Hopefully you caught part I of Love is Blind, if not, you can read about the LaGorga family and their adoption story here. I’m happy to report that their sweet Lili is now home and learning all about life in a forever family. Part 2 of this story is all about the Carl family and their precious son. It’s been a joy to watch them adjust to life as a family of 4 with all the triumphs and heartbreak and stress that it brings. It’s hard. But all worth it things are hard. So without further introduction, it’s time to hear from Jenifer Carl as she shares just a bit of her big ol’ heart.
I’ve always known that I’ve wanted to adopt children. I can remember growing up in my small town in Iowa, and seeing other adoptive families at church. I felt drawn to them, and often watched in awe, wondering how their lives had intersected. Many years later I graduated college with degrees in Journalism and Women’s Studies. At this point I felt strongly that I was meant to be a mother, but didn’t feel strongly about the need to have biological children. Rather, I was more interested in thinking about how my journey to motherhood might be able to connect me with other women around the world. The desire to adopt was already strong.
When I met my husband several years later, I brought up adoption on our first date. It turns out he, too, had a heart for adoption. In fact, his older sister was adopted. And so, we started researching adoption agencies even before we got married. We just knew we wanted to start growing our family through adoption. At first, we planned on bringing home a “healthy infant.” However, we quickly realized that there are long lists of couples wanting and waiting to adopt healthy infants. The true need, we soon found, was for families open to considering older children and/or those with special needs. With that in mind, we switched gears to pursue a waiting child program in South Africa, which led us to our daughter who is now five (adopted at age 3 1/2).
While working on our paperwork for South Africa, we also found ourselves drawn to the China waiting child lists. Our previous agency sent out an advocacy email with the profile of a little boy with low vision who was living at Bethel Child. He had been paperwork ready for quite some time, but due to his gender, visual impairment, and age, was not being considered by many families. I can remember watching his video, and feeling my heart split in two. We had never considered parenting a child with a visual impairment. And yet, here was this little boy, happily pushing a stroller down the sidewalk in the video, while I watched with tears running down my cheeks. I showed my husband, who felt something tugging on his heartstring as well. We decided to sponsor the child, so that we could follow his story from a distance. In time, we learned more about Bethel China, and their mission to help children living with visual impairments in China to live life to the fullest. Although we didn’t talk openly about it at the time, we both started to wonder…”Could we ever do that?”
Soon we met other families who were parenting children with visual impairments. I started following blog posts and learning as much as I could. Lola’s story especially struck me. I remember seeing photos and reading about her initial transition into her family – all of the challenges, but also all of the little victories. One of my favorite things to watch were the videos of Lola with her siblings. I remember sitting Ryan down to show him two videos in particular. The first was a video of Lola running a race across a field with her siblings. We both watched, amazed at how fast and straight she was running. Yes she was blind, but there she was running happily with her brothers and sisters. The second video was of Lola learning how to ride a bike, with the help of her sister Charlotte, who was cheering her on proudly from the side. We both looked at each other with raised eyebrows after watching that video. Not only was Lola defying everyone’s expectations of what she would be able to do, but she was also teaching her siblings valuable lessons about the power of hard work, determination, and love. Lola showed us how beautiful and rewarding it could be to parent a child with visual impairments. Through Lola’s story, we eventually found our hearts pointing us towards our own blind son, Ted TongZhi.
The Carl’s have now been home for several months and I’ve watched them with knowing eyes. The first few months knock the wind out of you in some ways. Not because our children are blind, but because they lived a whole life before they knew us. They struggle with fears that we can never understand. But I watch with eyes that already know the progress that will be made, the trust that will come and the security that will result. I watch Ted with a forever family that will give him the resources he needs to live a full and abundant life. And I hope that more families, like the Carl’s, will say yes to these precious kids. Kids like Joshua, and kids waiting at Bethel, an incredible orphanage for blind children in China. If your heart is being pulled or moved, listen to that, and explore what role you might play in the lives of children across the globe.