How our family came to be is quite a tale, indeed.  Our first son, Joshua, arrived during the summer after I finished my BS degree and just weeks before I began graduate school.  Zoe came along two years later, just as I was finishing grad school.  A couple of years later, we had both graduated with our masters and were finally working in our "real" jobs, and were living in our first home.  Even though money was tight, we decided that we'd really like to have just one more child, so we decided to go for child number three.  Eight months later, much to our surprise, numbers three AND four were born.  We bought a minivan and figured we were beyond done with our family!

A few years later, after a move to our current town, we started to get a little itch.  It felt like someone was missing, but I wasn't sure I could stand another pregnancy.  I'd had cholestasis of pregnancy all three times, and I wasn't looking forward to months of bedrest and maddening itching yet again.  Still, we met with the local OBGYN and discussed the possibility, and decided to consider it.  We couldn't shake the nagging feeling that there was another child for us, but pursuing a pregnancy, surprisingly, did not feel like the right thing to do.  This answer to our prayers was mystifying until one day the answer practically fell in our laps!

I had been selling some of Zoe's outgrown baby clothes on eBay, and one day a woman who'd bought several things from me wrote an email to me saying that she was taking the clothes to China with her to pick up her new baby girl.  Reading those words was like a jolt of a thousand volts.  I KNEW that's what we should be doing.  Despite a brief bout of Reluctant Husband Syndrome, we signed with an agency and had our first homestudy visit a mere two weeks later.  

About 14 months after our dossier went to China, we received a referral for our six-month-old baby girl, Maizie, a.k.a "She Who Started it All."  Two weeks before Christmas, she was in our arms and everything was perfect.  

Shortly after the dust settled, we began to think it was unfair to Maizie for her to be the only adopted child in the family, and we decided to adopt again - one last time.  Just as we were preparing our dossier, however, the China Center for Adoption Affairs overhauled their policies and started to stick to the rules already on the books - one of which that stipulated that no more than 4 children could live in the home at the time of the adoption.  Prior to this, they had granted family size waivers fairly liberally, but now we were terrified that we would be denied our hearts' desires.  We went ahead and submitted our dossier and waited.  And waited.  And waited.  When others in our group starting getting referrals, we got asked for more financial information.  The next month there was nothing, and we continued to wait.  Then one day, our agency forwarded us some information about their new list of waiting children.  On that list were two little ones with heart problems, and we felt very strongly that one of them was ours, and we received their files the Friday before Memorial Day.    Our agency told us we needed to give them an answer by the following Tuesday, so we prayed and prayed like crazy.  Curtis and I separately received an answer about the same little girl and felt peace about switching gears.  We sent in our Letter of Intent and the waiting began anew.  Finally, about 6 months later, we got our answer:  no.  The CCAA wasn't making exceptions for family size even for waiting children.  We were devastated.  Fortunately, our agency went to bat for us (at great risk to themselves) and pleaded with them to reconsider.  Again the answer came:  no.  We didn't know how we could bear to go on.  We'd been waiting for "a" child for nearly two years now, and for this particular child for more than 6 months.  In that time we'd received updates and pictures and even video of her taking her first steps.  She was our daughter, and we couldn't just walk away.  

As a last ditch effort, we asked our agency if we could get some governmental bigwigs to go to bat for us, and they felt that was a respectful way to try one last time.  With their help, we got some impressive names behind us and tried one last time.  About a month later, as I was feeding Maizie breakfast, the call came.  China said yes.  I was completely overcome with emotion and sank to the kitchen floor half-laughing and half-crying.  Poor Maizie didn't know what to think!  Two months later, we were standing in the Shanghai Children's Welfare Institute receiving our adorable (but terrified!) Sofie.  She was 21 months old.

After we'd been home for a couple of years with Sofie, I saw a message one day on a message board about a sibling group of three Haitian siblings who needed a family.  I knew that we had too many children to adopt from Haiti (or so I thought!), but I emailed the adoption agency about the kids thinking that I could advocate for them and spread the word.  This email changed our lives, because we learned that the Haitian adoption officials only considered the number of biological children (strange, but it worked in our favor).  And even though these three particular children turned out not to be ours, they opened the door for Loundia, Jackson, and Cora to join us.  We think of our Haitian adoption as something of a "bait-and-switch" scenario because when we found "our daughter" among a big file full of waiting children, we learned a short time later that she came with siblings!  :o)  She had a newborn baby brother and a three-year-old sister!  Of course, we were given the option whether to continue or not, but we knew she was ours, so they had to be too.  Unfortunately, we ended up not being allowed to adopt the middle sibling because her birthfather could not be found, but our agency was quick to send us other children's files, and before we knew it, we'd found our Cora.  Cora was a sweet baby girl with albinism, blue eyes, and bright orange hair!  She stood out from the crowd in Haiti, to be sure, and sadly, many people were afraid of her.  She would have had a very difficult life in Haiti due to superstition and stereotyping about people with albinism, so we were all the more grateful to welcome her into our family.  Adopting three children at once is not for the faint of heart, but we lived through it and emerged all the better for it.

So if you're keeping count, we're up to nine kids now, and nine was a lot!  I'm not really sure how it happened, but at some point along the way, we decided that we wanted to adopt just one more time, and this time, from Ethiopia.  It may sound crazy to others, but God hadn't steered us wrong up to this point, and we trusted in Him once again to direct our paths and help us find our child.  But "child" quickly became "children," because we didn't want a single Ethiopian child to be the only child in the family that didn't share a heritage and ethnicity with a sibling.  We decided on a sibling group of two - a baby and another child up to age 5.  We sent in our dossier and waited, just as we had with previous adoptions....

Then, one day, a crazy thing happened.  A friend emailed me to tell me about a little girl from China who'd been adopted by an American couple who now needed a new family because her parents were disrupting the adoption.  I found out that she was deaf, and because I'm a speech pathologist and Curtis is an audiologist, we thought we might be able to contact some people in our circle of friends and help her find a family.  I called the placing agency to get some more information and was shocked to discover that she lived just a few hours from us in the same state!  After that, the plan morphed into us providing respite care for the little girl while a new family was identified.  It was summer and we didn't have much to do.  Why not?  So we drove to her family's home and picked her up and all was well until about an hour into our trip home.  Curtis and I knew it, and our kids knew it.  This kid wasn't going anywhere.  She was ours.  

We expected we'd have to put our Ethiopian adoption on hold, or cut back to a single child or something, and as hard as that thought was, we hadn't yet been matched and it wouldn't be the end of the world.  To our amazement, both the homestudy agency and our placing agency felt that since it would be a good 9 months or more before our Ethiopian kids came home, we could continue with our current adoption plans.  So our new little Lily settled in, and despite her rough start in the United States, she did amazingly well.  In fact, her adoption was by far one of the easiest.  To this day, she is one of the most securely attached kids in our family.  She is a wonder.  

Not too long after that, we began to rethink the age range of children we'd expressed interest in for our Ethiopia adoption.  Lily was 6, and another 5-year-old added to the mix might be tricky.  On a whim, I requested a DVD of short video clips of waiting children from our agency, and we began to pray about whether to add an older child to our family, in addition to the baby we had requested.  We felt good about it, even though we'd heard some horror stories, and it felt like the right situation for our family.  

The day the DVD arrived, I popped it into the player and sat down to watch.  There were probably close to 200 children on that disc - some single, some in sibling groups, some older, some with HIV or other special needs.  They were all adorable and tugged at my heartstrings.  I could see many of them in our family.  But then, toward the end of the DVD was the girl who brought tears to my eyes.  Our Etaferahu.  She was reported to be around age 11, she loved math and soccer, and wanted to be a doctor when she grew up.  When I saw her, I KNEW.  I cried to myself, cried to my mom, cried on my best friend's couch, and finally got around to crying in my husband's office.  She was ours.  When my husband watched the entire DVD later that night, he said, "She's the only one out of all those kids."  He knew it, too.  

Shortly thereafter, we were officially matched with Etaferahu "Teffy" and a 15 month old baby boy - our Beck.  We didn't know it then, but Teffy and Beck had been inseparable, and Teffy confided in us later about how she used to fantasize about being adopted together, so she would imagine that someone would try to take just one of them and she'd have to convince them that they were a pair.  It was truly miraculous and another testament to us that God is truly in control of all of this.  

Teffy and Beck's arrival was nearly 4 years ago, and since beginning the process to adopt them, we knew that they would be our last.  We haven't felt one nudge or twinge pushing us toward adoption again, and in fact, we've turned away from opportunities that have presented themselves.  I looked a pictures of waiting children nearly every day and felt love and concern for them, but not a desire to bring them home.  We had resolved that the next new kids in our lives would be grandchildren.  Neither of us had any interest in every adopting again.  The thought of dossier preparation, the waiting, the adjustment period after adoption - all of that - made me feel almost queasy.  I had started to wonder how we were able to go through all of that so many times.  Only by the grace of God, I suppose!

But that's what makes what happened next so remarkable.  :o)  One day, I was perusing Facebook as I often do, and I found myself staring open-mouthed at a beautiful little girl with Down syndrome.  The information with her picture said that she was in "Asia," but that was all.  The second I saw her, it was like a locked door to my heart swung open, and in that instant I was ready to endure it all over again.  I texted my husband and work and sent him a picture.  He, of course, thought I was nuts.  Meanwhile, I hunted down the woman who originally posted the information and got the agency's email and phone number.  By the next morning, I had her file, and a very bewildered husband.  We spent the next week analyzing our feelings, our resources, our home, our children, and weighing whether this could work.  I guess I should say HE did those things, because I knew without a doubt she was our daughter.  We consulted with doctors, researched like crazy, and talked to friends who have kids with Down syndrome or are adopting them.  We stalked the Reece's Rainbow website and began to see that we could really do this.  The morning of our genetics consultation, we called our agency to let them know we were ready to bring our little Song Guo home.

I don't normally put much stock in these types of stories, but earlier in the day that we found Song Guo, I'd been washing some heads of lettuce in the sink.  I noticed a ladybug clinging to one of the leaves, and figured I had drowned it.  I put it on my finger and in a few moments, it started crawling around.  I thought how cool it was that I was holding a ladybug in the middle of our snowy winter.  Maybe it meant nothing, but I can believe that God could use this to get my attention, and to get me ready for what would happen later in the day.  Who knows?  What's even more amazing to me is that from the time I was 14, I always expected that I would have a child with Down syndrome.  I don't know why I felt this, but I did, and over the years I've half-expected to give birth to or adopt a child with Down syndrome.  I was talking to a friend the other day about this, and she had a similar experience.  She said that when the adoptions were winding down and it still hadn't happened, that she felt maybe she'd misunderstood or it wasn't something set in stone.  It was interesting to me because that's exactly how I'd felt.  We'd briefly considered other Down syndrome adoption opportunities in the past, but none of those kids were ours.  I was honestly surprised when we were officially "done" and it hadn't happened.  

I didn't go looking for Song Guo; she found us.  I truly believe she really is the last, and once our sweet daughter is home, our family will be complete.  After that, bring on the grandchildren!  (But not TOO soon!)  ;o)