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Not just chance, not just choice, but fully cherished

My story is a family coming together through international adoption.
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Celebrating World Adoption Day

The story of my family is familiar to some of you. The context might be remembered by others, even if you don't know our story specifically.

It began 8,435 kilometers away, yet not really. The origin was right here, in the desire of my husband and I to have a family. Unknown by us, and yet running parallel to our discussion, were factors leading up to a political uprising in the country of Romania. The two would soon intersect.

What did I know of Romania? Not much. An eastern bloc country. Stellar performances from athletes at the Olympics. But then a dramatic revolution took center stage—and grabbed our attention.

For seven days before Christmas in 1989 protestors took to the streets to express outrage over the policies of dictator Nicolai Caecescu. Massive demonstrations took place in Bucharest, including in front of his palace, where white crosses would soon mark the places 1,104 people died in the uprising. As the international media shone a spotlight on the country the picture that emerged was desperate. Among the many stories was seeing that the country's orphanages were overrun with children whose families had no option but to place them in the care of the state.

Six years later, and then two years after that, two children were added to the numbers; one in Hunedoara and one in Rimnicu Vilcea. At the same time, my husband and I were learning as much as we could about intercountry adoption.

Many countries have international adoption programs. Each has its own requirements be it age limits for prospective parents, annual income requirements and even net worth. We also had to have medical screenings, employment and personal references, and answer pages of questions, followed up by interviews with a social worker.

Adopting a child can be a long and complicated process. Constantly trying to prove I was worthy of being a parent frustrated me at the time, but with the perspective of a rear view mirror I can understand. These are children we are talking about. Precious human beings. Their futures deserve careful consideration.

We completed the process and chose to proceed in the country we had previously known little about, Romania. In time, we were told of two little girls who would join our family, one in November and one the following April.

I have tried, many different times, to put into words what meeting them for the first time meant to me. I've given speeches about it, I've written songs about it, and yet all of those words fail to capture the exhilaration, awe, and even panic in those moments. Precious children entrusted to our care. Their lives, and ours, would be forever changed. With a stroke of a pen they became our daughters and we became a family.

There are markers on our journey that we celebrate each year; some together, some in the quietness of our hearts. In addition to their birthdays, we join other adoptive families in celebrating 'Gotcha Day' marking the date when a child joined our family. The term is criticized in some circles but our family chooses to celebrate it because we want to mark two of the most amazing points in our lives--the days these girls became our daughters.

World Adoption Day takes place in November and is intended to give voice to all different kinds of adoption stories. Of course each one is different. Some have wonderful outcomes. Others are incredibly difficult—whether the child is from down the block or around the world. We are merely one story amongst many. It hasn't always been easy but then again, raise your hand if your family has never experienced some challenges along the way.

Globally there are more than 150 million orphans, most of those in developing countries. AIDS, natural disasters, famine and war have orphaned these precious children and it's way too much for me to take in. As a new mom I walked through my child's orphanage when we met our youngest daughter. There were so many children there, yet that was just one orphanage. In one town. In one country. There are so many children who need something so basic—something we too easily take for granted. A family.

Today, take an extra moment and give thought to those you consider your family—whether it's the one you were born into or one you joined along the journey. No matter how you came together it is a chapter in your autobiography. The path to this point doesn't define you, but it can be a remarkable component in the page-turner of a story we call…family. That's my outlook.



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