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Cali Swain and Halle Grace and their Elephant Moms

Updated: Nov 8, 2023

Posted on 05/16/2010 by Katie Eastman and Shannon Devine

Just like the elephants who carry their young for over two years, did we too carry our children, in our hearts. Faith and sheer determination led to miracles from the other side of the world that came to us when our Asian daughters came into our lives.

Katie's Story

DETERMINATION That is truly a word to describe what it took for my husband and I to become parents. Like most, we thought pregnancy would come easily after marriage and we believed the number of well meaning people who said "the average woman has three miscarriages, don't worry." On Easter Sunday, 2002, watching the local children hunt Easter eggs with tears in our eyes, we both said "enough." It was time to find another way. It took us exactly 5 minutes to decide we wanted to adopt a little girl from China, to give a home and a better life to a child who would otherwise not have one. So the journey began...

Most people don't realize the gestation process of adoption; interviews with social workers, writing your autobiography, having everyone but your plumber write an evaluation, interviews, interviews and more interviews.

Our agencies were wonderful to work with, but the level of evaluation required for this process required determination patience and heart to complete. You don't know when your child will come so you keep checking the website, hoping that your name will appear. After almost two years, what appeared was an announcement that SARS had delayed all Chinese adoptions. I remember my heart aching when I read that, but I was reminded of something another mom who had adopted had said; "It's a roller coaster, ride it, it's worth it." So we resigned ourselves to the fact that parenthood was further away and yes, we would have to pay to have our finger prints redone yet again. Another opportunity to recommit to how much we wanted to be parents.

My neice once told me that the last leg of a race takes the most heart and it did. With each obstacle, and or delay, we became more determined to become parents. Our hearts grew fuller as time went on with that desire to love this little miracle we were waiting for. We decided to complete the nursery and put our efforts into learning Chinese and reading parenting books. In a sense, we began nesting. Then, totally unexpected, when SARS was at it's worst, the website announced our team was going to be going within three weeks and we should begin looking at our email for the photo of our daughter to come within the next three days. The gestation was about to end.

After two and a half years, this amazing photo showed up on my husband's computer. He paged me and right in the middle of a business lunch, I had my own experience of labor. I became a mom the day I saw that beautiful little girl's photo, in that moment I had a daughter and all the logistics, hours of wondering and waiting fell away.

Determination and perseverence and heart brought Cali into our lives.

For all of you out there who have said to us "I didn't know she wasn't your real daughter" this is dedicated to you. Nothing is more real than carrying a child in your heart for over two and a half years.

Determination in this case led to a miracle, the miracle of family.

Shannon's Story

Our adoption story began in 2006. My husband, Jason and I realized we would become parents through the miracle of adoption early in our marriage. Through many loses, heartaches, sleepless nights, tears, shame, and guilt, I woke up one morning and said, “OK Lord, I get it!

You want me to carry our child in my heart!” Through many trials, God was simply preparing us for the journey to our daughter, a journey that would eventually place us in a 3rd world country for an indefinite amount of time.

When we answered the call to build our family through the miracle of adoption we had no idea how many twists and turns the journey would take. The wait was incredibly hard, heartbreaking, and at times, seemed absolutely impossible! After a country change, failed domestic adoption attempts, and even being victims to an adoption scam, it’s nothing short of a “miracle” and shear determination that we found ourselves adopting the most beautiful little girl from a Northern Province in Vietnam on September 1, 2008.

There were so many obstacles along the way and our journey was not an easy one, to be honest, it was the most difficult thing we ever imagined! Not only did our journey have twists and turns there were many “close calls”. Just to give you an idea…the day our application was received at Carolina Adoption Services (CAS) to adopt from Vietnam, CAS closed the Vietnam program! Luckily, we were able to remain in the program only because our application was post marked before that date. We quickly compiled our Dossier and it was logged in Vietnam on September 13, 2007. We were told by our first coordinator that we should receive our referral of an infant girl, 3 months old or younger by November 2007 and travel in December. We were so excited!

We made sure her nursery was ready and clothes were in her closet.

In November 2007, the USCIS changed the format for I-600 approvals between the United States and Vietnam. What did this mean for us? We would not be traveling in December 2007 or January 2008 and we were now behind a multitude of other families to receive a referral and by this time we were on coordinator #3! We were told to expect to travel by spring of 08. Months came and went with no word from USCIS. On July 19, 2008, we received heartbreaking news. USCIS had issued a Request for Further Evidence (RFE) which basically said, “Go find a birth mother”. 43 other families received the exact same letter that day. We were devastated but we knew one thing, not bringing Halle-Grace home was not an option! We were beyond determined to continue the fight, not only for our daughter but for 43 other children who remained institutionalized in the Tuyen Quang orphanage. After weeks of fighting for the children, which included a trip to Capitol Hill where Jason presented our story in front of Senators, Congressional leaders and staffers across the country we finally said “enough is enough”.

Our daughter was now 9 months old and we were determined to bring her home!

In order to do so, we had to sign a “risk waiver” stating that we fully understood and were prepared to live outside of the US for two years or until Halle-Grace received a US visa. As a military wife, I was accustomed to being away from Jason but I knew this would be very different. Even so, the decision for me was a no-brainer; I was determined to be with my daughter. She needed me as much as I needed her! We signed the paperwork and boarded a plane late August, 2008, and adopted Halle-Grace two days after the plane landed in Vietnam.

After weeks of living in our daughter's birth country and learning about her beautiful heritage, Halle-Grace received her US visa on September 30th. We immediately made plans to be reunited with Jason in the US. God’s perfect plan for our family had prevailed through all the twists, turns, and close calls. We were determined and He was faithful!

Although it is not my blood that flows through my daughter's veins it is in fact her heart that beats inside my chest. From the moment our agency matched her to us I no longer lived for myself, but rather, for Halle-Grace. Regardless of the worldly means by which she came to us, there is NO DOUBT in my mind our family was created in Heaven.

Life is full of challenges that require us to be determined and focused in order to have the kind of life we want. What we learned is that our path to motherhood required a different kind of effort, but every moment of our long gestation became a precious opportunity to grow more in love with our daughters. We are proud to call ourselves elephant moms!

Posted on 05/16/2010 by Katie Eastman and Shannon Devine


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