Here is a story I wrote that was published in China Moon in late 2009. China Moon is a Holt-China online newsletter.
Our Journey to Jenna (and after).
In March 2006 we decided to adopt a daughter from China. After adopting our daughter Leah and sons Alexander and Benjamin from South Korea – we were going to adopt through the Holt-China program. When we received and scanned over the big red book that explained Holt’s China adoption process in detail we were a little overwhelmed. Adopting from China looked a lot more difficult than adopting from Korea. It started out as Cheryl’s idea (as usual); she has wanted to adopt a daughter from China since at least 2004 (as far as I know). Add to this the fact that she had an ally in Leah, who had been praying for a little sister for quite some time. They finally got me onboard and we decided to get started heading down the long road of adoption again. We started out in the regular program but also decided to be in the waiting child (special needs) program simultaneously. It proved to be a good choice because as it turns out if we would’ve only been in the regular program we would still be waiting (possibly years) longer for just a child referral. So our road wasn’t as long as it might’ve been.
By the time we traveled to China to receive Jenna she was 3 years and 2 months old. Jenna was abandoned in Shennong Park in Zhuzhou City when she was 1 1/2 months old. Jenna was born with a cleft palate and a large birthmark on her right side of her face and neck. The cleft palate had already been surgically repaired in China before we received her. We received our daughter Jenna on July 16th, 2007 at the Changsha Civil Affairs Office in China's Hunan Province. When Jenna saw us coming she walked up to me and let me hold her for awhile. We were looking at each other and I thought she was beautiful. In all of the pictures we had seen of her up to this point she looked more like a boy than a girl because they always kept her hair short, but now she had longer hair and she looked like a beautiful little girl. Interestingly enough after I handed Jenna off to my wife Cheryl so I could start taking video of this occasion that was the end of Jenna letting me hold her or carry her for several weeks. She only wanted to be held by Cheryl. Jenna would play with me if I bribed her with M&M's but when they were gone she was done with me. So Jenna bonded with Cheryl before she bonded with me - she made me earn her trust and love over time. Jenna cried for about 10-15 minutes after her caregivers left her with us, but after that she was fine. Her adjustment to us (and later to the rest of our children) was really easy. She seemed happy to be with us almost from the start, and seemed to be very healthy and happy. She had a good appetite when eating. Jenna really didn't have much of a vocabulary at all, she could say some simple Chinese words and do some signing. Her caregivers mentioned to us that Jenna suffered frequent ear infections, which is common with some children with cleft lips and/or palates.
Soon after we brought Jenna home we took her to see several specialists at the University of Iowa Otolaryngology department where they checked her repaired cleft palate, speech, and hearing. They determined that she currently had ear infections and that her hearing was damaged possibly from the frequency of these infections throughout her young life. They recommended at least a couple of hours a week of speech therapy with a specialist. In the time since she has been home Jenna has had 1 - 2 hours each week of speech therapy, plus we work with her on our own each day. Jenna is on her 3rd set of ear tubes, which have eliminated her ear infections and helped somewhat with her speech. Her speech therapist once demonstrated to me how Jenna's soft palate doesn't have the normal range of motion that a normal one has. As a result it takes Jenna more effort to make certain sounds and she tends to speak nasally due to air leakage out of her nostrils. If she has a nose plug on Jenna can enunciate better and make more sounds with less effort. She may require more palate surgery soon, but in the meantime we are continuing with her speech therapy. We held Jenna back one year in school, so as a result she currently attends preschool at the age of 5 with her younger brother Ryan (whom we recently adopted through Holt's Philippines Waiting Child program). It works out well because they are good buddies who help each other out and complement each other well. Jenna's teachers have some difficulty understanding her speech, so while she has made a lot of progress she still has a ways to go.
Cheryl and I absolutely adore Jenna. She is so full of joy and love. Jenna is very sweet and generous. She loves to play, have fun and laugh and we just know that she loves to be a part of our family. We thank God each day that we get the privilege of being her parents.
Each child that we have adopted from Holt's Waiting Child programs has enriched our family beyond measure. I would highly recommend adopting a child through Holt's Child of Promise program. The ladies at Holt helped match us with the child who was right for our family, and they helped us through the whole process every step of the way - through all the paperwork, with our dossier, throughout our wonderful experience of traveling to China to receive our daughter, and with our post-placement obligations. I mentioned at the beginning that going through such an adoption process seemed overwhelming at the start, but we just did it step by step. No one step was too difficult. Eventually all of the steps are complete and looking back it doesn't seem so hard after all. The reward is a precious, beautiful gift from God who loves us as much as we love her.
To read another article by me, click here.