The Dickinson Family (China)
I like to say our son, Bo, is an answer to a prayer I didn’t even know I had until we began the process to adopt him. In 2004, my husband, Peet, and I became parents for the first time in a courtroom in Tomsk, Siberia, to a beautiful baby girl. Then in 2010, we found ourselves in Siberia again, this time in Krasnoyarsk, and became the parents of a spunky 3 and ½ year old little girl. We left Russia with the dream in our hearts of returning to the country that we held so dear for a third child, someday. Those dreams came crashing down when Russia banned all Americans from adopting in December of 2012.
That left us wondering where God was leading us. Russia seemed so natural. We knew it. So much so, I could practically complete a dossier in my sleep (ok, maybe it’s not THAT easy), and we wanted to work with the same wonderful coordinator from our second adoption. For years we wrestled with what to do, and we waited to hear God’s voice in the midst of it all. During this time, my husband, an Anglican priest, accepted a call to a new church to be the Rector (Senior Pastor). While it was very exciting, it was also an extremely busy, stressful time. We prayed and talked about adopting again, we even submitted an initial application for a domestic adoption, but we were not moving very fast with our part of the paperwork, and we were beginning to question whether or not we were even called to adopt again. Not to mention, we were entering our forties!
Shortly after we had decided to submit the application for a domestic adoption, I went to a friend’s house as she was packing to leave to adopt a child from China. I supposedly went to help her pack, but being an extremely organized person, she was already packed. We sat and talked about adoption (this was their first adoption) and specifically the unknowns associated with a special needs adoption. As I sat on her bedroom floor, a voice in my head said, “You could do this.” China had never even been a part of our conversations about a third adoption. A few weeks later, I saw a post on Facebook from a friend who had adopted through America World Adoption. It was a blog post about the need for families to adopt boys from China, specifically in the Waiting Child Program. I felt a stirring in my heart right then.
Every Friday, my husband and I would go out for breakfast on our weekly “date.” I had just seen this Facebook post, and I could not ignore the stirring I had felt in my heart. Meanwhile, Peet was in the midst of a stressful time with his work, and we had been going round and round about a third adoption for what seemed like forever. I thought, “I can’t mention this to him now – throwing yet another option for us to consider – it might be more than either of us can bear.” But, the voice of God and His calling is hard to deny, so (I tried to be very laid back and casual in my approach) I told him about the post I saw on Facebook. He hesitated for maybe one second, and said, “That is what we are supposed to do.” A specific calling from God – adopt a boy from China. The answer to a prayer we didn’t know we had. Once we both heard this calling, and were in agreement on what it was, an unexplainable peace washed over both of us. My husband says it is like riding a wave, when we are in the center of God’s will.
Just a few days later, we submitted our application to America World Adoption, and rode the wave of home study, USCIS, paperwork, and the inevitable hiccups that come along the way. In August of 2014, for the third time in our lives, we got the phone call that changed our life forever. “We have a file for a baby boy with un-repaired cleft lip and palate, and we think he would be a good match for your family.” We had submitted a wide range of needs to which we were open on our application, but all along I had a “sense” that we would be matched with a child with cleft lip and palate. My father is an orthodontist, one of our best friends is a pediatric dentist, and we already knew how to navigate the therapy system in our town. We had an automatic support system in place for a child with this specific need.
After reviewing the file, we excitedly and nervously accepted the referral, and continued along in the process to bring our son home. Throughout the long and winding journey, our calling was affirmed. At no point did we lose our resolve, and there were numerous moments when we saw and felt the hand of God so clearly. Finally, on March 15, 2015 in our hotel room in Lanzhou, China, we were handed our beautiful, albeit exhausted and fairly uneasy, little boy. Our older daughter traveled to China with us, and that was truly the trip of a lifetime. We fell in love with him more and more every day, and we tried to soak in all we could of our son’s birth country. We knew what it was like to fall in love with a country, and what it was like to leave a piece of our heart in a foreign place that would become so important to us. We have a photo of each of our children looking out the window of the airplane as they leave the region of their birth. This is a bittersweet moment in every adoption. A child is leaving the place of his or her birth, but it’s leaving the life of an orphan and going to a life of love and acceptance that every child needs, a life in a family.
In the year that we have been home, our son has brought more joy and laughter to our family than we ever could have dreamed. He has learned to walk, run, jump, snuggle, “read” books, eat solid food (and consequently doubled his weight!), and play with his sisters. He has had two surgeries to correct his cleft lip and palate, and he is in speech therapy every week. After knowing only daughter parenting for twelve years, having a little boy around has been an experience beyond my wildest dreams. It’s a little noisier, messier, and smellier, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world! I did leave a part of my heart in China, but I am returning to this country I now love in October as a part of the Storyteller team to serve in the orphanage where my son lived until March of last year.
I just saw the movie, “Miracles from Heaven.” The movie is about a dramatic miracle, but the mother in the movie talks about all of the “little” miracles that occur along her family’s journey. That’s how I’d describe the journey of adoption. Yes, a gigantic and earth-shattering miracle occurs the first time you hold your child, but the journey is full of “little” miracles along the way. A conversation on the bedroom floor surrounded by packed suitcases, a Facebook post, staff members who work on their Christmas break to call you about your referral acceptance and then stay up late and get up early to book your appointments in China so you can meet your child as soon as possible, and friends from your travel group who are now friends for life. A little boy who is now a treasured son, brother, grandson, and nephew - the answer to a prayer you did not know you had.
Jenny Dickinson (wife to Peet, mama to Mae, Ellen, and Bo)