When being asked to write our story, so many things come into my head. Starting at the beginning is as good a place as any.
Jake always leaned towards adoption, but I wasn’t so sure. His mom, aunt and uncle were all adopted. He was one of 2 children in his family. Me, I came from a huge Catholic family, youngest of 12 children, each of my siblings with 2 or more kids of their own. I always wanted to be a mother.
We married later in life, I was 35 and Jake was 30, but it never crossed my mind that we wouldn’t get pregnant. Many friends encouraged me to try IVF but I knew deep in my heart it wasn’t our path. Adoption was a choice we made, and it wasn’t easy but looking back it was what we were destined to do all along. We wanted a younger child under 2 but our case worker encouraged us check the ‘4 and under’ box…the first little wink from God. The process of reviewing folders is also hard, but I’ll never forget the day we received the video of our now son, Shuang Pan Zhang – age 4. His smile, that laugh, I was instantly in love.
Our little boy went by ‘Pan Pan‘ and was raised by foster grandparents (Nainai and Yeye) from the time he was only a few months old. We speak of them often and they are considered a part of our family tree. They taught him what it means to be a family, how to both give and receive love, and we are forever grateful for them. We pray for them every day.
Day 1 meeting Pan Pan at a very ‘governmental looking’ building we were all very nervous. We had balloons, candy and toy cars at the ready to try and make him smile. He cried out for his Yeye the entire drive to our hotel but those tears quickly dried. That afternoon at the hotel we became a family. The bond and connection were almost instantaneous after that car drive. I know this isn’t everyone’s experience and it feels selfish to describe how immediate things were for us. There was another family with us in province who barely left their room and had so many challenges with their little girl. I am happy to report they are much better now – but those are the harder stories they prepare you for in the adoption process. We had challenges of course but they were so minor in comparison (what clothes to wear was our main issue, his one way of controlling the situation). On day 2 when we met back up with our guide, Helen, Pan Pan clung to us fearful that she would take him away. She said she rarely sees that as most feel a comfort having someone that speaks their language and looks like them. No, we were Pan Pan’s and he was ours and neither one of us we’re going to let anything change that.
Pan Pan came home with us in May, turned 5 in July, started Kindergarten in August and we haven’t slowed since. He has grown so much in the past 2 years and his smile lights up every room he enters.
I mentioned the first little wink from God letting us know He’s got this. The next wink we got was more of an earthquake really. Jake and I married on August 31st, 2014. On the morning of our anniversary, Ace (he decided to use his American name once he was in school which made me sad because I had grown quite fond of his Chinese name), came into the room holding my present from his dad. He asked me what anniversary meant and I started to explain that a year ago around the time of your birthday mom and dad got married…then it hit me.
I asked Jake to get his adoption papers. You see, Ace was found when he was a few months old. The timing parallel struck me and I thought, could it be? There it was in black and white, the day we were getting married, on the other side of the world, a little boy was found. This beautiful child placed so miraculously halfway around the world on the day we married, not quite ready yet for children, but God…He knew all along. Writing this now I realize that our “choice” to adopt wasn’t really our choice after all but His will disguised as something we didn’t truly understand.
We are now 2 years and 2 months post adoption. Among other changes to our lives, we are very lucky to have a great Eye Doctor. His vision over the last year has gone from 20/60 to 20/25. Ace enters 2nd grade in just a few weeks. His language skills are always growing, and he makes the best art for our walls (I know, every parent thinks that!)
He likes to be outside all the time, riding his bike, swimming in the lake, playing soccer and basketball. We have Hot Wheels in all corners of the house. There are Legos all over his room. He is ALL boy. Ace is independent, loving, daring and exudes joy. Everyone who meets him adores him. That smile! Those dimples! He gives the best hugs!
Our hearts have grown more than we could ever imagine, and we thank God every day for being the author of our story. Adoption is a different journey for every family. Only God knows what each of us can handle, and who is meant for our families, or where our story may lead us. Trust in Him as the true author.
I couldn’t have written a more beautiful story if I tried.