Even before we met Leo in China, John and I had agreed that we wanted him to have at least one sibling. I’m the third child of six and John is the youngest of seven, so an only childhood seemed rather lonely. Because Leo made such a surprisingly smooth transition to our family, we started the adoption process for Daniel about six months after arriving home.
Adoption requires paperwork and then more paperwork, and the path we were taking required that we send our full dossier of materials to China first. Then we would wait for our agency to call with a possible match.
Somewhere along the way — perhaps when we were fingerprinted on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception and we were number 325 in line — I mentioned to John that it would be fun to be matched on the Feast of the Annunciation (March 25). The timing seemed about right, based on where we were in the process.
And, whenever I prayed the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary, I thought of the wondrous day we got the call to tell us we would be Leo’s parents. I am sure many women meditate on those mysteries differently after experiencing motherhood, and I connected to the Annunciation in a special way after that call.
After all, how many mothers — like the Blessed Mother — discover that they are expecting a baby by ear? I remember visiting an art museum years ago, where the docent talked about how some Christian artists had tried to depict the conception of Christ as the Word of God coming from Gabriel directly into Mary’s ear.
One year ago this week there was no archangel when we received our call telling us we would be Daniel’s parents. As life often goes — and John can tell you my guesses are often wrong — it didn’t happen on March 25. But it was just a few days before the 25th when the monthly shared list Daniel was on was released. I knew the list was coming out, and we had hoped to be matched with our child that time around — but we had also hoped to be matched the month earlier.
As it turned out, I had taken a beautiful day off to spend with Leo and my brother and his sons who were visiting my parents’ house from out of town. All day, as I enjoyed my son and nephews, I waited for the phone to ring. Finally at 4 p.m., I decided no call was coming. Frustrating as it was, we would have to wait another month for a match. Leo and I said goodbye and started getting into our car to leave. As I was buckling Leo into his car seat, my cell phone rang.
My heart stopped when I saw the caller ID.
It was our social worker.
She said she had a referral for us.
I told her I needed to call her back, took a confused Leo out of his seat, hurried back into my parents’ house, placed Leo in the arms of his equally confused grandmother, and went to use her phone.
There are expectant adoptive mothers who keep a clean notepad with them, ready for the call. Some make lists of questions to ask the social worker. I’ve even heard of adoptive parents who record the call on video. Instead, Leo’s referral call was written on the back of a Christmas card envelope, and Daniel’s on some scrap paper near my parents’ phone. That day last March I wrote down everything I could process in my sudden daze. It was a boy! He was living in an orphanage in China. Our social worker said he was awfully cute. And his file said he had been born while we were in China adopting Leo.
That part didn’t surprise me. Finally, finally, I had guessed something right.
You see, in December 2009, when I was waiting at the American Consulate in Guangzhou, China, to collect Leo’s visa to return to the U.S., I turned to two adoptive fathers nearby and wondered aloud whether our second child — who would presumably be from China — might already have been born. And not only had he been born; he was living not far from where we were standing.
I hung up and immediately called John. Then we waited impatiently for the email to come through with pictures of our son. With his serious eyes, his rosy cheeks, and his sparse silky hair, he was absolutely beautiful. We forwarded the file to our doctor friend to ask what medical challenges might be ahead. We had discussed with him in advance what we felt able to handle as parents. Then we waited — but not long — to hear that he thought Daniel was thriving.
Like the Blessed Mother, we had the choice of saying yes or no to being the parents of this child — a daunting prospect. Without hesitation and with confidence that God had connected us to this little boy for a reason, John and I said yes.
This child, born on the other side of the world, was our son — and, even though they were from different provinces with different dialects — Leo’s younger brother.
We could not wait to meet him.