Adoption, Isabel, Tess

I Must Remember This.

Five years ago, right now, I was holding a very tiny Tess in a hotel room halfway around the world, watching the 2012 Presidential election results roll in. I am sad. I won’t say a whole lot more than that. We feel like we have become an entirely different country since then. We haven’t, this is always who we were, but in that moment, I lived in a state of blissful ignorance that I long for.

I wrote this post about the day I met Tess. It has nothing to do with the election, but it has a lot to do with blissful ignorance. I was blissfully ignorant before I met Tess. I have always been ‘lucky.’ I counted on that luck to carry me through. Tess’s adoption referral paperwork was bleak. Her file said, straight out, that her condition was terminal. I didn’t believe it. I thought that the medical information was probably wrong. After all, her pictures looked really, really good.

I got to China, and Tess was, indeed, dying. Her file wasn’t wrong.

That post, written about that day, is a raw post. It tells more of Tess’s story than I usually tell. As I wrote it, I debated saying quite this much about the day Tess and I met. It was important for me to write that now. I didn’t know how important it would become until last Friday though.

Our official referral for Isabel arrived in my email inbox on Friday morning at 2:13am. My phone pings when I get an email. It pinged, I got up, and I began to read the nearly 100 pages of information. At first, it was what I expected. Isabel is deaf. She received a Cochlear Implant in the spring of this year. Colombia chose that for her. I don’t question their choices. She is not my daughter yet. I have no say.

I read, and cheered, when her paperwork said she began to walk at the beginning of this year. I read, and cheered, when it said she likes to draw. Then, just like that, my heart sank. In the medical information section of her referral, the most recent note is from a Pediatric Neurologist that describes what is, supposedly, Isabel’s current condition. That note describes a child who doesn’t sit up on her own. She doesn’t feed herself. She isn’t responsive. She has seizures.

What in the world?!? I waited until the sun rose and then I began firing off emails. To our social worker, to our agency, to pediatricians, to friends who work in the medical field. What is THIS note?!?

We don’t know. We don’t know what that note is.

Is it a mistake? Does that note belong to another child and it somehow made its way into Isabel’s file?


Or, is that Isabel’s current condition a result of something that occurred medically between when those notes were written at the beginning of the year and the last note? Is this who she is now?


That was Friday. We could reach out to the people caring for Isabel, but she lives in a very rural area. I knew we would have to live until this week with the unknown. Today is a holiday in Colombia. I still don’t know.

I don’t know if Isabel can communicate. I don’t know if she can walk. I don’t know if she feeds herself. I don’t know.

Joe and I spent a couple of sleepless nights tossing, turning and talking about the ‘maybes’. Yesterday rolled around and my Facebook memories were filled with pictures of memories of five years ago, of the day I met Tess. That led me back to the post I wrote a couple of years later about what that day was like.

Last night, Tess and I went to Starbucks, just the two of us, for a late night hot cocoa run to celebrate five years of us. I’m celebrating so much more than that though. I’m celebrating bravery, hers and mine. We made it. She fought to live. I fought to maximize the potential of that life.

What if I had read her file and said no? Who would I be? Who would she be? Where would either of us be?

I’m terrified, but I know one thing…

Love makes us brave.

–FullPlateMom, who is #AllInForIsabel

2 thoughts on “I Must Remember This.”

  1. Yes yes and YES!! Love will happen even with the unknowns! And even the knowns are not as scary as we imagine them to be.
    She is your daughter and you are BRAVE!! xoxoxoxox


  2. I am sending good thoughts for Isabel. I hope you get the answers that you need.

    I hadn’t read that post about Tess before. It was beautiful.


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