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Our adopted daughter

May 11, 2008

Kennison is adopted. Most of you already know that, because you know us. However, even if you’ve wandered on to our blog through a mutual friend, or just a random link on someone else’s page (I do that ALL THE TIME!) you’ve probably realized that Kennison could not possibly be our biological child. That word, biological, is very important. She did not grow in my tummy, and she doesn’t have our blood running through her veins. She didn’t inherit a risk of diabetes or heart disease from us. She didn’t get her skinny genes from her parents (feel free to laugh here, because it’s simply the truth) and she certainly didn’t get her thin brown hair or her beautiful brown skin from Kenny or me. No, she is not our biological child. However, she IS OUR CHILD. There is no doubt that she is our daughter, and we couldn’t love her any more than we do. We don’t love her more or less than Colton, and we don’t even love her differently. It is just love. Love for our first miracle who happened to be born thousands of miles away from us.

I didn’t hold her until the day before she turned 9 months old, but she has lived in my heart for much longer than her 26.5 months on this earth. We first saw her picture when she was almost 5 months old. When I saw her, I knew – I KNEW – that we had been called to be her parents. It was not chance that brought us together. It was not luck, and it wan’t happenstance. It was very intentional. God had us all exactly where we needed to be at the time we needed to be there to become a family.

 We saw her picture for the first time on a Friday. I was working at Children’s Hope at the time, the agency through which we adopted Kennison. The night before, Kenny and I had gotten an e-mail from our agency stating that the wait time for a girl in Vietnam had grown to 12-18 months (from the time our paperwork was submitted, and we hadn’t yet gotten that far). We were so discouraged. We talked and cried and prayed that night, wondering if this was God’s way of telling us we should be requesting a boy. (Kenny and I had decided to request a girl because we figured any biological babies we had would be boys, and we planned to try to have kids later in life.) When we woke the next morning,  I told Kenny I wanted to call our agency to get more information about a little girl who had been on the “Waiting Child” list for quite some time. I knew her medical needs were great, and Kenny and I had decided that we couldn’t take on the responsibility of a child with high special needs. However, I wanted to call and learn more, and Kenny agreed. Once I got to the office, I called St. Louis (CHI’s headquarters) to speak with the Vietnam program director, Nicky. I asked about the little girl I had seen on the website. I was told she was no longer available; she had been taken off the list because her needs were so severe. I was again discouraged, realizing our child was still probably 2 years away. Then, Nicky told me she had just gotten the file of another waiting child, and she hadn’t had the chance to put her picture up on the web. She gave me some details about the little girl, then asked if I’d like to see her file. She sent me everything over e-mail, and just a moment later, I saw our daughter for the first time. Her big brown eyes, her very odd diaper, her chubby (yes, chubby!) legs… they all won my heart. I sent Kenny the photos via cell phone, and I just cried as I talked to him. I knew we had found our heart’s desire. We spent the weekend discussing her medical needs, but God had already placed it on our hearts to make her a part of our family. On Monday, July 17th, 2006, we officially accepted the referral of An Thanh Ho.

The first photo we ever saw of our daughter, Kennison!

There is a lot of talk regarding adoption in Vietnam right now. I hate it. It makes me sick. For those of you who aren’t aware, the agreement between the US and Vietnam that allows adoptions to take place expires September 1st of this year. I have always been hopeful that even if there was a temporary lull in adoptions while the two countries came to a new agreement, that eventually everyone could “just get along” and adoptions could continue. A few weeks ago, however, the US Embassy published a report stating that many adoptions in the past 18 months have been illegitimate – birth mothers have been paid, bribed, and even blackmailed to give up their children. Hospitals have taken children from their birth mothers because bills were left unpaid. US adoption agencies are paying bonuses to orphanage directors that bring them more referrals. Vietnam says these reports are false, and they are very angry with the US. They don’t appreciate what our government officials are saying about their country. I don’t know how much of it to believe. I do know that corruption is everywhere. I know there are too many US adoption agencies licensed to do adoptions in Vietnam, and I know that there are MANY US families waiting for their child to “come home” from Vietnam. However, I have no doubt in my mind that Kennison’s adoption was legal, ethical, and touched by the hand of God. Her adoption does fall in the 18 month period that the US Embassy is concerned about, but I know in my heart that everything about it was handled just the way it should have been handled. No one has come to me about these recent newspaper articles and asked me anything about it, and in a way, I wish they would – so I could explain the benefit of having a professional, ethical, experienced adoption agency and help them understand why choosing an agency is crucial.

I started this post to talk about Kennison, and I’ve gotten slightly off topic. It all ties together, though, because if what is happening now had been happening at this time two years ago, we wouldn’t have Kennison. The newspapers are publishing the date of July 1st as a very significant one – families that don’t have referrals from Vietnam by that point (meaning a child with whom they’ve been matched) will have all of their paperwork returned to them. They will not get matched with a child until Vietnam reopens. We accepted our referral of Kennison on July 17th. That would have been 17 days too late. My heart breaks for these families, and I pray for their continued strength.

Back to the blessing we have with us, here and now. No, she is not our biological child. We are not her birth parents. We are her FOREVER parents. That’s the term we use in our family. We are so blessed to have her, and that’s something we know every day – even when she’s waking us up in the middle of the night, even when she sticks her hand in her drink and spills it all over the place, even when she throws a tantrum in the middle of Sam’s Club.

We didn’t “luck” into Kennison. For us to receive this precious gift, someone else had to give something up. That’s the way giving works. In our case, a woman half a world away had to come to what was probably the most difficult decision of her life – to live her life without her daughter. Yes, we think it was the right thing to do, as Kennison’s birth mother was very sick, and there is no telling how much longer she had on earth. But people don’t often make decisions based on what’s right, especially emotional, difficult decisions. It was a selfless act, and the greatest gift she could have given to us, complete strangers. I don’t know that Kennison’s life is better for it. That’s not for me to say. I know her life is different. I want to think she’s better off here. But, is my love better? I love her with such intensity I could never give her up – I imagine her birth mother loved her with the same intensity, but chose a different path. These are things we’ll never know.

There are many days I think of Kennison’s birth mother, but those thoughts come more quickly on days where motherhood is celebrated. I know there will come a day when Kennison wants to know more about her biological parents, and I hope that Kenny and I will handle that day with grace and love and compassion. I want her to know everything we know about her birth parents. Those are two people she will probably never meet, but who have obviously played a crucial role in her life. We want to be here for her when she wants to know more about them. No matter what, we will always be her forever parents, and we live each day of our lives making sure she knows that.

One Comment leave one →
  1. jessicam permalink
    May 13, 2008 10:47 am

    You are very blessed to have been chosen to be her parents. God knew what he was doing.

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