When our son was about 2 1/2 years old, we decided to formally pursue adoption in the hopes of giving him a sibling. We contacted LDS Family Services (our church-based agency), completed the homestudy process, prepared our "marketing literature" (as in, a birth parent letter and a photo collage of our family and a website profile), and began the waiting process, hoping that a birth mother would select us from among the many waiting and hopeful families.
It reminded me of putting my house up for sale. You get everything spruced up, the realtor puts together a nice marketing package, adds your house to the listing, and you wait breathlessly to see how much interest there will be. At first, we thought, "We are such a great family. We'll get chosen right away." After a month "on the market", we started to have more realistic expectations.
We asked our son, Jacob, whether he would like us to get another baby for our family. His answer was, "Noooooooooooooo." Why would the solar system need two suns to revolve around?
We waited about a year and a half with no substantial nibbles. Meanwhile, I had become involved in the adoption community as the local co-chair of Families Supporting Adoption. I learned about the famine of unwed mothers choosing adoption. Single parenting (and outside our religion, sometimes even abortion) seemed to be more socially acceptable than this loving choice of making an adoption plan. I wished that more people knew our story, and how this loving choice blessed a little boy named Jacob. Meanwhile, we prayed for a child, and our son continued his insistence that with such quality, we could forget quantity of children.
Until spring of last year. Suddenly Jacob started to tell us, completely out of the blue: "We need a baby sister for our family." I thought it was interesting, because the subject of gender had always been left up to chance. In our adoption application we were asked to mention preferences like gender, but we figured we would treat it like a pregnancy, where you don't get to be choosy about stuff like that. So I asked Jacob, "A baby sister? Not a baby brother?"
"No. Girl." He was certain that he needed a sister. He had such confidence, I was tempted to ask him where he thought she would be coming from! He had no clues there, but he ultimately decided that her name should be Emma. Apparently we had nurtured his ego to the point where he would always be the center of our universe, and so adding "big brother" to his resume would only enhance his status. He felt completely comfortable with the idea of a baby sister coming into our world.
As an interesting omen, we sold our house in one day. We were thinking about moving into a bigger house, and while we were looking at homes, our house sold before it even listed. It was cool. We found another home only a few miles away, and joyfully made the move. Since this was our fifth house in ten years, we promised ourselves that this house would be the LAST one we bought until retirement. (I kind of shudder now at the idea of "the last house", because that has an eerie new meaning. I keep praying for a miracle so that the "until retirement" stipulation would have relevance.)
Two weeks after we took possession of our new house, I received a phone call from another agency in Ohio. The case worker knew me through my involvement in Families Supporting Adoption. She had told me before about some adoption opportunities with their agency, but in the past they never seemed right for us. But this time, something felt different. A baby girl, due very soon in Washington, D.C. She is African-American. Her birth parents are both willing to sign relinquishment papers. Something in my heart responded to this one like no other. I told my husband about this, and his heart did something, too. We decided to find out more. That was on a Saturday.
Unfortunately, when we called the agency back to let them know we were interested, we learned that the birth mother was already working with another couple. It was disappointing and rather confusing, given the feelings we had about this situation. That was on Monday.
On Thursday, I received another call. The other couple was out of the running. They couldn't get the loan that they needed for the agency fees. Were we in a position to act quickly if we were chosen? I told her that we were. (We pay our tithing and the windows of Heaven always open up, just like Malachi describes.) A conference call was scheduled between us, the agency case worker, and the birth mother, for the following day.
On Friday we had the conference call. I felt like I was talking to an old friend, not a complete stranger. We shared ideas, hopes, and dreams. It was a nice conversation. I felt very comforted and assured that this was a good thing. One of my questions was whether this African-American woman had any reservations about placing her baby with a white Mormon family. She didn't. She said she had no race preference, and she had no religious preference, except that she wanted the baby to grow up in a family that was active in a religion, so that she could be taught good values. I admired that about her. We talked about music, and I found out later that this (pardon the pun) struck a chord with her, because music was important to her. She loved the fact that Jared played the piano (thanks to his mother, who made him practice as a kid) and I sang and directed my church choir. Fifteen minutes after the phone call, I received another call from the agency. We had been chosen. We are officially "expecting" a baby. Wire lots of money right away, and find an attorney in the DC area. When the birth mother goes into labor, we'll get a phone call, and we'll have to drop everything and fly to Washington DC.
We picked up Jacob from preschool that afternoon and told him: 1) we are taking a family trip to Washington DC sometime soon (which was exciting to him, because we had taken a trip there for business & pleasure the previous year and he loved it); 2) we are going to see Grandma and Grandpa (Jared's parents, who live in the DC area right now); and 3) we are going to get a baby sister! Jacob was reeling with joy at all of this news.
On Monday morning (June 20, 2005 - just one day after Father's Day), as I was meeting with a client and explaining how I might need to be out of town for a while, my phone rang. The baby had been born. Birth mom had a really easy, really fast labor. We dropped everything and scrambled to get on a plane. We arrived in DC late Monday night.
On Tuesday morning the three of us held hands as we tiptoed into the hospital. We entered a room where a beautiful woman was holding a beautiful baby girl. Our baby girl. Our Emma. At first we were taken aback at how stunningly beautiful her birth mother was. And as we held this new baby girl in our arms, we were taken aback at how beautiful she was. Even Jacob commented about how pretty she was.
The next morning, Emma was discharged from the hospital and released to her birth mother, who placed her in our custody. Her goodbye was surprisingly unemotional. We were amazed by her beauty and strength.
A week later, after all the interstate compact stuff was completed, we were finally able to legally bring Emma home to Texas. The legal process was once again easy (again, thanks to a good family law attorney who happens to be my mom) and Emma was legally ours on July 29, 2005. On September 3 we took her to the Dallas Temple for her sealing (and as I mentioned in a previous post, that is the day of the picture in my profile). Our for-EVVVV-er daughter.
Adopting a child from another race was something we hadn't spent a lot of time thinking about. It was one of those things that we weren't necessarily opposed to, but it wasn't something that we were actively seeking, either. It just happened for us, because when this child was mentioned to us, something in our hearts responded. It wasn't just because we had been waiting so long. There had been other opportunities presented by this agency, which did not feel right. This one felt right. When we prayed about it, we felt assurance that this baby should be in our family. This was our Emma.
Sometimes people have asked us if we had considered all of the ramifications of being a trans-racial family. Yes and no. We had certainly attended adoption classes, and we knew people who had adopted outside their race. We had some familiarity with the concept. We found a good book on the topic. But really - this was our "one step enough for me" moment. All we needed to know was whether this was something we should pursue. We prayed. We got an answer. It was YES. That was enough for us. We knew that the rest would work itself out. And so far, it has. We love our Emma. Jacob loves his "Baby Sister Emma." One of the most rewarding things for me is seeing them interact as siblings. They both love each other and respond to each other so beautifully.
A week before Emma turned six months old, I was diagnosed with brain cancer. This young baby, not yet old enough to speak, had already taught me an important lesson: the "one step enough for me" lesson.
Lead, kindly light, amid the encircling gloom
Lead Thou me on
The night is dark, and I am far from home
Lead Thou me on
Keep Thou my feet, I do not wish to see the entire path
One step enough for me
One step was enough in the case of adopting Emma. It was a happy situation. And now I am in a situation of adversity, where I don't see the whole path that this cancer experience will take. But I can be led one step at a time. One day at a time. One decision at a time. If I can prayerfully find my steps, I can have confidence that the rest of the path will unfold as it should.
As I sat with Emma in church one day and listened to her try out her "future opera singer" voice, I instinctively showed her some techniques from my days teaching voice lessons. ("Emma, drop your jaw and be a little more vertical, Sweetie! Like this!") And it occurred to me that this beautiful child - who was given to our family because we were musical - and who was a future woman - needed me to be her mother. I long for the opportunity to really teach her to sing. To give her a guiding hand as she grows into womanhood, just like my mom did for me. That is the path that I pray to be able to travel.
I know that the path will be guided by the One who will lead me wherever I need to go to fulfill my destiny and eternal potential. He knows how this path, "through thorny ways leads to a joyful end". And so instead of trying to see the whole thing myself (and worrying if I can't), I know that I can walk this path if I am guided one step at a time.