‘I’ve never had the gift of birthing a baby, but I can’t imagine feeling any closer to my daughter.’: Single mom shares international, special needs adoption journey

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“Adoption was never my lifelong dream. In fact, I had never considered it as a child. I didn’t really know anyone who spoke openly of adoption. The closest thing to adoption in my life was the adoption certificates from all my Cabbage Patch Dolls!

I wanted to get married and have lots of children, but that never happened for me. In my late 20’s I began to hear the ‘whispers’ of adoption. I began to meet other single women who had adopted children and were raising them on their own. I started to think this could be a path for me too. I’m pretty risk adverse. I was born, raised, and grew up all within 5 miles of where I’m currently living! So, the thought of having a nontraditional family was something I had to get used to.

The year I turned 30 years old, I attended my first meeting about international adoption. I gathered the information from the agency and began to pray about it. I struggled with the idea of raising a child on my own. I had a wonderful father (now deceased); was it wrong to bring a child into a single-family home? Wouldn’t they be better with a two-parent family? Then I realized, there are over 150 million orphans in the world today. Maybe, one of those orphans would thrive with me as a single mom!

Small Chinese girl in colorful striped t-shirt dress stands in kitchen.
Courtesy of Amy Maze

I decided to start the paperwork to begin my adoption journey. After researching all the options, I felt lead to choose international adoption. I researched all the countries open to single parents and really felt China was the best choice for me. It had a long history of successful adoptions, had proven process, and was open to single women.

International adoption is expensive and time consuming. I needed time to prepare financially for all the costs involved. At the time, the wait was about 18 months from beginning to being matched with a child. I was elated! This phase is called ‘paper pregnancy’ in the adoption community. I was ‘paper pregnant’ with a child I didn’t know.

At the time, China had two choices for prospective families. Children with Non-Special Needs (NSN) or children with Special Needs (SN). As a single mom and teacher, I knew my finances and time would be limited, so I chose to begin my journey with a NSN match. Soon after all my paperwork was processed and the wait started, things in the China adoption world changed. The wait for NSN began to dramatically increase. I finally realized NSN was not the plan for me. All through these years, I had been feeling ‘nudged’ to consider a SN adoption.

Since I’m risk adverse, this was a huge challenge for me. I feared so many things for my child, but also questioned if I was up for the challenge of what a child with special needs would require. Special Needs in China could be anything including a birthmark, missing limbs, heart conditions, cleft lip/palate, or more severe diseases and cognitive delays. When you are considering SN, you are able to choose the conditions you feel comfortable and equipped to handle. I began to research and chose things I felt comfortable with.

Over the months, I began to realize my child would have some form of hand or foot deformity. It’s a wild story to describe, but I started meeting people with such differences of their hands and feet. It seemed like God kept putting this one type of special need on my heart. Could he be giving me such specific details?

Little Chinese girl wearing a navy sailor's dress sits in red chair for picture.
Courtesy of Amy Maze

After 5 years of waiting, I ‘joined’ the special needs side of China adoption in October of 2009 and began to see a few referrals for little girls. These pictures and ‘files’ of information began to torment me, because they were orphans needing a home and I wanted to take them in… but I just kept feeling God tell me, ‘No, this is not your daughter.’

Through so many tears and anguish, I relinquished the file of a sweet baby girl only a few days before I got the call and referral pictures of my Molly! The days in between giving that baby up and getting Molly’s referral, I questioned this calling to adopt more than ever. I thought it may never happen and was about to tell my agency to put my process on hold for a while. I thought something must be wrong with me because I wasn’t connecting with the faces looking back at me. And then… it happened! INSTANT CONNECTION. I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt this was it!

Chinese baby's picture for adoption file.
Courtesy of Amy Maze

All the rejections, tears, and heartaches up until now had led me to her. FINALLY! My daughter! Ironically, a family (who I don’t know) had been looking at Molly’s file the same weekend I was looking at the other baby’s file, and we relinquished these babies around the same time. Looking back at all these details, it is so amazing to see how He was orchestrating it all to happen. And if even one of these people who had a hand in this were not listening to the Spirit of the Lord for direction, it may not have happened.

Molly’s ‘special need’ is, in fact, a hand and foot deformity. She was born with ABS (Amniotic Band Syndrome) and some of her fingers and toes are ‘tied’ or connected, and she was missing some digits all together.

When you are adopting a child with special needs, the agency sends pictures of the child and pictures of the special need. The most special memory I have is when I received the email from my agency with her pictures and information attached. I instantly clicked ‘photo,’ not knowing which one would open first. And what I opened was only a picture of her two hands showing her ‘special need.’ I clicked another photo and saw her feet, and it was confirmed. Those were the hands and feet of my daughter! A few minutes later, I finally clicked through the remaining pictures and saw her adorable face staring back at me. I couldn’t ‘accept’ this referral fast enough!

Chinese toddler wears blue dress with American flags and rides rocking horse.
Courtesy of Amy Maze

It was exactly 3 months from the first time I saw Molly’s face via an email from my adoption agency to the moment she was in my arms in China. It was a whirlwind of preparing, packing, getting documents ready, and praying! Thankfully, my brother traveled to China with me.

It was a 2-week journey and my adoption agency had about 25 families traveling together for this trip. We all met up together in Beijing during the first part of the trip, and then traveled off to all the different provinces to be united with our children. We were reunited again at the end of the trip and got to see all the precious children who now had a family of their own.

Molly’s ‘Gotcha Day’ was traumatic – looking into her little face was both exhilarating and terrifying. She was in shock, sad, scared, and fearful. It broke my heart into a million pieces! How could a day that brought me so much JOY, bring her so much sadness?

Single mom from Nashville, TN holds Chinese orphan she's adopting.
Courtesy of Amy Maze
Single teacher comforts scared toddler being adopted from China.
Courtesy of Amy Maze

It’s hard to wrap your mind and heart around adoption, but it’s the greatest gift to humanity for those who choose to do it. I was simply amazed at her immediate bond. She latched on to me like a baby koala bear holding onto her mama, and she didn’t let go until we walked into our Tennessee home about 10 days later. She forced the attachment that, at times, I would have been frankly, too tired to foster.

The days in China were exhausting, as I physically carried her everywhere, held her at every meal, slept with her on top of me, and showered with her in my arms. She wouldn’t take no for an answer. Just as if I carried my daughter in my womb, she was learning my voice, recognizing my scent, reaching for my touch, and studying every detail of my face. I’ve never had the gift of pregnancy or birthing a baby, but I cannot imagine feeling any closer to any human being than I do with my daughter.

Single mom holds sleeping toddler adopted from China.
Courtesy of Amy Maze

A couple months after we came back home, Molly had surgery to separate her fingers and toes. This allowed her to have a wider grasp and equipped her to use her hands and feet better. Her hand and foot difference doesn’t impact her daily life. Now, Molly is 13 years old. She runs, plays sports, is an amazing artist, plays the piano, and is a very typical teenager! We talk openly about her adoption story and I share more details with her as she gets older and is better able to understand them.

Small Chinese girl takes picture with casts on her hand and foot after surgery.
Courtesy of Amy Maze

Adoption changed my life in ways I didn’t know I needed to change. Adoption opened my eyes to unimaginable pain and loss, and stretched my heart to love so well. Foster kids and adoptive kids are resilient and inspiring. It’s often hard, messy, expensive, and crazy, but then there is attachment, love, and family.

Single adoptive mom and daughter take cute Halloween picture together.
Courtesy of Amy Maze
Single adoptive mom and daughter take picture in matching light blue church clothes.
Courtesy of Amy Maze

My heart melts for Molly. Our love is unexplainable and magnificent. I needed her and she needed a mom. I’m so forever thankful every little detail worked out in our favor to become a family. Someone is probably considering adoption or foster parenting and I encourage you to lean into that fear. Research, ask questions, pray, and move forward.

Single adoptive mom and daughter take picture next to horse-shaped birthday cake.
Courtesy of Amy Maze

Raising Molly as my own daughter has been my life’s greatest blessing by far. A choice for adoption made in faith by a single mom living on a teacher’s salary! I was born with a mom-shaped hole only God could fill in a way I had never imagined. Molly made my dream of motherhood come true. I’m so thankful for her, for her birth mom who sacrificed so much, and for the gift of adoption.”

Single adoptive mom holds daughter for picture in matching green shirts.
Courtesy of Amy Maze
Chinese girl adopted by Nashville woman takes picture in cute western outfit.
Courtesy of Amy Maze

This story was submitted to Love What Matters  by Amy Maze from Nashville, TN. You can follow her journey on Instagram, Facebook, and her blog. 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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‘You’re newly pregnant and this little girl is a lot of work. If you need us to find her a new home, it’s okay.’ I didn’t want an ‘easier’ kid. I wanted her.’: Foster mom shares special needs adoption

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