I'm still in the middle of posting Christmas events, but sometimes I feel like I need to take a break out of the order of my photo documenting and write about what is happening in the now. We were all very excited to be able to finally announce last Thursday the 12th of January that we had received the file for our soon-to-be daughter and the following day had locked her in, starting the process of bringing her home all the way from China.
The story of how this adoption began and what ultimately brought us to this point as a family is probably the longest story of my life. It starts in the summer of 2000 when I was knocking on doors while on my mission. We knocked on the door of this lady and she had the most adorable Chinese little girl, who was obviously adopted. She wasn't interested in talking about the church with us (who am I kidding, no one really was) but she was happy to talk about her adoption. I remember then thinking that I would one day like to do that, that I would like to go to China and adopt a little girl or boy.
In November of 2003 my friend Heather found a deal to go to China. They had just gotten over the worst of SARS and no one wanted to go there. The deal we found was 10 nights hotel plus airfare for $500. I still can't believe that price, and it was too good to pass up. I was almost officially engaged and didn't really want to leave Brent at the time, but I went. I thought I was crazy because I was going to a country with this disease, but I went anyway. I totally loved it. It surprised me. I had never thought I would ever really want to visit China, but I found it so beautiful. One day we went to the zoo in Beijing and we ran into several American families with their newly acquired Chinese babies. I was with Heather, who is even less scared of talking to people than I am, so we talked with many of them and I remember having this realization that I would one day be going to China to get my own child. Not a feeling that I would like to, but a feeling like I just would. When I left Shanghai at the end of the trip on a plane full of newly adopted children, I knew I would be back one day.
Overall, I have always been open to adopting a child. I always felt like if we couldn't have kids I would prefer to put money towards a child that was already here on earth that needed a family vs. spending money trying to make my own baby. I didn't have to worry about that too much though because as soon as we started to try to have kids I got pregnant with Stella. I was absolutely terrified and not interested in that pregnancy at all. I mean, sometimes I would get excited or I would worry about her health, but I didn't think I wanted her. I wasn't surprised when she was born and I didn't really want anything to do with her. However, after two weeks or so we were bonded, and I was crazy in love. And even though I couldn't stand the thought of a second baby then, I was excited to think of having more adorable babies just like Stella. And here's the thing, I thought it would be so darn easy.
Stella was two and I felt like it was time to start trying for baby number two. Months went by and nothing. I wasn't that worried. I mean, I was a bit older and I knew it could take time. I was excited but not surprised to find out that after 6 months I was pregnant. I told my dad on his birthday and everyone was happy. But I didn't stay pregnant. On our way to the airport to go to Florida to take Stella to Disney World I knew I was no longer pregnant. I was pretty sad and I took it personally. I felt like it was a punishment for being so flippant about being pregnant with Stella. Rationally I knew that it was just life, but still I felt guilty.
Months after that I was ready to stop trying and start the adoption process. Brent wasn't having it though. He wanted to try a few simple routes to have kids of our own. That was not the best time at our house. I thought we were wasting time and money that we should be using to go and get my China baby, but Brent didn't want to. I remember saying one time in the car. "We will one day adopt a kid from China, so you better just get used to the idea now." One day Brent had a change of heart--he watched a movie with a little abandoned baby and he realized he was up for my crazy idea too. "Go ahead and get your baby," he told me. I was like: "hooray!"
It's now May 2013 and we decided to go to the temple to pray, not if we should adopt, but to ask for guidance as we started the process. And what do you know? One month later, I knew I was pregnant again. I still didn't know that much about the state of adoptions in China, but I did know the process could take years, so becoming pregnant didn't bother me at all. Of course we would keep the process moving because we could have a three year old before we finally got our adopted child home. Sadly though, at about nine weeks I went into the hospital only to have confirmed what I was already suddenly sure of: I was no longer expecting a baby. I was heartbroken, but mostly I was PISSED OFF. I didn't know what I was going to tell Stella, who so desperately wanted a brother or sister and who had figured out I was pregnant all on her own. I felt (and still feel) like I deserved that baby. I know that I'm a freaking amazing mom, and have a solid marriage, and a big freaking house and I deserved that baby dammit! I was so angry at Heavenly Father that I just stuck my nose at him and said: "Fine, you want to take that baby from me, then I am not going to adopt that baby from China anymore, so there!" And that was that. I was mad. I was done. I stayed mad, and it felt awesome. I watched friends and family get what I wanted over and over again and I hated it. I tried not to be upset with those around me having kids, because their successful pregnancies didn't have anything to do with my failures. But I'm telling ya, it wasn't easy. And I sure as hell wasn't going to do something as absolutely terrifying as flying to China and bringing a baby home, no way. My life was just fine, thank you very much, and to prove it, I just went and took my daughter to Disney parks a few dozen times to make myself feel better.
And you know what? I actually started to feel better. I started coming to peace with the fact that if I was only getting one child then I was getting the very best one that has ever lived. And I didn't need to be greedy. Going through this grieving process was truly amazing. I like the person I am so much more now. You don't know how many totally insensitive things have been spoken to me about pregnancies or babies. Things spoken from a place of ignorant bliss, that I don't take too personally anymore. But man, I am so grateful to know better not to say those things to other women who are hurting. It is a pain you cannot understand unless you have felt it and I feel kind of honored to have felt it.
So I kind of got sidetracked there, but I've never written down any of that stuff, and I could go on and on. I guess it is time to get back to the story at hand and that is the story of our little baby. So July of 2015 my uncle and his wife were getting sealed in the Salt Lake Temple. I wasn't really invited, but for some reason I felt like I should be there, so I kind of invited myself. I feel silly about that now, but anyway I did it and I wouldn't take it back. So anyway, the day came and I was sitting in the temple. I was thinking of my Grandma Mabe and how she was probably there and I started looking at the room and I thought that this felt like the room where I was sealed to my family. I don't know why I thought that. I had never thought that before, and I have been in plenty of sealing rooms in the Salt Lake Temple. Plus my memories of that day are hazy at best, but still I was thinking about that when I looked over at the door to the room and I saw Stella and a little girl walking in that room hand in hand. It was just a flash, but it hit me so hard that I knew there was a baby that was in China that belonged in our family, and we needed to go and get her.
It was kind of understood that Brent was ready whenever I was, but I could tell he was a bit surprised when I told him I was ready to start the adoption process. The way I felt about it was different this time. I didn't feel the same wishy-washy feelings as before. I started to research adoption agencies. This led me to start watching adoption videos on YouTube. They all made me cry. There was one though that touched my heart so strongly that I felt like it was speaking just to me. All of these videos are pretty religious and this one was no exception, but it was done in a very sweet way. At the end of the video the mom says: "I've thought a lot over the last few months about if we hadn't gone. What if we hadn't chosen to do what He asked us to do?" Those words stuck with me for the next few days as I worked on choosing an agency. I knew what the Lord had asked of me and I couldn't deny it. I didn't know why my child was born in a country far away and not through me. But I knew there had to be a reason and I had to trust my Heavenly Father.
So I picked a small agency in Ogden, because I just felt like that was going to be the right choice. Then the paper process began. Honestly it wasn't that bad to me. Brent was my go-to guy on the paperwork and although we had a few setbacks it all went pretty easy. By April 2016 we were ready to be matched with a baby. And for me, that is when the hard stuff started. Anytime I expressed the concern that I was going to have a hard time choosing a baby because I was going to want all of them, people would respond with "Oh, you'll know. Don't worry." Like they had done this 100 times themselves. Yeah, I didn't believe any of them. And guess what, I WANTED ALL THE BABIES. All of them. And our agent kept sending us files of these kiddos with these needs that I had never heard of. Some of them were awful and so sad, and I would have to think really hard if I could live my life taking care of a child with that certain need. I felt like a horrible person every time I said no. I thought that maybe I had said no to my baby already because I wasn't open to taking care of him/her. I also had to decide once and for all that we were looking for a girl. It was so emotionally draining and I felt so discouraged. I had felt like the timing of when we started our paperwork was so important and I couldn't figure out where my baby was hiding. I decided that I was going to have to start looking at the files logically and not emotionally, and I spent the summer going to Lagoon tons of times and pretty much not thinking about it anymore.
Our agent Kathy was heading to China in September and I kind of thought she would find us a baby while she was visiting new orphanages. See, by now I had figured out that most children are adopted before they ever make it to the main shared list because of relationships agencies have with orphanages. And big agencies know more orphanages and have more babies. So they might have a long list of people waiting, but they go through the names of waiting families fast because they get more babies. After my agent got home and still had no news about any babies for us I was feeling so over all of it. But I just had to go back to the fact that I knew that Heavenly Father was not going to let me mess this up for our family.
After a few months our agent sent me some pictures of a baby that she had met on her visit. Her file wasn't ready yet, but I was feeling really good about her. However, when it turned out the birthmarks all over her body were actually a physical sign of a genetic neurological disease, I was pretty frustrated. I was ready to say yes to her, and now I wasn't sure. On that same day Kathy sent me a picture of the prettiest little baby. She didn't yet have her file, but she was hopeful that she would get it soon. She said that she was born with a hole in her heart that had repaired itself and that she was pretty close to perfect. I tried not to get too attached, but I remained hopeful.
These are the pictures we saw of her in December:
On Thursday, January 12th, I was getting packed up and ready to go to Idaho Falls when I got a call from Kathy letting us know that she had gotten the file. Brent and I looked over it and I was frustrated because I didn't have any real time to go through it. I knew we were going to say yes, but I just wasn't ready to say it right that second. I was surprised that I was feeling this sadness and I couldn't figure out why I wasn't feeling happy. After all this waiting, how was I not having this happy moment? While I was driving to pick up Stella from school to then go to the airport I realized that I was feeling sad for a mother that on March 15, 2015 felt like she had to abandon this perfect little baby. That night Brent asked a member of our ward who is a cardiologist to look at her file and he said it all looked good to him. Brent felt good about her, and I felt good about her, so we locked her in to be ours the next day. We only got one more picture of her when we received her file:
So here we are now waiting on paperwork and preparing for our trip to China to go and pick up our girl. I anticipate that we will travel around the end of March, but really I have no way of knowing for sure since anything can happen at this point. I just keep praying that the Lord will intervene where necessary and get us there as soon as possible. I feel like I have so much to do to get ready for her to come home, but I also wish we could just get on a plane right now and go and get her. I just want to see her three dimensional face and finally know what she really looks like. We only have three pictures of her and three videos where the ratio is off. Those are our only ways to get any idea of what she looks like, and I find that very frustrating. For now I watch the videos of her over and over again and pause them so I can get freeze frames of her little face. My favorite is this one:
Man, this went on much longer than I originally planned. I guess once I got started I just couldn't stop. I've never really written down any of these feelings or thoughts before. And I suppose I would like one day for my soon-to-be daughter to know how much she was wanted. I want her children to know how the hand of the Lord intervened many times in my life to bring their mother to our family and to the gospel. So many people have had to listen to me go on and on about all of these thoughts. I'm so grateful for every one of them. One time when I was chatting with a lady in our ward who does a lot of family history she said something to me that has stuck in my heart ever since. I told her that I didn't really know why I've been drawn to adopting a child from China all these years, but I just have. And she said: "Michelle, it's because you promised you would." I don't tend to dwell on those maybes of the gospel. I'll never know while here on Earth what happened in my pre-Earth life. But I'd like to think that I told this baby, our daughter, that I would come and find her when it was time. We can't wait to meet you baby Vivien. You have a mommy, daddy, and big sister who love you very much. You might not like us at first, but we promise we are nice.