Friday, November 14, 2014

Hat Trick!

We are proud, delighted, overjoyed, and excited to announce the adoption of our third little miracle!  Meet Francesca Yiman, born on August 27, 2013....

After a few months of stressful medical situations, it feels so good to be celebrating something so wonderful for our family.  But this adoption has been far from straightforward and stress-free, which is why we chose to wait until LOA (which we got on October 30 after just submitting our LOI on October 14!!!!) to scream our news from the rooftops.  So, the story...

We first found out about our daughter in mid-June from a respected fellow thal mama.  She posted a picture of little Yiman in our private online group, saying that this baby was having her paperwork put together for adoption.  But it wasn't her picture that caught my eye.  Of course my heart opened to her, knowing that she has thalassemia.  But hearing that this little girl was in Guangxi, a place very close to my heart because my beloved Emmie is from there, and learning that she was at Yulin CWI made me want to bring her home right then.  As in, jump on a plane and go and GET HER.  Why?  Because I knew that two children with thalassemia from this orphanage had died relatively recently.  Never got to know the love of a forever family.  Not that they were not being loved at the CWI, but for a child with a life-threatening illness, love just isn't enough.  That is the harsh reality.  These children need medical care that is not always readily available in China, to anyone, never mind orphans.  And in Guangxi, they are often hit with blood shortages the hardest.

Falling in love with this little girl was one thing, but getting her file and getting her home to us was completely another.  I had watched others try the "pre-identified" adoption route (i.e., chasing down the file of a child who you are aware of for one reason or another, but who is not actually available for adoption yet)...some with success, some not so much.  So we contacted one of the most respected smaller agencies around, which happens to be right near us.  They felt that with their connections and our perseverance that we had a good chance--but not a guarantee--of making it happen.  So we signed on and the now-familiar whirlwind began.  As usual, we got everything done in record time.  I ran around like day a beach trip, the next to pick up documents.  Strolling around a feast in the North End, then hitting the State House, girls in tow, for authentications.  Our home study was completed in a month, we walked in early for fingerprints, our I800a was expedited.  One night we even packed the whole family in the car in order to get a document to FedEx in Boston to make that last pickup out of Logan.  (We even followed it with a celebratory dumpling run in Chinatown.  "What the heck!  The gals are up too late already!")  We checked off every trick in the Expedited Adoption book (which, perhaps, I should know, when I have a free minute, LOL).  Everyone was in agreement:  Get this baby home fast.  We were DTC on August 22, one day before our 12th wedding anniversary.  We finally took a breath.

That late night dumpling run after rushing a document
to make the last plane out of Logan.

August 22

Celebrating our 12th wedding anniversary our favorite way...
with our girls.

And then....

The file.  Our agency had been working closely with the CWI to track the file.  At first, it was going to be handled almost like a partnership file, going right to our agency and to us.  While there was no formal partnership, the CWI director and our agency director gave each other their word that they would commit to making this happen.  It seemed so risky, but our agency director reminded us that she had discussed this at length with the CWI director.  The CWI director would be going completely back on her promise if she decided not to follow through.  So the file was sent to the provincial office with this agreement in place, with a letter explaining what was to be done with the file.  Then, our worst fears came true.  The provincial officials determined that this could not be done.  The file would just go to CCCWA, and hit the shared list.  It would be up for grabs for anyone.  My guess is that they felt that without a formal contract or partnership agreement in place, that a simple handshake would not do.  I understand their perspective, thinking that this would be too risky for them, and for Yiman. So off the file went, available to any agency.

We were crestfallen, but wonderful things were happening for our family.  Emmie had been terribly ill over the summer, and now she was feeling so much better and we were getting our feet back on the ground again with her and all of her new medications.  She was starting pre-K, Rosie was getting ready for dance class, we made our first trip to Santa's Village, the girls were September Artists of the Month at Boston Children's Hospital, and we had a vacation coming up.  Life was great.  We felt so lucky for what we already had, but we couldn't help but wonder what happened to Yiman.  It was anyone's guess where the file was for all of September.  The shared list came out and our agency saw nothing.  I hate to say that we were starting to lose hope, but we were.  At least for us.  I would stare at the one photo we had of her and have to look away.  All we could wish for was that she'd have a family, and soon.  And as long as that happened, it was all going to be OK.

First day of Pre-K

First day of dance

Our LONG awaited "summer" vacation in September.

September turned into October.  People on several adoption groups were grumbling about agencies grabbing thal files with no families open to thal.  I was grumpy about it, too, but too caught up in our situation to worry much about it.  We went apple picking, laughing and smiling and filling our bellies with apples and cider donuts.  It was a wonderful day, sunny and bright.  The four of us cuddled on the hayride, and again I pinched myself, like I do almost daily, thinking about how lucky I am to have this perfect little family.  Well, far from perfect, but perfect to me.  I thought about how the memories and the love that we have could fill the oceans 10 times.  And that's about when Patrick looked at his phone and saw that I got an email from my fellow thal mama friend saying that Yiman's file had been assigned to another agency.

My favorite apples in the apple cart.

If the story ended there, it would be sad for us, happy for someone else, and either way OK for Yiman as long as she ended up in a loving family who could provide for her.  But it didn't.  As it turned out, the other agency did not have any families at the time who were open to adopting a child with thalassemia.  Now, many agencies in that situation would simply hold the file for several months and sort of "shop" around the file, looking for new clients who might be interested in working with them to adopt her.  You see this happen all the time.  And, perhaps this is a good business model for some agencies and it might be safe for some children.  But, when a child has a life-threatening blood disorder that *requires* ongoing treatment, needs to get home fast, and qualifies for expediting, it's debatable whether the agency should hold that file for what could be months if there is someone out there with another agency who is logged in and ready to say, "YES!  YES!  A million times yes!!" NOW.  And, thankfully for us, that is how the other agency felt.  Yes, they likely could have held the file and "advertised" it and signed on a new client who would adopt her.  But, upon hearing that there was a family ready and able (US!!) to move forward right then and there for this baby girl, they felt it was more important for her to get home fast, so without hesitation they agreed to transfer the file to our agency.  They were cooperative and worked quickly with our agency and CCCWA, and nine days later, on October 14th, our agency had the official file and locked it immediately for us.

We found you!

So, now, with our LOA, I800 approval, and PDF in hand, we are finally feeling like this is really going to happen.  There is no doubt that some of this was very, very hard work on the part of many players.  But some of it was luck.  Just dumb luck.  Or maybe divine intervention.  But undeniably a lot of someone-happened-to-Facebook-something-leading-to-emailing-something-leading-to-making-a-phonecall-leading-to-who-knows-what stuff.  And, of course, the graciousness of the other agency to put Yiman first, rather than their own business.  To think about this child, receiving her care through an orphanage that lost two children to thalassemia, in a province where the blood that she desperately needs may be scarce.  That is why this baby girl is ours.  There is no doubt in anyone's mind that she is coming home much sooner because of this.  And for that, we are forever grateful.