Our Trip to China


Have you ever walked along a path–carefully taking just the very next step?

Have you ever dreamed of something, planned for it and worked for it, but the results came so much faster than you ever anticipated?

Much of my life feels as if I’ve spent it waiting, but this, our adoption journey, flew by.

If you don’t know our story, adoption has been on our hearts for years, but it took time and trust to be able to say Yes to that first step. (For us, the first step was as simple as looking in each other’s eyes and non-commitingly agreeing: let’s look into it.) Months later, I finally started researching adoption agencies. About a month after that, we did a pre-application through America World Adoption.


In time, and even in looking at other agencies, all the requirements, all roads (and I mean ALL) led us to China. We formally began our adoption paperwork process in November of 2015 and turned in our dossier the end of June 2016. Our referral phone call was in the beginning of September and we traveled to China and met our new daughter, Vivienne, in December, 2016.

We’ve been home for two months.

And it’s hard to find the right words right now to describe how it’s been since we’ve returned. It’s an enormous adjustment — wonderful and overwhelming, exhausting and heart-warming — I’ve been telling people the only really accurate description for me is to say this time is very similar — more similar that I ever anticipated — to having our first child. All the joy and exhaustion, elation and questions. That time with so many mixed emotions and so many What-do-we-do’s? When all aspects of our lives needed to be relearned in this new dynamic.

I love when people reach out, so many people are invested in our story and want to know how it’s going — and I want to say GREAT! But I also want to be honest and say we’re still right in the thick of the beginning part of it.  We have great days and I start to plow forward with play dates and visitors — and then I have to scale back because we just aren’t ready. Our days are dedicated to attaching to our daughter. I don’t have a lot of space for much else.

We were told by some friends to think of our family’s age as the length of time we have had our daughter. So, for us right now, it’s like having a 9 week old. Except she is 3 — and 3 comes with all the unbelievably precious and cannot-even challenges classic to this age. But to give you a snapshot: Viv is energetic, outgoing, friendly, and loves to learn. She’s picked up so much English, she can (she doesn’t always) speak in full sentences. She loves her siblings and usually prefers me to Chris, now that we’re home (she preferred him while we were in China). Dancing might be her favorite activity, followed closely by jumping on the “trampo-po-line.”

In time I’ll tell a few of our “when we first got home” stories (which will be funny one day, right?) … but for now, I wanted to simply write about our trip and give you an as-brief-as-possible synopsis.


We left for China on December 7th 2016 and (with a 13 hour time change, which bent our kid’s minds) were gone for 15 days. Our adoption agency took care of almost everything — to the point where all I had to do was think about what to pack. They arranged all the in-country transportation, daily itinerary, guides, and in-country travel.


We arrived to Beijing, after a 14 hour flight — tired and happy to be on the ground.

Day 1 – Sightseeing:  The Great Wall (morning) and National Stadium (The Bird’s Nest or Olympic Park)


Day 2 – More sightseeing: Tiananmen Square and Forbidden City (morning ) and Summer Palace (afternoon)



Day 3: We still weren’t completely on China time, but the busy days in Beijing served to get us as adjusted as possible and ready to meet our children. We were with four other couples in Beijing, all through our adoption agency. One couple flew to a different province, and three of us continued on and were together for the entire trip.

We flew to Guiyang city in Guizhou province, where we would meet our new daughter.


Day 4 – Gotcha Day. Let me leave it at this: I have more emotions than words to describe this day. The foster parents of all the kids in our group did an amazing job talking about Mama and Baba (Daddy) and preparing the children as best they can. The initial transitions weren’t seamless, but they were less painful than I anticipated.


This is what we had ready back in our hotel room. And here is a picture of us leaving the adoption center after loads of paperwork and fingerprints that first day.

Day 5,6,7 – Appointments and sightseeing in Guiyang– filling time, as we all waited for paperwork to come through. Our guide took us to the market, shopping for essentials for the kids, and to *THE BEST* noodle and dumpling places in Guiyang.

Vivienne attached to Chris while we were in China and minus that first 24 hours, he held her most of the time we were in country.


Day 8 – Flight to Guangzhou, in Guangdong province. All families from the U.S.A. who adopted Chinese children travel here to meet with the US Consulate. The US requires medical clearance and we had to get her Visa.

Day 9-14 Appointments, paperwork “parties,” sightseeing, shopping — all to fill time as we wait for the US Visa to be processed.



Our friend, Becca, who lives in Thailand, flew in to be with us for a few days to help out with the big kids during our appointments and medical exams. “If you’re going to be on my side of the world… I’m coming to see you…” She was such a blessing, and bravely helped us find our own favorite noodle place near the hotel in Guangzhou.


Little did we know, Chimelong Adventure park, one of our activities near the end of our trip, is the largest wild animal park in the world.

These are Viv’s buddies who we traveled with the whole time. We are grateful to have been on the journey with these families.

Last day, flying from Guangzhou to Beijing and then right back to the DC area to begin life as a family of 6.


Through an unexpected donation (an answer to prayer) our two oldest kids were able to come with us to China. They did great — better than I ever expected. Adventurous and go-with-the flow. (Our little one, at home with grandparents — did pretty well too.)


Thank you for being on this journey with us. Thank you for your prayers and love.



Sonya Spillmann


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