Our youngest son, Kieran, had many health problems in his first year of life. It was a crazy year with hospitalizations, doctor’s appointments, feeding schedule, pumping schedules; chaos. We had finally reached the calm after the storm and our family and marriage were in a very good place. THEN–we had friends who had hosted the previous summer and were knee deep in adoption. Our friend had made her first trip to UA and had written a blog on her experience and shared some pictures from her trip. One of the girls that she met while there looked just like me as a little girl. My husband and I both mentioned this to one another, and then didn’t say anymore about it. A few days later, I confessed to my husband that I could not stop thinking about this child, that I had even dreamed about her at night. He said he had been thinking about her, too. We had never talked about hosting or adoption, and all of a sudden I was having thoughts of, “do I have a daughter already somewhere out there waiting for me?”
I am the oldest of three girls, and I grew up playing mommy to my younger sisters and dreaming of the day when I would have a little girl. Well, we have three boys… Ages 7, 4, and 1–busy. My dreams of having a daughter never came to be, at least not in the way that I had planned for it to happen. My oldest has always dreamed of having a sister as well, and was disappointed to find out after each of my ultrasounds that we were having more boys. We looked into it, and this particular girl that our friend had met was already committed to being hosted by another family, but once our hearts had been opened to the possibility of hosting, we didn’t feel like we could go back. So we started searching photolistings of other kids in need. Looking for the girl who we felt would be a fit for our family. The funny thing is that I was initially looking for a younger girl, but Ally* was suggested to us, and we decided to just go for it; to just stop trying to be in control–and just let it happen.
It’s funny, because in our prehost training, they asked what we we worried about, and people had a wide range of concerns, but mine was actually saying goodbye (before we’d even said hello). Our oldest has a difficult time with change, and I was worried about him getting attached and then having to say goodbye. (He’s a little like me.) We have had friends and family visit, and when they leave, he is devastated, and I was worried for him. Aside from that concern, we were mostly just excited…
Ally arrived late at night after nearly 24 hours of traveling. It was her first time ever riding on a plane and she had been up since around 3am her time. She stepped out of the elevator at the airport and looked like she might cry, a combination of being overwhelmed, exhausted, and relieved.
I hugged her and held her and tried to convey how happy we were to have her here despite the language barrier. This was the first of many times I heard, “I no understand.” She held my hand on the way to the car and held it until she left. Anytime we walked from the car to the store, or walked around sightseeing, sitting on the couch watching tv, and in the car the entire way to the airport to take her home, we held hands. My 4 year old doesn’t want to hold my hand half the time, so to have a teenager want to have this physical contact, this mother’s touch, really got my heart. To think what is so normal for my boys to the point they don’t need it, is a gift to her. The simplest, and yet rarest, gift for her.
Our hosting experience went amazingly well. She goofed off with our boys, and read in her room when she needed some quiet time. She went boogie boarding, and water sliding, and rode her first roller coaster (which she loved!) She offered to help in the kitchen, and helped bring in groceries and did things even without being asked, I can still hear her say, “you need help?”
The weeks flew by and before we knew it, it was time for her to leave. The countdown to her departure weighed heavy on all of our hearts. If we could have just kept here here and not sent her home–we would have.
But, departure day came, dark and early (we left for the airport a 4am). We met her AAI rep at the airport, and tried to hold back our tears. When she realized that we would not be going through security with her and we had to say out final goodbyes then and there, she couldn’t hold it together anymore and neither could I. We crouched down and just held onto one another in the lobby of the airport. I thought the previous year that we had with Kieran’s medical concerns was hard, but this was like putting one of my kids on a plane and not knowing when I would ever see or hear from them again. It was gut wrenching. I cried all the way home and was in a fog for most of that first day. Watching flight tracker and keeping tabs on where in the world she was. Everyone told me that it would get easier, and it did, but it literally took 3-4 weeks, and even now it’s hard, that what love does, it gets into your heart. That first week my oldest son sobbed himself to sleep every night. My boys still get up every morning and ask if I’ve heard from Ally. They draw her pictures and take silly pictures to send to her. They ask when she’s coming back and if we will see her again. I always say that I hope so… We miss her so much. It seems so crazy to think about from the outside, from the before hosting perspective. To open your home to a stranger, one who doesn’t even speak the same language, and orphan with nothing, and to completely care for this person and consider them a part of your family in a few short weeks. But it happens, it happened, and I now have a daughter who lives on the other side of the world, because after this summer she is part of our family. We love her, and despite the pain of love, loving is worth it.
I feel like though this whole process I am constantly being reminded that I’m not the one in control. That it’s not about my plan. I just have to let go and let Him take control of the next steps, the plan for each of our lives.
Thank you for sharing, Sara! Although the ending may seem hard, or without closure, things always have a way of resolving themselves over time. I know this family would love to be encouraged along their journey as they have spent their summer forever changing the life of an orphan for for the better. For the first time she can now say she is loved, and nothing guides a heart as much as those simple words.
For more information on Orphan hosting, visit here: http://nhfc.org/