Family Stories

As you begin your own adoption journey with Harmony Adoptions, we want to introduce you to some of the families we have served in the past. Uniting families through adoption is a joy for us and for the families, as you can see and hear through the stories here.

The Sexton Family

The Sextons had been unable to conceive after Gretchen’s dangerously difficult pregnancy. Further surgery revealed that she would be unable to get pregnant. This information coupled with their son’s seven-week stay in hospitals after his premature birth helped them reach the decision to adopt. When their son was three, they began the process of open, domestic adoption. Letters describing themselves and their family life together were sent far and wide. Nine months later, only one call had occurred and no adoption plans were forthcoming from it. At that point, it became difficult to think about explaining this process to their son. What if the birth mother changed her mind? How would they tell their son that now he didn’t have the sibling they had been hoping and planning for?

With careful examination of these concerns, they decided to abandon the adoption process. Four months later, China opened its doors to families who already had children. Gretchen felt it was time to reexamine adoption and their family. Their son’s best friend was, herself, an adopted child from China.

After talking to the professionals at Harmony Adoptions, they decided to proceed with adopting a healthy infant girl from China. The paperwork began in February 1999. In August 1999 (after a lengthy delay by the INS) their dossier made it to CCAI (Chinese Center for Adoption IIII). They waited nine months before receiving a photo of their daughter. Her medical information followed right after that.

The hardest part of the wait had begun. Only six weeks left, but now they seemed like six years. There was a precious girl whose face they knew and whose presence already had a place in their hearts. Preparations were made, and plans for the care of their son were made. Bags were packed and repacked.

At last, the day for their departure had arrived. In their first stop at the Chicago airport they met the other couples with whom they had been corresponding. With only one minor glitch, they arrived in Hong Kong. The two-hour delay in Chicago cost them their connecting flight to Beijing. So, they spent the night in Hong Kong. The next day, they arrived in Beijing.

China was fascinating – and their guide quite helpful and knowledgeable. Sights they visited included: the Great Wall, Tiananmen Square, downtown shopping, a jade factory and a famed tourist store. The next day, they flew to the island of their daughter’s orphanage. That afternoon, they were escorted to the Administrative offices of the orphanage and had their daughter placed in their arms. The wait was over!

Now began the process of filling out the remaining paperwork. Hours were spent in offices while the Chinese officials and notaries worked at a pace to complete reports and papers correctly. Pictures were taken.

And so it went for the next three days. In addition to doing this required work, they toured the island and got a feel for what it was like to live there. Rolls of film and lots of video recorded sights and sounds. Both Jim and Gretchen kept journals. One day, their daughter would want to know all that could be told about this place.

After five days, the paperwork for the Chinese government was complete. The next flight was to the city of Guangzhou, in southern China. At the White Swan, there were lots of adoptive families, all in different stages of paperwork. Each day, another step was completed and they were that much closer to coming home. All the paperwork required in Guangzhou was for the United States to obtain an immigration visa of their daughter.

At long last, the day came to sit in front of an embassy official and swear that this was the child they had agreed to adopt, to care for her as their own, never abandon her, educate her, and make her a U.S. citizen by the age of 16. The visa was granted and they were set to fly home the next day.

Thirty-one hours and four stopovers later, they were greeted at their home airport by waiting family. Road weary, but so grateful to have been blessed with this precious baby girl, they began the journey home.

Today, Jim and Gretchen are the proud parents of not only a handsome son, but a lively and delightful daughter. Would they do it again? Without a doubt! The gifts these children bring to their lives are tremendous, and they can’t imagine a family without either one.

The Frye Family

Our adoption experience began in 1999. After several years of trying various medical procedures to correct the reasons for our infertility, we decided to adopt. My husband, Kevin, and I did not feel comfortable with the idea of pursuing more expensive and intrusive medical procedures. At this point, we had grieved and accepted our inability to conceive. We had not, however, accepted our childlessness. This led us to the decision to adopt.

My sister, Denise, once told me, “There is a child for you, Pam. It is just a matter of finding that child.” This statement gave me so much hope in a time when I felt hopeless. My husband and I thought that our families would accept an adopted child. We let our families know that we were open to adopting trans-racially. We received only positive feedback from them.

In January of 2000, we began the hard work of adoption paperwork. Our social worker met with us in our home. After receiving detailed information about the process of Chinese adoption, we made our decision to adopt a little girl from The Peoples Republic of China. It took us a long time to get our paperwork together, mostly due to delays with INS. After collecting birth certificates, marriage certificates, background checks, medical reports, our dossier had to be notarized, certified and authenticated. Anyone who has ever been involved with international adoption knows those terms well. This process basically verifies that your documents are real. In November of 2000, our dossier went to China. The waiting process began.

And we waited and waited! We used this time to get our nursery together. Our friends gave us hand me downs. We are fortunate that all of our friends have girls. We dreamed of our little girl. In the meantime, we became the adoption experts. Several of our friends decided to adopt domestically. We gave them advice and supported them. They adopted their babies. We waited!

On November 29, 2001, I got the call we had waited for so long. Our little girl was coming home. We raced home from work to see an emailed picture of her. She was bald and very solemn looking. Her name was Tang Siwei. She was nine months old. That evening we went to my father’s 70th birthday party with a picture of his new granddaughter. It is an evening that we will never forget. The next day, we received a Fed Ex package with our acceptance letter and two pictures. Let me tell you, those pictures become the most precious things that we owned. We hurriedly signed our letter and mailed it back.

On January 17, 2002, we left for China. We celebrated my 38th birthday in Beijing touring the Great Wall and the Forbidden City. It was so cold that we wore sweaters, coats, gloves and hats, and we were still cold. The next day we flew to Guangzhou where we stayed for the remainder of our trip. For nearly two weeks, the White Swan Hotel became our home.

On January 21, 2002, we became mamma and dad. We were instructed to wait in our rooms and that our daughters would be presented to us in our rooms at 3:00. We waited! At around 5:00 P.M., we received the call. I thought to myself, “Is this what it feels like to give birth?” We were told that there would be a group presentation of the girls on the fifth floor. Our entire group ran to our meeting spot. There stood six young women holding six baby girls. We thought that we recognized our daughter, but were unsure. I ran up to all of the girls and checked them out unaware that we were supposed to wait to have our daughters presented to us. When I finally realized the procedure, I stood back and looked. I was pretty sure that I recognized her. She was the most animated one. She was smiling and reaching out to be held. The moment finally came. I ran up to grab her. My husband stood back and took pictures to immortalize the moment.

The remainder of our time in China seems like a blur of touring, signing paperwork and adjusting to parenthood. One moment stands out for me. As was our daily routine, we went down to the restaurant for breakfast. I was overcome with emotion to see the restaurant filled with all of these families and their new daughters. There were younger and older couples. There were Caucasian, Asian and biracial couples. Several single women fed their daughters. It reminded me of that song, Happy Adoption Day, by John McCutcheon:

Some parents come different, some come the same. 
But whether they’re single or pairs, 
You’re never alone you’re always at home 
Wherever there’s love we can share. 

The Hernandez Family

For me, Stacy, the desire to adopt had been placed in my heart by God, long before my own birth. Something inside of me always wanted to adopt a child, but I had no idea that it would ever come to be. When I met my husband, Tom, at the age of 35, we talked about whether or not we would want children and we discussed adoption. We decided because of my ‘advanced maternal age’, that we would try to have a biological child first and then adopt later. Well, God had other plans for us.

We began trying to have a baby not long after I turned 38 and I was able to conceive; five times actually, but sadly, all of my pregnancies ended before 16 weeks. We finally decided that there was no reason for us to wait any longer on starting the adoption process, so in October of 2000, we began the paper chase. Our hearts were drawn to Guatemala and we were able to find a truly amazing agency with an outstanding program in Guatemala. Again, we were being led by God to the child He had planned for us. We were fingerprinted in November, and mailed off our completed dossier at the end of December. The wait for INS approval was excruciating, as our agency will not put us on their waiting list until we received our letter of approval.

I ran home every day at lunch to check the mail, and finally, on February 8, 2001, we were approved and officially on the waiting list. We did not specify what gender of child we wanted, (we knew that God had already picked our child for us). But, because so many people wanted girls we started at number eight on the list for a boy, and 25 for a girl. We knew we were going to have a boy! I was overjoyed!

The waiting truly was the hardest part. At least when we were running around getting our paperwork notarized and sealed, we had some control over the process; but now it was totally out of our hands. In April, our agency’s Guatemala director called to tell me that we were next in line for a boy! We received our referral on April 26th. The agency called and then immediately e-mailed me pictures of our beautiful baby boy and all of his medical information.

We were so excited we called everyone we knew that night! We accepted within a few days and then the really hard waiting began. You see, in Guatemala, your court processes begin AFTER your referral, so you know what your baby looks like, and where he is, and you watch him growing via videotape, but you can’t go get him and hold him in your arms! It was the hardest wait of my life. It seems like there wasn’t a minute of each day that I didn’t think of him.

Our process seemed to move through the court process really quickly at first, and it seemed that we would be going to get our son much sooner than we had thought! But, my world came to a screeching halt when our agency called to inform us that instead of releasing our case, they wanted us to redo one of our documents. That meant running around for signatures, notarizing, driving to Nashville, then waiting weeks for the embassy in D.C. to release it back to Guatemala. Finally, the last week of August, we were told to book our flights!!!!

We arrived in Guatemala City on September 2, 2002. at around 9:00 p.m. Guatemala time. We were exhausted, but we knew we were going to be meeting our son that night, so we were so excited and anxious. We thought we were going to be meeting him in the hotel lobby, but our agency representative met us at the airport and said “He’s in the car!” I couldn’t get there fast enough! They opened the back door to the van and I climbed inside and there, sleeping so sweetly was my beautiful baby boy. I couldn’t believe it! He was even more beautiful and amazing than I had imagined. We checked into our hotel, turned in all of our paperwork and went to our room and just stared at Jacob for hours. We just couldn’t believe that we were finally there with our son!

The next morning, we were taken to the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala City and we signed our paperwork and swore an oath and that was it, we were done and our adoption was final! Our agency coordinator would pick up Jacob’s visa that afternoon and we would fly home the next day!

Later that day, we were taken to the facility called “Hannah’s Hope”, that is run by our agency. This is where Jacob had lived, been loved, and cared for since his birth. The facility was so amazing, warm and inviting and obviously the best care our son could have received until we could bring him home. Several of the workers came and hugged him and cried to see him leave. We were in awe of the amazing staff and facilities of Hannah’s Hope.

That evening we had the privilege of meeting Jacob’s birthmother. We talked through an interpreter for about 45 minutes and answered any questions she had for us. We wanted so much to reassure her that her beautiful baby boy would be loved and cherished and taken care of. It was a very sad and bittersweet meeting, but I am so glad that we had the chance to meet her. She hugged me and kissed my cheek when we parted, and I just pray that she has peace with her decision. My feeling was that she was happy with us and felt reassured with her decision. I promised to send her photos and letters and that if Jacob wanted to meet her when he was older, that we would bring him back to Guatemala to find her. She smiled through her tears, and we cried and prayed for her.

We left early the following morning and we were greeted at the airport by about 30 of our friends and relatives. We were exhausted, but glowing with happiness. Jacob has been home now for about six months and he is the absolute love of our lives. I think sometimes that I couldn’t love him any more than I do, my heart is so full, but somehow my love for him grows more every day.

Adoption is the most amazing experience of our lives and we are so glad that this was God’s plan for us. In fact, we have just finished our dossier to go back to Guatemala and hopefully sometime in the next year and a half we will bring home our baby girl!

Kathleen and Tim

My name is Kathleen, and my husband Tim and I were married in July 2000. I had 2 children from a previous marriage and I had always wanted lots of children, but due to illness, I had to have a complete hysterectomy at the young age of 28. Tim and I were happy with our lives. Once my children began growing up, we felt as if something was missing. We had a 5 bedroom house that seemed very BIG and empty. We decided to add to our family through adoption. We were both…how do I say it . . . over 40 and knew that older children would be better for us, so we began our search. I wanted to find children that needed us as much as we needed them and for that reason we turned to “waiting” children. While going over many photographs, I ran across a beautiful picture of three little boys…standing arm in arm trying to wiggle out some sort of hopeful smile. That did it, I looked into their eyes and prayed . . . “God can we manage all three…are these the boys for us….are we the parents for them?” And so began our process. The little boys ages 9,7, and 4.5 were living in an orphanage type foster home in Accra, Ghana. We immediately completed all paperwork and began our homestudy. Our Dossier was sent to Ghana in late February of 2010 and our adoption case was to go to court in early June.

We traveled to Accra from Atlanta in June 2010. It was a 12 hour direct flight which for us seemed like days. Neither Tim nor I had ever been on a plane…wild right? We landed in Accra and were immediately met by our in country facilitator. We checked in our hotel and left to meet our children. Ghana is a very poor country and my heart broke as we drove by the many homeless and hungry people. Upon arriving at the orphanage gates, we were greeted by many children singing and welcoming “Mommy and Daddy” to Ghana. Tim and I smiled simultaneously as our 3 boys approached. We reached our arms out and all 3 jumped to get their first of MANY hugs and kisses. I can not explain the immediate unconditional feeling of love shared by all of us. We went to Ghana High Courts the next morning and finalized our adoption of Godfred, Joseph, and Philip.

We remained in Ghana for 6 days to tour, visit, and get to know our boys and then we sadly had to depart for the USA while investigations and visas were completed by the US Embassy. It was awful…leaving the children we had just added to our family. About 6 weeks later, we returned and prepared for our exit interview to bring our children home! The visa interview went well but Godfred became very ill with Malaria and could not travel. Tim returned to the states while I remained in Ghana with the boys until Godfred was well enough to travel. A week later, August 17, 2010, all of us boarded a plane and headed home to Tennessee! It has been 3 months and the boys are adjusting well. They love school, home, their brother and sister, and America. We are so thankful to have them in our lives. They are a true blessing.

Since arriving home, we have decided to again return to Ghana and give a loving forever home to another child from the same orphanage. Clinton, a 12 year old boy, has been a long time friend of our 3 boys. With Harmony’s help, we are in the process of again preparing our Dossier for his adoption and hope to bring him home early summer.

 

Jennifer Madden

My desire to adopt a child didn’t really begin until I was in my early 40’s. I was starting to take a look at my life and realized that the one thing I took for granted that would happen had not occurred: I didn’t have a family of my own. I actually started thinking about a child when I was working for WBIR-TV and was putting together the website for the television station. One project was to put Monday’s Child on the website so that we could spotlight the child of the week and promote adoption. That’s when the first seed was planted.

My life took a major twist when I was 19 years old. My mother passed away and I was suddenly out on my own and learning to survive by working full-time and attempting to finish my college education. Needless to say because I was going it alone my college education was extended out more years than I would have liked. And my plans to go to law school suddenly were no longer viable. So I went on my way working jobs that were to hopefully help me to establish a career. I tried several career fields but only found my true love in my thirties when I went back to school to get a computer science degree and became a Software Engineer. Now that I finally knew what I wanted to do when I grew up I realized I spent all those years trying to find my “career” and missed out on what most people focused on – a family.

Well, by then I was sure because I had already turned 40 and was single that there was no way anyone would consider me as an adoptive parent – so although I secretly thought about adoption a lot I never pursued it. Then in 2005 I ran Knoxville’s first marathon – a goal I set out for myself two years earlier. When I went to the pre-race event to pick up my runner’s packet I came upon a Harmony booth. I picked up a brochure and never said the first word to anyone. The race was in March and it wasn’t until May that I actually placed a call to Harmony to see if I could be considered for adopting a child. In the very first phone call I was pleasantly surprised. I spoke with Pam Frye and right at the beginning she welcomed me to the Harmony family. She never once made me think I wouldn’t be considered for adopting a child. From the first phone conversation the process was set in motion. I had a meeting to discuss the adoption process with Pam and from the very first meeting I never looked back. It was like I was finally on the right path and was being swept up into something that I was no longer in control of.

My experience in adoption was the most awesome ever. From the first phone call in May, I proceeded to put my profile together and get the necessary documents in order. During the process my four year relationship ended. He decided adoption wasn’t for him, but I knew I could never truly be happy unless I pursued this yearning. I think that was my test from God to see if I was really serious about adopting.

In November of 2006 I received a call from Pam Frye telling me she had a birth mother that wanted to meet me. She had read my profile and she had been raised from a single mother and I reminded her of her mom. I met Kelly and her mother, Cindy, with Pam at a restaurant and we had a wonderful first meeting. The meeting, to me, felt very comfortable and relaxed. I didn’t feel like I had to be anyone other than myself and that somehow they would know how important having a child in my life would be to me.

I didn’t hear back from Pam Frye until just after Christmas in 2006. But she had the most wonderful news for me – Kelly had picked me for the adoption of her child. At that point Kelly was already nine months pregnant and expecting in March of 2007. From the minute Kelly chose me to adopt her child it was like I was living in a dream. A lot was going on. I hadn’t even mentioned adoption to anyone in my family except my father and step mother. I didn’t want my family to be concerned if I tried to adopt and it didn’t work out. But from the moment that Kelly decided to give me the most wonderful gift , my family stood by me all the way.

I went to all of Kelly’s doctor’s appointments and I took the newborn child classes with her. I got to know Kelly and her mother very well. Kelly was going through a very difficult time and I got to see firsthand how important it is for a parent to stand by a child during the difficult times. Cindy, Kelly’s mom was there the entire time. And I could see in both Kelly’s mother’s and father’s eyes that they were so proud of her for the decision she had made to bring this child into the world and give him the best life possible.

On March 6. 2007 Conner was born at 6:34 pm. He weighed 7 pounds and 13 ounces and was 21 1/2 inches long. Although Kelly went to the hospital to induce the birth, things turned serious that afternoon and she was rushed into the emergency room to have a cesarean section. Kelly, the baby and I were in the hospital for four days while she healed and was preparing to go home. It was a great opportunity for us to get to know each other better and for Kelly to have time to adjust to leaving the hospital without her baby.

To this day if you ask me – I will tell you that I have experienced a true miracle from God. From the moment I decided to run a marathon, to picking up that adoption brochure at the pre-race event I felt like I wasn’t entirely in control and that God was leading me toward this wonderful little boy. But what has become and even more wonderful surprise is that he brought Kelly and Cindy into our lives as well. Conner will grow up feeling loved by two families – Kelly and Cindy have been there for Conner from the beginning and still are a part of his life. This little boy is already very special but something tells me in my heart that he was placed where he was supposed to be. He has been such an important part of so many people’s lives that I know God guided me toward this particular child . . . and as a result, my life will never be the same.