It was exactly a year ago this Easter season that our decision was made to adopt our son Noah. As strong Catholics, my husband, Taylor, and I did a lot of soul-searching, along with physical researching, about adoption before we “took the plunge.”

Our story started four years ago when we started trying to have a child of our own. Months and months went by. Then, heartbreak after heartbreak mounting, we were not able to conceive. We turned to fertility procedures, which gave us new hope. Unfortunately, they were unsuccessful, too. Not only did we feel even more devastated when the fertility procedures didn’t work, but I felt like a lab experiment. That’s when we curiously began researching adoption Websites. That was October of 1999. We found the Finally Family website, along with several others, but we weren’t ready for adoption.

In January of 2000, while my husband and I were vacationing and unknowingly approximately five weeks pregnant, we had a miscarriage. It was devastating to us. The most hurtful things said to us were words that were meant to console and encourage us: “Well, at least now you know you can get pregnant.” To me, it meant, “I can get pregnant, but I cannot carry a child.” A few months grieving over our loss, Taylor and I prayed a lot and decided to start our research on adoption again.

First, we looked into adoption within the United States. However, to my amazement, I found that birth parents have more legal rights than adoptive parents do in the US. Even years later, a birth parent can come back and claim that they were unfit to make the decision to relinquish their child when they did and get their birth child back, whereas internationally, most countries seal the records.

Also, children here are well taken care of by our government. The United States has several opportunities for children here. An abandoned child here can be taken into foster care, grow up with government grants, and become a doctor some day, for example. Would that happen abroad? Probably not. That’s why we decided to adopt internationally and give a child who normally would not have a future the promise of a good, stable life to become whatever he or she wanted to be.

So we went back to the website that we found the most informative, Finally Family. We still had a lot of questions and struggled with the cost of the process. It certainly wasn’t putting a price on a child, but every parent going through this finds the cost overwhelming in the beginning, and it’s just a matter of putting the costs into perspective, which Finally Family was willing to do for us.

We just wanted to know where the funds were being dispersed. The staff was cooperative in explaining that the funds are allocated for attorney, processing, and legal fees here and in Bulgaria and that the orphanage receives a donation from the cost. Our accountant also informed us that the United States government issues a cash-back refund of up to $5,000, depending on annual income. The way we looked at it, the cost of the adoption was nothing compared to what we would have spent in raising a child up to the age of a toddler.

During Holy Week of 2000, Taylor and I made our decision. We accepted the reality that we were probably not going to conceive and that we wanted to save a life that had already been born. That was when we contacted Finally Family. We also asked when children start getting harder to place, and we were informed that toddlers start to get less likely to be adopted because most parents want infants. So we decided on a 3- or 4-year-old.

That’s when we first saw our son’s photo on the Finally Family Website. It’s hard to explain, but when we saw his photo and received his video and medical records, we knew he was our son. The bond was instantaneous.

He was just turning 3, and we decided, since we had been trying for three years at that point to become pregnant, that we did get pregnant when we started trying and that he was born just for us! He was our son. Now it was just the matter of getting him here.

The first required trip to Bulgaria sealed the bond. As we traveled through Bulgaria and up the mountain to the orphanage where our son was, both the beauty and poverty overwhelmed us. We take so much for granted here in the States.

Bulgaria is a beautiful country surrounded by majestic mountains, streams, and roadside farmer stands, and the people there were the nicest we have ever met anywhere else in the world. On the other hand, the things we missed most were a nice cold glass of milk, cable television, and depending on where we were, a bathroom. I could go on for pages on the differences in the cultures, but the most important one is the need for parents for these children left in the orphanages.

When we first met our son, he jumped right in our lap, and we were a family! We were blessed to be able to spend three days at the orphanage. During those 3 days we saw the 24 other children in the orphanage. We wanted to take them all, but we couldn’t even take a second, as prohibited by Bulgarian law. We came home feeling bad for the other children but ecstatic in knowing that we were saving one.

I can tell you, the journey felt long and hard. At times we felt that everyone else knew more about us than we ever did about ourselves by the time we were done with the paper work! And as every day passed, we missed our son more and more, especially as holidays passed. Sometimes it felt as if the journey was never going to end. God bless Michelle at Finally Family and our attorney in Bulgaria, whose daily emails back and forth helped me keep my sanity.

If there were ever any advice that I could give anyone to help them get through this process, it would be to keep your faith strong. In the end, I even went through what an actual pregnant woman goes through in a physical pregnancy with cravings and mood swings, but my husband was there by my side the whole way.

We received a great Christmas present from Bulgaria. On December 15, our son was legally declared from Niat Penkov Atannasov to Noah William Niat Peters. What a Christmas present! We had hoped he would be home with us for Christmas, but at least we had a son for Christmas. We knew at this point that we were close to the end of the rainbow!

We had made our decision on April 26, 2000, and in January 2001 we received the phone call. It was time to go bring our son home! It took nine months: a normal pregnancy after all. Just as I am told a pregnant woman feels the worst pain of her life birthing her child, so we too felt the worst pains birthing ours. And just as those pains disappear after the birth, so have ours.

Picking up our son was bittersweet as we opened our arms wide to our beautiful little boy; the orphanage now had 32 children in it needing homes. We pray that other prospective parents find the answers to the questions they have and can share in the joy that we are experiencing now in our life.

As my husband, myself, and Noah attended Holy Thursday mass at our church this year, I cried as I recalled praying to God last year saying, “Is this the right thing to do, to adopt a child?” Then I looked over at Noah as he played in the seat beside me. I instantly gave Noah a kiss! And on Good Friday during mass, as I again recalled last year’s prayer with God saying, “Ok, God. We’ve decided we’re going to do this. Please help us and bring us our son quickly!” And again I looked over at Noah, almost in disbelief that he was really there. Easter week will always be special to us. It’s the week our house became a home!