What if I said “no”?
I woke up extra early the morning of May 3, 2013. I was scheduled to give a MOPS talk on “being still” even though I felt anything but. I switched my phone to silent as I delivered my talk but as soon as I switched it back, it buzzed like crazy. I excused myself from the fellowship hall to answer the call. “Hi Catherine, it’s Sarah Harmon from CCAI.” I sucked in my breath. “There’s a little girl available for adoption who meets your specifications. We’d like you to consider her file….” As this adoption agency representative rattled off her vital stats (date of birth: May 10th; abandoned at the gate of her orphanage; health listed in fair condition…), I felt excitement well up from within and I wanted to pivot my heels to run towards that MOPS room and scream, “I’M GONNA HAVE A DAUGHTER!!!”–until she shared her specific special need (which we’re keeping private).
My heart sunk like a stone. “Come again?” I asked. The agency rep reassured me that this diagnosis could mean absolutely nothing and in many cases is an egregious error. She promised to send me medical files and pictures and ended our conversation with, “We do ask that you make a decision in a week’s time.”
A week? To make a decision that will change my life? I frantically phoned my husband…He freaked when he heard the diagnosis. I freaked when he freaked because he’s normally so calm. “I don’t know if we can emotionally handle this if it’s bad…I don’t know if we can afford this…” We called doctors to review her file and talked to each other. Over and over. We studied her pictures over and over. So precious. I couldn’t say no…but I couldn’t say yes, either.
May 10, 2013, this little one’s second birthday, arrived. It had been a week. I agonized. I wanted to give her the birthday gift of a family…but I didn’t have peace. And our agency wanted an answer. So God help me, I lied. I said, “I’m so sorry, our family’s been sick (does heartsick count?) and we’d like another week to make a decision. “Sure,” they said. One.more.week.
In that week, we fired off twenty questions to our agency. They sent us a YouTube video of her babbling. They sent her to physical therapy. I tripled checked to make sure a child I had fallen in love with at Maria’s Big House of Hope was not available for adoption. I wanted my burning bush sign that this was a go. So I kept asking for extensions to buy me more time until my agency finally said, “I’m sorry, you’re going to have to make a decision. Yes or no.”
So we said YES. On May 23, 2013, we took a leap of faith and officially locked in the commitment to give this girl a family. Within minutes of picking her up, I knew the diagnosis was wrong. She was so smart, she was manipulative! She sassed me in Mandarin, refused to hold my hand and marched her feet with spunk. I turned to my husband and said, “I think her real special need is her attitude problem!” The women in our travel group joked that she was giving me a taste of the teenage years!
But while she was fierce on the outside, I knew she was terrified. And starving. The first thing we did after picking her up was take her to lunch. She ate an adult-sized bowl of beef and noodles…and begged for more. My husband and I were shocked. She stuffed the snacks we gave her in her pockets and seemed to have a bottomless appetite. Her body revealed visible signs of neglect. Her head misshapen from lying flat on the crib for hours on end. A mere 22 pounds at 3 years old! Dirt caked under fingernails that were way too long. She was filthy. And her shoes were so tight, when I peeled them off, red marks were revealed where the straps dug in. She wouldn’t let me hold her at that point (she made me earn her love!) but I wanted to let her know it was gonna be okay.
I often wonder…What if we said “no”? What would our life look like? More importantly–what would our daughter’s life look like? It scares me to imagine life without the other half of my heart and to wonder what my daughter’s life would be like if we left her to fend for herself halfway around the world.
We almost missed out on this priceless gift because we were waiting for a sign. An audible voice to affirm our choices. Many of us don’t get those “straight-from-heaven” holy moments. Most of us are just making choices in ordinary time and hoping heaven hears our pleas.
My daughter’s birthday quite fittingly falls on Mother’s Day. As I helped her blow out her birthday candles, my eyes welled in tears thinking of her journey into our family and every orphan left behind in her home country. My wish is for every soul out there who’s thinking of making that leap to welcome an orphaned child in their hearts and home to take heart and be courageous in making this big next step. It’s a scary thing full of unknowns and great sacrifice.But your saying “yes” could lead you on the greatest adventure of your lifetime. Happy Mother’s Day.