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This Is What Adoption Feels Like

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"I treated the dossier of vital documents that we prepared for the adoption with such care. Turning in that paperwork to the agency was hard for me because to me, it symbolized our little girl — and it was like I didn't have her anymore. But it got us one step closer to our daughter!

"Six weeks later, a woman from the agency called with our referral. It was July 28, 2005. I fell apart — when I told her that I had to call my husband, I couldn't remember his name! She e-mailed me a picture of my daughter. In the photo, she had a doll on her lap that was almost as big as she was. Her Chinese name was Lin Ying Tong; we'd name her Gwendolyn Faye Ying. I slept with her picture that night. Our daughter. At last.

"Two months later, we were in China. Our guide at the civil affairs office told us, 'Your baby is sick, but she's okay.' We didn't know what that meant, but we were ready to deal with anything.

"Gwen was 7 months old and weighed 8.2 pounds. She was sicker than we thought, and her highest fever was 105.8. She was having seizures and was hospitalized multiple times while we were there. The minute we got back home, we took her to the hospital, where she was diagnosed with a respiratory infection that isn't serious in most children but can be life-threatening in children who are already small and weak, like Gwen.

"Her first year home was hard. She was also developmentally delayed, not sitting up or rolling over. So we put her in physical therapy and occupational therapy; we had her work with sleep specialists and nutritional specialists. Now I look back and realize I got to experience everything with Gwen. I saw her sit up, roll over, take her first steps. If it hadn't been for those struggles, we wouldn't have had those moments.

"Today Gwen runs everywhere, loves to laugh, loves to play in the water, and she's entranced by books. She's on track with all the other kids. Some people say love can't conquer all, and maybe not, but love and a whole lot of work can get you very far, and all I have to do to know that is look at Gwen."

Redbook Adoption Girl Hands Cheeks

Four years ago, Breanna Conner gave birth to a daughter and placed her in an open adoption with John Sgro, 30, a minister in the Chicago area, and his wife, Amanda, 31. Breanna, now 22, recently graduated college and works for a family-services program in Indiana.

"When I found out I was pregnant at 17, my family and my ex-boyfriend's family both suggested adoption, since they thought life would be difficult for me as a single mom still in school. At first I was against it. I couldn't imagine placing my daughter with people I didn't know and never seeing her again. But when I went to the doctor, I also met with a social worker who brought up the idea of open adoption. I researched it more and thought it could be a good option. Open adoption would be a way I could give my baby the best.

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