Part Four is extra special because in it we see Tulip for the first time.
For those of you who haven't been in the middle of an international adoption for the past year (about 99% of you) let me start by giving you the steps that need to take place in order for you to get matched with a child (like Tulip).
*First, you choose an agency. This was hard for us. I had seen a little sweetie named 'Drew' on an advocacy site called Rainbow Kids. We contacted the agency that he was listed with and they sent us his file to look at. Sweet baby boy. Unfortunetly, we were not comfortable with a few aspects of that agency--#1 being the amount of money they were charging for their services. It seemed much higher than other agencies. We chose to return his file and go back to square one and pick an agency before we picked a child. We ended up choosing CCAI based on some recommendations and the prices of the services they provide.
*After you have chosen an agency, you fill out a brief questionaire that is like a pre-screening. The answers to these questions will determine whether or not you are asked to fill out a formal application.
* Next comes a formal application which includes a special needs worksheet where you detail which special needs you are willing to accept a referral to. We only marked Down Syndrome and made a note that we preferred a DS child with no known heart defect or health concerns. Maybe that sounds strange to some readers but in order for our family to continue living overseas, Adam's job requires that each family member pass a medical exam and hold a medical clearance. Our application with CCAI was recieved on May 31, 2012 and approved on June 19, 2012.
*After steps 1-3 are completed you are ready to start the true work of the adoption process--a dossier. A dossier is a fancy word for tons and tons of paperwork. Being in the Foreign Service complicated our paperwork chase a bit. We had to collect 20 documents from all over the world. We spent June 20-August 31 putting together the initial part of our dossier.
*On July 24, 2013 I received a phone call from our social worker at CCAI. I was not expecting this phone call but it went something like this; "Hi Carin, this is Judy from CCAI. Well, the Chinese Shared List came out last night and there was a little girl on the list with Down Syndrome. She is the cutest little thing you have ever seen. I am looking at her picture right now-she has little pigtails sticking up and the cubbiest cheeks! The paperwork says she is not quite two years old and she does not have a heart defect and I know you and Adam were hoping for a child without a heart defect. So......what do you think? Would you like me to send you her file so you can see her??" Well, of course I said yes! I called Adam (who was in Bermuda) and told him the good news. We both opened up the e-mail and looked at our daughter for the first time.
How could we not fall instantly in love with that face?
At this point came one of the strangest parts of the adoption journey--at least for me.
We had this child's file and within 72 hours we had to make a 'yes' or 'no' decision. How does one make an educated decision based on 3 pictures and a poorly translated medical report? How do we say 'Yes' to this file when you have nothing to compare it to? Should we say no and hope a 'better' child comes along?
I know we both prayed about it--my prayer was something like--'Dear Lord, is she the one? How do we know? Give us wisdom."
In the end, the decision was pretty easy to make--she was exactly what we were looking for. There was no reason to say no. She was our daughter.
*On July 31, 2012 we sent in our Letter of Intent which locked Tulip's file so that no one else could have her :) Here is the letter we wrote:
We, Adam and Carin wish to adopt Tulip who is diagnosed with Down Syndrome. We have consulted with our pediatrician and we understand the limitations and health concerns associated with this diagnosis. Carin holds a college degree in Special Education and she has worked with children and adults with Down Syndrome for the past twenty years.
We have a wonderful pediatrician who is experienced in caring for children with Down Syndrome and she will be able to provide wonderful care for Tulip. We are members of the Down Syndrome Association of West Michigan and the Down Syndrome Association both of which will provide our family with emotional support and educational resources.
As soon as Tulip is home with us she will have a complete medical exam with special attention paid to her cardiac health. We will also have her sight evaluated by a pediatric ophthalmologist.
We have made arrangements for Tulip to start receiving physical and occupational therapies immediately. Since Carin is a stay at home mom with a background in special education Tulip will be in a wonderful learning environment. We have excellent health insurance that will cover all of Tulip's medical costs.
We have a large immediate and extended family and many friends who support our adoption of Tulip and are excited to see her join our family. We believe our strengths as parents include providing appropriate and loving attention, patient discipline, and a passion for learning. Our family loves spending time together outdoors and we can’t wait to include Tulip in our adventures. Our four children are excited to have a new baby sister in the house and can’t wait to teach and love her!
We fully accept Tulip and can’t wait for her to become part of our family.
*On August 3, 2012 the Chinese government Pre-Approved us to adopt Tulip.
A few thoughts in retrospect.
What if we had said no?
Would we have ever say no? Did God know that we would say yes? Did He make this decision so easy to make?
I have a complete trust in Jesus Christ but I still am completely baffled by this entire journey. I cry out to God on a weekly basis--"You had this all planned?? This was part of your plan?? This little girl had to suffer so much loss and grief to fulfill Your plan for both of us?"
I can't believe how incredibly blessed we have been through this entire process.