Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Here's the L-o-n-g Version

As promised last week, here is the long version of our journey to Elijah.  I apologize in advance for the abundance of details, but I wanted to write it all down for my own sake, as well as for those of you who have asked.  Also, I have written bits and pieces of our story throughout the years, but wanted to have it all in one place to show Elijah one day, so he can see how much he was wanted and loved for all these years.


John and I fell in love with a little boy who we met in China in 2010.  We were on our adoption trip to meet and bring home Ellie, and we stopped by Nicholas' former foster home for a visit. 

(Elijah is in the red and black shirt; above, Nicholas plays with the boys at his former home).

Before we met, I had seen a photo of Elijah in a newsletter sent from the American missionaries who were Nicholas' foster parents.  Mike and Elisa are a wonderful couple who gave up everything familiar to them and moved to China to serve the orphan over a dozen years ago..

Elijah was just so cute. But -- that is not all.  I think SO so many kids in China are breathtakingly gorgeous.  There was something else.

Elijah had stayed in my mind.  This was not logical nor convenient because we were in the process of adopting Ellie.  

Plus, as Mike and Elisa told us, it turned out that Elijah had no paperwork done and was not eligible for adoption anyway.  

But I dreamed about him repeatedly.  Weird.

Once we were home, I kept asking Mike and Elisa how Elijah was doing.  They asked me if I wanted to advocate for Elijah.  In other words, would I be willing to try to find him a home by talking with U.S. adoption agencies, advocacy sites, and just by spreading the word on social media etc.

(Mike with Nicholas)

They would do the work that could be done in China, and I would do the work that could be done in the States.

Of course I said yes.

Mike and Elisa worked to get Elijah's paperwork processed so that he could be one of the lucky children who are even available for adoption (so many orphans in China never even get to this step; the numbers are just too vast).  That entailed communicating with his original orphanage (who is Elijah's official guardian) and getting them to submit paperwork for him and get medical exams done.  Not as easy as it sounds in a very beurocratic system.

I called many many agencies trying to find one that would help me to find his file (once it was made), and would advocate for him.  Unfortunately the agency we worked with to adopt Ellie (which we really liked) was not willing to do this.  Quite a few agencies were not willing to do this.  We were told how unlikely it was that they would ever get Chin@ to give them a specific file.  That is not the way things are usually done.  Chin@ assigns children to agencies, and families are certainly not able to CHOOSE a child they have met beforehand.

But we eventually found a wonderful agency that said they would help us.  They emphasized that this was a long shot.  A big long shot.  

I think the phrase "needle in a haystack" was used.  

But -- if we were willing to understand that this might go nowhere - that Elijah might never get his file completed, or that another agency would be assigned his file, or that his file would be put on a Shared List and then taken by another agency, etc.-- then it could not hurt to try.

So, we got the ball rolling on our end.  That was 2010.

At the beginning, we did not really think we were going to adopt Elijah, just help him find a family.  We started the adoption process with the idea that our agency would help find a family for Elijah.  But, as a last resort, if they got his file and no one decided to adopt him, we would do so.

I will admit --we secretly hoped that we would be his family.  

During this time, Mike and Elisa emailed us with a frantic message that Elijah had been taken out of their care suddenly, with no word as to where he was going.  They were devastated.  Now, this is perfectly within the rights of his orphanage as guardian, but it just seemed so unfair to Elijah and to all who he loved, the caretakers and the other children, in his foster home.  Sadly, this is what happens to many orphans throughout the world  I wrote here about how it is so hard for kids to undergo loss and change.

There were weeks when Mike and Elisa -- and John and I -- did not know where Elijah was.  I was more upset that I probably should have been, since I had only met this little boy once.

But -- really, I still can't believe it -- Elijah ended up, out of all of the thousands of homes for orphans in China, at An Orphan's Wish, an organization for whom I had briefly volunteered a while back. I knew it was a fabulous home.  I knew he would be very well cared for, and get an education and love. What peace that gave me.

I quickly inquired about becoming one of his sponsors, and that request was granted.  How amazing!
Elijah lived there for almost a year until very recently when An Orphan's Wish closed.  During that time we were blessed with photos and updates of him, for which we are so grateful.  We were able to send Elijah a care package and got photos of him opening them**:

(**By the way, An Orphan's Wish was a home for children, but they had no part in the matching of children with parents nor with the adoption process.  While we received updates on Elijah's daily life and progress while he was there, we still did not know where his file/adoption paperwork was, and neither did An Orphan's Wish.)

One day in February of this year, I received a call from our agency.  They were calling with some not-so-good news:  they discovered that Elijah's orphanage has an exclusive relationship with an adoption agency in Italy.  In other words, his orphanage makes their children available only to this agency.  And this agency did not work with American families.

Things did not look good.  We were sure that Elijah would be matched quickly because his special need is minor (repaired club foot) and he is adorable!  On one hand, we were very happy for Elijah.  Finally, after all these years, he had a chance to find a family!  But, on the other hand, we were disappointed that he would not be ours.

This is when our agency asked us to think about what we wanted to do with our dossier (adoption application).  Do we want to wait for a while to see what happens with Elijah? Would we like to be matched with another child?  I wrote that decision it in detail here.  Basically, we thought the chances of Elijah's file ever becoming available to Americans was pretty slim, and we decided to use our file to adopt another child.  

We are so glad we did.

But we never stopped thinking about Elijah.

Just a few weeks after coming home with Christopher, I called my agency and asked if Elijah had been matched with a family.  

They called me back and had an answer:  yes, he had been matched.  He was going to be adopted by an Italian family.  This time is was final.  

I didn't have the same mixed feelings I had the time I got the initial news about his file going to Italy.  This time I was really, really sad.  Even depressed

Nothing made sense: I should have felt only happiness with my new (wonderful, perfect) baby; I should have felt relief because, really, another child right now would be very hard.  
But, over the years of advocating for him, of seeing pictures, of hearing little tidbits about him from afar, we had fallen in love.  And we were heartbroken.

 One little thing that someone at my agency had told me had stuck in my mind.  She had said she would still finish something on our dossier because "you never know...something crazy could happen..."

So I prayed like I have never prayed before.  for a miracle.  For some 'crazy.'

On August 13th, I got a call from my agency.  They got Elijah's file!

No joke.

Elijah's file had been placed on their individual list.  With no explanation from the officials in China@.  

They had been asking for this very thing to happen for years.  And never a response, until this.

I cannot tell you how I felt when I got the phone call.  I was backing out of my driveway, taking my daughter to an appointment.  I had to stop the car because I started balling.  (And I am not usually a big crier. Olivia got very concerned!)  It was just so unbelievable.  I had never had a prayer answered in such a big way before.  After waiting for so long, and after hearing how unlikely this was...

I will always remember the date because August 13th is a sad anniversary to me.  On August 13th, 2005, I lost a very much wanted pregnancy.  This was extremely hard for me and for John.  Our baby's absence is still felt 8 years later, and always will be.

What had been a painful day for me is now one of joy.  

As one of my friend's told me, "God has redeemed this day for you."  And HE has.  Again: adoption is redemption.  For the kids and for the parents.

I am so excited to watch Elijah's redemption unfold.

I am so honored that I get be part of his life.  And grateful that my own redemption story will be somehow intertwined with his.


  1. I want to tell you how much your story means to me. I am praying and praying that G-d will move my husband's heart to adoption. R. seems so far from it right now....but your story of praying like crazy just resonated with me. G-d can change things in an instant, just as happened for you. Your story reminds me of that and gives me courage....

    Your comment about the dates also jumped out at me. My bio son was conceived on what had always been a dark date for me - the death of my brother 25 years before. Yet now it is also a magical date for me. I know it wasn't a coincidence.

  2. Such a beautiful redemption story. I love seeing the many ways God works things out so much better than we could ever dream ourselves. I am so thankful that this boy will have you and that you will have him!