“Do you want this child?” is the question that has been haunting me ever since I first heard it. It is a heavy-loaded question with life changing implications for all involved. It is one of the most coveted questions adoptive parents wait to hear as they prepare themselves for the day when the phone rings with a referral. Nothing stops short of wonder, excitement, fear, trembling, heart pounding, blood pressure rising because it is well known that this question precedes a file, a name, a child. Most likely, the much awaited child.
We received ours on a gorgeous sunny Tuesday afternoon as the world carried on with its casual affairs. “This sweet 20 month old orphan boy is missing some fingers and compensates in having an extra toe. Do you think you’d want him?” the voice asked calmly on the other line. The time stood still.
I was overwhelmed. Overwhelmed with built up emotions that during this ordinary day, the Lord was revealing to us, through a phone call, the much awaited and prayed for son. It felt mostly like the day a pregnant mother knows she is about to have her baby. Amazing things of cosmic proportions are happening inside of her and not even the noisy world chatter can distract her from this quiet and certain feeling of assurance: we are having a boy!
Oh, and how we wanted you, son! You were scared when we first met you. Your eyes were scanning the surroundings in utter silence while your face was motionless. You held close to your face the panda bear we brought you. You did not say much. You didn’t even have to because we understood how terrifying everything must have been to you. Here we are—faces you’ve never seen, a language you’ve never heard, and customs you’ve never encountered.
You didn’t even cry…though at times I wish you did. You were silent. Too silent. We took you away from the only home you knew—your orphanage—and from the only family you had—the orphanage staff and other orphan children. We understood your utter silence and fear. We saw courage and bravery on your face, in your little malleable body, in your eyes. You were trying so hard to be brave and to make sense of what was happening to you.
You were beautiful. I’d allow my eyes to get acquainted to your features, smelling your skin as I’d hold you tight, like a mother would her newborn baby. The Beijing streets were vibrating with Asian noise, spicy smells, and cars honking everywhere. But the hotel room was ours alone. The red window curtains kept the chaotic Asian world where it belonged—outside. We marked it with our homeland snacks, luggage, items, toys. We made it our sanctuary. Our bonding space. The toy cars we brought peaked your interest. You are a boy, after all. You analyzed us just as much as we did you. We caught glimpses of your beautiful smile as we learned that you are ticklish on your back.
Those beautiful eyes of yours seemed to have sparkled in approval as you looked delighted in being held. I couldn’t get my eyes off of your little body as I was storing in my mommy-mental-map you little body’s shapes and birth marks, strengths and imperfections. Your perfectly round head and coarse hair, your small ears, your beautiful black eyes, the beaming smile, the baby teeth, the legs, the back, your hands…those tiny hands with missing fingers, the extra toe…they all look perfect in our eyes! You are indeed a wonderfully made small bundle of a toddler. How could we not want you?!
You’ve been home 6 months now. Even as the weeks have passed, you’ve become braver and more joyful as you’re learning your place in our home. This huge transition has not deterred you from growing into a little Levi ever so gentle, kind, and compassionate. Your tender character and sweet personality are answers to many of your family’s prayers, at home, and in church.
Music makes you dance and cars make you talkative. Your sisters make you laugh unless they kiss you too much, in which case you run away from them. You adore fruits and cookies, hold tight to your bear, grab your favorite books at night, and would spend the whole night in the bath tub, playing with bubbles. You get worried if the house is too quiet, and certainly can’t stand the sweet American cake. You’ve shown complete disinterest for water sprinklers, grass, your sisters’ princess pretend games and being their saving prince. You were unsure about American milk and now you can’t get enough of it. You are a fast learner and we realized that when you quickly figured out that the pantry hides the wondrous world of snacks and cookies: you’d never miss the chance to beg for more every time you remember. You cringed when you had your first ice-cream but now you brazenly ask Siri for more when you secretly sneak away with my phone. You’ve been Martin-ized well, son.
I wonder if you will find yourself one day asking the same question I’ve been wrestling with myself. Perhaps the way you were abandoned, or the time you spent in the orphanage will cause you to question if you were truly wanted. There are many battles you will learn to fight as you grow older and as the world opens up to you. Some may not get past your skin color and your physical handicap.
But your father and I are praying you will never grow to doubt that we truly wanted you. Your origin did not scare us, your identity never intimidated us, your physical needs couldn’t deter us. We wanted you all the way.
Son, we wanted you then and we want you now. Our commitment to you is just as secure as our faith in Christ. We are here to stay. You belong with us. You are ours. We are family!