An Adoption Story from Mary McBride

October 5, 2011

Where our family story begins is hard to figure. There are dates we can point to as significant — a discussion on a coffee shop patio, our acceptance into an Ethiopian adoption program, the day we finished our paperwork and were put on the wait list officially. There was a dream I had that I am sure was connected to my daughter. And then there was the day we saw her face and knew that if we would be allowed to adopt her, we most certainly wanted to.

We knew before we got married that we wanted to adopt. We talked about having one child by pregnancy first and then adopting one or two more. Then I got pregnant, and miscarried shortly after I took the first positive pregnancy test. While some families might have mourned the loss deeply, I instead suddenly realized that I had never cared as much about being pregnant as I had about being a family to a child who needed one. It took a long time for my body to heal and return to normal, and in the end I felt that it just wasn’t important to me to try again. It was, however, deeply important to me to adopt. On a beautiful spring day, my husband and I discussed and decided that we would proceed with adopting our first child.

From there to the exciting part of our story, it was just a giant mess of paperwork for months on end, then a sigh of relief when it was finally all done right and submitted. We requested to be matched with a baby girl and stated that we were open to a variety of special needs. Because there are so many needs that we couldn’t possibly anticipate to add to our list, but which we would feel comfortable with, I kept a close eye on our agency’s waiting child list. At one point, we requested information on a baby, but another family had requested her information first, and so she became their daughter. For that, we are so grateful. Seeing a baby there whose needs fit what we felt prepared to handle made me vigilant at checking the list. And then, one Friday, there she was.

I was at work as a nanny, and the children were napping. I took a peek at the waiting child list and saw her face. I proceeded to text my husband about how cute this little girl was, and how I felt that our process for our second child might go quickly, as we knew we would be open to an older child the next time around. Of course this wasn’t our child because we were requesting a baby, and this little girl was three years old! But the more I looked at her and the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I very much wanted her to be our daughter. I texted my husband a few more times, a little feverishly at the end. “Look at her!” I kept saying, but he was having a busy, frustrating day at work, so he never did. By the time he was home and venting about his terrible day, I was about to lose it. I waited a few minutes before blurting out, “Will you please just look at this little girl now?”

I expected him to say no to requesting more information about her. I expected him to remind me that our plan was to adopt a baby first and then adopt an older child later. But he didn’t say anything of the sort. He said, “Let’s see what happens.” And perhaps that right there was it, was the moment that our family story began. It wasn’t just me being a bleeding heart looney. It was both of us, in it together.

By the time we received her file the next Tuesday we had told far too many people about her and gotten our hopes up terribly high. We had no idea between requesting her file on Friday and receiving it on Tuesday that we would actually be allowed to view her information at all. Something just felt right about it. About her. Standing in Target on Saturday morning, I felt a strong urge to buy her coming home outfit. It flew in the face of logic, but I bought it. She wore it on our last flight home four and a half months later.

The wait between finding out who our daughter was and being able to go to her was the hardest time of my life. While we waited to receive a court date, we received photos from other families and descriptions of her personality. She was fragile, she was funny, she clearly did not want to remove her lollipop from her mouth to have her photo taken. She grew two inches and gained five pounds over the summer, and we received the update on our anniversary, then proceeded to cry over our fancy dinner. We mourned when we got a court date that was much later than we had hoped. We put together her room and packed our bags and finally boarded our flight to Ethiopia.

When we got to her at last, nearly sixteen weeks after we had first seen her face, it was pure magic. She was standing in the courtyard alone when our van pulled up, dressed the same dress she wore in the first photo we saw of her. When I knelt before her and said, “Selam, Zinash,” she looked up and away, as if to make it clear that she was ignoring me. And then I said, “Zinash, nay [come],” and she was there in my arms before I knew what was happening. I picked her up, and the back of her dress was wet. I knew I was her mom when I realized that I didn’t care if it was pee; she was my baby, and it just didn’t matter. She was three years old, and she was my baby, my very first baby.

I still look back with wonder and awe at the moment that she walked into my arms and let me pick her up. From then on, we never had to let her go. We had been told that we would possibly be able to see her from time to time if we stayed in country between the court date we had traveled for and the embassy date later, and so that is what I planned, while my husband planned to return to the US between our court and embassy dates to work. When we were told that we could have her with us, everything was upended. I changed my lodging arrangements to accommodate three people instead of one. We rescheduled Jarod’s flight to a date that would give us a reasonable amount of time to get through the embassy process yet still allow him to get home to work if it didn’t happen that fast. We found out later that we had unwittingly booked his return flight for one hour and forty-five minutes before his visa expired. When we received our embassy date, we were able to book seats on that same flight for Zinashi and me so we could all go home together. It was a series of miracles to be sure.

September 27 marks one year since the day she walked into my arms and we became a family. It has been a heartbreaking and beautiful year, and our hearts are full. It feels like this first year has flown while at the same time it feels like she has been with us forever. She is the delight of our lives, and I cannot wait to see what each new year with her will bring.

By Mary McBride of Finding Magnolia.

P.S. — Here’s a birth story in images.

Note from Design Mom: throughout my 6th pregnancy, I posted advice, memories and stories about pregnancy, childbirth, adoption and growing a family. My baby is hardly a baby anymore — here’s her birth story and her newborn photos — but the series has been so popular that I’m continuing it indefinitely. You can find all the stories in this series by clicking here. Have a story you’d like to share? I’d love to read it. You can send it to me at

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{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

1 senja October 5, 2011 at 4:23 am

What a wonderful and special story and beautifully written. Thanks so much for sharing.


2 Jessie rivers October 5, 2011 at 4:27 am

A beautiful story. Thank you for sharing it!


3 Damaris October 5, 2011 at 5:38 am

I’m so glad you still post this series. Thank you! My husband and I are trying to adopt. This post was exactly what I needed today. Thank you so much.


4 Corrie Anne October 5, 2011 at 8:06 am

I love it. It’s totally in my heart to adopt one day after spending some extended periods of time in the Dominican Republic. My husband has worked in an orphanage in Haiti so our heart’s totally on that island.


5 Shannon @ A Mom's Year October 5, 2011 at 8:48 am

Mary, yours is such a wonderful story. As an adoptive parent you’ve probably heard this Chinese proverb before, but just in case you haven’t: “An invisible red thread connects those destined to meet, regardless of time, place, or circumstances. The thread may stretch or tangle, but never break.” I had that quotation pasted all over the house during the long wait for our daughter, Lily! I can’t imagine life without her and I know you feel the same about your beautiful little girl.

I’m so glad you shared your story here; my hope is that in sharing our stories, one day every child will have a “forever family.”


6 Rebecca T. October 5, 2011 at 8:59 am

I visited Mary’s blog, laughed at a few videos and found the very moving First Days with Zinashi ( As one who adopted a 7 week old baby girl from Kansas, now over 7 years ago, I am moved to tears by the beauty and grace that is universally understood within the adoption community. Thanks for sharing Mary’s story today!


7 Juan October 5, 2011 at 9:05 am

What a great story! I love how you showed that though life may not always be that orderly, it can be sooo beautiful :)


8 Laura Larson October 5, 2011 at 9:18 am

Thank you for your wonderful post. I adopted my daughter from Ethiopia and we will celebrate our second family anniversary in February. It’s refreshing to hear an account of adoptive maternity as one of choice. Your daughter is lovely!


9 barchbo October 5, 2011 at 9:36 am

That face! Ahhhh…such love. I fell in love with it, too!

What a precious girl and an even more precious story.


10 Noemi @ GetFreeBabyCoupons October 5, 2011 at 10:15 am

Oh God. This story made me cry. It’s truly beautiful. Thank you for sharing it!


11 Victoria October 5, 2011 at 10:40 am

It’s SO nice to see an adoption story. :) I often feel put out when pregnancy stories are thrown about every which way but an adoption story makes me smile like no tomorrow :)


12 invitation consultants October 5, 2011 at 11:40 am

beautiful story. i’ve been reading her blog today and zinashi is truly a captivating little girl!


13 K October 5, 2011 at 1:16 pm

Our journey has been different but I can totally relate to this story. My first “baby” was a five-year old boy who was dropped off at our house by a police officer. As our foster son, he was only with us for a few weeks but he is the kiddo that made me a mom. Not even two years later, we have had multiple kids in our home and finalized the adoption of our two boys this summer.

Love you story and your heart.


14 sara October 5, 2011 at 2:48 pm

We adopted our youngest 2 from Ethiopia last year; this is such a beautiful story. I love adoption and I love your story. She is a beauty. Much love and congratulations :)


15 Kelly Atkins October 5, 2011 at 3:19 pm

Made me tear up! And also reminded me that I really want to adopt as well.


16 'rachel October 5, 2011 at 9:37 pm



17 liz fuller October 5, 2011 at 10:28 pm

Thank you for sharing your family story. It is beautiful and wow she is amazing- there is something special- a sparkle of a uniqie kind in her eyes and those lips ARE PERFECT. Enjoy your adventures as a family, I love how deeply you knew this was the path for your family as it happened!


18 Adrienne October 6, 2011 at 11:29 am

I am also a mother through adoption and tears filled my eyes as I read your story of your path to motherhood. What a beautiful journey. It makes me happy to read about the miracles you experienced as you searched for our child. Adoption is a road paved with mircales. I know this to be true.


19 gillian October 6, 2011 at 3:07 pm

hi Gabrielle,
i love reading your posted birth stories and all the other neat ideas/projects/etc that you shine a light on! here is a link to a blog and international adoption story that a friend shared with me….i think the writing is brilliant and although i don’t share her religious beliefs, i think her honesty and determination and ‘mom-ness’ is inspiring.


20 Grace in my Heart October 7, 2011 at 9:58 am

Thank you for sharing this beautiful adoption story. As an adoptive mama, it made my heart melt. A friend passed on your blog to me because of this story and I’m so glad she did. I was super excited when I saw on your sidebar that your family was on House Hunter’s International! My husband and I saw that episode when it first aired and I remember thinking how beautiful your family was. {I also really wanted you to pick the house you did, so that was fun too!} I’m so glad I can keep up with you now…have a wonderful weekend!


21 Martina October 7, 2011 at 12:49 pm

I love this beautiful story. Especially this moment: “And then I said, “Zinash, nay [come],” and she was there in my arms before I knew what was happening. I picked her up, and the back of her dress was wet. I knew I was her mom when I realized that I didn’t care if it was pee; she was my baby, and it just didn’t matter. She was three years old, and she was my baby, my very first baby.” Thank you for sharing!


22 Mary McBride October 7, 2011 at 3:51 pm

It was such a pleasure to be able to share our family story here. Everybody is just so nice! The Design Mom readers are clearly the best readers out there! Thanks to everyone for all your thoughtful comments, and of course to Gabrielle for posting this as part of the Growing-a-Family series. We love reading everyone’s family stories and look forward to reading more.


23 Mishti March 6, 2013 at 12:51 pm

I keep coming back to read this story. Again and again and yet again. I think people who adopt are special. It takes a mighty heart to allow a stranger to come into it and stay on forever. With so many children being abandoned around the world, I feel adoption should always rank above surrogacy for couples who cannot, or choose to not get pregnant. It is a personal view and I don’t meant to sound harsh or judgemental to couples choosing surrogacy.


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