Monday, August 19, 2013

My Story Monday: Hearts to Hanna

Our adoption journey began in May 2011 when we submitted our application to a small agency near us in Pennsylvania to adopt a healthy infant from Korea.  Fast forward two years and we’ve adopted a beautiful special needs child from China through AAC, and yet, we know we have taken the right path for us.  People say International adoption is a rocky road, but I liken the process more to a narrow trail with many ups and downs, twists, turns and some parts where you have to blaze your own path.

My husband and I have always wanted to adopt, and following our wedding in 2006 we debated if we should try to start our family through adoption or birth.  We researched adoption and attended information meetings, however, we were very lucky to welcome our two amazing biological children in 2008 and 2009.  In May 2011 we moved to Pennsylvania and submitted our application for the Korea program.  After about six months of “paper chasing” we learned Korea was not the right fit for us.

So, after all our documents for Korea had been completed, we started from scratch preparing a dossier for China and made the switch to China’s special needs program in October 2011. (Later we learned AAC prepares the dossier for you!)  We were very nervous taking the special needs route, and filling out the special needs checklist (listing the conditions we would be open to) was really challenging for us. That spring we also moved into a new house, delaying completion of our home study.  Finally we finished our dossier in the summer 2012 and we were LID (Logged-In-Date) September 2012.

Our small agency in Pennsylvania only matched from the shared list, so each month we eagerly awaited the releases and longed to “get the call”, and see our child’s face.  During the fall of 2012 we considered the files of three children, none of which was right for our family.  Turning down referrals was heartbreaking, and we wondered if we were on the right path.  It seemed all the children on China’s shared list had more severe medical needs than we were comfortable with.

Then in February 2013 we learn through an adoption Facebook group that an agency in Colorado, AAC Adoptions, had available files of young girls with minor medical conditions—exactly what we were looking for!  It seemed unbelievable that we had waited six months for a match and there was an agency with more files than families!  We contacted AAC Adoptions and they told us about one baby girl they felt would be a good match for us.  Another family was reviewing her file, but a few days later we learned they decided not to pursue her.  AAC Adoptions was kind enough to let us review the file before committing to switch agencies. We had been happy with our agency in Pennsylvania, and already paid many of the fees, so didn’t want to switch unless this was our daughter.  We had her medical file reviewed by the International Adoption team at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and decided… this is our Hanna!

We began to transfer our dossier to AAC at the end of February, which added about a month to our process.  We were  LID, through AAC, March 2013—both exactly six months after our first dates.  We received our LOA (Letter of Confirmation) on May 20,and TA (Travel Approval) July 19th.

As we got closer to travel I’d been hoping to leave for China on July 26—my birthday!  However, when we received our TA the U.S. Consulate in Guangzhou (where you must have a consulate appointment before leaving China) was closed to move offices, so we couldn’t schedule our CA (consulate appointment).  And since the CA is the crucial final step during the China trip, you can’t make any travel plans without knowing that date.

The night of July 23 I was sound asleep when an alarm woke me around 2AM.  It took me a few groggy seconds to identify it was my phone beeping a weather alert warning of flash flooding due to a thunderstorm in our area. (That’s the only time an alarm has ever been activated on my phone— not even sure how they do that.)  Since we aren’t in an area prone to flooding I shut it off cursing the weather alert system for the intrusion.  Then I noticed an e-mail that had just popped up on my phone 9 minutes earlier from the U.S. Consulate in Guangzhou confirming our CA appointment for August 5th!

Two days later we boarded the plane as a family of four, and I got the best birthday gift of arriving in China on my birthday!  AAC had prepared all the documents we needed for our trip, and the in-country rep, Judy, worked tirelessly to plan our itinerary and book our hotels, guides, and in-China transportation.  Everything went smoothly!  We spent a few days in Hong Kong, five days in Nanchang— where Hanna is from— and five days in Guangzhou.  We were pleasantly surprised by Guangzhou, which is a clean, cosmopolitan, efficient and beautiful city. The hardest part of our trip was adjusting to the 12-hour time difference—as soon as we overcame the jet-lag in China, it was time to come home and adjust again.  And it’s a shock adjusting to having a toddler again!  I joke toddlers spend all day trying to kill themselves so as parents we spend all day trying to prevent that—it’s constant and exhausting, especially when no one is sleeping well.

Our gotcha day was July 29 and Hanna immediately bonded with me (she’s still a little unsure of her daddy) and is doing great!  We discovered unexpectedly she has a hernia that will require surgery soon, but otherwise have found her medical file was fairly accurate (aside from an erroneous positive Hepatitis B result).  At 17 months her development was assessed generally at a 14-month level, which is to be expected given her circumstances.  Hanna is what I’ve read described as a “Velcro baby”—she won’t let me put her down.  Her comfort level is growing to allow me out of her sight, but only for a few seconds.  Bedtimes have also been challenging and she often cries when it’s time to sleep (I’m not sure if that’s mourning or just typical toddler behavior).  But she’s already making progress and adjusting amazingly well to her new life— she is incredible!

There were times we weren't sure the ups and downs and twists and turns of this path were right for us, but now we realize everything is exactly as it should be.  Ultimately, you just have to follow your heart—our hearts lead us to Hanna. 
Proud Mommy,
Emily Lovely

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