Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Big Adoption Series - Chapter 5

The next month was a blur, but it passed (they always do) and we were one month closer to our son, rumored to arrive sometime in October.

The winding down of July found me with a persistent case of ants in my britches and a cumbersome black suitcase on wheels, bound for sunny California. I looked forward to the 10-day trip which would begin with an intense work conference and float into a four-day stretch of relaxation and fun with my little sister. I knew the trip would help fill the days and provide one last free-and-easy hurrah. It was perfect timing.

Except for the part that estimated time frames are prone to surprise.

All my life, I have relished a good surprise. I fancy myself one who is not easily surprised, but I've been wrong before.

The Hollywood conference left me bedraggled and frazzled and above all - exhausted, but bluer skies were on the horizon as my sister Keisha scooped me up and we set off to wind our way up the coast to Modesto. Half-way to our destination, we stopped for an afternoon in San Luis Obispo. We filled a bag with fresh fruit from a road-side farmers' market and guilty pleasure magazines and took to the beach.

Keisha's phone rang mid-sunning and as she scrambled to hand it over to me, the ants morphed first into butterflies and then into seagulls. They clanged around in my belly and sailed through my heart.

Calvin was coming early. I was scheduled to fly into South Bend on Tuesday evening. We were to pick him up in Detroit on Wednesday morning.

Momentary thoughts of bailing early were scrapped on account of the fact that I was looking forward to my time with Keisha and there wasn't anything last-minute that Cory couldn't take care of.

The next four days were blissful. Pure delight. Our days were spent doing the very things that most sisters long to do together. We ate well, slept in, shopped for little boy clothes, listened to music, solved some of the large problems of the world. Keisha's world became my own, if only for a while. Her friends adopted me and they all leaned in to hear about our little guy, packing his bags a world away.

After teary goodbyes, I boarded the plane with visions of almond-eyes fixed in my heart.

Rounding the corner to the departing gate at my final connection in Cincinnati, I saw hordes of people and double-backed lines. The flight was canceled. Not delayed, canceled. And, it was the last flight out of the night.

I took my own place in line, feeling sure that everything would be fine. Up at the desk, hope took a nose-dive. I cried. I pleaded with the airline rep. She shook her head and muttered apologies that didn't feel sincere enough for the weight of my fears.

My first, most critical act of motherhood was about to define me as a dismal failure. I would not be there.

So I cried, then I cried some more.

Through my tears I saw an angel in standard-issue polyester/cotton blend pants and a criss-cross tie coming my way. She took me by the hand and walked me to the rental car shuttle. She told me to get in the car and drive like nothing else mattered, because nothing else did matter. The skies were black as I latched the seatbelt and drove that long stretch of highway, headed straight for my childhood home. I stopped just long enough for my mom to climb in, behind the steering wheel, and I dozed off and on for the next three hours.

My head hit the pillow at 2 a.m. The alarm clock went off four hours later.

If anything could make me into a temporary morning person, it's knowing that my entire future hinged upon it.

I wore a skirt and my brown wooden beads, wanting to impress my boy. (Who's to say that he wouldn't be exceptionally attuned to aesthetics?)

We arrived at the airport and each step felt like an inching toward a new, better world.

We met another family waiting for the arrival of their son. We waited. We stewed.

Finally, the doors opened and we watched like a hawk. Every child's distant cry bloomed in my heart then shriveled as tufts of blond hair poked out of the strollers whizzing past.

Before long, the steady stream of passengers became a trickle, and then, it was altogether gone.

We waited nervously, and then...

Two little Asian boys slipped through the gate. I marveled at his realness. I listened to his cries.

The social worker carried him to me as I brushed a brand new kind of tears from my cheeks. She made my wobbly self sit down, and she handed me my son.

"Hi Calvin. I'm your Mommy."

It didn't take long for new fears to sink in. I did not know what to do with this child. I was sure I would do it wrong. Those who helped to get us to this point were conspicuously absent as we simply left the building with him. The "working-towards" was over. The page had turned to a new chapter.

We were on our own. We were a family.

We buckled him into his car seat and pointed ourselves toward home. Over the four-hour drive, we changed his diaper and his clothes, gave him bottles, introduced him to new toys and to us.

He slept only for a few moments.

Mostly, he looked at us with eyes that seemed to grasp the gravity, the newness, the miracle. He searched us and found us searching back. His little fists were clasped in anxiousness; his face, a sea of calm.

Pulling up to our home, under skies dark again, I hardly recognized the self I had become. I felt different. I walked different. I was sure that I looked different, and not just for the fact that somewhere between holding him for the first and leaving the airport, my brown beaded necklace had disappeared forever.

Cory carried his first son into our home and we spent hours that night memorizing him.

The next day would mark a new beginning, waking together and learning to navigate our days with our child who had made the trip of a lifetime to call us his own.


Join me here next Tuesday for Big Adoption Series - Chapter 6

(To catch up on Chapters 1-4, click here and start from the bottom.)


  1. I have tears. This is so beautiful. And look at lil baby Calvin! So cute!

  2. Tears hitting the keyboard as I type this...I hate having to wait an entire week for the next installment!

  3. Geesh...Thanks for making me weep like a baby. The picture of you holding him for the first time sent me clean over the edge. What a beautiful story...and it continues.
    Not only are you so witty and clever you are an amazing story teller. Write a book why dontchya Shannan. I'll wait in line at your book signing K. (Dear Lordy please don't read mine today. Your post makes mine look...well, um...er...OK, so it wasn't my best moment.)

  4. As always immensely beautifully put. I feel such gratitude for your willingness to share your adoption story/ies with us. They are such beautiful and trying journeys all in one....and you convey it all so well. So wonderfully blessed-- each member of your family. :)

  5. I can't even imagine how you felt watching that little baby come off the plane and knowing that he was your Calvin. I have goosebumps just thinking about it.

  6. Oh. Wow. I don't know you and you don't know me, but this hits home. We have travelled around the world several times and are waiting "between trips" to go back to Russia to pick up our third child from there. Never in my dreams could I imagine meeting my child at the airport....though I would pay a lot to not have to travel over there again!!! That first moment of holding your child is so awesome!! I love that picture of you with Calvin....
    Blessings to you and your family~
    Jody Garber

  7. He is perfect.
    We have a daughter from China, and she has changed us forever.

    I can't wait to hear more of your story and your beautiful journey!

  8. What a beautiful part of your story. I can't imagine the butterflies in your belly waiting for him to come through those doors.

  9. What an incredible story to read just before going to bed tonight! Thanks! You write about your love for your children so beautifully!

  10. Such a Beautiful story of Love!! You and your children are so blessed to have each other... God is good !

  11. Yep, read the last half of that through blurry tears. No one makes me cry in blog land like you do girl!

  12. A story written by God and typed through your fingers. I feel privileged to read along this journey!

  13. Every time I read this series I cry tears of happiness for you guys...Loving how much you're loving your babies..xx

  14. Our little Cal, and worth every second of that stressful night. God once again worked out everything for His glory. It amazes me how calm he was. But knowing Calvin he was totally aware of all that was going on, and he knew he was going home to his Mommy and Daddy, the ones I am sure his birth mother had whispered about to him in his ear.

  15. Shantelle - I don't have any good words. I just don't. But now that you know for me for real and good, I think you can see my face right now, and feel my heart. It's all just so beauty full. Every face, every heartbeat, every thing. Twas all meant to be.

  16. This brought tears to my eyes! So beautiful Shannen.


  17. i worked on my day off today. i waited all day for this post (because usually i have to read it on wednesday morning). you did not disappoint. i stand firm on the amazingness of the big adoption series. i love it. that is all. xoxo

  18. Oh how I love these posts. This section was amazing, I couldn't believe all the twists and turns. I am so proud of you how hard you worked to make it to that gate! Way to go new Mommy. Love the pictures of you holding your sweet baby for the first time. Amazing!

  19. beautiful...had chills the whole time...thanks so much for sharing!

  20. I love the "Big Adoption Series"! How do you make us feel everything you felt? Amazing story. I'm sweating from the intensity. I do hope you'll write a book at some point.

  21. What a momma does for her child...driving cross country by yourself. What a beautiful chapter of your story! My favorite so far! Calvin is such a cutie. On pins and needles for the next one... (and I love that my sister in law and I are reading this at the same time with our comments stuck right beside eachother.)

  22. Beautiful as usual. You tell this story so well.

  23. Someone pass me the tissue box. Just beautifully written. I felt like I was there. Such love.

  24. Beautiful beginning to a beautiful life. What a blessing! So happy for you. I LOVE this series!!

  25. You had me from Chapter 1...beautiful. God is so good!

  26. What beautiful pictures and an even more beautiful story...! I can't imagine your anticipation as the plane was unloading!! Thank you for sharing the story... :)

  27. I'm just bawling at my desk! This is just too sweet for words.

  28. I could hear this story a hundred times and I would still cry. Andy has been reading your adoption posts. Although he wouldn't admit it, they make him tear up too!

  29. Cried. Again. You need to write a book or something because this is fabulous.

  30. I already knew part of this story but loved hearing the rest. And that picture of you holding your son for the first time melted my heart into a puddle!

  31. Oh you have me again with teary eyes. He's such a handsome little boy and you have a beautifully perfect family.

  32. Once again another beautiful part to your amazing story. I look forward to reading more!


  33. Oh Shannan, you brought out the tears this morning. I'm with Susie, write a book!! And I'll be just behind Susie waiting for my copy to be autographed! You know, great story tellers are rare and you are definately a great story teller!

  34. I'm new to your blog (I stumbled over here from Chatting at the Sky) and all I can say is WOW! I've been crying since the second or third paragraph of the first installment of this series. Let me explain: I'm 26 and have been on the TTC roller-coaster for 2 years now. If what I'm doing now doesn't work, then our next recourse is the specialists and the tests and the invasive procedures. We've been talking and praying about whether or not to adopt instead of going that route. I've had the heart desire to adopt for many years, but it was always a someday, after or while we're having children of our own kind of thing. Now, it's so much more. I can't even describe the feelings that welled up inside of me as I read these posts.... I fully intend to devour your archives and can't wait for the next post! Thanks for being willing to share your story!

  35. Tears my friend. I think you have found your book!

  36. Just found your blog today, what an amazing journey you have been on. You have a beautiful family and the look on your face as you cuddle Calvin is priceless.

  37. Shannen,
    I have been reading your blog for awhile now and this was my absolute favorite post of all. Very beautifully told.
    Thank you.

  38. I'm bawling and I love that I can't even see to type on the screen. geesh!

  39. Brings back such memories of the first time we met our son. Thank you for sharing!

  40. Love me some Adoption Tuesday, Farmgirl. Even more so now that I know your precious family in person. Isn't it amazing that no matter how our babies get to us, they change our lives forever in the blink of an eye. You've got yourself a very special story, that's for sure.

  41. This post is just beautiful. I remember the first time we travelled to Russia to meet our son. It was a huge helping of joy, with a side of shock and a sprinkling of terror; knowing that nothing would quite ever be the same from that moment forward. Life hasn't been the same since that day...it's only gotten better with each passing day.

    Kim from Philadelphia

  42. Such a sweet story. Calvin will love reading this some day. It is amazing how one day can change your life.

  43. Love it! Got me all teary eyed!!!

  44. Like many others, you have my crying at my keyboard. Such tears of joy for you and your family for finding each other.
    Please Publish This!

  45. I just love your Big Adoption series and look forward to reading them! I'm not a mom YET, but hope to be someday soon. I think it probably is like going to Disney World for the first time... I don't think I will truly understand how wonderful it is to be a mom until I am one. The strange thing is, reading your posts especially about the difficulty of waiting (I'm quite impatient myself!) I can completely empathize with you. God bless you and your family!

  46. I've been reading your blog for ages from my home in Melbourne, Australia (I came here from somewhere else, another blog, I don't recall where....) I have really enjoyed the Big Adoption series, and totally loved this heartwarming entry. I had to laugh at the "we simply left the building with him" bit! I remember when we had our first child, and we walked out of the hospital to take her home, and my husband stopped, and looked back towards the hospital doors. I asked him had he forgotten something, and he said, "no, but I just can't believe they are letting us leave with her!" Like he was expecting someone to chase us out and tell us we couldn't go, we simply did not have enough experience for this job! It is a very surreal time! Looking forward to the rest of the series :-)

  47. You've hit the
    right note,
    funny feeling when
    "they" let you
    take this precious
    little life home ~
    No instruction
    manual, nada...
    Loved seeing that
    first family photo.
    So precious!
    xx Suzanne

  48. once again you have left my heart longing for my brown skinned child.

  49. Ohhh..my girlfriend just received their first child from Korea a couple of weeks ago...they are over the moon with their new little man :-) It's amazing!

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