Before leaving for China last June to bring our 2 year-old daughter home, I was both excited and anxious, fearful and faithful. My life those last days before travel was consumed with the anxious thoughts of a frightened and desperate mother who was aching to get to her China baby but deeply dreading leaving her other six children an ocean’s distance behind.
I am not a traveler. I have always been content to stay quite close to home. I live only a few miles and minutes from where I grew up and right next door to my grandmother’s home where my father did. I attend my same childhood church and my children go to the same school that I did at their age. I am more than content this way. Dorothy’s words upon returning from Oz have always resonated with me: “If I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own backyard. Because if it isn’t there, I never really lost it to begin with.”
So when it became apparent that a precious part of my heart’s desire was not in my backyard but on the other side of the globe in a land both mysterious and unknown to me, I was more than a little uncomfortable. And I was torn. Every thing in me longed to get to my daughter across the sea but just as much of me was distressed at the thought of leaving her siblings so very far behind.
During those last days before travelling to China my mind was primarily consumed with concern for my children on both sides of the sea. But a part of me deeply longed to be connected with another adopting family in China with whom we could share this adoption pilgrimage. Somehow, I instinctively knew that me husband and I would find comfort through companions in a foreign land and I longed to recognize a family in China with whom we could share this precious journey to our daughter.
And I did recognize them. Quickly.
We were in China only hours before I was aware of our pilgrimage partners. A family in our agency’s travel group was traveling with two of their older children. Their children were delightful and spending time with them was such a comfort to my husband and me as we were missing our older children so deeply. I remember knowing that their children would make good and fast friends with our flock back home. And this family had adopted a child before which was so encouraging to us a we stepped into the adoption arena and all of its emotions for the first time. They had navigated it only three years ago and were choosing to navigate it again. Nothing could have been as comforting or as encouraging to us in those last days and hours before our daughter was placed into our arms as witnessing a family who believed in what we were doing enough to do it again themselves while bringing their children to witness it!
We received our daughters in China on the same day, at the same time, and in the same room… forging an intimacy that can perhaps be approached only by being present in the delivery room for a birth. We were witnesses to the raw emotions of those first few moments with our daughters. Over the next two weeks we witnessed the anxiety and grief in our baby girls and in each other. We listened to each other and encouraged each other and supported each other. In civil affairs offices and in police stations and in medical appointments, in the office of the U.S. Consulate General and ultimately on an endless airplane flight, we worried and rejoiced together. And, when necessary, we found much needed humor in the emotions and frustrations that surfaced as we learned to read and to comfort our children.
At the end of our two weeks in China, I ached to see my state-side children but I grieved being separated from these friends and their support. I did not know how we would have been brave enough in China without them.
As we returned to our homes and to our other children and began adjusting with our China babies, we continued to encourage and to check on each other. We supported each other and our babies through appointments with physicians and surgeries. We sent photographed images of our children as they bonded with their siblings and we joyfully awaited the day that we could meet again with all of our (11!) children.
A few weeks ago, our precious China friends came through town on their way to visit family. The visit could not have been more of a gift. We had a beautiful early Autumn picnic and, as we watched our children play together, we witnessed how miraculously far our families have come since our precious time in China. I felt like there was hardly time to breathe! I had so much I longed to tell them and ask them and share with them while we had those precious moments face to face again!
By the time they left and I reflected on our time together, I realized that this precious family was way more than our China friends. They were our forever friends who had been sent to us while we were in China…when we so desperately needed them.