The Moment We First Held Our Daughters
There are times when I wonder what it must be like to witness your child being born. I never had that chance due to the particular chemotheraputic drug I received which in turn saved my life, but left me sterile. It is not something I can regret or take back. As Wendy found herself dealing with her own fertility struggles, we found ourselves at a major crossroad as time was running out if we were indeed going to expand our family beyond the two of us. As I am often known to remove emotion from my decision-making process to allow more prompt success especially with medical issues, this was going to be perhaps one of the most difficult. I was not just urging a decision that would affect me, but my wife. There was every chance that whatever we decided, she could turn around at a later time, and blame me for what she might just say was a rushed and decisive error, that I took away opportunity from her.
But Wendy knew that there was nothing more that I wanted in my life, than to be a father. With all medical and financial options nearly spent, it was going to take blind faith that this final attempt, whether biological, fostering, or adoption, would help us reach our dream of becoming parents.
“Wendy, we both know, we only have the money to pursue IVF (test tube process and insemination) only once. We know there is no guarantee as we found out with artificial insemination. We know the heartbreak to come so close, have your body give signs that the attempt was successful, only to eventually get your period, even months late. We have only one other option to consider, and that too will only have enough finances to try once, adoption. Yes, we know that depending on the type of adoption we choose, the process could be long, have waves of false hopes, and worse, birth mothers changing their mind in giving up their babies for adoption. That heartbreak would be devastating to us we know. We are running out of time. And I know this is going to come out cold and insensitive, but with all the emotions, we have to try to remain focused. We want a family. I know you want to keep trying. But with all the love in my heart for you, I have to ask you this. What is more important to you – the actual sensation and act of being pregnant and giving birth, or being a mom?”
In all fairness, at that moment, I felt like the biggest asshole. Wendy had been through so much with hormone injections, false hopes of failed insemination attempts and I was not going to give her any time to grieve for this heartbreaking situation. Though my fertility issue was dealt with more than a decade prior, it would be years before Wendy would fully come to terms with infertility. But it was her body. And ultimately, the decision had to be up to her. I made it quite clear, what I had hoped she would do.
It was agreed that we would pursue adoption. Adoption offered us the best opportunity for us to become parents. Eventually, we would decide on International adoption, locate an organization to facilitate the adoption. And then we began the seemingly endless amount of paperwork from legal documents for the United States, and for China. Home studies and police clearances were completed as well as autobiographies to convince China that Wendy and I would be good parents. And then, comparable to pregnancy, we began the wait. We knew that it would be months before our dossier would even be seen by Chinese officials. And near the end of January of 2004, word came that a child had been matched up to us and we should expect all of our information soon. It would be delivered via FedEx on January 28th. Just days before, our area had been blanketed by several inches of snow. But that afternoon, just a little after 1:00pm, into our driveway pulled a FedEx van. We freaked out the driver with our excitement urging her inside so that we could celebrate, oh, and eventually telling her what we were celebrating. We took pictures of the driver and then let her on her way as we were not her only delivery to make. (One side note, she would be our driver yet again for the delivery of our second adoption notice).
We sat down at our kitchen table, drew in a couple of deep breaths, and then opened the envelope. Inside was a red folder (red is good luck in China). The folder was packed with paperwork, and pictures. Her given name was Fu Shu Ting and her presumed date of birth was March 25th, 2003. There was acceptance documentation that needed to be completed and returned as soon as possible. Preparations for travel within the next six weeks needed to be made, as well as attending one more very important information meeting. There were ten other families traveling with us at that time on that sixteen hour non-stop flight, though most of us had never met before, and with a 13 hour time difference, once we landed, and were able to get to sleep, we had been informed to expect our children even earlier than anticipated.
We landed in our the provincial capital city of Nanchang in Jiangxi Province. We were driven to our hotel, checked in, and were told we would be leaving in less than an hour to go to the Notary office, where Chinese officials, orphanage personnel, and foster mothers would be arriving with our daughters. Again, to compare it to the biological process of giving birth, we had “conception”, gestatition, and now the water was “broken”. Upon arrival at the city building, we were escorted upstairs, and explained a very simple process that would change our lives forever. We were assigned numbers by familiy, our number being seven. Shu Ting would be identified by the number seven, not necessarily the seventh child being brought into the room.
Only by the coincidence of who had been a total stranger just 20 hours earlier, snapped a photograph of the orhpanage personnel holding Shu Ting. She was wearing a bright green sweater, obviously bundled up in layers of clothing. Our guide De called out “NUMBER 7!” And with that, we knew that she was ours. We jumped up, squirmed through two of the other newly formed families, and then Madison was placed into our arms. The was THE moment we had been waiting for, for so long. It had finally happened, we became parents. Though we were drowning in our own tears of joy, not even a sound had come out of Madison. We were mom and dad. It was at that moment that we realized we made the right decision, and also, that we would waste no time once we arrived back home in the United States, we would do the process again.