At the time, Dillon was bringing home babies in five to six months, pre-app to arrival home. It sounded wonderful to a mom who really struggled with waiting! You would think by our third adoption, we would be prepared for the wait. God teaches us a lesson in patience each time we enter the adoption process. The wait seemed long from the very beginning. Once our home study was complete, we were officially put on the referral waiting list. We were number 21 on the waiting list.
Over the next few months, the number of referrals decreased and we started to accept the fact that the wait was going to be longer than we planned. In June of 2001, we attended the Dillon India Reunion in Tulsa, Oklahoma. We met many families with children from Matri Sneha, the orphanage where our child would be coming from. They were all beautiful. We had the opportunity to meet Anju, the director of Matri Sneha. She was very kind. She told us that she was sure we would receive a referral very soon.
At this time, we were number five on the waiting list. We were almost sure that our baby’s referral would be in the next batch of paperwork from India. Before we left the reunion, Tami Esch of the India program told us that she had a batch of referrals on her desk and that she would probably be calling us the next day. We were so excited! We were on our way to Baltimore for Samuel’s doctor appointments, when we got a call from Tami telling us that the batch of referrals contained only the papers for four babies. We were moved to number one on the waiting list.
Over the next few weeks, we learned from Tami that one of the families had not accepted the referral yet. They needed more time to consider whether the child was the right child for their family. We were on pins and needles, waiting for the phone call telling us whether or not they decided on the child. Six weeks after the referral, Tami called to tell us that the family had decided not to adopt the baby girl. We really don’t understand why they chose to wait for another baby, but we were so grateful for the referral of Rikta, now Miriam Grace. The tiny little black and white referral photo was placed on our refrigerator and we prayed for Miriam Grace every day.
We signed all the necessary documents and waited for the day to come when we got the phone call telling us that we were Rikta’s legal guardians. We were hoping to travel in September. Then the tragic day of September 11, 2001 took place. It seemed like the world stopped. We cried so hard for the families who lost loved ones. We worried that our wait for Miriam Grace might become so much longer than anticipated, or if it would even take place at all. We made the decision that it would be in the best interest of our family for only one parent to travel abroad instead of both. We had planned on both of us traveling for the first time.
We received the guardianship papers, but were not allowed to travel right away. No families were allowed to travel until the chaos had settled a little. We made arrangements with Jill and Mike Culbertson to travel together into India. They were bringing their daughter, Jeba (now Grace) home from Matri Sneha also. Like us, Mike and Jill had decided for only one of them to travel. I would meet Mike in Amsterdam and then we would fly to Delhi and Calcutta together.
Things went as planned and I left Houston on November 2, 2001. We met in Amsterdam and then flew to Delhi. When we got to Delhi, my suitcases were missing. The KLM baggage claim staff thought that they might still be in Amsterdam. We had to leave for Calcutta without my bags.
When we arrived in Calcutta, we took a wild taxi ride across town to the New Kenilworth Hotel. Mike and I were both so frightened and totally exhausted. It was already early morning, so we decided to each go take a shower and meet for breakfast. I was so stressed that I was in tears. I really wanted to film our meeting Miriam so that Jay could share the experience and now I didn’t even have the video camera, 35mm camera or my clothing. All I really had was a suitcase of things to leave with the caretakers of Matri Sneha.
After breakfast, Mike and I had a devotional time in the lobby before we set out for the rest of the day. We decided to take a walk to see the streets of Calcutta. We saw many children living on the streets. We gave them lollipops. They were fascinated with Mike’s camera. We started carrying Mike’s video camera running on our side so that we could film Calcutta without making people feel uncomfortable.
We spent the first day in Calcutta shopping and seeing the city. The area where our hotel was located gave a very limited view of Calcutta. It was an area that was very westernized compared to other areas in the city.
We made arrangements to go and meet the babies at noon the following day. Mike and I were so nervous. It seemed like noon would never arrive. We shopped in the morning and then left for the orphanage. Our driver drove us across the city to the area where Matri Sneha was located. It was a very busy area in the heart of Calcutta. The poverty was so much worse than near our hotel.
The orphanage was a narrow little building located among many other buildings. We were surprised how tiny it was. As we went inside, we could hear babies crying. The anticipation of meeting our new daughters made me so nervous. It had been 13 months since we started the adoption process. We were told to go upstairs to meet with Anju before we went to the baby room. We talked to Anju and completed any necessary paperwork. She told us a little bit about our daughters. Mike gave her some photos of Noah, his son who was previously adopted from Matri Sneha.
After we visited with Anju, she took us downstairs to meet the babies. We entered the door we had passed where we could hear babies crying. We went through the first small room and into a slightly larger room. There were so many babies. They were all in tiny little cribs lined up next to each other. I looked for Miriam, but couldn’t find her. Then Anju took us into another tiny room. The first baby in the room was Rikta (Miriam Grace) and in the crib next to her was Jeba (Grace). Miriam was on her tummy holding her head up to look out of her crib. Jeba was standing in her crib. Miriam was so tiny for 7 ½ months old. She only weighed 10 pounds. Every little feature of her body seemed petite. She was not malnourished, just tiny. Her eyes just studied me. I held her for awhile and cried happy tears.
Mike was having a tough time with Jeba. She was so scared and cried as he held her. I felt bad because I was so wrapped up with Miriam Grace that I did not even notice that Jeba was crying. I took a couple of photos with Mike’s camera and we headed to the taxi. Jeba held Mike and cried more. We weren’t sure what to do. She seemed so frightened.
At the hotel, we took the two babies to my room. We laid them on the bed and took pictures of them. Miriam fell asleep. It gave us some time to try to get Jeba settled. We knew that she could stand, but she would not let go of Mike. She held him so tight that he couldn’t see her face. He stood in front of the mirror so that he could see her. It was a difficult time for Mike and Jeba.
Mike and Jeba went to their room to spend some time together and I laid down next to Miriam Grace for a little nap. Mike and Jeba returned about an hour later. We mixed formula and fed the babies. Then we dressed them to go to sleep. Mike and Jeba returned to their room. Later that night, they came back because Jeba was crying and Mike couldn’t sleep. We talked and admired the precious little gifts God had blessed our families with. It bothered both of us that our spouses were missing out on this special moment.
A couple of times during the night, Miriam would cry and I would try to comfort her by holding her against me and rocking her. Later I learned that she wanted just the opposite. She was not used to being held and she wanted to be placed on her tummy and left alone.
The next morning, we left for Delhi to complete our I-600 documents at the American Embassy. We spent the first day trying to claim my lost bags at the airport. It was such a blessing to have someone else with me. I carried both of the babies in a snuggly I had brought with me. I looked like a mother kangaroo with two little joeys in my pouch. It was so precious. They seemed to like being together in the snuggly. It gave Mike a chance to take care of tips and paperwork etc. After several hours at the airport, we finally got my bags back. It was not an easy task!
The next morning, we went to the embassy to try to complete the necessary papers. We got the forms we needed for the medicals and headed off to the doctor’s office. We met Rebecca from Dillon at our hotel and she went with us to the doctor and the embassy. It was nice to have one more set of hands. She helped hold babies while we filled out paperwork.
After the visa interview, we prepared to travel home that night. We were so anxious to get home to our families. At the Delhi airport, our flight was delayed. We left several hours later than planned. We were worried that we might not make our connecting flights in Amsterdam, but we made it. Mike and Jeba headed for their flight and we headed for ours. Miriam started crying very hard while we waited. There was no way to calm her down. I tried everything I could think of.
She finally stopped crying just before we boarded the plane. She was very tired and I looked forward to putting her in the crib on the bulk head. The flight attendants told me that they would bring a crib as soon as we were in the air and settled. Miriam began to cry about 30 minutes after boarding. Shortly after, they announced that there were some problems with our plane and that we would not be leaving for awhile. We sat there for 2 ½ hours before we left Amsterdam. Miriam was so upset and tired. She screamed and there was nothing I could do to calm her. They would not let me leave the plane or have the crib. I’m sure everyone around us was pretty frustrated too.
Once we were in the air and Miriam was in the crib, she was fine. It was a long flight back, but as usual it was a good feeling to be going home. At the airport was the rest of our family. Jacob, Joshua, Samuel and Sarah had made a welcome home sign for me and Miriam. They were so happy to see us.
Miriam Grace started crawling when she was nine months old. She did not start walking until she was 19 months old. We think she was slow in walking because she had so many siblings who would do anything she wanted, including carrying her everywhere! She started getting her first tooth when she was 21 months old. She was the latest I had ever heard of. Her first tooth was a top tooth instead of a lower tooth, which was a little odd. Miriam Grace has broken all the rules! She has always had such a wonderful disposition and is very sweet natured. She has filled our home with so much joy. I can’t imagine life without Miriam Grace. She is truly a blessing from the Lord.
Miriam Grace has really grown up in the last few years. She has been involved in dance for five years. She started violin lessons this last year. Miriam has been showing Texas Longhorn Cattle since she was five years old. She has always been very ambitious and even asked to show in the Junior division instead of Pee-wee because she wanted to show without the assistance of an adult or older sibling.
When Miriam Grace was seven years old, she was elected as the Texas Longhorn Breeders of Tomorrow Junior Director, which is a national position that only two junior members can hold. Rachel, her sister, was the other Junior Director. In 2009, when Miriam Grace and Rachel were both eight years old, they were both elected to this position again. It has been a great experience for both of the girls.
They were able to attend officer camp in 2008 at Sunrise Ranch, home of Bevo, the mascot for University of Texas. In 2009, they attended officer camp at the historic YO Ranch in Mountain Home, Texas. Miriam Grace has done extremely well in the show ring and was the 2009 Hall of Fame first place winner. She even won a calf at the World Show for Hall of Fame. Miriam has had the opportunity to attend many Longhorn Shows and sales in Texas and Oklahoma, and even one in Nebraska. At the age of eight, she already has quite a bit of scholarship money set aside for her college education. We are very proud of her accomplishments.
Miriam Grace also enjoys riding horses and spending time at the ranch. She seems to have a natural ability with animals.
Recently, Miriam Grace has started riding her steer, VNR Battle Song. She rode in the 2009 Fourth of July Parade in Round Top, Texas. It was a pretty special day for both of them.