On June 16, 2014, I celebrated Father’s Day by becoming a dad for the second time. We met our daughter Ashley for the first time at the Civil Affairs Office in Nanjing, China – the culmination of a two-year journey. But it was nearly eight years ago when my wife and I first took the first steps that would change our lives forever.
After years of trying to start a family and miscarriages that caused much heartache, we decided to start the process to adopt a child from China. Knowing that there are so many children in orphanages there, we felt it was the right decision for us. My wife had always wanted a little girl, so our initial request was that we would be matched with a one-year-old little girl. But after all the paperwork and years of waiting to no avail, we changed our request to a child of either gender with special needs. Amazingly, within 3 days, we were matched with Xiaoming (now Tyler), a 3 year-old boy who was born with club feet.
Tyler had been at the orphanage since he was several months old, and apparently his first venture out was when we first met him at the age of 3 and a half. It was almost as if he was seeing the world for the first time. Because of his energy, the newness of everything for him, being away from his familiar orphanage, and because we couldn’t communicate with him, the 2 weeks that we were living out of a hotel room with him to complete all the paperwork prior to bringing him back to the US were very challenging and difficult.
But as we look back at the nearly 4 years that he’s been home with us and the amazing progress he’s made physically and mentally, and to see him flourish into an outgoing, friendly, playful and inquisitive little boy, the initial difficulty seems trivial. But it was sad for us to think about all the children who would never find homes. Whenever I saw a homeless person with a physical deformity in China, it made me think about what Tyler’s life could have been like if he was still at his orphanage. So two years after Tyler came home with us, we started the adoption journey anew.
When we were matched with Ashley more than 6 months ago, a child nearly 3 years old with “developmental delays,” we were excited, nervous, and a bit apprehensive about what to expect. But just as we felt Tyler was a perfect match for us, we moved forward with faith that she too was meant to be a part of our family.
Having gone through a difficult process with Tyler, my wife and I thought that we’d be “old pros” at this. We were wrong. Because of her developmental delays, Ashley was more like a one-year old baby than a 3 year-old toddler. We thought having Tyler with us would help with her adjustment (and also allow him to experience this journey), but it was far worse than we had imagined because of her issues related to eating, sleeping, mental development, communication, and attachment.
But it’s now been just over two weeks since we’ve been home, and we’re already seeing that she’s making progress. We still have challenges, and we know there will still be difficulties ahead, but with each passing day, she’s bonding to us and adjusting better to her new life. As difficult as the process was, my wife and I have no doubt that she was meant to be our daughter, and we know that with lots of love and care, she too will flourish like Tyler did.
When we started the adoption process with Tyler, he was not yet born. The same is true with Ashley. Our process to parenthood hasn’t been easy. We also know the journey is a life-long one that has just begun. But when I get home from work and say “Daddy’s home!” and the kids come rushing to me with big smiles, I have no doubt that they were born into this world to be our kids. Our hope is that they will grow up to be good people who will someday help to care for other orphans who deserve a home.
Anthony (Tony) Hong is Group Director in charge of Worldwide Clinical Operations, Regulatory Affairs, Health Policy and Outcomes Research, Medical Affairs, and Biometrics for Biosense Webster. He lives in southern California with his wife of 16 years and their two children, Tyler and Ashley. He enjoys running, skiing, drawing/cartooning, and DIY projects. He has a passion for helping the homeless and orphans.