‘We landed back in Nashville, Tennessee as a family of 6. Two adoptions, two very different faith-building experiences.’: Mom shares growing family through international adoptions

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“Scott and I met in the library at a small college in the middle of rural Ohio. We referred to it as the school in the middle of a cornfield. I wouldn’t know it until years later, but adoption was already written on my heart before we ever spoke.

I was in the library studying when Scott approached me to say ‘hi.’ He was in the library just trying to work up the nerve to talk to me. I didn’t remember his name after that night, and it would be months before we went on an actual date. He took me, a lover of books, to Barnes & Noble on our first date, so he was hitting it out of the ballpark from the start. We were married in our college town right after I graduated. Almost four years after our initial interaction in the library.

After three years of marriage, our first daughter, Bailey, came along. Motherhood was not an easy transition for me. I didn’t know how to label it at the time, but I had postpartum depression. Three months after Bailey was born, we knew adoption would be part of our future.

I was sitting in the back of our church sanctuary when my heart started to beat fast, and I got uncomfortably warm. The guest speaker shared his story of adopting a little girl from China, and I knew God was calling our family to make adoption a part of our story.

I shared how I felt on our way home from church that day. Miraculously, Scott said he had the same thoughts during the service. We were immediately on the same page, so I started researching adopting from China that very afternoon. My research quickly educated me on the requirements of adopting from China. One of the requirements was that both adopting parents had to be 30 years old. Neither of us was 30. In fact, I was only 25 years old that day.

I hate to wait for things, so waiting five years to adopt sounded very painful. We discussed other countries we would meet requirements for, but we always landed on the fact that God had put a little girl from China on our hearts. We didn’t want to veer off of the path God was placing before us, so we decided to wait it out.

Two years later, Ethan was born into our family. I handled postpartum slightly better with him. I wasn’t as weepy. My life didn’t seem so turned upside down with his arrival. Ethan was a toddler when I started my research again. It was time to take a step further and choose an adoption agency. What I found would shock Scott and I. We began to read words like ‘special needs’ and ‘mild/correctable special needs’ in everything we read about adopting from China. I read the phrase ‘healthy girls don’t come home from China’ numerous times. It scared me. I felt like God had called the wrong girl.

I began to list all of the reasons we weren’t the parents to go down this path. I thought we shouldn’t do it because we lived in a rural area without a children’s hospital nearby. I said we shouldn’t do it because our plates were already overflowing with two children. My excuses always felt shallow. I knew what God had called us to do, but I questioned and cried a lot. Scott encouraged me to keep researching, and we prayed over the whole situation some more.

As the days and weeks went on, the term ‘mild/correctable special needs’ didn’t seem scary to me anymore. It would be easy to say the research changed my mind, but I know the Lord was working on my heart and my mind during this time. God met me in my fear so I could keep moving forward in my calling to adopt.

We became very familiar with the list of health needs considered to be ‘mild/correctable special needs.’ Cleft lip and palate, heart conditions, extra fingers or toes, prematurity, and birthmarks were all a part of the list. We chose what health conditions we were open to, which was brutal but a necessary part of the process, and began to complete our home study and dossier. (The dossier is a fancy word for paperwork.) As soon as I turned 30, our dossier was sent to China. We were officially waiting to be matched.

Six months would pass as we waited to be matched. Then, the phone finally rang. I remember pacing the room while trying to frantically take notes as our agency told us the news that we were matched with a little girl. Looking back, I laugh because I didn’t need to take notes. They would send us all the information via email directly after the phone call. I just didn’t know what else to do with my nervous and excited hands! At that moment, our five-year wait was forgotten.

Her file listed three potential health needs. After speaking with medical professionals, it was clear we wouldn’t be one hundred percent certain of her health status until we got her home. When we said ‘yes’ to adopting her, we were prepared to take on the worst-case scenario for all of her needs.

In the days to follow, I had peace about the ‘mild/correctable special needs’ noted in her file. In fact, I felt like she was healthy. I didn’t care what all the experts said. Deep down, I was convinced she was healthy. I’d have to wait to meet her to find out.

international adoptive parents hold their baby in front of an adoption agency sign
Courtesy of Lauren Elizabeth Miller

Four months after we were matched, Scott and I were finally in China. Bailey and Ethan stayed at home with their grandparents. We would be gone for 15 days.

We flew into Beijing to sightsee and get over some jetlag for a couple of days. We got to visit The Great Wall of China and The Palace. From Beijing, we flew to Wuhan in the Hubei Province to finally meet our daughter and finalize her adoption.

adoptive parents stand in-front of a Chinese landmark while holding their adopted baby
Courtesy of Lauren Elizabeth Miller

The day we met Brielle was surreal. Since we were with a large group of families adopting toddlers, the orphanage staff decided it would be easiest to bring our kids to our hotel. We all crammed into a hotel conference room to meet our children.

When we walked into the conference room, our children and their nannies were sitting in chairs around the perimeter. We could see Brielle, but we couldn’t go to her yet. After all of the waiting, we were so close! We had some paperwork to sign at large tables in the middle of the room, and then it was the moment we had been waiting a very long time for.

adoptive mother holds her recently adopted baby girl
Courtesy of Lauren Elizabeth Miller

They called our names, and we went across the room to finally meet the girl we’d prayed for for a very long time. Brielle did not want to come to us at first. I don’t blame her. We were strangers. I had decided to take a baby doll for her. Apparently, baby dolls aren’t much of a thing in China. She was terrified of it. We had to hide that doll for the rest of the trip. Once we were back in our hotel room and the baby doll was nowhere in sight, she warmed up to us quickly. Also, she seemed very healthy to me.

We spent the rest of that week in Wuhan finalizing her adoption and getting to know Brielle. After that, we headed to Guangzhou to get her U.S. citizenship paperwork completed. We had to obtain her passport and visa before heading back to the United States. The moment her feet hit the ground in the U.S., she would be a U.S. citizen.

Bailey and Ethan, along with family and friends, met us at the airport when we landed. They cheered as we rounded the corner to leave the secure part of the airport. It was the type of homecoming that will not be forgotten. Bailey and Ethan ran to us as friends and family held handmade signs. One family friend even brought Brielle a bag of oranges. Her favorite snack!

adoptive parents sit with their two biological children and one adopted child
Courtesy of Lauren Elizabeth Miller

Soon after we were home, I began taking her to doctor appointments. Every physician and specialist we met with would say, ‘She seems healthy to me.’ When the last specialist, a cardiologist, declared her healthy, I smiled. I had known it all along. God had worked a miracle in my daughter’s life.

A few years later, we knew we wanted Brielle to have a sibling to grow up with that would share in the adoption aspect of her life. After talking with our agency, we opted to pursue a child in South Korea. We hoped for a little boy to even out our family, but we weren’t allowed to choose a gender. We didn’t really know whether we’d be adding a boy or a girl to our family. Ethan was praying hard for a brother. In fact, he’ll tell you it was his idea to adopt again in the first place. Adoption has moved beyond a calling for Scott and I. Our kids have a heart for it now too.

We applied to the same agency as our first adoption and began our new home study. The paperwork was slow and tedious. After we finally got it all complete, we waited and waited and waited and waited some more for a referral. Like I said before, I hate waiting.

After nine long months, we received a referral in January 2020 for a little boy. We were thrilled to finally be matched. We knew the estimated timeframe to bring him home from that point would be approximately one year. We had no idea what was in store for us, and the entire world, in the months ahead. COVID.

Two months after we were matched, the world shut down. We had no idea what this meant for our adoption. South Korea closed its borders, and we had no idea how this would impact bringing our son home. After a month or two, South Korea opened its borders with strict quarantine guidelines. Any person flying into South Korea would be driven from the airport to one of their quarantine facilities. They would then have to stay in that facility for fourteen days while monitoring their temperature and taking multiple COVID tests.

We began to prepare for quarantine and an extended stay in South Korea. When we started the adoption process, we had planned to take two quick trips to finalize the adoption. One for court and one for custody. Once quarantine was put into place, we knew we would not leave the country until Evan’s adoption was finalized. We were not going to quarantine twice!

adoptive parents play with toys with their two biological children, and two adopted children
Courtesy of Lauren Elizabeth Miller

This was a new level of things being out of my control. Really, there wasn’t a person on the planet who could control what this virus would do. Waiting during a pandemic threw a whole new spin on things. The entire adoption process felt so volatile. I’d read about countries completely closing their borders and halting all adoptions. I’d worry. I’d hear stories of families receiving positive COVID tests during their travels. I’d fret some more. The worry could have buried me, so I had to face it head-on.

During our wait, I found a devotional book I had completed with my small group during my first year of college. I smiled when I pulled out a list that I had placed between two of the pages. The list laid out all of the attributes I wanted my future spouse to have. Scott had met all of them except for the one that said ‘someone to rollerblade with.’ You won’t catch him on rollerblades anytime soon. But the one that struck me the most was the one that said, ‘Wants to adopt.’ I don’t remember making the list, but it sounds like something 18-year-old girls at a Christian college would do. I never realized my heart for adoption went back that far.

God wrote it on my heart then, and He knew COVID would happen over a decade later. If He called me to it, He would get me through it. And He did.

On April 2, 2021, our entire family flew to South Korea. We did our two-week quarantine and passed all of our COVID tests. A few days after our quarantine was over, we finally met our son Evan. We also had the privilege to spend time with him and his foster mom before appearing in court. Another moment when the painful days of waiting were immediately erased from my memory.

adoptive mom holds her newly adopted son
Courtesy of Lauren Elizabeth Miller

We spent the weeks between court and custody soaking in Korean culture while staying in an apartment in the Itaewon area of Seoul. The Korean War Memorial was just down the street, so we toured it inside and out many times. Our kids loved riding the subway everywhere and enjoyed swiping their own cards for entry and exit. We visited a cat café, numerous children’s museums, countless parks, the Seoul Tower, and ate tons of kimbap.

adoptive father looks at his adopted son while his biological son and adopted daughter look on
Courtesy of Lauren Elizabeth Miller

On May 20, 2021, we landed back in Nashville, Tennessee as a family of six.

family of two biological children, two adopted children, and parents stand outside behind a welcome home sign
Courtesy of Lauren Elizabeth Miller

Two adoptions. Two very different faith-building experiences.

I’m so thankful the boy and girl from the library stood boldly in their calling to adopt. The Lord met them in their fears and carried them through all of the unknowns.

Now we get a front-row seat to watch what God will do in and through our kids’ lives.”

family welcomes home their adopted son with a sign in the yard, they stand with their biological and other adopted children
Courtesy of Lauren Elizabeth Miller

This story was submitted to Love What Matters  by Lauren Elizabeth Miller of Nolensville, TN. You can follow her journey on  InstagramFacebook, and her websiteSubmit 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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