Dan Baker recognized the toddler bundled in a blanket with wisps of black hair on her tiny head from the adoption profile pictures.
“That’s ours! That’s ours!” Kristy Baker remembers her husband shouting with joy last October when the Cary couple traveled to China to finalize the adoption.
Kendal, the 20-month-old Chinese girl being cradled by one of her caregivers, was afraid of the man shouting in a different language than she was accustomed to hearing.
“To Kendal, we were white people with big noses and different hair from her,” said Kristy, 38, who has blonde hair. Dan, 40, is tall with dark hair.
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As the couple held Kendal, they discovered she was sick with a high fever. Kendal wouldn’t eat when Dan was in the room. Despite the challenges, the family was overjoyed to finally meet her.
“It’s hard to explain the surge of love that grows when you adopt,” said Kristy, who worked as an accountant before becoming a full-time mother.
Kendal is the second girl the Bakers adopted from China. Four years ago, Dan and Kristy met Lily under similar circumstances.
“We always wanted to be parents and start a family this way,” said Kristy, who writes a blog about the adoption process that began in Texas and brought them to Cary three years ago.
The Bakers were high school sweethearts when they started planning for this Mother’s Day. Every step to adoption since the Bakers’ wedding 16 years ago was taken with great care. The couple read about adoption and studied countries with orphanages.
“We started the adoption process in 2007 when we saw the need in China to adopt girls,” said Kristy.
In 2010, the Bakers were still waiting to adopt a healthy Chinese girl under 1 year old. The couple prayed for clarity and felt prompted to let the orphanage know they would accept an older child who may have birth defects.
Three weeks later, the Bakers got a call about Liu Wen Li. The details on the 19-month-old girl were scarce. She lived in Henan, a province in east central China. The toddler liked to play with toys.
Liu Wen Li’s file also included four pictures with a medical note that she had a cleft palate, a birth defect that happens when the tissues in the roof of the mouth don’t form completely.
“It was very scary and nerve-racking to have limited information,” said Kristy. “It increased our faith, as we were seeking wise counsel, praying and trusting it would work out.”
Three months later, the couple was on their way to China to meet Liu Wen Li. It was a whirlwind trip to three cities to complete paperwork, passports and visa applications.
The Bakers settled on the name Lily to resemble her Chinese name. As Lily grew, so did the Bakers’ desire to adopt another child.
Adding a sister
The adoption process had changed since their experience with Lily. The Bakers discovered Chineasy, a language book that makes learning Chinese easier by putting a picture around the word character.
“We enjoyed time at home working our way through flashcards and an e-book, and can pick out some of the written Chinese, which is a cool feeling,” Kristy wrote in her blog days before the trip to bring Kendal home.
Kristy’s mother, Terri Feiertag, and Lily, now 6, went on the trip to bring Kendal home. The girls are not related, except through adoption.
In addition to Lily meeting her adoptive sister, she was anxious to see the orphanage and the caretaker she called “Mama.”
The Bakers used a charity site to help raise money for some of the adoption costs that total more than $30,000. The estimates don’t include the expenses for last week’s surgery in Chicago for Kendal, who also has a cleft palate.
“This journey is longer and harder that I thought it would be, but it’s totally worth it,” said Kristy as she balanced Kendal on her hip, cradled with one arm while drawing Lily into a hug with the other arm.
Dan and Kristy built a support system through a small group at Northwest Community Church and found resources through Orphan Connections at Colonial Baptist.
Kristy’s parents moved from Illinois to a home in Holly Springs this past fall.
“Mom has been super helpful and is a great grandma,” Kristy said.
It is amazing to see the bond that can grow from generation to generation and across cultural differences.
This Mother’s Day will be special for both women.
“It’s neat to see Kristy be a good mother, always reading and learning,” Feiertag said. “And I love being able to watch the grandkids grow.”
Kristy Baker’s blog with book recommendations and a timeline on their adoptions is at www.stepbysteptochina.blogspot.com.
Orphan Connections offers resources and events, including the Clothing Exchange May 9 in the Assembly Room at Colonial Baptist Church, 6051 Tryon Road, Cary. Go to www.orphanconnections.org.