We are Matt and Mandi and we are trying desperately to raise money to bring our son home. Honestly, a week ago we didn’t even know we had another son. We already have seven children, 3 biological, and 4 adopted from China. Before Matt and I got married he knew how desperately I wanted to adopt a little girl from China. After having three biological children, in May of 2008 we turned that dream into a reality when we brought our daughter Mylee home from China. My dream of just having one Chinese daughter turned into so much more. It was heartbreaking to see firsthand the reality of the orphan crisis, it was overwhelming, and I knew when I left, that I would go back.
Mylee was diagnosed in China with Club Feet which at the time, we felt very comfortable with. However, the moment I laid eyes on her, it was obvious that her orthopedic issues were much serious. Her knees nor ankles would bend at all. She could barely walk when we got her, in fact, the easiest way for her to get around was on all fours. Once we got her home and seen by a specialist, we began what will be years of treatment. Her first summer home she spent in a series of 30 plus casts. After that she had what would become the first of many surgeries. Mylee is now 9, and we have lost count of all the casts and surgeries she has had to have. She will continue to have surgeries probably until she is done growing. Mylee is a one of a kind. She has taken all the doctor’s visits, castings, and surgeries like a champ. She will never walk “normal,” but at the same time, there is nothing she won’t do, or at least try. She has been a true blessing to our family.
Mylee was home for about a year when we decided to add another son to our family. We instantly fell in love with a 3 year old boy with multiple special needs. We were told that his medical issues were probably too much for us to handle, but we were certain he was our son. We quickly set out on the paper chase to bringing Andrew home. We were a couple months from traveling when there was an urgent need to an aging out boy in China. When we first started our adoption journey in 2007, an older child, especially a boy is something we said we would never do. However, when I looked at Jaxon’s picture, and I mean really looked into his eyes, I saw a boy. A boy who needed a family. A boy who needed to be told he is loved. A boy who needed to be given every opportunity to succeed. A boy that I told myself that IF we were open to an older child, he sounded like he would be perfect. I talked with Matt that evening and after his initial shock, we stepped out of our comfort zone, and completely trusted in God, that we were his parents. Now, four years later, we are lucky enough to call him our son.
We returned home in May with Andrew and Jaxon and we were certain our family was complete. Until I once again began looking at all the waiting children. I was completely in love within minutes with not one, but two girls. Two girls from the same orphanage that were both 8 years old, but with completely different special needs. I finally got up the courage to confront Matt and to my surprise, he said I could request their file (requesting a file wasn't committing to anything, or at least that is what he said). We looked at both girls' file and one was more manageable than the other, but one was not completely as thorough as the other, plus there was some conflicting information. I got back in touch with Madison to let them know we were interested in both girls but needed more information on the other. I was told that since there was some conflicting information, they were going to put girl A on hold until they could get the updated information and we could go ahead and have a doctor review Girl B's file. So, that is what we did. Within a couple of days we had an update on Girl A, but it still wasn't very clear so we asked if we could ask for another update, with a list of very specific questions. I remember Matt and I talking one night out by the fire about how do we choose which girl it to be our daughter? I just could not imagine picking one of these girls to leave the other behind. Bringing both home was not an option this time. His response was "we will find our daughter, and the girl left behind will find her family." All this was happening during weekly visits to Mylee’s specialists. On the way home from one of the trips, I said a quick prayer asking God to please show me some sort of sign as to which girl (if any) was meant to be our daughter). Within minutes, and I am not even kidding, I got a call from our agency letting me know that Girl B's file had been locked. I was both disappointed and excited. Disappointed because she would not be our daughter, but SO excited because my prayer had been answered, sort of. Before we could lock in Girl A's file, we had to have those questions answered. A couple days later, I got an e-mail with the answers to the questions we had asked. Everything was answered very clearly this time, but we still wanted another opinion so we sent her file along with the updates to a specialist. Basically, we were told that their biggest concern with this little girl was not the medical need that she had been labeled with, but more so with her adjusting to a family lifestyle and the change of moving to another country. Matt and I looked at each other, and he said "that's no big deal, not a big deal at all." The next day were submitting the necessary paperwork to bring Kalia home. She has been home for 3 years now and has been a complete joy. Her medical issues were far more than we anticipated, but we are managing them and she has been a trooper through all of it as well. She was the missing piece to a puzzle we didn’t even know was incomplete.
After returning home from China, Matt made me promise we were done. At the time I thought we were. For months I tried to get him on board with another adoption and he wasn’t interested at all. I had finally given up on the idea of adding more kids to our family when he came to me and said that he had been thinking and praying a lot about us adopting again and if this is what I was supposed to do, then who was he to say no. I desperately wanted another little girl to even things out, 4 boys, 4 girls. So, we started to consider some girls, even looking at a few files.
This past week, there was a boy being shared on multiple Facebook pages, and advocating sites. They all said the same thing, “URGENT, this boy ages out in 3 months, and is desperate need of a family.” I posted how handsome he was and how I so wish we could bring him home. I knew that adopting another aging out boy was out of the picture for us. Don’t get me wrong, we love Jaxon with all our hearts, and would do anything for him. Adopting in general can be challenging, but adopting an older child comes with a whole new set of challenges. Anyway, I shared on my Facebook about this boy in hopes that someone would see him and immediately start the process to adopt him.
It wasn’t long after that, that I really started to consider it. I read through his file, watched all his videos, and stared at his picture endlessly. There is just something about his boy. I contacted the agency we had used for Kalia and asked if it was even possible to make this happen in 3 months. They were completely honest with me and said it is totally doable, but going to be very hard, and very stressful. Adopting an aging out child is one thing, but to take on the challenge with only 3 months to go is another.
Several families were showing interest in him, but no one was committing. I talked to Matt as soon as he got home that night, knowing what his initial reaction was going to be. Of course it was a “no,” but after getting over the initial shock, we sat and talked about it for hours. Matt is not a spontaneous person. He does not make decisions based on emotions. He is definitely the more logical person in our marriage. Knowing that everything would have to be done in 3 months, it was all about the money to him. He said he needed some time to think it over, and to not push. Of course I knew that time was not something that could be wasted. The next day I kept checking with people to see if his file had been locked, hoping and praying that it had so I could move on. As much as I wanted him to be a part of our family, at the end of the day I just wanted him to have A family.
Orphans are considered "unlucky" or "cursed" in the Chinese culture. They have very few opportunities to go to school. If they do get to go to school they attend the lowest level of schools because parents who pay for their kids to go to school don't want their kids going with the "unlucky orphans." However, there are a few who are fortunate enough to be sponsored and are able to go on to college. Just because they have an education does not mean they will be able to get a job. Many businesses will not employ them once they find out they were an orphan because of the "unlucky" orphan stigma.
The Chinese are very big on family. In fact, many of their holidays revolve around family. Can you imagine being completely alone? I mean really alone? Just think about it for a minute. Who do you run to when you have exciting news to share? Who do you lean on when you need to cry? Who do you call "family?" Those orphans that never get the opportunity for a family have no one to run home to, they have no shoulder to cry on, they have no one to spend holidays with. They. Have. No. One.
So, even though living in the orphanage may not be ideal, to them, it is all they have. They have food and they shelter. Once they are 16 (unless they are one of the fortunate ones), they are released to fend for themselves in a society that "fears" them because they may be "unlucky." 16! Seriously, can you imagine at the age of 16 being forced to provide for yourself? At the age of 16 having no one to guide you or to care? At 16, these are still children. Children who have absolutely no idea how to survive on the streets and unfortunately, many of them don't.
I know I am painting a grim picture, but this is reality. While we sit in our nice, warm, posh homes, there are thousands of orphans who are getting ready to age out. Children that because of their age may never have the opportunity for an education. Children that may never know what it feels like to be tucked in and kissed good night. Children who may never hear the words, I love you." Children that because we are scared, scared to step out of our comfort zone, who may never know what it means to be part of a family.
Matt came home from work that evening and we talked about it again. We looked at the overall cost, and what we had and there just didn’t seem to be any way we were going to be able to do it. I was devastated. I was frustrated, and I think I was heartbroken. The thought of this child not getting the opportunity to know what a family felt like was breaking me. Matt and I started to come up with some creative ways to earn and raise the money. For one, our agency was offering a grant of $3000 for the family that stepped up for him. Now $3000, seems like a lot, but it’s not when you look at the overall cost. All along I have kept telling Matt we just need to take that first step and let everything else work itself out. Of course him being the more logical one, he was not going to let that happen. So, we went to bed again, with no decisions made.
All this time Facebook pages were bombarded with his pictures and videos trying to get a family to step forward for him. I woke up Friday morning praying that someone had committed to him. Still nothing. My stomach was in knots. I waited for what felt like an eternity for Matt to call and give me the verdict. About ten that morning he called to say he just didn’t see how we could do it and that if we did, we were going to have to get really creative in raising whatever money we would need to bring him home.
So, I hung up with Matt, called the agency and they were able to lock his file while I was on the phone with them. After that with all logistics. We are literally going to have to move at warp speed to complete this adoption. What usually takes 9-12 months to complete HAS to be done in less than 3. It CAN be done, it HAS been done, and it WILL be done. I have never been more certain of anything in my life. This is our son and we have to do anything and everything to get him home. We are now in a race, a race against time. The clock is ticking.
So, it is with complete faith that we once again answered the call to open our hearts and our home to another of God's children. Unfortunately, this journey is nothing like any of the others we have taken. We have less than 3 months to get a year’s worth of paperwork done. Instead of having a year to save, and fundraise, we have less than three months. We have already jumped more hurdles than I care to mention. We have already been on a never ending roller coaster of emotions, complete with highs and lows. Our journey is just beginning, and knowing that we are moving at warp speed both excites and terrifies us.
One thing is for sure, when Matt and I started the process to adopt, we had no idea the twists and turns that would be involved. But with every door that closed, another was opened. Adoption is not easy, in fact, it can be quite difficult physically and emotionally. However, the end result is worth the sacrifices, the worry, the unknowns, the up and downs, and anything else in between. We cannot imagine our family without all of our kids. In fact, when asked how many kids we have that are adopted or bio, many times we have to stop and think, because to us, there is no difference.
- Jalan Woodward
- Delina Lau
- Julie & Emma Masse