Thursday, August 23, 2012

Waiting for....Ella!

Our family is over the moon excited to announce that our next daughter will be ELLA!!! We received pre-approval from China to adopt our Ella. Why am I saying "our" Ella? Well, there's a story here, and it's long, 5 years long. But it's good, so very very good. Grab a cup of coffee and make yourself comfortable, do I have a tale for you.


Maggie and her guaiguai at the orphanage Jan. 2007
When our Maggie came to us in January of 2007, she carried with her the photo album and disposable camera we had sent and not much more. After we arrived home, we developed the film and noticed a little pixie of a girl in some of the pictures. Maggie would point and call her guaiguai (darling).

Ella, 2009
Two years passed and I came into contact with Jodi, who was the XiaoXian Foster Care Coordinator for Love Without Boundaries (LWB) at that time. She was in dire need of sponsors for her program and asked me to look at the website and see if I could sponsor a child. There, on the LWB website was my daughter's friend, her guaiguai, LWB called her Ella. We became her sponsor and have been supporting her in foster care ever since. 

About 3 months later, in September of 2009, I was going through some old files in our safe and came across Maggie's finding ad. This is what I wrote on our blog:

My heart shattered into a million pieces yesterday.

I found Maggie's "finding ad" that the orphanage placed in the newspaper. And right there next to her, was our sponsored foster kid. Among all the newborns was this toddler, a kid with special needs who was loved by a family for 17 months before they were unable to care for her anymore.
17 months.


That was the day I got into contact with LWB and volunteered my services. I started working as an assistant to the XiaoXian program and eventually took it over. 

You will hear me say that my Maggie is the inspiration for my work with LWB, but that is only half the story. The whole story is that she left her Ella behind and I took it as my duty to take care of her and the others who are still waiting.

As the years have gone by, Maggie would still ask me about "her Ella". She writes stories about her, paints pictures for her, and asks me why Ella's forever family hasn't come to get her yet. Bryan would look at her foster care reports and say, "why can't we just go pick her up? She would be the perfect sister for Maggie." I would look at her reports and send out a prayer to find this precious child a family.

Ella's adoption file was prepared last summer/fall and then it disappeared. She never made the shared list, and she wasn't on any agency lists here in the US. Then, the other kids from XiaoXian whose files were prepared at the same time started getting matched to Italy, Spain and the Netherlands. No word on Ella. When her file hit the shared list in late May, I knew that her file had made the rounds of Europe, yet she remained unchosen. I was heartbroken for her. Who was going to step up for our Ella?

Bryan and I talked about adopting her, and decided that it was too difficult, too complicated. Rules that would have to be bent, Maggie would be displaced as the oldest and the one who gets to do things first. Too hard, not for us. 
(I know! I know! I'm the one who has drilled it into my daughter's head "you CAN do hard things!!")

I told my Mom that Ella was available for adoption and she said "Mary Margaret, if you love her, go and get her". I said, "Mom, it is NOT that easy. There's the birth order issue, and our agency would have to give us special approval, and she's 8 already, and and and....".

And then the very next day I read this article by Martha Osborne, where she says,
“I would never ask a family to take on more than they can handle, but I will always encourage families to stretch.  There are only so many 3 or 4 year olds out there and paper-ready to be adopted. There are far, far too many 7, 8, and 9 year olds who have been waiting for their entire lives for someone to see just how wonderful that they are.
Stretch. It's good for the body, the mind, and the soul. And it's good for your life (and the life of a waiting child).”

I had another talk with Bryan and I said, "This is going to sound crazy, but the universe has been sending me signs, and I don't think we can ignore them. Are we making this too complicated? Is my Mom right? If we love her, why don't we just go get her?"

He agreed with me, we needed to stop over-thinking. It was time to jump in, feet first, deep end. The REALLY deep end.

I then had a talk with Maggie. I asked her how she would feel if we adopted a child who was older than her. She told me flat out that she didn't want an older sibling. She told me she wanted to be first. She told me she deserved to be first. I asked how she would feel if it was Ella and she said "Oh Mommy, I would do it for Ella, but no one else!" I promised her that we would try. We would ask about Ella and no matter the outcome, whether Ella comes home to us, or goes home to another family, we will be happy for her because she has waited far too long.

Referral Picture, 2011
During all of this, and before we came to the decision to try to adopt Ella, I had been in touch with an advocate because I had been planning on finding a family for her. I read Ella’s file, and in there is another tiny bit of information that I almost overlooked. In June of 2005, the Director of the XiaoXian SWI bundled up two babies and sent them together to Bengbu for surgery. One of these was our daughter, Maggie, for her teratoma resection. The other was Ella for her cleft repair. They came home together in early August. I like to think that two babies from the same orphanage might have shared a room, maybe even a bed. Once again, her story has been woven into ours.

Referral Picture, 2011
In early June, I wrote this story down in letter form and pleaded with the Older Child Committee at our agency to allow us to adopt our Ella. We went before the committee twice before getting approval.  We were then given her referral, and we sent her file to the University of MN. They think she has a syndrome that is completely manageable and that her greatest need is for a family. We then had to write our Letter of Intent, get it translated and wait for China to give us pre-approval. We've been keeping this a secret since June and it's been killing me!! So, to all of you that knew I was being reticent when you asked me about our adoption, I'm sorry, but she wasn't ours yet, but now that she is I am ready to shout it from the rooftops!!
We are looking forward to traveling back to Hefei next summer to get our second XiaoXian daughter. We have known her and loved her as Ella for so long we have decided to keep her LWB name as part of her new American name, Daniella.

As I write this story down and look at it from above as a big picture, I can see all of our paths clearly, shining like bright gold. It is beautiful and has come together perfectly. I don't believe in luck, or coincidences. There's a higher power at work here and we are incredibly blessed.


Kristy said...

Beautiful story:) and my eyes teared up when your mom said "if you love her, go get her!" Oh what I would do to have my mother get me and understand my heart for the orphans!

Billie Jo said...

I am overjoyed and full of tears after reading this. Congratulations to you all. I hope one day I can make a home for a LWB kid too.

Dawn Heskin said...

What an amazing story. I'm very excited for you all!! Congratulation.

LBC said...

What a wonderful weaving of your family!

PaPa Gordon said...

Like you, I don't believe in luck, or coincidences either. God is still in control and willing to do Wonderful Things in our lives if we only let Him. I Pray for God's Help and Blessings for Y'all. Yes, I Know God Will Bless with the Love between this Girl and your Family.

Colleen said...

Hi, I got your link from Deb R., whose daughter L was below Maggie's in the finding ad. My daughter Mary is next to Ella! I pray that you bring her home soon.

Jennifer P said...

Hi Mary, We adopted an eight year old through CHSFS and had to bend a few rules in the process as well. What a blessing our son is! He is an amazing boy and I am a better person for knowing him.

Mary said...

Hi Jennifer! I remember your boy from the CHSFS website (who could forget that face!). I have followed your blog on and off for the past few years and saw your kids on 28 Days of Hearts last month. {and now I sound like a stalker - haha!}

We were just DTC on 2/27 and hope to travel in late July or early August.