For years, the Evans home of Dr. Patrick Tracy and Sally Terrill-Tracy was neat and quiet - but missing the joyous sounds of family.
But more than three months ago, the couple's dreams came true when they returned from China with Shannon and Erin, 18-month-old twin girls they adopted there, making them one of thousands of American couples who have adopted orphans from other countries.
"We saved each other's lives," Terrill-Tracy said. "They saved my life from being without children and we saved their lives ... They were supposed to be our children."
On July 5, the couple's home off Hardy McManus Road was stacked with toys as the now 21-month-old twins woke from an afternoon nap to enjoy a snack of raisins and popcorn.
Terrill-Tracy said she and her husband, who is a third-year internal medicine resident at Eisenhower Army Medical Center on Fort Gordon, tried to have children for years without success. The couple pursued fertility procedures in efforts to have their own children.
Tracy said his wife had talked about adopting children from China before, but the option didn't really sink in until they were told they'd probably never have children naturally.
"It's was like all of a sudden, I got hit by this lightning bolt," Tracy said. "I said, 'We're not going to have any kids of our own? OK, it is time to go to China.'"
The couple, who requested twins, spent six months completing the mountains of paperwork necessary for international adoption through the Fuzhou Social Welfare Institute. They heard about the girls, who were on the Waiting Children list - instead of the Healthy Children list - because each girl has a small hemangioma, which is a dense collection of small blood vessels likely to be gone by age 5, Tracy said. They immediately agreed to take them even without seeing photos.
Terrill-Tracy said she just wanted to be a mother and she had a feeling that the girls would complete her family.
Just before getting the girls from an orphanage in Linchuan City in the Jiangxi province, Tracy's father died, and Terrill-Tracy said her father died only 10 days before the March trip.
"It's amazing how much these girls have been a healing of the soul for me," Tracy said. "...We've had so much happen in the past few years that they were like the answers to our prayers. People ask what it is like before and after. I was only using half of myself ... I thought I was a good physician. I thought I was a good husband. That's only part of the story. It's kind of like half of you is not even alive until you have children."
Terrill-Tracy said the process of international adoption is a daunting one that is often frustrating. Still, the process doesn't seem to discourage families from adopting internationally. According to the U.S. State Department, nearly 8,000 immigrant visas were issued to orphans coming from China in 2005. That same year, 4,639 came from Russia; 3,783 came from Guatemala; and 1,630 came from Korea.
Harlem Mayor Scott Dean is looking to join those who adopt internationally, with hopes of expanding his family by five by next spring. Dean fell in love with two girls in a Guatemalan orphanage where he worked as part of several church mission trips. When Dean and his wife Renee discovered the girls were part of five siblings, they said they didn't have the heart to break them up and began paperwork in January to adopt all five - four girls and a boy between the ages of 12 and 2.
"It's got to be a God thing, otherwise we'd be crazy," Dean said with a laugh. "...It's got to be a calling."
Dean, who already has a 9-year-old son, Anthony, and a 5-year-old son, Meyer, said he's had architects study the possibility of adding a second floor to his Harlem home.
Terrill-Tracy said her twin girls are lucky because they get to be part of a Chinese, Irish and American family. The couple plan to include Chinese holidays in the family calendar and allow the girls, when they are old enough, to be as involved with their heritage as they choose to be.
In the meantime, Terrill-Tracy said she'd like to find other families with adopted Chinese children to support each other and possibly form a chapter of the Families with Children from China.
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