Until One Is Committed

“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favour all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way. I have learned a deep respect for one of Goethe’s couplets:
Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it.
Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it!”

William Hutchinson Murray

The best description I ever heard of the China adoption process was that putting the dossier together was like doing your taxes over and over and over and over and over and over . . . again and again and again and again. A slew of documents needed to be assembled upfront: a homestudy, birth certificates, marriage certificate, medical reports, police reports, financial statement, adoption statements, immigration forms, etc. – there were nearly 20 documents required in all. Each one of them had to be notarized in the state where they originated, then each notarized document went to the Secretary of State of that state for the notary to be certified. After that, the entire stack, by now nearly three inches high, was sent by courier to the U.S. State Department for certification, and then to the Chinese Embassy for each document’s final certification and approval. Four copies then had to be made of every page of the entire dossier and only then could it finally be sent to China and put in line for us to be matched with a child.

The process took several months to complete, and along the way there was always the possibility for China to tweak or change their requirements. For example, we were almost done with the dossier for Meiling’s adoption when China suddenly announced that physicals could no longer be more than six months old, and ours were seven months old at that point. Panic! But, our doctor squeezed us in, and every other part of the certification process worked flawlessly (for a change) and in just a few short weeks the dossier was finally complete and off to China in late May of 1996. Matches and referrals were taking only three or so months back then, so our hopes were high that by the time we returned home in August from taking our son to college we would have news of a new daughter.

However, when we returned home and called our agency the news was not good; in fact, it was very bad. China had shut down adoptions for families that already had children, which of course included us. Our agency was moving families into other adoption programs, but China had been the only program that worked for us because of our ages (we were each over 40 years old). What had happened, we later learned, was a power struggle over the international adoption program had broken out between two different political bureaus in China, and adoptions had ground to a halt while they fought it out and reorganized. (We later learned our agency was convinced at the time that the entire program was going to collapse.)

All of our hopes and love, and quite a bit of money, had gone into the adoption process for more than a year, including all of Brett’s and my work assembling our dossier. I was in graduate school at the time, and my work began to suffer because I could barely concentrate. Brett unhappily slogged off to work each day as well. Our son was at college in another state, so it was just the two of us at home each evening, and we were glum, depressed and unsure of what to do or how to proceed.

On one particularly bad day one of my professors emailed me the quote above, and told me to “hang in there.” I shared it with Brett that evening, and we talked about how deeply committed we still were to adopting from China, and had been from the start. All sorts of unexpected and serendipitous events had happened and helped us along the way to make our adoption dream so far a reality, and we decided that rather than pull out we would stay with it to the end and see what happened, no matter the outcome. We both felt in our hearts that our daughter was waiting for us there.

The William Murray quote was a turning point for us. And, it has proven prescient ever since. When we have committed to something, whether it was adding an additional child to our family again through adoption, or getting ourselves out of debt, or moving to Hawai’i, or planning a trip – when we have committed ourselves, as the quote says, Providence has always moved too. Things we couldn’t have imagined happened to help make our plans a reality, and we were given the drive, vision and persistence to see our dreams come true and our goals reached.

Commitment has been the step where we’ve gone from “do you think?” or “should we?” to “let’s do this” and then started figuring out how to accomplish it. The path to success has not always been straight or smooth or easy, but time and experience has shown that the unexpected does and will occur along the way to help, especially when we need it most. As each journey continues we begin to see things in different ways and act on them accordingly, with our commitment to finishing growing stronger the further along we get.

As the new year began in 1997 we were still waiting, but Brett and I had reached the depths of despair. There had been no positive word from our agency for weeks, and we felt like we were hanging on to hope by our fingernails. We had enjoyed having our son home for Christmas, but he returned to school on January 9. So, when the phone rang on the morning of January 10 I assumed it was him asking about something he had forgotten or wanted us to send. I had been lying on our sofa, crying and asking God for some kind of a sign, that if there was to be no adoption to let us know somehow and we would let it go, but if we were to continue to hope then we would continue to hang on. When I answered the phone though it was not our son but our social worker: “Laura, there’s a baby girl waiting for you in China.” On March 12, 1997, in the hallway of a hotel in China, we met our little Meiling for the first time and she was ours.

This was the only picture we received of Meiling before we met her.

Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it!

16 thoughts on “Until One Is Committed

    • Laura says:

      It was a win-win for all of us. We had always wanted more children but I couldn’t have more, and the girls needed a family. We can’t imagine our lives now without each of them, although we’ve had a few “what were we thinking?” moments along the way. The process is very different now, and many children are adopted now in China, by Chinese families, which is a very good thing. Most Chinese adoptions to the U.S. now are special needs.

      The trip is coming along – it seems a ways off but we know from experience the time will arrive before we know it. Lots of little things happening now, but more major developments will happen quickly once we know where our youngest will be attending school and when she needs to be there. It’s really a wonderful thing to have to look forward to, although I’m dreading the day we say good-bye to Kaua’i.

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  1. Laurel says:

    Love this post. So interesting, hopeful and inspiring. And the quote. What a great story. After reading your blog for a while, you HAVE done some amazing things by perseverance.

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    • Laura says:

      I know many people thought back in the day that all you needed to do was go in an ask for a baby and it happened, and it was easy. No! The Reorganization of 1996 was a particularly trying time for so many families – we learned later that we were in the first group of families that already had children to receive referrals again and go to China.

      They said at the time that once we had our daughter we would forget the wait and all the heartache (sort of like labor – if women didn’t forget they’d never have another), and it was true. Both Brett and I learned an awful lot about waiting, and patience, and perseverance during all three of the waits. We were lucky though – our waits were less than a year, but by the time YaYu came home, waiting for a referral took anywhere from three to five years!

      Being committed, and willing to go through the wait was the key. It was not easy though.

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    • Laura says:

      Thanks, Chris. Getting “the call” that day was one of the most amazing days of my life – it truly was unexpected. That evening, when Brett got home from work, all we could do was sit and look at a catalog of baby items. We were in complete shock, and really couldn’t believe we had finally been matched. The thing we’ve realized since is that if we had been matched earlier, Meiling wouldn’t have been our daughter, and we can’t imagine that at all.

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  2. Tamara / My Retirement Project says:

    Thank you for sharing your story, Laura. I would guess your goal was to give others hope and strength, not toot your own horn, but I still feel moved to say that you and Brett are clearly extraordinary people. Thank you for giving your love to your son, then three beautiful little girls.

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    • Laura says:

      So often we’ve been told, “lucky girls,” but we’ve always felt we were the lucky ones, to have been able to parent these three amazing girls. Family and friends thought we were absolutely nuts each time we revealed we were adopting (again), but we knew it was the right thing for us. We certainly have never felt extraordinary, and there have been a few moments when we’ve asked ourselves, “what ever made us think we wanted more children?” but now as the girls are setting off on their own it’s wonderful to think about all the joy they have brought us, and what they are going to bring to the world. Our son too – he was an easy child to raise, and has been a wonderful son and brother, as well as made a wonderful life for himself and his own family. No one could ask for more – I live a blessed life.

      It took me a long time to realize that real commitment is the keyThe message I hope to convey with this post is that if you can dream it, and then commit to it, it will happen. It might not be easy or quick, and you may have doubts along the way, but good things will happen too, and help make your dream a reality.

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  3. Teddie says:

    Wonderful post. I hope you will tell us the “rest of the story.” Very interesting and you and Brett are blessed to have such a lovely family ~ and of course your children are blessed to have you!

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    • Laura says:

      I’m a little unsure about what the “rest of the story.” Maybe how we decided to go ahead with a second, and eventually a third adoption? WenYu was adopted because we wanted Meiling to have a sister, but when we initially looked into it there was no way we could financially manage. A couple of months later though we went through our finances again and realized if we were careful we could afford it and we got the ball rolling again. We weren’t supposed to get a referral until February 1999 at the earliest – I got “the call” on December 8, 1998 that we had been matched! We had asked for toddler though, and WenYu was an infant, so our social worked told us we could turn it down. Brett and I decided that there was a reason we had been matched with this baby so we accepted and it was the best decision ever. She has been the easiest child, always – this was the child I could have sent to have tea with the Queen when she was three, and not worried about her manners or ability to converse politely.

      We decided we were done though after WenYu came home. But, for our 25th wedding anniversary Brett and I went to San Francisco along with Meiling and WenYu. We celebrated at Ghiradelli’s one evening with banana splits, and Brett and I were teasing the girls that we were going to adopt again. We looked at each other though and realized we weren’t joking – we really did want to adopt once more. Slightly less than a year later the four of us were in China again to meet YaYu, who had just turned five!

      All three girls are from the same province in China, all three were adopted in March, and they are spaced exactly two years apart in age (their birthdays all fall within a 33 day period). Providence really did have a hand in all of this for something like this to occur in what is otherwise a completely random process.

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      • Laura says:

        Thanks, Teddie. Sometimes I look back and wonder how we got through those waiting periods – they were worse than pregnancy. We had faith though that there was a child waiting for us at the end of the journey.

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  4. Janette says:

    Wonderful story of commitment. Thank you for letting us share. Such a powerful quote. “Boldness has genius, power and magic in it!” So very true.

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    • Laura says:

      It is true, isn’t it? I wish I had known of this quote when I was younger – I think I could have saved myself a lot of heartache.

      I am very aware these days of when we move from just thinking about something to committing ourselves – it’s like a switch gets flipped with both of us. And yes, Providence moves too. We’re in the “thinking about it” phase right now of what we’re going to do once our Big Adventure is over, but I know eventually something will click for both of us and we’ll make it happen.

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    • Laura says:

      Thank you! Raising kids isn’t always easy, and our kids are far from perfect, but they have all been a good fit for us. We are blessed to have each other.

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