Adoption is not for the faint of heart. And it certainly isn't for the faint of relationship. The adoption of our younger son was no exception. The difficult, the unpredictable, and the unknown pressed on every little fissure in the foundation of our family. So much so that on some days, we wondered why we ever chose to pursue adoption.
We argued about whose fault it was that we couldn't get paperwork right. We stormed around. We threatened to call off the adoption. We threatened to call off our marriage. We cried. It was absolutely not our finest hour.
When we finally received word about our son and that it was time to travel, the timing could not have been worse. My husband and I both own our own businesses and we were approaching incredibly busy seasons. And because we were traveling to a foreign country during high season, the expenses were astronomical.
I believe there are only two reasons we made that first trip to get our son. One, our older son would have left us if we had derailed his dream of a little brother and two, the picture we had of this tiny, blond little boy, smiling at the camera.
This all sounds like such a terrible experience, and at one time, it really was. But as we groped our way through this unknown territory, sticking to the path through sheer stubbornness and determination, something really beautiful and most unexpected began to emerge. As a family, we began to develop a collective lens for the unexpected—a lens with a filter for miracles. Sometimes they would appear like bright flashes of light. Sometimes they were only obvious in retrospect. Sometimes only I would notice, or only my husband or older son would. And then we would point them out to each other, like travelers discovering guideposts on an unknown path.
To list all the miracles that revealed themselves would take up entirely too much space, so I've chosen some of the very best to share.
- Little Miracle #1—A Very Special Cartoon. Our adoption journey began with an episode of Arthur on PBS. One of Arthur's friends, Binky, adopted a little sister. (Only television could reduce the entire adoption process to 30 minutes.) As my older son, 5 years old at the time, watched the program he turned to me and said, "Can we get me a little brother that way? I want a little brother, Mom. No girls." This child has the attention span of a gnat, so I thought for sure it would be a fleeting fancy. I was wrong: He did not let go of the idea for three years. He pushed, he asked, he nagged, he even prayed. And he did not stop until his little brother took up residence in our house. On that day, he heaved a great sigh and said, "Now we are a family."
- Little Miracle #2—An Old Friend. When a critical piece of paperwork seemed impossible to obtain and our adoption was in peril, I reached out to someone I hadn't spoken to in at least 20 years and asked for help. She immediately took up our cause. Within days, that piece of paper was in my hands.
- Little Miracle #3—The Kindness of Strangers. At 10 PM in a foreign country, we found an Internet café around the corner from our hotel (we were not in a major city). We needed to send time-sensitive documents back to the US for evaluation. Several young men and a young woman who were anxious to practice their English showed us how to access the Internet, for free, and told us to stay as long we needed.
- Little Miracle #4—A Good Judge. On the day of our court proceeding (record heat, no air conditioning, not to mention unparalleled exhaustion), our case was suddenly given to the head judge, who was known for being thorough. He completed our adoption hearing in 45 minutes, including the time it took for our translator to interpret both sides of the conversations. Our adoption team had never experienced anything like it.
- Little Miracle #5—A Clean Bill of Health. At his first medical evaluation at the adoption clinic, doctors gathered around our son. They were astonished to find that there was nothing wrong with him. No issues, no delays, no nothing. Just a happy, smiling, healthy little boy. "This never happens," they said in surprised delight.
Looking for miracles didn't make all the hard stuff go away. But it fundamentally shifted the way we experienced the hard stuff. Our conversation about little miracles (which became an almost daily topic at the supper table) lightened our load. It re-shaped the foundation of our family into something stronger and more resilient.
And at the end of our journey, we were staring into the eyes of our brand new son. He is the reason we learned about little miracles everywhere. He is the reason we still talk about them, search for them, and point them out to each other. Because of this and so many other gifts he's given us, we know that he is the greatest miracle of all.