Waterproof mascara - Part 2

One month ago today we saw the face of our sweet boy! I wrote this post a few days after we accepted our referral, and have toyed with not posting it. It's a long post, so I won't be offended if you move on now....fair warning.

The referral process was extremely exciting. And also really hard. Although we were overjoyed at our referral, the days that followed brought a lot of tears, mostly out of sadness, guilt, and fear.

This second part of the referral process caught me completely by surprise. In the lead-up to waiting for that golden moment--that time when you would see your child's face and take a definitive step towards parenthood--we never paused to consider what would happen after the referral phone call. You have to make a choice. You have to choose to accept your child.

The night we received the referral, we began reading and re-reading our son's files. Without going into details, there were some things in his medical history that we wanted an expert's opinion on. We took them in stride, confident that this child was meant to be ours. We were concerned, but optimistic.

We used an international adoption specialist who is well recommended out of MI. That particular specialist generally gets back to people within 24 hours for a review of the records.

As luck would have it, our referral fell just before a long weekend. So began the sixty-six hours of waiting to know what challenges our son faced, if any. Sixty-six hours for my mind to conjure up terrifying scenarios. Sixty-six hours of holding our breath.


We sent the files Friday morning, 9 a.m.

After 24 hours we hadn't heard anything. On Saturday we attended an event with the adoption group we are in, and that was awesome. It kept our spirits up and kept us positive. But we were starting to get anxious.

By Sunday, we still hadn't heard anything. I reorganized the closets, and groused at The Man. I groaned and whined to friends. I imagined the specialist had been in a terrible accident, dead in a snow-filled ditch. (And to set the record straight, I wasn't worried about her. I was concerned about finding another specialist to send the records to.)

All this time to think brought around a new fear--what would we do if we found out he wasn't OK? This was something I'd never imagined before. We wanted to be sure that we could parent this adorable baby. We were certain he was a wonderful child who deserved everything in the world, but if he had special needs, were we the right family for him?

By Monday I was in full panic mode. I was sure the specialist hadn't called because she had terrible news. I was prepared to hear that our child's charts revealed something rare and tragic, which required intense research on her part. I started chanting the refrain "please let him be OK" over and over in my head. And this is when I started to completely lose it.

A deep dread filled me. And doubt started to creep in.

The Man, on the other hand, was steadfast. He didn't seem to have the same fears and doubts as I did. I tried to be comforted that he believed we could handle anything. But the scenarios in my brain kept me from really believing it.

I was guilt-ridden at the doubts that I had. I was upset we had told family and friends, and terrified that if we chose to turn down the referral (which still makes my heart skip to think about) that we would be judged. I was devastated that some part of me had to know these details about his health before I could just say yes.

And everything inside of me was saying yes. But that little devil on my shoulder was whispering...what if.

By Tuesday morning I was frantic. After another sleepless night, I awoke early and finally broke down. I took the medical report to the computer and began Google-ing anything and everything in the report. As you might assume, very very bad thing to do.

So...this is the part of the story where I start to feel scared that I'm telling you all of this. Scared that you might judge me as I judged myself. And worried about what our son might think if/when we talk about this someday.

I'd like to say I had no doubts what-so-ever. That I was ready to accept his referral immediately, and the specialist's reports were just part of the process. But the truth is, I was really scared. And I had doubts.


Somehow, a tiny voice deep deep inside of me knew it was going to be OK.

On the (late) afternoon of the fifth day, the medical specialist did call. Thank the heavens. (She had been out of town at a conference which was why the delay.)

She was very thorough and in the end, she said he was a very healthy little boy. The few concerns in his files were reviewed and weren't as scary as they had seemed.

But I just couldn't believe she was saying he was really OK. I had recorded our conversation (we conference called) and I had to listen to that recording over and over, to reassure myself that I wasn't imagining the whole thing.

I stumbled out of the office, got in my car, and sobbed. Just completely fell apart. Gal-pal Emily called and I babbled like an idiot. I felt like I had been holding my breath for days, and finally, a sweet gasp of air.


Looking back on it, I can see that the waiting compounded all those feelings of fear and concern. I have one of those brains that works overtime on things, stretching a tiny worry into a canopy of fear. And once the fear gets that big, it's hard to push back down.

I was mostly afraid of having to make a choice about this referral--more specifically that we would be faced with choosing not to accept it. I know others who have had to make the difficult choice to turn down a referral, and my heart aches for them. And I know from our training that this is a very real possibility and something you absolutely must do if this is not the right child for you.

Happily, we didn't have to make this choice. But I felt terrible that I even contemplated the notion that we'd have to say no. A friend told me that this is part of being a mom. The Guilt. All moms seem to have it. Is this my introduction?

In the month since the referral, the busyness of planning for his arrival has made things much easier. And I'm not all neurotic and angsty, despite how this post sounds. At least not most of the time.

Once in a while I still feel like I'm holding my breath.  And in weak moments, those doubts about his health still plague me. I wonder if he's really OK...if the medical specialist was right. Then I go back and listen to the tape.

Perhaps I won't believe that until I hold him in my arms for the first time. Until I look him in the eyes and connect with that tiny human. I hope that's the case.

Or maybe, this is what parenting will be like for me. God forbid, but I have this nagging feeling that I'll always be wondering if he's OK, and be worried that he's not.

I do know, that we'll handle whatever comes our way. We are strong, smart, and have a good foundation. And we have love. So much love to give. We'll be fine.

He IS the child we are meant to parent. Somehow I knew that the moment I saw his face.


  1. We did this exact same thing. each. and every. time.

    We tortured ourselves about what-ifs. Wondered if we were missing something in the file. Worried that the doctor would find something that we missed or that what we didn't understand in the file would be something that we would have to make a decision about.

    The elation of the referral is amazing. But the relief when the doctor calls back and interprets everything for you - that is when I was able to say out loud "yes - this is my child" even though each and every time, I already knew it inside.

    And in terms of any lingering fears or doubts about health - it always helped us to have our child home and have our doctor see him or her in person, to have the tests done here by doctors we knew. That helped us a lot too - we felt more in control somehow. Maybe in part because our child wasn't just a bunch of words on a paper or a photo, but in our arms. That changes everything too.

    Thank you for this post. For being so honest. And know that you aren't alone on this journey - I've been there (as have many others) and I'm thrilled that I get to go along on your journey with you.

    This IS your child. And how wonderful and amazing is that?!

  2. I think that this is totally normal! We also did the same thing. I truly believed that my hubby and I could not handle anything that was considered a "special need" (we both work, have another child, etc. . . ). We got a referral of a beautiful boy, but he was small and a premie, so it was something that needed to be checked out. We even got reports up until 5 days before we traveled to Korea stating that he might have CP, his hips were not aligned correctly . . . and when I saw him I knew that they were just being SUPER sensitive about anything medically that they saw as "slightly abnormal" ~ because he was nowhere near a child with CP or misaligned hips.

    I always tell my student's parents ~ knock on every door that you need to, call every physician in the book . . . ultimately this is your child and whatever you need to put your mind at ease, DO IT. You'll always come out ahead :)

    One month already, really? Crazy how time flies! One month down!

  3. Amazing how hubbys can stay so mentally sane all the time, huh? And the part about the snow ditch, sorry, I had to chuckle over here:)

  4. You can't know how much I admire your courage and honesty sharing this journey with us. So many of your posts are thought provoking and humorous but this is one of my favorite posts. Because you heart finally ruled your head knowing from the moment you saw him he was yours to love. You son is VERY lucky!

  5. Although we did not have the typical referral process happen for either of our girls, we *definitely* went through these emotions, but many times over, and so intensely. We reviewed more files than I can remember, and it was so difficult, with each and every one, to decide whether or not each child was right for our family. It's a gut-wrenching decision, because all you can do is hope that if you don't accept this child, someone else will. So heartbreaking.
    But I definitely believe that when something is meant to be, everything just falls into place. If it's meant to happen, it will. It took me about 31 years to figure that out, but now I trust it. (At least *most* of the time).
    This decision that we as APs make is one that no person *should* have to make. But we're a special breed, all of us.
    I know (KNOW!) you found your son. I think the questioning process only solidifies that notion for each parent. :)

  6. It is hard to go through those emotions. I think a lot of AP's do. Congrats on your little man! Can't wait to see pics! :)

  7. I was convinced that our IAP missed something and tried to interpret all kinds of stuff into the medical info we got. It is so scary to get a file and have to say yes or no, but at the same time it is a great thing that we have that option as adoptive parents. It is so much better for a child if parents have the guts to say "no" if there are issues they can't handle.

    And yes, as a mom, I constantly worry if my child is okay. But it is so different to worry about the actual child than a file.

  8. totally get this. it's such a whirlwind of emotions and decisions and just altogether craziness. but i agree with sandra -- it's an experience that is unique to APs and part of this wild ride.
    can't wait to continue to follow along!


We'd love to hear from you but we aren't mind readers, OK? Just take a minute to share your thoughts and you'll make us really, really happy.