Note: I know I've told this story before, namely back in November of last year, but it's one of my FAVORITE memories, so I thought I'd write about it again. Get the tissues ready...
The trip to the airport was one I'd made a 100 times before. As I got my 6-year old ready to get in the car, I glanced around the house. In two hours, our world would never be the same. Today was the culmination of three years of prayer, paperwork, and lot of money. It was something I never, in a million years had pictured myself doing. It was something I never thought I'd ever want. It involved a place I rarely gave thought to and an intense love for someone I'd never met.
Three years ago, after a tragic miscarriage, my husband and I made a choice: to forgo fertility treatments and, instead, adopt a child. We already had a wonderful little boy, but the family was incomplete. Junior needed a sibling and hubby and I needed a baby. After performing extensive research and meeting the charming adopted daughter of a friend, we decided that we wanted a little girl from China. But were we worthy and could we do it? The challenge was daunting. The mountain of paperwork was immense. We had to pass background checks from employers and every police department from every town we'd ever lived in. We asked friends and neighbors to write letters of recommendation. Every document submitted needed to be translated in Chinese by our local Chinese Consulate. And every signature had to be notarized and then the notary checked for validation. We had physicals, we were fingerprinted, and a social worker came for a home study during which she interviewed our son; at that interview, he broke our hearts when he told her, very simply, “I don't want to be an only child. I want my sister.” Every night, I prayed for our daughter, not knowing whether she was in another woman's tummy or whether she'd been born. And every Summer, as we made our yearly pilgrimage to the Shore, I'd look out at the ocean, knowing that far away, she was waiting to meet her Mommy.
"...I don't want to be an only child. I want my sister."
We made the decision that my husband would travel to the Orient by himself. The trip was expensive and I'd never been away from my son – ever. The concept that Mommy was going away to bring back the sibling he wanted, but one who would take attention away from him and rock his world, was huge. Dave was a seasoned traveler, a man who had intense focus and could put his emotions on the back-burner in order to get something done. Plus, he was an experienced Dad – he knew how to how to change diapers, administer medication, and he was nurturing. And there was something to be said for parity – I'd brought Junior into the world after 27 hours of labor. This was his chance to bring a child into the family after two weeks abroad. Dave really was the best parent for the job.
On a fateful day in August, while we were at a waterpark in Maryland, I got the call. “Mrs. Klonsky, you have a daughter. She's 10 months old and is in foster care. We'll be emailing you her information later today. Congratulations.” Dave and Junior were somewhere in the park, among thousands of gallons of water. I frantically searched for them, crying with joy. Finally, I found the and uttered the words I'd imagined speaking a thousand times, “You have a daughter and you have a sister.” We dashed back to the hotel where an email waited for us giving us her physical data which we were to take to our pediatrician who could tell us if she was healthy. Then, with bated breath, we opened the attachment containing her picture. She was so tiny! Her hair was clipped short and she looked very serious. She was beautiful. “I love you,” I whispered. “I've loved you my whole life.”
"I love you," I whispered. "I've loved you my whole life."
We'd chosen the name Lily to replace her Chinese name, but kept one of her middle names, Yi, which means Spirit. As we received reports from her foster caregiver, we read between the lines: Lily was indeed, spirited, vocal, and we were relieved to find out, thriving. As I assembled the materials recommended by our adoption agency, I lovingly chose clothes based on the measurements the orphanage gave us (as it turns out, they estimated her size too small and my husband would up swapping clothes with other adoptive parents). We were allowed to send Lily Care Packages, so I made her a doll out of my favorite nightgown; it was soft and smelled like me. I hoped that, on some level, she would know it was from her Mommy.
Dave left on the day my son started 1st grade. Junior was used to Daddy traveling and Mommy being home so this was no big deal for him. His world went on while my husband would begin the trip he'd eventually call Survivor Nanchang, after the Survivor television series. In the meantime, I put together Lily's crib and got her room ready. She was never out of my thoughts. Every night, I waited for the call from Dave who, after four days in China, met his daughter for the first time. I'll never forget the phone message he left, “She's small, she's cute, and she has a little cold. And she's beautiful.” He spent the next 10 days in various hotel rooms, submitting paperwork to Chinese officials, signing documents, getting Lily's birth certificate and visa. Finally, he began a brief state at the White Swan Hotel in Guangzhou, the city that houses the U.S. Consulate where all adoptive families stay before coming home. He nursed Lily through a nasty cold and took care of her through his own terrible bout with food poisoning.
She was even more beautiful, more radiant than I'd ever imagined.
Finally, on that amazing day in September, Junior and I stood in Newark Airport craving a glimpse of father and daughter. Junior held tightly onto the stroller we'd brought. Our excitement was palpable. At last, I caught a glimpse of my husband. He cradled a baby wearing an open, stained onesie and one sock. She clutched a bottle with Chinese writing on it. Dave handed her to me and, tears flowing, I whispered, “I'm your Mommy. I love you!” “Mei-mei, wo ai ni,” Junior said, which means, “Little Sister, I love you” in Mandarin. While father and son got reacquainted, I selfishly held my daughter, smelling her, stroking her, cherishing her little two-toothed smile. She was even more beautiful, more radiant than I had ever imagined. I tried to conceive what she was going through. EVERYTHING for her was was different – sights, sounds, smells. “Welcome home, Lily.” As it was for her, my world would never be the same.
Thank you for reading!