Emily is 10 years old and lives in Virginia. with her parents, Stephanie and Barry.
Stephanie and Barry always knew in their hearts that adoption would be part of their family plan. They just assumed it would come after they had one or two kids the traditional way. But three years after they got married, they found themselves living and working India. They knew they were in the right place to adopt and decided that an adopted child would come first.
With help from friends who had adopted a son, Stephanie and Barry began working with an orphanage in the city of Delhi. The organization had a long waiting list but they decided to stick it out for a while, and months passed with no word on a child. The couple had just begun to explore other orphanages in the city of Calcutta when the call came from the Delhi orphanage, saying they had a baby for them.
Emily's biological mom was unmarried when her daughter was born, and her birth father refused to take responsibility for his child. Since there's a very serious social stigma on unwed moms in India, the woman's family convinced her that adoption was the best option. She brought the baby to the orphanage in Delhi at the age of one month.
Emily: "When they first called the orphanage and asked if they had a baby for them, the orphanage said they didn't. And then later, they called and said they had a baby, and that I was very sick, and that I was in the hospital for a while. If my parents hadn't adopted me, I might have died."
In the orphanage, Emily's health had become a major issue. Chronic acid reflux made her spit up her food, which led to pneumonia. By the time she was five months old, her condition was going quickly downhill. That's when her future mom and dad got the phone call. Although they were not at the top of the list, they were given the chance to adopt because as Americans, they were seen as more able to immediately provide the kind of medical care that baby Emily needed. They said yes, and brought Emily to their home in India. Eight months later, they brought her home to America, where all her new relatives were waiting at the airport to welcome her.
Ten years later, Emily is happy and healthy. She and her parents choose to celebrate the fact that she was adopted by celebrating her "gotcha day," which is the day she became a part of their family, as well as her birthday. Stephanie has even gone to her daughter's school on that day to share her adoption story with the other students. The family also has a scrapbook album that starts on the day they brought Emily home and covers her first year of life.
Of course, Emily has always known that her skin is much darker than her parents' skin, and that she looked "different" than her mom and dad.
Emily: "Once or twice when I was in kindergarten, people asked me why I didn't look like my parents. I just said, uh, well I was adopted, so I don't exactly look like my parents. My friends just accept it automatically. There are even two other kids in my school who were born in India. One of them is also adopted, and funnily enough, her name is also Emily!"
Over the years, Emily has asked questions about her birth, and has wondered if she would have been loved if she had stayed with her biological mother. But for the most part, she doesn't dwell on the "what if's" and stays focused on other stuff, like having fun with her friends, getting good grades, and making her parents proud. One of her favorite activities is swimming, which has revealed one major difference between her and her mom and dad...
Emily: "There is one thing I've done that I know neither my mom or dad would do, and that's jump off a 19-foot tall diving board."
Another difference is a surprising one: Emily's parents love Indian food...but Emily can't stand it! Despite these little differences, Emily fits right in with her "forever family."
Emily: "I really, really like being in this family. It's sort of cool knowing that you weren't born by your mom. I'd like a little brother or sister someday. It wouldn't matter at all if it were adopted, or if it came from my mom and dad."
Nope, it doesn't matter at all, and kids like Emily and Christopher prove that.