I just peeked into my daughter’s bedroom and saw her sweet little face cuddled in her blankets. She is 6 and started kindergarten and is growing and exploring her world more and more each day. She is one of the greatest blessings of my life, and each night, after she is asleep, I sneak in and revel again in the beauty that is this person. I get to be her mom because three years ago a court in India said so. There were many times in our long adoption journey when we could have lost hope and given up. There were many people who thought we were crazy for doing what we did. We never lost heart because we believe adopting our daughter was our calling from God. So we chose to see the roadblocks as detours and see the hardships as strength training. We chose to see the trials as blessings.
Adoption is not easy or for the faint of heart. We could not have persevered if it was for our family and friends and our faith. This faith teaches us that trials are to make us stronger. We had to fight tooth and nail for our daughter and it was all worth it! These are some lessons we have learned from our adoption journey that proved over and over that mindset can change everything. When I look back I see blessings, not trials.
1. Travel nightmares were actually an adventure of a lifetime.
Three years ago, we traveled across the world on four airplanes, a taxi, and a rickshaw to arrive in a rural village in India 40 hours after we left our home in the state of Idaho. Two small-town folks were suddenly thrust into the fast-paced and vibrant life of Indian culture. The food was amazingly spicy and flavourful. The people were friendly and curious and, despite language barriers, went out of their way to severe us.
The buildings were eclectic and beautiful and always in a state of one building coming down while another was coming up. Cows with colorful ornaments around their necks walked down the road with children, honking taxis, and so many motorcycles. The women in brightly colored saris carried babies and sacks of grain home from the open market. Even the babies had painted feet and lovely bracelets that made music when they moved. We thought the buses were decorated for a holiday, but we learned they are always colorful with flags and other decorations hanging from them. The food, the music, and the people were all a treat to behold.
However, there were many travel mix-ups and nightmares. Driving in India is terrifying and there are no seatbelts. Keep your arms and legs inside the rickshaw or risk injury. There are dogs carrying diseases roaming the streets looking for scraps of food. We all got sick from tainted water. We had a very difficult time understanding all that was going on in court and with the adoption because of language barriers. There were so many challenging parts that I cannot go into here, but because of local and federal governments not working well together, our court date was changed and we had to stay in India four weeks longer than we anticipated.
We had hotel reservations fall through because places didn’t want to rent rooms to foreigners. There was so much frustration and confusion working through government bureaucracy in a country where we didn’t fully understand the culture and language.
Despite all the setbacks and travel issues, it was still so amazingly fun. Never has my sheltered American life led me to see such shocking sights as an elephant walking beside my taxi on the highway! I saw temples and monkeys and ate samosas that were made right in front of me. I got to take an overnight train across the state where the other passengers were so close I could have reached out and touched them. I got to explore a city that has 18 million people. My home has less than 2 million people in the whole state. In some ways it was hard, but it was an adventure I will never forget and I will always cherish.
2. Sickness while traveling leads to bonding and trust building.
When we were able to get custody of our daughter and have her live with us in our hotel until we could get a court date, she was terribly sick. She had some respiratory infections and needed constant care. At first, she was weary of us as we were strangers. She had probably never even seen a person with light-colored skin. The first night, she didn’t want to sleep in the bed with us. That changed quickly when she could not stop coughing.
It was a miserable cold. I ran to the local drug store, got as many home remedies as possible, and tried to encourage her to eat, drink, and sleep. I bathed her in warm water each night and wrapped her in warm PJs. I held her against my chest and I slept upright so she could breathe easier. I slept very little, but it was what I needed to do to care for my baby. My husband carried her and walked her back and forth across our room over and over and rocked her to comfort her.
We all ended up sick and my husband even got a sinus infection. We were able to get her to the doctor and get some medicine with the help of the orphanage director and the sweet caregiver who helped us navigate the busy city and talk to the doctor for us. His prescription was for pain medicine, vitamins, and to fatten her up in America so she wouldn’t get so sick in the future. She was underweight and malnourished.
While seeing my baby so sick with little I could do was a trial; through it, our daughter learned to trust us and she actually bonded with us quickly. By the time we were headed home, she knew who her mom and dad were and that we would take care of her when she needed us most. Those sleepless nights and congestion bonded us as a family.
3. Our daughter has little known history, so we make our own story
Another trial with the adoption process was having very little information on our daughter’s life before she came to live in the orphanage. When I fill out medical forms, I have to leave most of them blank. I do not know my daughter’s past. We do not know about her biological family. Like many children adopted internationally, there is very little information to go on. It use to make me sad that as my daughter grew older, I would not have stories to tell of her birth and what she was like as a newborn. She was 2 years old when I met her.
In our adoption community, we are careful not to lie to our children. We agree that children should know their stories in age-appropriate ways. We do not hide the hard parts and we always are proud to tell our child about her adoption and her past. It is not a taboo subject. Adoption is celebrated. With so little to share, I do not embellish or lie to make it something it isn’t.
I could be sad that we do not know more, or I can make a new family history. We re-introduce my daughter to her heritage and culture in many ways. We help her fill in her history by connecting with Indian food and music. We will add to her story in the future by returning to India and exploring where she lived before we were her mom and dad. We will visit the orphanage that she called home in those formative years. We do not know her history, but we are writing her story now.
There are many other trials from our journey that turned out to be blessings. We had medical issues with our daughter and we lived within minutes of world-renowned pediatric specialists. We needed special equipment and devices for our child’s medical needs and our insurance covered it. We had many sleepless nights where I got to show love to my daughter and rock her back to sleep and prove over and over how much I love her.
We had adoption agencies close and we lost a lot of money in the process, but that led us to be matched with our daughter. I decided to leave my career to stay home and care for a high-need child and my husband was inspired to change careers and is making more than we did together. There are so many trials in our life that turned into blessings that I cannot even count them all. As we prepare to welcome our second child into our home through adoption, I will remember these lessons learned in hardship and maybe they won’t be as painful to go through a second time. However, even if it is hard, I would do it over and over because I know the blessing of loving a child.