But we went ahead. Unfortunately, I had problem after problem. I had cysts on my ovaries . . . I couldn't take more drugs . . . When one thing was cleared up, I'd develop another obstacle.
Unless you've been through this, you can't understand it. People are sympathetic. They think they understand, but they don't. You're invited to baby shower after baby shower when you just long to have a baby yourself. It got so I wouldn't go. I simply couldn't.
I'd see a 14-year-old walking down the sidewalk with a baby, and my heart would break. We just couldn't understand why God didn't let us have a baby. Were we going to be bad parents? There had to be a reason. We had prayed and prayed and prayed.
My last treatment was in December 1996. For six consecutive days we drove to the fertility center, an hour each way. It was the week before Christmas, and I had the flu with a temperature of 104. My bones ached terribly.
A couple weeks later we knew that this last-ditch effort was for nothing too.
The disappointment was just too much. I'd spent month after month praying that my period wouldn't start, but getting the bloating and cramping that told me it was coming. I was sick and exhausted. We didn't know what we'd do next, but for now we'd just wait.
THE ADOPTION OPTION
Then in April 1997 a friend showed us a newsletter from International Children's Care. I looked at it, reading a heartbreaking story of an abandoned baby the orphanage had taken in and cared for. They showed before and after photos, and the change was remarkable.
If you'd asked me about adoption when we were doing the infertility treatment, I'd have told you that it was not what we were going to do. We were young and healthy. I'd get pregnant. But suddenly it seemed like a possible option. So I called ICC headquarters to learn more about them, telling them that we wanted a baby, not an older child. They told me that it would be unlikely that we'd get a child who was under the age of 2. I'm glad they were honest. A lot of agencies just lead you on. Their fees were very reasonable, but Allan and I decided that we didn't want a younger child. We still wanted a baby.
Well, we just had the whole thing on hold, I suppose. Then a couple months later I got out the papers from ICC. I still can't talk about it without tears. And when Allan got home he found me on the floor with these papers spread all around.
"Let's look on the Internet for adoption agencies," Allan suggested, and we found a wealth of information. We finally focused in on an agency that worked with Chinese adoptions, Chinese Children Adoption International, in Englewood, Colorado. We called them and were very impressed. They were very nice, very polite, and answered all of our questions. (This was not our experience with every agency we called.)
You can't imagine how nervous we were when we received their application. I tried to use my neatest handwriting, as if it was going to make a difference. But soon our application was approved, and we started on the paperwork.
There was a lot of paperwork. The stack of papers we mailed to Colorado to be translated and then mailed to China weighed three pounds. They checked everything you could imagine. We were fingerprinted. We got copies of any legal certificate we'd ever gotten in our lives. Then each paper had to be certified (at our state capital). Next they were sent to be authenticated by the U.S. secretary of state. It's a lot of work and a lot of postage.
Our paperwork went to China in April 1998, and then there was nothing to do but wait. And wait some more. Emily's photo arrived in November. We looked at her little face and fell in love.
EMILY IN OUR ARMS
Four weeks later we were told that our group of 13 adoptive families would leave in a week to 10 days. Wow! Now we were scrambling.
It took us 43 hours to get from our home to the final destination. You can imagine that we were tired. But early the next day, December 21, we were bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and on our way to meet our daughter. After a wait that seemed forever we heard babies crying in the hallway near the room where we waited. We all looked at each other; we were about to cry too.
The first baby brought in from the Xiantan orphanage was Emily.
She was 11 months old, and the photo we'd seen was taken at 4 months. But I recognized her instantly, and I started to cry.
They'd told us that the babies would be scared of us and that they'd probably cry, but when they handed Emily to me, she laughed! She snuggled up to me. She hugged me. It was as if she were saying I've been waiting for you all my life. Where have you been?
Finally we went back to the hotel room, and Allan and I started taking off her layers of clothing. The orphanage didn't have heat, and they had the babies all bundled up. We took off layer after layer of clothes, until Allan asked, "Where's the baby?" When she was undressed, we couldn't believe how tiny she was.
We were in China another 11 days as the approval for the babies to leave the country was processed. We stayed in a very nice hotel, eventually traveling back to Guangzhou, where the American consulate is located, to get the babies' visas approved.
Then Emily started running a fever. At first we thought it was because she was teething, but the fever kept getting higher, and our last day there she was really lethargic. We were getting ready to go to the airport to fly back to Los Angeles, but we stopped to take her temperature. It was 105.3.
We hurried her to the hotel doctor and discovered that she had pneumonia. The doctor told us we'd need to stay in China at least two more days. "Please, give us something to get her fever down so we can at least get back to Los Angeles," we begged. "We'll put her in the hospital there if we need to."
So they gave her a shot and put her on antibiotics. It was a very long flight.
Let me tell you, Allan was a trouper. We had a lot of turbulence and I had motion sickness the whole time, so he took care of Emily the whole way. The flight from China to LA was 13 hours. After a six-hour layover we had a four-hour flight to Atlanta. Then another hour to Washington, D.C. What a trip!
We took Emily straight from the airport to our doctor. They sent us to the hospital, where she stayed two days.
We named her Emily Mei. Mei means "beautiful" in Chinese, and she is just a beautiful little girl, inside and out. She's 2 1/2 years old now and has brought so much joy into our lives. Her four grandparents love her as much as we do, and she's already learned that if she's in trouble she can go to Grandma or Pappy. Allan and I look back now at everything we went through, and we are so glad, so glad that I did not get pregnant. If I had, we might not have Emily.
And last spring Emily's little sister arrived from South Korea. We've named her Katie Bok Soon (meaning "like a perfume; a fragrance").
Every month Emily goes to a play group of little girls who have been adopted from China. We want her to see other children who look like she does. We hope she'll remain friends with these children as she grows older. We realize that you get this baby and you love her and she loves you, but there'll come a day when she's going to grieve for what she's lost.
For Emily has lost something. First of all, she lost her birth parents. She may have brothers or sisters. We'll never know. She's lost her birth family, and she's going to grieve for that. She's also going to grieve for the culture that she lost. So we want her to have other children who have the same issues, to help her work through these things.
And, yes, we'll take Katie to a Korean play group. We're really trying hard to keep the cultures alive for our daughters. In fact, this year we had a Chinese New Year's celebration featuring the Chinese dishes I've been learning to prepare. We've also bought a lot of books on China so we can teach Emily about her heritage.
In the past year we've gotten together three times with a family from New York who was in our travel group so that our Chinese daughters can keep in contact. We want them to always have each other, for they knew each other before they came to America.
And we want Emily to know that her birth mother must have loved her very much. She didn't have her aborted. She gave Emily life.
Emily has made so many people so happy. You know, people tell us, "Oh, she's so lucky." And we say, "Oh, no. We are the lucky ones. We have been so blessed."
Lisa taught kindergarten for four years and now is a stay-at-home mommy. Allan is a finance manager for a computer services company. They enjoy gardening, hiking, and walking, and Emily begs to walk instead of hitching a ride in her daddy's backpack.