‘You’re going to ruin your life. A child needs a mother AND father. What man would want a single mom?’ I didn’t listen.’: Single mom shares international adoption of ‘perfect mini me’

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“Growing up I always dreamt of being a mom. I loved kids. As a teenager, I started babysitting. I was even a nanny in college, which led me into education, and I have now been a kindergarten teacher for 18 years. Adoption has always been on my heart. To give a baby a home that needed a family. However, I never thought it could happen because of the cost, so I pushed that dream to the back of my head.

I get paid once a month, and we all know teachers don’t get paid that much. So I was tired of living paycheck to paycheck and was looking to make extra money on the side. A friend asked me to join her home-based business/network marketing company and I did. I did really well. So well it made my adoption dreams possible. I knew THIS could pay for the adoption.

At first, I told my mom, of course. She was so excited. This would be her first grandchild. My sister couldn’t wait to be an aunt. My friends, co-workers, and everyone I knew was so excited for me. Then I called my dad. My parents divorced when I was 2 years old.

When I told my dad I was going to adopt, he said, ‘You are going to ruin your life. A child needs a mother and a father. What man would want a single mom?’ I replied with, ‘Any baby in an orphanage is blessed to have one parent rather than no parent at all.’

His comment did not stop me from adopting. I did not talk to him during the process because I did not need that negative energy in my life. The moment I knew I was adopting, I posted it on Facebook and documented every milestone. It was celebrated by friends, family, and the community. Kenlee became a celebrity before she even came home.

child who is up for adoption plays with children's toys while crawling on the floor
Courtesy of Sarah Poorian

I knew several people who adopted and asked which agencies they had used. I made a few appointments to talk to different ones. I wanted to make sure I chose the right one. The first one I went to see was Lifeline Children’s Services, a Christian based agency, in September of 2015. They do domestic and international adoption.

My main concern, of course, was what was the better option for me adopting as a single mom. I didn’t want to be waiting years for a baby. When I walked into the building, my heart sank with all the pictures of children up for adoption. But I thought, ‘What if one of these were my baby?’

I talked to a lady named Sarah in a small private room. She was so sweet and soft spoken. One of my questions and fears since I was single: Would it be hard for me to adopt? She was very honest and said a young mom giving her baby up for adoption is usually looking for a family to give her baby to. With international adoption, I get to choose the baby.

Another fear I had with domesticity was the mother changing her mind during her pregnancy or right after birth. With international adoption, the baby is at the orphanage. They have tried to locate family members but have not been successful, so a family member coming to get the child would be highly unlikely. So I knew international adoption was the way I was going.

Next I needed to decide what country. Which country would let a single mom adopt? Some countries are very strict on who they adopt to, or their requirements. Some only adopt to married individuals, or couples married for more than 3 years, or families that don’t have children under 5, or parents under a certain age.

It really was overwhelming. We went over the list and I was shocked to see some countries where you had to do two visits or more. Go meet your baby, come back home without your baby, then go back and get your baby. I was like, ‘There is no way I could do that.’ Then I saw China. You stay for two weeks and then you come home with your baby. I said, ‘This is it.’ At the end, Sarah prayed over me. I hugged her and told her I would be in touch.

I scheduled a phone interview with another adoption agency I had heard of. I did not know anyone personally that had used them. You know that used car salesman pitch? That’s what I felt. I didn’t have peace with her like I did with Sarah.

I called Sarah back and got all the documents. I told her I would probably turn them in in November. Just to take my time. You know, one more month of paying off bills. I’m a perfectionist and read over every page, over and over again, making sure I was doing everything right. I didn’t want to mess anything up. But something, SOMETHING in my gut said, ‘Do it now. Do not wait any longer.’ So October 9, 2015, I turned in my application to adopt. I got the official email October 14, 2015 from Lifeline Children’s Services. It was accepted!

mom takes selfie with internationally adopted daughter while on a plane
Courtesy of Sarah Poorian

Sarah then turned into my case worker, and she was there every step of the way. She sat down with me and asked me if I wanted a boy or a girl, what my age preference was, and discussed with me how, coming from China, they would more than likely have special needs.

At this point, I had been a kindergarten teacher for 12 years. I had worked with kids with special needs doing inclusion. Sarah gave me a LONG list of possible special needs. Some I have never heard of. She told me to take the list, research them, and mark the ones I would accept. I sat down with our amazing speech teacher and friend, Carolyn, who went over each one with me. I turned the list back in and the real process started.

Next, I got the China adoption manual. In it contained the payments, what they were for, and the due dates. I promised myself when I started this, I would have the payments because I wasn’t going to let anything hold me back from getting my daughter.

Next it was just filling out a bunch of paperwork, but the big thing was getting the home study done. Then I800a, which is something for immigrations. It is months of paperwork, payments, and going to Homeland Security to get fingerprints. All of this is before you can even get matched with a child.

Finally, I got an email from Sarah on July 1, 2016, saying the next step was waiting to be matched. This was nine months later from the starting process. I had a dream about what my daughter would look like. As soon as I woke up, I called my sister. I told her she had the cutest bob haircut and the chubbiest cheeks.

I painted her room. I had a shoe fundraiser that gives jobs to third world countries. It was so successful, a local boutique here let the store be a shoe drop-off location. My school and community supported me and cheered me on. I was at ease and at peace the whole time. Every time Sarah called to check on me, she would say, ‘I have never seen a calmer adoptive mother than you.’ I said, ‘This is God’s plan and I trust his timing.’ And yes, every time she called she ended it in prayer.

The new school year started and I was busy and distracted. But on September 12, 2016, I got a call from Sarah during the day while I was teaching (which never happens because she knows I’m teaching). During my break, I walked outside to call her back.

She said, ‘We have a file for you named Kori. I’m emailing it to you right now to look over. The file is going straight to you before any sites. You have 24 hours to put it on hold, then 7 days to say yes or no to adoption.’ I couldn’t get back to my room fast enough. The moment I opened her file, I saw the bob hair and chubby cheeks from the girl in my dream. I cried. It was her!

infant girl from china who was adopted through international adoption
Courtesy of Sarah Poorian

Then I read her file. She was found wrapped in a blanket, right after birth, in a field by a secondary school. A little back story… years before I even decided to adopt, I said if I ever had a daughter, I was going to name her Kenlee after my grandparents. Ken from my grandfather and Lee from my grandmother, Betty Lee. If you look up the definition of Kenlee, it means ‘king’s meadow.’

She spent her first few days in the hospital due to an infection from the umbilical cord. Then you know what I noticed in her file? She was born October 6, 2015. Remember that gut feeling I mentioned earlier? To turn in my application sooner. That was God telling me to turn in my application. I turned it in three days after she was born. I called Sarah back right away and said yes. She said, ‘Yes to put it on hold?’ I said, ‘No, I’m adopting her. This is my daughter.’

This is where EVERYTHING just started happening so fast. The very next day, Sarah gave me the Letter of Intent packet (LOI). This was September 13, 2016. Lifeline was giving me an estimated travel date to be some time in 2017. My mom and sister were planning on traveling with me.

I submitted the LOI September 16, 2016. After the submission, I had to wait 1-2 weeks for pre-approval. But it only took three days! Every step happened sooner than expected. What was supposed to take two months took two weeks. What was supposed to take two weeks took two days. The meaning of the number two is union. Then, on November 11, 2016, I got travel approval and found out my Gotcha Day would be November 28, 2016 – 13 months since I began the process.

In two weeks, I was leaving to go get my baby. I was so excited. I was in shock and had a lot of things to do. ‘Ahhhhhh, oh my gosh! I’m about to be a mom! I’m going to get my baby.’ I couldn’t get there fast enough. This is when I remember getting emotional and crying a lot on the phone with my sister, Sonya. Since we didn’t expect to travel until 2017, she couldn’t go with us because she had already used up her vacation days. I cried because my grandparents wouldn’t meet her. I would sit in her room at night, just wanting her home so bad, and cry.

My mom and I left for Kunming, China. I slept pretty much the whole way there. God knew I was about to be busy, and so I literally just slept. It was late when we arrived. We met our guide, Jimmy, who worked for the agency and would help us throughout the week. He had an Alabama lanyard on, so I knew I would like him.

He was Asian and was able to translate things for us. He was such a big help to me and all the families there. As I got to the room, a crib was there for Kenlee. I put her blanket in there and a stuffed animal. Of course I couldn’t sleep, thinking how she would act. I mean, honestly, I thought about this the whole adoption time, but now it came down to the actual time. Would she be happy and know right away it was mommy? Would she be scared?

mom takes photo with her daughter who she adopted through international adoption from China
Courtesy of Sarah Poorian

Finally, it was the day!!! Ahhhh, the excitement. We took a bus to a location, then had to walk a few blocks. The streets were nasty. I just couldn’t quit looking around and wondering how people lived like this. All of a sudden, I heard commotion and crying. I saw people running and people getting out of cars. Like people were standing by a van holding our babies, waiting for us.

I saw Kenlee. I went up to her and she started crying. While she was in the woman’s arms who had cared for her all that time, I tried to console her. I slowly took her, hugged her, and tried to console her as much as I could. For 13 months, this lady was all she had known.

international adoptive mother holds her daughter close while she is crying
Courtesy of Sarah Poorian

After a bit, Kenlee calmed down. We were all in this building signing paperwork, and someone captured a picture of Kenlee and I. We were looking at each other and you can tell in her face, she realized, ‘This is my mom. I’m going home.’

adoptive mother looks at daughter while she is signing paperwork to complete the international adoption
Courtesy of Sarah Poorian

The rest of the day, she was the happiest, bubbliest kid. We went back to the hotel to get acquainted, and put her in the outfit I bought her. Some people like to call it ‘Gotcha Day.’ I like to call it ‘Our Forever Family Day.’

Her shirt said ‘Today Is The Day.’ We were color coordinated in black and gold. As I undressed her, she had on three layers of clothes. She was even tinier than I thought. 13 months and so tiny. Then I noticed what looked like a bruise covering most of her lower back going down to her bottom.

I didn’t want to cry in front of her, so I held myself together. In my head I was thinking, ‘How could they do this to this poor baby?’ After talking to Jimmy, the other families saw similar markings on their children. At the clinic we visited within the next few days, I found out it was a Mongolian birthmark. They typically go away within five years, and it has.

Our attachment and bonding was so easy. Even that night, I was getting her pajamas ready, setting them out on the bed. She was sitting on the floor playing in front of the mirror and I heard her call out ‘momma.’ I ran over and picked her up and just hugged and kissed her.

A few days later, the families went to visit the orphanage as a way to show respect for taking care of our babies. The lady who took care of Kenlee ran up and grabbed Kenlee from me, and Kenlee completely freaked out. She started kicking, screaming, and crying. Way worse than the first day I met her. I grabbed her right back. (Don’t get me wrong, I am so grateful for her nanny. I just didn’t appreciate her grabbing her out of my arms like that.) But Kenlee was scared she was going back to the orphanage.

She was finally given real food for the first time. Yes, at 13 months, she was still on just formula and congee, which is a rice oatmeal. They told me to keep doing that. I said, ‘Absolutely not.’ That very next day after I got her breakfast, I gave her fruit, yogurt, and muffins. She had eight teeth. She ate so much she put herself in a food coma and slept for hours while I had to fill out more paperwork. After, we went to the nursery and I got to see where Kenlee slept. There were rows and rows of cribs.

adoptive mother holds her child over her shoulder and consoles her
Courtesy of Sarah Poorian

As we were leaving, it was raining, so I threw her blanket over her head so she wouldn’t get wet. Kenlee stuck her arm out from under the blanket and waved good-bye to the orphanage. She knew she was going home. As we loaded into the bus, Jimmy handed me something. It was a blanket.

It was the blanket Kenlee was found in on the field abandoned after birth. I couldn’t hold back the tears in front of her this time. I cried so hard. I knew the decision for her birth mom was so hard. But because her mom chose to give Kenlee life instead of abortion, I became a mother to a daughter who is the most perfect match. I seriously could not have birthed a more perfect mini me. God had his plan all along.

Once home, I adjusted into my mommy roll easily. The hardest part was the jet lag, still being on China time. It took a while for our days and nights to get right. She was and still is the easiest and happiest child. Our days were filled with doctors appointments at the International Doctors Clinical, where they determined she was a typical baby and had no fine motor delays. And we spent days taking stool samples to make sure there were no parasites in her system, because China’s water system is not safe to drink. We even used bottled water to brush our teeth.

adoptive mother poses with her adopted daughter and the woman who helped her through the adoption process
Courtesy of Sarah Poorian

I couldn’t sleep at night. I would just stare at her in awe. She’s here. She’s mine. I would just watch her sleep. During the home study, they asked where she would sleep. I responded, ‘She’s used to a crib, so in her room in the crib.’ Once we got home though, that changed real quick. She would fall asleep in her crib but would only last a few hours. She was used to sleeping in a room with hundreds (yes, I said hundreds) of babies and lots of noise, and now she was in a room that was dark and quiet. So she would wake up crying, and then I would put her in bed with me. Soon she just started sleeping in my bed. I have tried numerous times to transition her back to her room, but it doesn’t work. So years later, she’s still  in my bed, and I am ok with that.

young girl sleeps in her bed covered in blankets with messy hair and her thumb in her mouth
Courtesy of Sarah Poorian

I love that single women have reached out to me asking for advice about adopting. Friends have even messaged me asking if they can give their friend my name so they can contact me to ask questions. Absolutely. Anyone can do this. You just have to believe in yourself. Did I have someone tell me I couldn’t? Yes I did. Did I listen? Absolutely not. And here we are, me and my daughter are living the happiest life ever.”

Single mom and adopted daughter enjoy their Disney trip together.
Courtesy of Sarah Poorian
Little girl adopted from Chinese orphanage wears cheetah face paint and cat ears.
Courtesy of Sarah Poorian

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Sarah Poorian of Helena, AL. You can follow her journey on Instagram. 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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