National Adoption Month

Our Adoption Story: The Match

"I had a mental picture of how the 'match moment' would happen. And the real story was completely different."

November is National Adoption Month. In honor of the month, we will be bringing attention to the thousands of people in foster care awaiting forever homes, as well as those who provide and advocate for them. These stories emphasize the idea that families are bound together by the love they share, rather than their biological roots.  

I had a mental picture of how the "match moment" would happen. And the real story was completely different. I think, in some ways, this is the most I've related to my friends' birth stories so far. Because in every birth story I've ever read, there comes a point where the woman's expectations are completely shattered, and what really happens is completely different from the story she'd been planning out in her head for nine months.

In my made up story, we'd wait and wait and just before Christmas we'd get a call — we'd get our match. Just in time to show our families her photos on Christmas morning. And it was going to be a baby with a cleft lip and palette. And in every possible way I could be, I was completely prepared for this. And just waiting. What's funny is I had JUST started to embrace our waiting period. I had just come to terms with the fact that there was no way we'd be home with a child by Christmas 2017, but that the best I could hope for was a match.

So, here's what really happened.

On August 8, I was brushing my teeth and my husband Jeremy told me there was a "spotlight cutie." A couple times a month our agency sends "spotlight emails" with kids who haven't matched with a family yet. I opened the email from my phone and said "YES, I WANT THAT BABY!" But I was only half-serious because her condition wasn't on our checklist.

This kiddo has albinism. Last year when we were agonizing over the checklist, Jeremy decided that he wasn't 100 percent because with albinism comes some pretty major vision issues the majority of the time.

I understood his point of view, but I was open to it and I had pushed pretty hard for it. I had reconnected with an old friend in late 2016 and the week after Christmas she brought her two beautiful kiddos (both from China, one with albinism) to our home to visit. After spending time with this little girl I felt totally open to adding albinism to our checklist. But after many conversations, Jeremy still had hesitations. So we didn't.

If it sounds like I am in any way putting Jeremy down for now being open to it, I'm not. The number one thing I have learned through this adoption is that both parents MUST be at 100 percent every step of the way. There should never be one parent pushing the other. We both had hesitations, fears, and things we weren't open to throughout the process. It is totally OK to not agree on every decision.

So, because we had previously talked through this, I understood that I needed to let it go.

That night I dreamed about the spotlight baby all night. It was super weird because I haven't had a lot of adoption dreams and I don't have a lot of dreams based on real life in general. But in my dreams that night, she was our baby and we were so happy.

I told Jeremy about my dreams the next day. I felt like I could sense a little bit of openness from him. I didn't want to pressure him, but I had to know. So as we were driving to an appointment, I asked him if he had changed his mind about albinism. He said no.

I let it go and moved on.

One awkward, but very real, part of adoption is that people turn down kids. It's something you never get used to, but it's something a lot of families have to face. It was always a HUGE fear of mine, but it's your responsibility as a married couple (or parent of other children) to make the right choice for your whole family. I have always hated this part of it. And with every spotlight email that came though, I felt like I was rejecting a child even though that is not how you're supposed to feel. Bottom line, it's very difficult to come to grips with the fact that not every child is going to get adopted. It will always hurt my heart as long as I live.

Anyway, back to the story. Nothing seemed to be unusual about this week. We were having a close friend stay for the weekend and so I was pretty distracted.

On Friday, I was in a meeting in my dining room with two of my employees. We were working on the fall launch plans when Jeremy yelled at me to come downstairs. He's never rude like that, so my first thought was "did someone die?" I was kind of freaked out. Ran downstairs. Asked him, like, four times,"What is wrong?" He's obviously a bit shaken and collecting himself.

He tells me that when he had seen the spotlight baby that he had felt something, but he didn't want to feel pressured to make a decision. He wanted to come to a decision privately on his own. So he'd reached out to our agency and asked them to send her information only to him.

But that's not how the process works, they had just sent the entire file to both of us.

Obviously, I am crying by now. We were hugging and I was trying to process what was even happening. I was so overwhelmed. Do I get excited? Do I pretend nothing is happening so not to pressure him? Do we celebrate? Do we not?

In hindsight it was one of the most beautiful moments of my entire life.

In the moment, it was torture.

At first we didn't understand what we were looking at as he opened the files. But it soon became clear to me that it was a full referral, a match. Which meant we were the only family who had this child's information and we had two weeks to decide yes or no.

The email had a report about her story, a medical and developmental evaluation, two photos and one video.

I was so shaken because it felt like the greatest moment EVER, like AM I MEETING MY DAUGHTER?? But it was also a really scary moment. Because what if it didn't work out. She wasn't really my child yet, and I didn't know if she was going to be. I can't even describe to you the rock in my stomach.

This is where my expectations went down the drain. I imagined us making a quick call to a doctor (our doctor couldn't meet with us for a whole WEEK), saying yes, going out to celebrate and buying a ridiculous number of baby dresses.

But that wasn't what was happening in this moment. I was a mess.

Ten minutes later I walked back upstairs and into my meeting. I pretended nothing happened. We went to lunch. And I continued being social for A WHOLE WEEK without talking to anyone.

I could barely sleep. The first night I got up at 3 a.m. and spent hours online learning everything I could about albinism.

A week later, we finally met with our doctor. She came highly recommended and she specializes in international adoptions. But it's also her job to give you to best and worst case scenario based on a very short medical report that's been translated from Chinese to English. There was a huge red flag in our report. A head measurement that seemed way off. Every single thing pointed to the possibility that a measurement had be taken wrong. Ultimately, we had to take a leap of faith. Ultimately, we had to do what all parents do: accept risk.

As the days went by I could see that Jeremy was leaning toward yes. He's always been a slow decision maker, but I could see it was happening and I was internally flipping out. It was hard to talk about anything else. We'd go out and say, "let's not talk about the baby," and then proceed to only talk about her for the entire dinner.

Our two weeks was beginning to tick down, and I knew in my heart that Jeremy was going to say yes. But until he did I couldn't relax.

On Monday morning, we were driving to an eclipse party at a friends house in a different town nearby. We were on the highway and he took my hand and said, "I just need you to know that I have already decided and the answer is yes."

HOLY SHIT!

I didn't want to make my friends party about us, so I made him promise to wait to tell them until it was over. We watched the eclipse together, it was completely strange and magical.

The following few days is a blur of the happiest I have ever been. We wrote a long email to family about our daughter's story and introducing her. The way our family and friends attached to her so instantly is one of the most beautiful things I have ever witnessed.

Jeremy and I now spend our nights watching and re-watching a thirty second long video of a two-year-old girl in China, who in just three or four months, will be living here with us in our home. We study every little mannerism, we pretend we already know her. It's honestly kind of pathetic, but we're loving every moment.

To be totally honest, we're prepared for our trip to China to be awful. It would be wrong to put big emotional expectations on a scared two-year-old who has just been handed to strangers and left by the only adults she knows and trusts. We're going with our eyes open and our expectations extremely low.

Still, through all that fear, I'm living for all the firsts we're going to have together. I'm beginning see our future together. We're so thankful that this little one came to us at the perfect time and she's already changing our lives. It's beautiful!

Currently, we're back in a paperwork phase and we're rushing like crazy to try to ensure we can bring her home before the holidays. We're so happy it's physically painful at moments. 

Here's a photo of our little gal taken at two months.

Last night Jeremy said to me, "I've never seen you this happy as long as I've known you." I'll just end with that.

This story originally appeared on Elsie Larson's personal blog, The Larson House. Larson lives in Nashville, TN and runs the lifestyle company A Beautiful Mess with her sister, Emma Chapman. The pair have written three books together. She writes at the The Larson House to preserve her memories with her husband, Jeremy Larson, and their adopted daughter, Nova Winter Larson, who they will be bringing home later this month. 

Cover image via Elsie Larson 

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