“I want to start this by saying that I’m not anybody special. I grew up in a small town in Washington called Sequim and had too much anxiety to spend the night at a friend’s house until I was 17 years old. I was honestly afraid I’d never be able to go to college or leave home. It’s no less than a miracle that God gave me the courage to move to India at 21 to be an advocate for children who don’t have family. Flying to India was my first international flight ever and I cried in the airplane bathroom and between flights the entire way there. I only say this to give you encouragement that though we don’t all wear capes, we can make a difference. Your weaknesses don’t define you and there’s no telling how you’ll impact the world if you take a leap of faith. I’ve now traveled to 17 countries, lived in Switzerland and India, have opened my own ethical fashion boutique called Amma’s Umma that gives back to adoptions and am soon bringing home my first adopted son. If you would have told me all of this would happen when I was 16, I would have told you that you were delusional. There is strength inside you that you will only believe in when you follow the path you know you were meant to be on. But that’s enough about me. The real story is about one of the children I met in India. One of the reasons I’m so glad I chose to follow my heart, and yet tremble with fear because of what might have happened if I hadn’t.
I had just received a call that there was a 10-year-old boy in dire need of help. It was a sweltering summer day in Delhi and I had been sick, again, with vengeful food poisoning. Hearing how sick the little boy was made me nervous to go and check out his case. He was so sick that after being turned into the police, the police turned right around to bring him back to the hospital. Not only that, no local orphanage would take him in for fear of the financial burden. Even so, most of the orphanages were already overcapacity. They were hoping I might be able to do something to help. That’s my job after all, to help find orphans loving families. I brushed my teeth once more, packed my hand sanitizer, put on my headscarf and headed out into the blistering August sun.
It sounds a lot easier on paper than it was in reality though, finding families for orphans. Most families in India will do rounds of IVF before they turn to adoption and even when they do, they want a perfectly healthy baby. International adoptions are possible, but take forever and cost a small fortune. Not only that, there are estimated 20-30 million orphans in India. The work to get children on the adoption registry is improving but at the time was backed up and not a national priority. Only about 4,500 children were being adopted domestically and internationally. I went to the hospital with a rock in my stomach. What if I couldn’t help either? What if I couldn’t find a place for this little boy to go?
The man on the phone had told me that the child was 10, so when I stepped out of the auto-rickshaw and a man came rushing up to me with a boy in his arms that looked no more than 3, I walked past him to move towards the door. The hospital grounds are strewn with the destitute and poor and I had falsely assumed that this man saw me as someone who might give him some money. When he cried out, ‘Sister Chelsea, this is the boy we called about,’ I swung around both in shock and embarrassment. I still couldn’t believe that this was the child they had called about. He was in much worse shape than had been described.
That day I was given a name for him. I’ve worked with thousands of children and never before has a specific name been laid on my heart to give to any of them. I should’ve known then something was different about this little boy. Before I even knew that, when he was asked what his name was, he didn’t answer. He couldn’t speak. So when I was informed that the name on his chart was ‘anonymous’, I told them that we’ll call him Ian. I had no idea that I had just named my first son. I wasn’t even married yet. My own children weren’t even on my radar.
Despite being on death’s doorstep, this little boy wanted to make sure that the children around him in the hospital were being fed, cared for and paid attention to. I’ll never forget the first time I brought him his favorite snack, sour cream and onion chips. He opened the bag and proceeded to give the children around him each as many chips as they’d like. And then he reached up, handing a chip to me. My eyes filled with tears. How could this small child, who had been through more than most have to endure in a lifetime, be filled with so much generosity and compassion?
Over the course of a few weeks, plenty of rejections from orphanages and worries that Ian wouldn’t make it, a friend of mine helped me to finally get Ian transferred to a wonderful children’s home 1,000 miles away. That wasn’t the end of our story though. A fairy tale was just beginning. I used to shrug it off when people said my husband and I’s story is a fairy tale, but now I’m starting to believe it. Why? No fairy tale comes true without hardship, endurance and overcoming. This is truly the premise for our little prince’s story. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s get back to the beginning of our family’s story.
I met my husband, Amith, while living in New Delhi, India, on a group tour to the Taj Mahal. Yes… the world’s monument of love is where I first saw my now husband. Well, I shouldn’t take all the credit. My dad spent the day with Amith and his suggestion that I get to know Amith more while I lived in the city took me completely by surprise. My dad is a retired police officer and usually poured his efforts into deterring me from men. When he took a liking to Amith, it made me sit up and pay attention. I always joke that it was a backwards arranged marriage. I do have to say though, my dad has good taste. I have married the most kindhearted and patient man on this planet. He also happens to be the very same friend who helped me get Ian to his safe haven.
When Amith proposed on a beautiful ocean view cliff in South India, he knew full well that he was marrying a girl whose world revolved around adoption. My entire life’s work is devoted to helping children find forever families and marrying me, meant adoption would be a part of our story. The best part though was that Amith not only accepted this, he is excited for it. After his proposal, my family flew in from the States for a grandiose engagement ceremony in rural India that felt like a wedding in itself. My sister and mother were dressed in beautiful saris and my brother and dad wore traditional kurtas.
To make the story even sweeter, Amith’s family has a children’s home, where a 150 kids find refuge, access to education, food and hope. Our engagement ceremony took place in the orphanage and the children were the guests of honor. They were so excited to dress up, put together a skit, sing songs and eat with everyone.
I then flew home to the States to apply for a finance visa and yes, in true ’90 day fiancé’ form, Amith arrived 35 days before our beautiful lakeside wedding.
My husband and I always said that if Ian was still available for adoption when we became eligible to adopt on our two-year marriage anniversary, we would pursue bringing him home as our own. I honestly believed he would be adopted by someone else or that we wouldn’t be able to be matched with him. Well, our second anniversary was last September and it only took 6 months to be matched with our son. That’s right. Ian will soon be ours forever and us, his. I told you… I’m starting to really believe it’s a fairytale. Not only that. International adoption is outrageously expensive and cumbersome. We started the process with no funds set aside and only faith that God would provide. We’ve tried fundraising here and there, but when a bill is due, the funds always come in. Someone we don’t even know sent $5,000 in for our adoption a week before a bill of $6,900 was due that we only had $1,900 set aside for. To take it one step further, we felt convicted that it was time to finally open my dream business a few months before we started our adoption process. I’ve always wanted to own a business that gives back to adoptions. Though the timing didn’t make sense, we took the leap of faith and started our online ethical fashion boutique and in our first year of business, Amma’s Umma gave almost $12,000 towards adoptions! All of this makes us feel that our adoption is more than just a fairytale, it feels completely meant to be.
It’s crazy to think back to that day when I first met this little Indian prince and gave him a name. It’s crazy to think that he was going to be my first child someday and I had no idea. As with all international adoptions though, there is still a lot of hoops to jump through and fees to be paid but we cannot wait to have Ian home. We are still struggling to believe our fairy tale has come true.
It always catches people off guard that infertility isn’t a part of our story. The raised eyebrows of our psychologist, social worker and many others are proof. Like I said though, adoption is my world. I work for an incredibly niche non-profit called A Family For Every Orphan, I’ve started my own online boutique that supports other’s adoptions called Amma’s Umma and I’ve traveled the world to promote the importance of family based care and domestic adoption. I eat, breathe and sleep adoption efforts. We intentionally decided to pursue Ian as our first child because we wanted him to know that he is chosen, loved and worth being pursued.
When people say Ian is lucky that we are adopting him, I cringe inside. If I believed in luck, we would be the lucky ones. It’s impossible to describe the spirit of Ian. His deeply caring heart. His big brown eyes full of determination and hope. His creativity and team-spirit is convicting. He is truly destined to be a world changer and we are so honored to be given this special role of being his forever family. Are we nervous? Absolutely! Are we 100% prepared? Not at all. Do we know that Ian will be a perfect fit for our family. Without a doubt. In the future, we hope to move back to India to open a boutique hotel to share our love of India with the rest of the world, continue raising money for adoptions and employ families and aged out orphans who need hope.
As I mentioned before, adoption is my world. I would love to answer any questions you may have about adoption. I don’t have all the answers but I have an incredible network of people who care deeply for children in need of family. We will do our best to get you the support and answers you need. There are currently 100,000+ children in the United States alone, who are waiting for an adoptive family to say yes to opening their hearts and home. There are millions more across the globe who are growing up in orphanages. Adoption is not simple. It’s messy. The trauma that children undergo drastically changes their ability to flourish. If your heart is saying that adoption is supposed to be a part of your family’s journey, I want you to know that there is community who can support you, answer your questions and help!
Through our online boutique, we also help family’s raise money for their adoptions. We started our boutique because we don’t ever want finances to be the reason a family isn’t able to bring a child home. Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more and check us out at www.ammasumma.com.”
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