December 11, 2009

the best laid plans

I was married for 6 years to the man I believed to be the absolute love of my life. We had a good relationship, although looking back, I see so clearly the flaws that were ignored (in both of us) to keep that relationship afloat. Four years into our marriage, we decided to adopt- and since he was of Chinese descent, and China was the place I'd wanted to adopt from since I was 17, the choice was obvious. Three months shy of that infamous "call", he dropped the bomb. The "D" bomb, that is, asking for a divorce. In July, 2 months before the calls came, I phoned our agency and canceled that adoption. To say this was the most painful period of my life is actually a gross understatement.

Never once did I truly think I'd adopt on my own. I mean- I joined the singles-adopt-china group, you know, just in case. I kept up with my original DTC group, even celebrating with them (as bittersweet as that was), on the day they got their referrals: September 3, 2005. I wondered on that day what my girl would have looked like. Who was Gracen? What happens to her now? I fantasized about how it might have felt to get that "call". And for 2 years, I continued to blog surf, (creating my own blog in fact- under the guise of honoring my mom who died 7 months after ex asked for the divorce). It wasn't an adoption blog because I had no plans to adopt on my own.

Except that I couldn't leave the darn thing alone. The yahoo sites, the websites, the research, the contact with other single moms who urged me forward in answering the big question: could I? I decided I'd leave it open, knowing I needed time and distance from all that I was suffering. I needed "me" time- to grieve, to seek solitude, to come out on the other side.

Only, it didn't really happen that way.

Just one year after the divorce, much sooner than my "plan", a wise person at CCAI advised I apply now (the end of 2006) rather than waiting another year as I'd hoped. Their reasoning? "The wait times are already up to 16 months and climbing, so you'll still have time to work through all that you have had to face". I had a lot to grapple with: the loss of the marriage, my daughter, my mom. But I said... okay, okay. Not what I'd envisioned but that is a lot of time. Plus hey, I can always... back out! And what a blessing CCAI's advice was, since the doors were closed to singles just 4 months later.

Three years ago on this very day, I was granted the singles slot I so desired with CCAI. Since I'd worked with them the first time around and they were absolutely amazing in handling the cancellation of Gracen's adoption, I wanted to be with an agency I felt close to and trusted.
And they proved the second time around to be worthy of that choice.

When I was married, I brought up the topic of adopting a child with special needs once during our wait. He said he wasn't ready for that, that he'd consider it if we adopted a second time. So, there in the back of my mind brewed another option. Though, being single, I decided there was no way I could handle adopting a child with special needs. Except... well, could I? On my own? Because truthfully, deep down, I wanted to share this with a partner. Since day one receiving that singles slot, I hoped for that. For me, I was a "single mom to be" by circumstance, not really by choice. And I wasn't willing to "wait" for the right guy to come along to realize this dream, even though I felt numb and paralyzed during that second paper chase. In truth, it just seemed like I was going through the motions at the time.

I put the special needs topic on the shelf for almost a year, but much like coming into this process on my own, it kept popping up. In my head, my heart, and on my computer- of course. I'd find myself reading all the blogs of those who had adopted children with medical needs, and I constantly went through CCAI's medical conditions checklist... you know. Just looking it over. Just in case.

And in January of 2008, almost a year after my LID (4.4.07), some kind of crazy fire ignited inside of me. I mean mad crazy. It was as though I went from considering this idea to feeling it was absolutely imperative. My MCC needed to be completed that day, right then, that very minute, and be on its way to my agency immediately. Because somewhere, deep down, I knew she was here already, in this world. I even blogged that- and that I sensed she was "a bit older" (also something I'd never once considered, and still didn't despite that prediction)! I was still clutching my baby dream: that precious moment when a rather tiny bundle is placed in your arms and everything stands still in that room. All the other cries during those precious first moments fading into the background- it's just you and your new little one. I even had the song picked out for this moment, that was going to be featured on the DVD I planned to create for her one day.

And on the night I turned in my MCC... I saw this amazing shooting star. Some of you know that story. It burned for so long in the sky that it changed colors. It was brilliant. And it brought fresh tears to my eyes, because I hadn't seen a shooting star since the night of my mother's death, January 17, 2006. I knew it was a sign that I'd made the right decision, that God, the universe, my very mother- were shining down on me, giving me their blessing.

At one point, I ran into an old friend after a special mass at church. She hadn't seen me since the divorce and was so excited at how much I'd "changed"- I thought she was just thrilled my hair had grown out, but she pulled me aside and said, "Oh no Kris. You just look happy. I sense your greatest joy is coming". And I just balked. How could she know? I asked: "OH! Did someone tell you I was adopting again?" and she, wide eyed, replied, "NO! That's fantastic. But Kris, I have to tell you, it's even bigger than that. God has great plans for you".

In October of that year, I reunited with my old best friend from high school, Garth, and we rekindled that friendship. It's been a whirlwind romance and I was (and am) happier than I'd ever been. With anyone. He was open to this adoption and jumped in with both feet and met me exactly where I was. He's an amazing man.

garth and kris

And then "our" wait started, though now I was certain it would be significantly shorter since I was adopting a waiting child, and was convinced we'd be parents much sooner than either of us were prepared. We both recognized that we needed to nurture this "new" (and yet, old) relationship. But at the same time, after 5 years of waiting (if you factor in Gracen), I just felt ripe for this next chapter of my life to unfold. But God knows better and the wait for this little one, yet to be named at the time, extended well over a year.

And that long awaited "call" ... it never came. Because, you see, once again, I was being consumed with a new obsession: checking the children who are listed on CCAI's website. Those that are more difficult to place, that have complex or multiple medical needs.

And on one particular day- May 13, 2009, to be exact- not long after coming to peace with the wait, I became restless again. So restless in fact I was (yet again) looking at my medical conditions checklist and debating about certain needs that as a single, I wasn't so sure about, but with a partner, I wondered if we could manage together. I had even drafted an email to my contact in the waiting child department that day (though I never sent it), inquiring about spina bifida and letting them know it was a need I was considering.

When Garth got off work that night, he stopped over for dinner and I brought it up with him. We decided we'd sit on it through the weekend. And since I had been checking our waiting child yahoo site and CCAI's waiting list of children ALL day, I gave the computer a break and we enjoyed a wonderful evening together, the topic of adoption tabled. For like... an hour or two tops. At least until after dinner, when I found myself saying, "I just want to check one thing. One last time. I'll be right back"... and headed to the study and my second best friend: the computer! Only to find this message on the CCAI waiting child yahoo board: "I can't believe how many children are on the website! Over 20! Hope they all find homes"...

What? But there were only a handful just a few hours ago...

Of course I was compelled to look, and quickly logged into CCAI's website. Scrolling down that page, searching each face, but without any expectation: there she was. I couldn't even speak. There she was. And I whispered aloud to the room, to anyone who would hear- my dog- my cat-"My God that's her. It's Ellis".

FuGaoMei referral photo

I clicked on her file and saw her date of birth: January 17, 2006. The night I saw that first shooting star, around 4AM U.S. time- 3 hours after my mom died. I yelled for Garth to come and look. And her information had obviously not been fully translated, it was so sketchy. Just her name, birth date, and needs: "repaired meningocele, brittle bone disease (later found she did not have this), obstructed leg movement, large hairy nevus".

And as we read each one, I'd say "Okay. We can handle that, right?" until we landed on obstructed leg movement. What did this mean? Is she paralyzed? Can it be... UN-obstructed? I looked at Garth and then rambled off, almost to myself, "If she's in a wheelchair, I'm not sure I can deal with that- I mean, that takes serious resources and special equipment in our house and we have a 2 story house and...".... he just looked at me, softly replying, "Really? Well, one thing at a time. What do you want to do?" and naturally, I called my big sister. My go to person. Who was so excited she could barely contain herself. So we asked for the file, which came the very next day.

The first thing we opened were more of her photos, and these are just a few that were sent to us:

Gao Mei, March 2009

Gao Mei March 2009 New Hope

Gao Mei, March 2009


The tears came. It was immediate, that rush of feeling- was it love? Not yet. But it was that seed that had already been planted being watered. Look at her bright, beautiful smile. Look at her! SO full of life! But could we do it? Meet her challenges with her?

It took a little over 2 weeks. We wanted to be her advocate. We aren't rich, at all. We live paycheck to paycheck and have a fair amount of debt. But over and over, even on the days we were leaning toward saying "No", our hearts just kept saying Yes.

And so, yes it was. An exuberant, terrified, triumphant YES.

And instead of getting that long awaited call, the one where your agency says, "I am looking at your daughter and she is so beautiful" or "We have your daughter for you!"... we had the privilege of making our own call- the one that said we know this is our daughter, and that we can't wait to adopt her.

Was it the way I had envisioned it for so many long years? No. Has anything turned out the way I expected? Hell no.

It's just turned out exactly... perfectly... the way it was always meant to be. And she is the best kid. The easiest, happiest, most courageous little girl I've ever known. With just the right amount of stubborn- which will serve her so well in this life. And all those extraneous factors that seemed like challenges? Not nearly as challenging as we imagined. You find your groove. You realize you too are so much stronger than you imagined. And that it doesn't take any energy at all to love. You are filled as soon as you spend an ounce giving all that you can to this girl you are blessed to call your daughter.

sweet pea

The day before we left China, in front of the consulate, just after the swearing in, Garth- my long lost friend from high school, got down on one knee and proposed. How fortunate are we each to have found one another. How blessed I am.

Tomorrow I turn 42. And I already have every single gift I've ever wanted. Right here. In our home. And not at all the way I planned:

This family.

happy family


  1. What a beautiful have brought tears to my eyes! I love it how even our best-laid plans are NOTHING in comparision to what God has planned for us! :)

  2. What a lovely post! I follow your Tell Her This blog, and you are such a gifted writer and have a way of stirring emotions with your words!

  3. I have been following your story for a long time....

    I am so extremely happy for you!

    You do indeed have a wonderful family!!!

    (I need to go now and blow my nose and dry my eyes...)

  4. Woman, I KNOW your story, and I am totally and completely blown away.
    I am so grateful that you decided to share with us your journey to Ellis, start to finish... indeed it is those BIG leaps of faith that sometimes yield the most amazing blessings :)

  5. Kris, this brought me to tears. And I really needed a good cry today!

    And you are so right: it does not take ANY energy to LOVE! Wow! That is powerful stuff! A beautiful word painting if I ever saw one!

    Thank you for sharing!

  6. you guys are incredibly sweet- especially since i did this post today and had absolutely zero time to "work with it" and make it flow better!! thank you so much!!

  7. Kris, this is such a beautiful post. I am getting ready to head to a party, so I am struggling hard to fight back the tears that so want to flow from my eyes. Tears of happiness for the joy that you have found in Garth and Ellis after such a long and painful journey. Congratulations, Kris, and happy early birthday!! I have a feeling this is going to be your best birthday yet!

  8. God did have great plans for you Kris! This post brought me to tears. I've followed your blog for such a long time and I couldn't be happier that everything worked out how God wanted it to, not how you wanted it to!

    The three of you make a perfectly beautiful family!

  9. BRAVO!!! BRAVO!!!! I know the story, but I never get tired of reading it.

    And it makes me cry with the goodness of God. every. time. It's like the best movie script, happily ever after fairy tale ever.

    Thanks for sharing (again). Blessings...

  10. know I know your story, but still reading this has me in tears...happy, wonderful, thrilled-for-you tears!!!! May God always bless all of you!!

    And...HAPPY BIRTHDAY, girl!!!!

  11. You know I stayed up one night half the night just to read your blog! I am utterly amazed at how the hand of God has moved in your life...bringing you all together. You know why I think I love your story so much? Becuase it is real and sometimes raw and sometimes it hurts but the joy, there is so much joy and you are so open...and life is that way. It isn't all hearts and flowers. And some stories read that way. I love yours. Your pain wasn't wasted...and your long wait brought you the loves of your life!
    Yahoooo!! :) Thanks for sharing.

  12. just beautiful. just perfect.
    Only God!

    Thanks so much for sharing, Kris!


  13. WOW! Chills. Thank you for sharing your beautiful story!

  14. Oh my! His fingerprints are ALL OVER your beautiful story, Kris! And this is just the beginning!!!!! ;)
    LOVE IT!

  15. What a beautiful story!!! In all seriousness, this should be a movie! I can just see the proposal scene at the consulate! Who should play you, Sandra Bullock? Julia Roberts? I'd pay to see it :)

  16. Thank you so much for sharing this story!! It is truely amazing how families will be formed from love and guidance of God above!!

    Simply Beautiful....

  17. I've followed your story off and on, bumping into your comments occasionally as we apparently have been surfing in similar circles. What a beautiful, beautiful telling of the whole journey from start to new beginning! Thank you for sharing it - and I look forward to reading more from you in future!

  18. Goosebumps and tears and beautiful sighs here.

    The LOVE you all share shines though. This is probably one of the most amazing stories I have ever read.

    HE is amazing.


  19. An amazing story! So glad you shared. Anxious to see how many hearts are tugged toward adoption because of your journey to Ellis!

  20. Golly what a wonderful story and a beautiful little girl. She just sparkles with life and joy.

  21. What a beautiful and precious story of your journey to your daughter. Thank you so much for sharing it with us. I needed a good cry tonight. ;-)

  22. Once again, I am in awe of you, your story, and really basically, your gift for writing! You could seriously write a book! Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful!!

  23. A beautiful story, little girl and family! Thank you for sharing with us.

  24. Oh what a perfect Christmas story! I hung onto every word. I can see the love in every photo. I remember seeing this little one on a list, someone advocating for her. I'm so happy she is yours.

  25. Kris, I think that the story of your life is one of the most beautiful I have ever read, and though I've read it before, I will never, ever tire of reading it. You are blessed. :o)