How We Are

After our reception, Chris and I ran out of the church, he in his tux and I in a short red dress with red heels, through an archway of flying birdseed, into my dad’s car. My brother drove us away from the waving friends and family and ignored us as Chris and I turned to one another. I wish the story went that we were so lovey-dovey and sweet with each other that my brother had to  stop the car and throw up (or at least feign to). Instead, my brother drove in silence as Chris grabbed my hand. We looked at one another until one of us said, “We just got married.” The weight of what we did secured us into the blue leather seats better than either seat belt we wore.


When I was pregnant, we didn’t go to any of our ultrasound appointments excited. On the second and third time around, we were not the parents bringing Big Sister or Big Brother into the appointment to find out what “We” were having. We didn’t go fearful. We just went with caution.


This is how we are. Who we are. Life hasn’t been all roses for us and although we wish we could simply answer “Yes! We’re excited!” in all exciting situations, we typically run with a more measured, “Yes, we’re excited, but there’s more to it…”




We turned in our dossier (French word meaning collection of documents on a particular person, event, or subject) right as summer started. The kids came with me on their first day of summer break to the lobby of the adoption agency. I wore my green embroidered dress, the one reminding me of my late great aunts in Phoenix, and waited to turn in papers which would officially start our waiting period for our fourth child.



They call it a Paper Pregnancy. You prepare paperwork for 6-9 months, a year sometimes, and then you wait. Six, nine months, two years, six years. It all depends on your country’s program and the hand of God.


Chris and I decidedly purposed this summer and this year to pour into our family, knowing life would be changing for all of us once the adoption went through. Once our paperwork was accepted in China, we expected the wait for a match would be 6-12 months. Our minds held off any possibility of even thinking about a referral (the call from the adoption agency that says “We have a child for you”) until Christmas—at the earliest.


School started. I signed up to volunteer in both my kids’ classrooms, to assist with the quarterly arts enrichment program, and gave my name to help with room parent duties. I was so going to be in and present and involved this year.  


In the middle of the afternoon on the first Friday of the first week of school, I stood in the kitchen with the lights off. The phone rang. It was a number I didn’t have programmed into my phone, yet it looked familiar. The thought passed through my head, Is this the Adoption Agency? I should answer it. Followed by, I need to make the pizza for tonight.




“Hi Sonya, it’s Amy. Do you have time to talk?” Amy (our family coordinator) said.


Our youngest was dutifully having rest time in his room, so I pulled out pizza dough from the fridge and said, “Yes,” instantly concerned I filled out some form wrong. It had only been two months since our dossier had been logged into China. She was probably just checking in.


“We have a possible referral match for you,” she said.


I put the dough down.




Two nights ago a social worker in Oklahoma called us for our pre-adoption counseling call. She went over our paperwork and our daughter’s information.


Our daughter will be close to three when we travel to China to get her. She’s been in foster care most of her life and is an active little girl. We still haven’t decided on a name.


“There are so many unknowns–will she sleep? Will she eat? Will she scream? How will she respond to being taken away from everything she’s ever known? You need to be prepared for anything.” The Social worker continued through different scenarios and child psychology.


Though in the long run, yes, we are doing the right thing for this child, there is no escaping that our little girl will deeply grieve her old life.




“So what’s happening? Where are you now? When will you travel? Are you so excited?”


These are the questions I’m getting most often the last few weeks, and unless you have more than a few seconds to talk, I try to keep my answers simple.


“We’re in another paperwork phase. We’re fundraising. We’re getting ready. Yes, we’re happy.”


If you want to sit down and talk, my answers get more elaborate.


  • We are now in the government side of the paperwork phase. We are waiting on immigration approval (allowing her to be a US citizen as our daughter, the moment we sign the adoption papers), approval from China and consulate appointments in China. Every step is labeled with a number and/or letter. I800. DS260. Article 5.  


  • We will get official travel approval (TA) at the end of the process. Then we book flights and apply for Visas and pack and panic. TA to travel could be as little as two weeks. They are telling us to plan for late November or early December to travel. (If you recall, summer was only 2 weeks ago, my kids started school about 2 days ago, Thanksgiving is in a second and Christmas is basically this weekend. It’s all going so fast. We might as well be going to China tomorrow.)


  • We are amazed and overwhelmed at the outpouring of support from friends, family, casual acquaintances, neighbors, church family, friends that are like family… whether it’s been words of encouragement, a monetary gift, a dedication to praying for us and our daughter, or simply asking and being engaged with us—we feel it.

          Since the call came 6-9 months sooner than we thought, we found ourselves at a point where we needed to raise over $20,000 in 8-10 weeks (I know that number seems insane. I promise to post about adoption costs another time.) In about a month, what many people take a year to raise, you all have given over $16,000. We are overwhelmed. Humbled. Grateful beyond words. We have a little ways to go, but you’re bringing this little girl home. Forever changing her life and ours. And we pray your life is changed too. Because this is a miracle.


  • Yes, there is a part of us that is excited, but truly—that part seems insignificant. This is the part no one likes to talk about with adoption. No on wants to lead with, “There probably will be some severely bumpy roads ahead.” So, our hearts are cautious. We are preparing for it to be hard. For our sake, but also for hers.

I know a thing or two about grief. And loss. And trauma. I own no rose colored glasses. I do not anticipate this child thanking us for adopting her. We will be strangers to her. Taking her away from her home. Her family. Her life. Her language. Her culture. To paint this differently is naive. I am scared about our transition time and my heart breaks because we will be breaking hers. My prayer is that her heart will repair through love and time and because of God’s grace. I hope I can write and say “she did great!” My prayer is that you will be patient with us during our months of transition, just in case I can’t.


So when you ask me how I am, and I start to cry, know there are words and emotions beyond what we have time to get into. And if, instead, I start chattering on about how confusing government forms are, please know I cried too many tears yesterday and am alright about everything today.


We cannot change it; there is a heaviness to some of the most joyful times of our lives.


This is simply how things are.



Sonya Spillmann


  1. I hear you Sonya! I went through grief as well as joy with our adoptions. I felt so much anguish for birth mom and family. There is no doubt about it– there is loss in the gain. But I love that our God who is sovereign, who could have just implanted a girl in your womb, didn’t, because it wouldn’t be ThIS girl, this girl WITH her losses and her griefs. And He has a purpose in our sorrows. And in the middle of the confusion, craziness, joy and grief, you can hold onto that.

  2. I will be praying for your family, Sonya! Along with your joy, there will definitely be moments where you wonder if you did the right thing. It all sounds so wonderful–giving a homeless child a happy home and future, but there are a lot of difficult days with this as well. May God bless you for your desire to be a parent to someone who has no parents! He will give you the strength you need to make this a success!

  3. I look forward to reading more of your journey. Thank you for sharing. God bless you as you begin to bring your new daughter home.

  4. This is a really good way to describe how you are feeling and also where you and your husband are coming from. I feel like I “get it” right away, from the way you two took in your wedding. What a gift to me and others that someone who is so good at writing is also going through this amazing though grief-filled experience–and can share it so well.

    I dare to hope that one day (maybe not too far away!) you will write about your trip to China, and then about how the transition goes. You will have both a unique position and a unique gift to do so.

  5. Reading and tears at 3:30 am (after a nightly Baby Jack feed). At one point I pictured your family years ahead. It was a beautiful picture. I will be praying for your little girl.

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