One year ago today, on April 27, 2009, we saw this little face for the first time. We fell in love with her instantly. We had been through Referral Day before, but with Katherine we knew that referrals werre coming any day and we knew our baby would be among them. Rachel's referral came out of the blue and it was the sweetest surprise I have ever had...
Let me explain the pain and grief that came before Rachel. We started the paperwork for oue second child on January 1, 2006. Katherine was not quite 2 years old and had been home just over a year. We figured that by following the timeline to Katherine's arrival, we would travel right at the end of the school year in 2007. 16 months, no problem! We quickly learned that the adoption process in China had slowed dramatically since Katherine came home and that we were caught in a never-ending slow down. Our paperwork finally was sent to China in July 2006 and we were told the wait times for a referral were at least a year and probably longer. We were disappointed, but still optimistic.
Time passed, but we never seemed to get any closer to a referral. Instead of processing a month and a half worth of log-in dates each month, the Chinese government was processing only a few days worth of log-ins. We had said from the very beginning that we were interested in a special needs child and kept reminding our adoption agency. China sends out periodic lists of children with various special needs and our agency received 2 or 3 lists a year. We checked them all, but there was never a child listed that seemed to fit our family. Then the Chinese government changed the way they processed special needs children and for reasons that were never explained, our agency stopped getting lists at all.
As the process dragged on and on, my longing for a child never stopped. I started searching the websites of other adoption agencies and scanning special needs lists, looking for a child who might me mine. I inquired about a number of children, but all were already taken. Meanwhile, Katherine turned 3, then 4, then 5. I had never intended for her to be an only child and I grieved for the sister she did not have. Steve and I rarely talked about this unknown child we were waiting on. It was just too painful. Sometimes we discussed just giving up, but always decided to hang on a little longer.
In early April, 2009 we met with our case worker, Alison, for yet another home study update. (Our paperwork, including home studies and fingerprinting, had to be re-done repeatedly which only made the whole process even more frustrating.) We told her again that we were very interested in a special needs child, if our agency ever received another list. We had a wide range of special needs that we were willing to consider, but both Steve and I were drawn to the category of "limb differences" - things like clubbed feet, webbed fingers, and unusually formed hands.
On April 27, we received a generic e-mail from our agency stating that, after an 18 month silence, they had received a long-awaited special needs list. Steve and I were excited that the SN lists were finally coming in, but also disappointed. We had heard nothing from the agency, so our girl must not be among the children listed. Still, it was a little ray of hope.
That evening, as Steve was putting Katherine to bed, the phone rang. It was Alison. I was surprised to hear her and figured she was needing something else for the home study. But she didn't. Instead she said, "Dillon [our agency] received a special needs list today and I there's a little girl on it that I think would be a perfect fit for your family." I couldn't speak, could hardly even breathe. Alison went on, "She just turned 17 months old and her reports say she is missing her left palm." I knew instantly she was ours! Before Alison could go on, I started shouting "Yes! Yes! We want her!" Steve had picked up on the conversation and hustled Katherine into bed and then he got on the other line. We listened to Alison read all of Chen Fu Shen's reports and the scanty information included, but we knew in our hearts that THIS was our girl. A few minutes later Alison e-mailed us Fu Shen's pictures. She was beautiful! The photos were undated, but I am guessing that she was perhaps 8 months old in the first picture (my favorite). We stared into that little face and wondered who was behind that shock of hair and those big brown eyes. Then we woke up Katherine and told her. She called our parents and shouted into the phone, "My baby sister's on the internet!"
We didn't sleep that night, or for several more nights. Instead, we ran around with silly grins on our faces and seemed to float through the air. I remember being filled to the brim with joy. And relief. And gratefullness. I had been looking for my girl for so long and I had finally found her. Now the weeks and months until we brought Rachel home were awful, the waiting more painful than I had ever imagined. But that night I didn't know that yet. I only knew the wonder of finding the child meant to be mine.