‘I called my mom, sobbing, ‘We have the visas and we’re going to get our baby!’: Mom shares international adoption journey

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“We chose to adopt about 3 years ago and started the journey on April 8, 2018. Little did we know, our daughter was born 3 days prior and abandoned in the NICU. How many moments we thought about what she was thinking, what she was having to fight alone, if she knew we even existed, praying she had a sense of not being alone. Shane and I as a couple have always wanted to adopt. It’s been a huge priority ever since we got together in high school. Shane has a brother who was adopted from Uganda and I have volunteered in orphanages. After we had our first biological child, we knew our next step would be to adopt so we could all grow together as a family, without large age gaps.

We found our agency and then chose India because they have one of the largest orphan populations in the world. We also made the decision to do an international adoption for two reasons. One was Shane’s brother who was adopted from Uganda and seeing the impact that had on him firsthand, and also finding our government — although not perfect— presents children in the foster care system with many opportunities to live a successful adulthood, not to mention the outpour of love we are going to dump on them!

Courtesy of Johonna Mylius

After about 1 year of waiting and completing a mountain of paperwork, we were matched with our precious daughter in early October 2019. She was so tiny, at about 8 pounds at 18 months of age, and had the biggest most beautiful eyes that just captured us. She was a premature birth and abandoned there in the NICU where she lived her first 3 months of life. She fought through so much with some amazing staff and a survivor spirit. When we received her medical files, we were overwhelmed, to say the least. What would life look like for her? Will we be able to provide all she needs? But we knew she was placed with us for a divine reason.

Courtesy of Johonna Mylius

We were set to be in Indian court to obtain custody in March of 2020, and then you guessed it, COVID hit. Everything shut down over there, even stricter than here in the states. April, May, June, July, all came and went. Still no movement and no word from the lawyer. We received updates on her intermittently, saying she was healthy, not sick with the virus, but with very few pictures or much more information. This mama’s heart was aching so so badly. Nights were the hardest because I knew the sun was just rising where she was, just thinking about her waking up with no idea who we are, no idea how much we love and long for her. Is she crying in a  crib? Is someone able to hold her, kiss her? Is she hungry? I would write to her. I kept a journal I plan to give her when she gets old enough to read it. I wanted her to know everything I wanted to say to her when I wasn’t able to.

An entire year almost went by before we even got a hearing in court. Our first hearing was in November 2020, and we obtained custody on December 18, 2020! Finally, our waiting was hopefully coming to an end!

Courtesy of Johonna Mylius

We were aiming to travel around February 2021, collecting all documents and donations for the orphanage. The last thing we needed were our visas to get into India. I had sent in all of our paperwork about 10 days before we got our verbal approval and they told us they would be to us by the end of the week, so we bought our tickets and set our itinerary. And then Texas froze over, and I mean FROZE. Everything shut down, electricity was lost, pipes burst, and somewhere within our chaos, our visas were lost as well. We were set to fly out of Houston on Wednesday. Saturday and Sunday, it snowed and no mail was delivered. Monday was President’s Day so, no mail was running. Tuesday, roads still icy, we were out of electricity at home, phone lines were down, and the Indian consulate wasn’t answering. After calling and emailing, and calling some more, we got nowhere.

Courtesy of Johonna Mylius

My husband could see the fear and frustration in my eyes, so he took the risk and drove the hour drive to the Indian consulate. As we approached the consulate, we needed to cross a train track about a mile before we arrived, and wouldn’t you guess it, there was a train that was stalled on the track with no way to get around. So we parked and walked the final mile, in the snow and ice and in my not-so-warm lounge clothes. Surely after going through all of this, they HAD to be open. We got there and of course, the lights were out, doors locked, and no cars anywhere close. We had flights the next day at 11:00 a.m.! I was so defeated. God bless my incredible husband, who said, ‘We’re going to go home, pack up like we’re leaving the next day, and then before our flight leaves, we’ll make one more attempt to see if someone will be there to magically find our visas.’ We didn’t even know if they were 100% there, by the way!

Courtesy of Johonna Mylius

I couldn’t sleep because I was nauseous and stressed all night. My brain was rattled completely. We loaded up the car and made our way. I started to cry on the way there. We had so many people waiting to hear what the verdict was and trying to send encouragement but my mind wouldn’t let me listen. We got to the consulate and the lights were still out and no cars were in the parking lot. My husband said, ‘Let’s just try the door. Maybe there is a janitor or something, someone’s gotta be here.’ He walked up the ice steps, knocked on the door, AND IT OPENED!

One of the workers just stopped by to check on the pipes! We both lost it, crying at this poor man, who had no idea what an answered prayer he was. We told him our entire story, and he started searching fervently for our visas. He was calling every staff member, and finally, one female staff member actually came up there and knew exactly where they were and gave them right to us. After more tears and hugs, we went straight to the airport with little time to spare. The biggest moment I remember is calling my mom and just sobbing on the phone, screaming at her, ‘We have the visas and we are going to go get our baby!’

Courtesy of Johonna Mylius

After that whirlwind, travel was a breeze. Of course, there were some hiccups but with traveling for 2 days straight, we were expecting them. We arrived in our daughter’s state on February 19, and got a call they wanted us to meet her that evening! We checked our bags into the hotel, met our guide, and went straight to the orphanage. They wanted her to see us before we had our handing over ceremony the next day. A 20-minute taxi drive later, we arrived at the orphanage.

We saw very little of the orphanage, due to COVID, and saw no other orphans, which was probably best because we may have tried to bring several more home. It was a small building, well kept, smiling staff faces who you know have the most tender hearts to work at a place such as this. We were informed this orphanage was dedicated to children with medical needs and most under the age of 2, so it was smaller with more caretakers. My mama heart was given so much peace knowing during those long nights, my baby was taken so well care of.

Courtesy of Johonna Mylius
Courtesy of Johonna Mylius

They placed us in the office and we spoke with the coordinator for a while, and then there she was! They carried her in, all eyes and jet black hair. She was completely investigating all of us, especially her sister. There she was, no longer a picture on a screen, she was right in front of us. We were sharing the same air. We each had moments to go up and introduce ourselves, and she smiled at me. Yet again, I lost it but with the happiest tears. I could finally breathe, the wait was over, we were finally a family. The next day, we had our handing over ceremony, which was so fast and so beautiful, and then the next thing I knew, she was in my lap in the taxi on the way back to the hotel.

Naina Hope Mylius, finally in our arms. Naina means eyes, which makes sense when you see hers, and we decided on Hope as a middle name so her name means ‘eyes of  hope.’ After another 9 days in Delhi full of appointments and more paperwork, we finally came home to an unthawed Texas and a family full of love and excitement.

Courtesy of Johonna Mylius

Our journey is definitely not a usual one, and I would NEVER want to discourage someone from adopting. These children matter. Our journey has done nothing but show us patience and allow us to embrace each small moment so fiercely. Naina is adjusting so incredibly well, scooting everywhere, learning sign language like a champ, attaching to others, and finding trust in people. She is already growing and getting sassy like her sister. She has always belonged here and she knows it.

Courtesy of Johonna Mylius
Courtesy of Johonna Mylius

To anyone going through this process, I know it’s hard, I know paperwork is tedious and I know it could be MUCH simpler, but they do come home. They do get to be in your arms, they will know who you are, and they can feel your love from across the world. Take the waiting as time to prepare yourself mentally and emotionally and physically for this dramatic life change that is about to happen to you as well as your new child! They are being taken away from everything and everyone they have ever known and now with a whole group of strangers who won’t stop staring. You are already making an impact on this child’s life, and you are doing a great thing. If anything comes out of sharing Naina’s story, I want it to be these children are worth it and they matter so so much.”

Courtesy of Johonna Mylius

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Johonna Mylius. You can follow her journey on Instagram and her husband’s page. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

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