How I Knew Our Family Was Complete

We thought our daughter was it, until we got the call.

Susan Kuligowski May 19, 2017
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I remember the day like it was yesterday. Blue sky. Sunshine. Gentle breeze. Quiet neighborhood–except for a dog’s bark echoing in the distance and someone a few doors down busy with an electric trimmer. While I usually tried to squeeze in some chores during my daughter’s naptime, that day, I’d decided to take advantage of the weather, put my feet up out back, and enjoy a quiet lunch.

I was working part time, which allowed me to be home two days a week with our then just turned two year old. Quiet moments didn’t present themselves very often and so my mind was still racing as moms’ minds do when we finally find a second to sit down and pretend to relax. In between nibbling on grapes and cheese and crackers, I remember thinking that things were going really well. We were a happy family of three. Everyone was healthy for the most part. Work was good. Life was good. I had even started to fantasize about saving up for a trip to Disney in the next year or two–possibly asking to take on more hours at work or taking on some freelance work. My pre-parenting fears of not being able to juggle it all had slowly begun to melt away as our little family learned to make things work–even if it wasn’t always smooth sailing. We were doing it and enjoying each other.

My husband pulled into the driveway later that afternoon as my daughter was busy push-peddling herself around in a tiny red and yellow car. We had planned to grab some ice cream and go for a walk down by the waterfront to watch the sunset–it was Father’s Day weekend. And just as we were about to head out, the phone rang. I thought about ignoring it (no caller ID at that point), but figured I’d better check just in case it was family calling about weekend plans. It was the adoption coordinator from our local support group who had helped us maneuver through the complex process that is international adoption.

…Her life, more than either of ours, was going to change as she’d just become a big sister and made herself a friend for life.

It turned out the call was about family after all and the call that would quickly change our Father’s Day weekend plans as well as the rest of our lives. We soon learned that our daughter had a sibling and that she had been legally released for adoption–she had in fact been waiting for nearly a year for her forever family, as the rules of international adoption had recently changed and she’d nearly become lost in the system. Our family had nearly been overlooked as a possible placement since we were not in-country. Finally, though, someone had linked her to her sister, our daughter, and so, we’d made the list of possible family. It occurred to me at that moment, staring back and forth between my husband and our little one still outside playing in the driveway that her life, more than either of ours, was going to change as she’d just become a big sister and made herself a friend for life.

While we’d had no plans to adopt again any time soon due to finances and work obligations and the million other things that get in the way of such plans, within 24 hours, we were back on the adoption train, but way behind schedule. Our newest family member was already 11 months old and we hadn’t started even one sheet of paperwork to allow us to head in her direction legally or physically. After the initial shock wore off, the next several months were emotionally agonizing as we redid just about every sheet of paperwork, fingerprinting, testing, and apostilling that we’d just finished not so long ago–in fact, we were still in the midst of post-visits from our first adoption. It was irksome to know that while our files should have been fresh on government desks: local, state, federal, and international–we needed to connect all the dots again–this time knowing that there was a little girl waiting for us nearly 3,000 miles away.

It was impossible not to feel sad a month later as we celebrated her first birthday without her, as well as a handful of celebrations and holidays that followed. It was also exciting to know that our daughter had a sister waiting for her–something we’d never in a million years imagined as a possibility. That beautiful thought kept us going each time we were told this paperwork was incorrect or that form would need to go through another review or this agency had yet to look at our records in order to release us to the next step.

And then, seven months later, everything had been dotted and crossed and we received the necessary A-OKs from everyone involved at the orphanage and through to the Department of Homeland Security. And just like that we were packing and boarding a plane to be united with our daughter.

Holding her for the first time erased all of the blurry months that had seemed to pass so slowly and brought everything into focus real quick as she was placed into our arms. The four of us were finally together in the same country and in the same room, staring into each other’s eyes, whispering softly, holding one another, as well as wiping away some anxious tears. It wasn’t long before her nervous energy turned to giddy happiness as a swell of hugs and kisses followed and filled the following two months we spent in country finalizing our adoption.

Home again somewhere just before spring would begin to reveal itself, but not before our newest addition would experience her first snowfall, watching the two tiny sisters sprinting around the house, effortlessly taking it over and turning it into a place we’d never envisioned; it was clear that we were meant to be. I’d been so very wrong on that carefree blue sky, sunshine day thinking that we had reached our capacity and ability to open our home and our hearts to another child.

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Susan Kuligowski

Sue Kuligowski is a staff storyteller at Adoption.com. The mother of two girls through adoption, she is a proposal coordinator, freelance writer/editor, and an adoption advocate. When she's not writing or editing, she can be found supervising sometimes successful glow-in-the-dark experiments, chasing down snails in the backyard, and attempting to make sure her girls are eating more vegetables than candy.


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