Cody was asked to write down our story from start to finish for an adoption project. Many of you may know our journey to get Mae already, or at least parts of it...
So here's our story:
Kristen and I got married in 2003. In the months leading up to our wedding we attended a series or pre-marital counseling sessions. In those sessions we covered topics like finances, in-laws, holiday celebrations and of course, children. At that time in our lives we had planned on having kids "someday down the road." After all, that's what everyone does once they've been married for a while.
During our first year of marriage, we decided to have Kristen quit her job so she could start her own business. As the months went by, Kristen began to build up a pretty good client base. What started off as just some freelance work began turning into a full-on business. A couple of years later we ended up opening a vintage letterpress shop. Now we were busier than ever and we loved it.
If you would have asked us if we wanted kids early in our marriage the answer would have been, "Probably … someday." After about year two, our answer was a definite, "No!" We were very busy with our companies and liked the freedom we had without kids. Our married friends, who had kids, would say, "Enjoy not having kids while you can. Everything changes once you have a little one to look after." We had enough people tell us this that we decided to never have kids. We'd grow our businesses, travel, stay out late, and do anything else we wanted. This was our plan.
In the summer of 2008, Kristen was out shopping. She walked into a gift shop and eventually started chatting with the shop owner. What happened in the next two hours changed our lives forever.
As it turned out, the owner (Melica) and her husband had the same mindset as Kristen and I did about kids, when they were younger. That all changed one day when God opened Melica’s heart to a new way of thinking, “It’s not what you want or need, it’s that you have so much to give.” When Melica said this it really sunk in. She showed Kristen the pictures of her two precious girls that she and her husband Craig adopted from China and told her some of what was going on in China. She went on to tell her about a book that she had read called The Lost Daughters of China, by Karin Evans, that explained more.
As soon as Kristen left the gift shop, she walked straight to Barnes and Noble and picked up The Lost Daughters of China. Kristen read the majority of the book out loud to me in the evenings while we were in bed. At first I didn't understand why she was reading this book. It just seemed to make her sad and we didn't want kids, so what good would it do to read about these poor orphans in China? After a couple of weeks she finished the book and that was that. Or so I thought.
It took nearly two years for Kristen to bring up the idea of us possibly adopting a child. The idea of adopting a little girl from China had been bouncing around in her mind for several months but she didn't know how to bring it up. Before talking to me, she met with her sister to get another perspective. After a very long walk with her sister, talking about adoption, Kristen came home to talk to me.
Apparently Kristen was under the impression that bringing up the idea of adopting a little girl from China would instantly change my heart and we'd begin the process immediately. This was obviously not the case. Kristen jokes that I'm like a crock pot, in that it takes me a while to process things. Adoption was no exception. As a matter of fact, this conversation left me with more questions than answers. Why would we adopt kids instead of having our own? Why would we adopt from China when there is such a need in America? Why China? Why not Africa or Haiti or Russia? As it turns out, China is what God ultimately laid on our hearts.
In order to get some of my questions answered, I thought it would be a good idea to talk with the lady Kristen had met two years earlier. We went back to the shopping center where Kristen had met Melica, but her shop was no longer there. Kristen remembered writing down Melica's phone number on a scrap of paper and putting it in her purse. She decided to go looking through her closet to see if she could find the number and couldn't believe it when she found it.
Kristen gave her a call and asked if she would mind meeting us for dinner. She agreed. (It turns out that Melica didn't completely remember their conversation from two years prior, but it all came back to her at dinner.) We sat at a McDonald's booth with their family for a couple of hours asking all of the questions we had come up with over the previous week. Every single one of our questions and concerns were answered that night. Amazing.
As we left, Kristen was on cloud nine and certain that I was ready to jump in with both feet. We got in the car and she was pretty disappointed that I still wasn't "sold" on the idea. The truth was that I was just trying to process everything and was a bit overwhelmed.
On the drive home Kristen asked me, "If we decided to adopt, who would you be most excited to tell?"
"Well, my mom would be happy to hear this and I'm sure my sisters would be happy too."
‘You didn’t answer the question,” she replied. So I answered again with, “I would be very excited to tell Chris and Katie."
Chris and Katie Torres were our close friends. We got to know them while working on a project for a mutual friend. Katie was pregnant when we first met and we got to watch them go through the excitement of having a little girl.
Before we made it home we stopped at the grocery store to pick up a few things. As I walked down the aisles of the store I pictured what it would be like to have a little girl with me. I was overwhelmed with emotion thinking about picking out cereals based on the prize inside, figuring out her favorite ice cream flavor, trying to pick vegetables that she would like, and so on. These thoughts didn't end there. I thought about teaching her to ride a bike, her first day of school, getting her driver's license, and getting married.
In a matter of fifteen minutes I had seen my daughter's entire life; only I didn't know who she was. It's very hard to put into words, but it was then that I knew my daughter was in China and I had to go get her.
When we got home, Kristen watched a handful of "gotcha day" videos on YouTube. She had been doing this for the last several weeks before she would go to bed. I was generally not interested in them, but this night I watched with her. It's a strange combination of great excitement and sadness to see a baby from China get placed into her forever family's arms.
We watched a couple videos, then went to sleep.
The next morning I woke up and went to work like every other day. After a couple of hours I called Kristen. “Hey, when should we tell Chris and Katie that we are adopting?” This was just the beginning of the journey.
Cody and Kristen have now adopted their little girl, Mae, and brought her into their home. It turns out that picking out cereal based on the prize inside only skims the surface of the indescribable joy Cody has as Mae’s daddy. Kristen and Cody plan to adopt several more children from China, giving plenty of opportunities to share their good news with friends.