After the devastating loss of one child, we continued the search for our daughter.
Grieving the loss of a child who was never really ours is a challenging place. We weren’t once pregnant and then not; we’d never held that little one and then had her taken away. It was a very private loss between us and God that we struggled to understand.
We didn’t have time to grieve. In the adoption process, once you start you also start paying. Adoption documents are time sensitive and expensive, if they expire during the course of the adoption they must be renewed. For some families this cycle can last for years. We had already invested a lot of money, and if we didn’t keep moving forward, we’d be paying more. That’s why we needed to pull ourselves out of grief in order to “pick” a child from the endless waitlist. For me, in that moment, the ordeal felt like more than I could handle.
Finding a Way to Move Forward
As we trudged along in what seemed like a dark cloud of sadness, we began to hear other stories like ours. We met expat families who’d been fostering for a while with every intention to adopt until suddenly their child was matched with another family somewhere else in the world. We found there were others who could understand our type of grief; we found encouragement to finish the process we started.
With new found courage, we set ourselves again to scrolling our agency’s waitlist. Our new dilemma was that we felt strongly called to adopt a Chinese child with HIV, but didn’t know how that could happen. At this time we were aware of five HIV-related adoptions from China. One was Dr. Julie’s daughter, two were children from Elim Kids, and the others we’d heard about through rumor. It wasn’t clear how God would fulfill this call.
Can We Stay Faithful to Our Call to Adopt a Child with HIV?
At this point we knew China’s orphanages were home to children with HIV. We’d seen the way Elim staff traveled across China to serve its orphanages. However, prior to 2011, these children were not adoptable, and furthermore only America allowed HIV adoptions from other countries. Needless to say, we didn’t expect to find a child with HIV on a waitlist for various reasons.
One reason was that so few were adoptable because they had lived without treatment for their illness, or they didn’t survive. A second reason was that despite China allowing a few HIV-related adoptions, they still remained reluctant to admit to the outside world that there were children living with HIV in China’s orphanages. It is too great a stigma.
Our Diamond in the Rough
As we looked at the waitlist and scrolled among the most minuscule of probabilities, we found our precious hidden gem. The agency described her special need as AIDS. This mislabeling opened our eyes to the lack of education still surrounding HIV/AIDS, and if we continued down this path, we’d not only be adopting, but becoming life-long educators on this virus.
So What Are HIV and AIDS?
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a virus that deteriorates one’s immune system by attacking the body’s white blood cells. Once one has the virus, that person has it for life. If the HIV virus remains untreated and escalates to a stage 3 HIV (the final stage of HIV), then it is labeled Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS), which is a condition. This means one’s immune system can no longer function normally making one susceptible to various illnesses in which one’s body cannot fight and ultimately leads to death.
This one and only little girl on the waitlist did not have AIDS, but had survived institutional life without treatment for HIV for three and a half years—a miracle in and of itself. The agency soon changed their label to HIV, and after prayer we asked the agency if we could be matched with this diamond in the rough. Before we dotted our i’s and crossed our t’s, we praised God for this one gem hidden in what seemed like a sea of improbability. Within a month we were matched. It would be nine months more until we would see her face-to-face.
HIV/AIDS in China
Since we started our adoption journey, the number of families who have decided to adopt Chinese children with HIV has increased. America continues to be the only country open to HIV-related adoptions from various countries.
China’s orphanages and government officials seem willing to educate themselves on the realities of HIV in order to break old stigmas. Even Premier Xi Jinping has been seen on TVs around China shaking hands with HIV patients who were affected by the blood transfusion mishap in some of China’s rural cities in the 90s.
Though there is progress toward breaking stigmas about the virus in China’s larger populaces, the virus continues to spread as if under a veil of secrecy in the dark recesses of the cities and among poor rural villages. This veil is hiding a growing population of HIV-infected persons.
Coming next: “Living with HIV in China.” How our journey toward treatment and care for our daughter took us under China’s HIV veil.
Beth Forshee studied journalism and public relations at Baylor University in Waco, TX and has been serving in various aspects of ministry to China for over 13 years. Her love for China’s culture and people started on her first short-term trip in 2001. Later Beth and her family served in …View Full Bio
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