After a day or two, I emailed our case worker and told her how hard this was for me. How would I know when we came across the child who was meant to be ours? It felt like such blind selection. She encouraged me to be patient and reassured me that this part of the process often took many months. Along with her email, she had attached three more profiles.
I've come to believe that what draws a parent to an adoptive child during the selection process is a recognition of something- either within themselves or in someone they love. As I scanned the pictures, one little girl immediately caught my eye. It seemed like I was looking at my little Lauren: energetic and happy, but sweet and trusting... and absolutely beautiful. She was described as helpful, gentle, friendly, and thoughtful of those around her.
I sent her file on to Dennis, wondering if perhaps he would recognize it too. Immediately he responded and said he wanted to know more. I asked him if he had read in the profile about her special medical need. He had... it was the very special need that just days ago he had been so firm about not considering.
I was surprised but cautious of committing my hopes to another child. We had already looked at so many children and my hopes had been dashed so many times. There are so many children who will never know that they will always hold pieces of my heart.
We reviewed her file for a few days, but by this point I was mistrusting of my instincts. I told Dennis that because I felt so strongly that we were supposed to adopt, I didn't entirely trust my emotional compass. I needed his objectivity and emotional distance to help with this decision. This child would not be mine to raise- but ours- and without an unwavering committment from him, we would be setting ourselves up for well-intended, but certain disaster.
As I researched her condition, I presented Dennis with each unknown that we would potentially face. There was much, much more to consider than a three-word diagnosis; most of which we had never considered as being part of our life plan. I asked him to really put ourselves a year... five years... and ten years down the road. Were we really ready to do this?
And then one day after work, Dennis tearfully told me he had had a sacred experience, confirming to him that she was the one we were being led to. And just like that- as beautifully simple as that- he knew, and that was that. Once he knows something, he never looks back. How I wish I had his simple faith. We went to the temple to pray about it, but he had already received his answer. She was the one we were being led to and he was completely committed, and I had known for a long time that all I needed was his committment because my heart was already there.
Several weeks went by. Before we made public our plans to adopt, a few more things still needed to fall into place. A small part of me was still holding back. It felt surreal that after so many months of searching and praying, that we had finally decided to move forward. Like a bad dream, I was afraid Dennis would wake up one day and realize we had made a terrible mistake.
We had requested an update on our little girl, knowing that the file was several years old. The little girl in the referral picture looked to be about 7 or 8 years old, and by now she was almost 11.
The moment in time when we received the email with the update will always be frozen in time for me. We were standing in line to go into Disneyland when I heard the email notification on my phone and I read the subject line. This was it... with trembling hands, I clicked on the pictures.
I had to do a double-take. This wasn't the same little girl we had seen in the referral picture. She was more grown up. She had changed a lot in the years between the referral picture and the update. Her smile seemed more reserved, having lost much of the youthfulness from the first picture we had seen, though she was still beautiful.
In my mind, this was the moment. Up until now, I hadn't realized that part of my emotional reservation came from wondering if what had drawn Dennis to her was the recognition of Lauren. And she was her own person now- independent of any resemblance of Lauren. It became a stark reality that we would not be adopting the little girl, but a young woman quickly approaching notoriously difficult years... and completely unnavigated years at that. Would this change his mind? Would this be the moment when he would say it had all been a terrible mistake?
I leaned over and asked him if he would like to see an updated picture of our little girl. I watched him intently as he quietly studied the picture for a moment. And then with the tenderness of a father seeing his newborn baby for the first time, a smile came over his face.
"She's beautiful, isn't she?"
And that's when I finally let it sink in that this was really happening. With thousands of miles between us and with her having no awareness that we even existed, at that moment, for me she became ours and we became hers.