Elsie’s Adoption Story (and video!)

Hello there. I’m here today to recap our adoption story … the most beautiful story of our lives!

Years ago, when Jeremy and I were newlyweds and we had just bought our first home together, we followed the adoption story of one of my blog friends, Ashley. It was life changing to us, because as we followed along and I was sharing updates with Jeremy every day he turned to me one day and said that he would be open to a special needs adoption. That was the first time we had really had a serious conversation about it (our previous conversations felt way in the future), so we started to look into it. At the time we weren’t both 30 yet (a requirement for China adoptions), but we bookmarked it for the future.

Fast forward five years. We are living in Nashville, finishing up a renovation of a family-sized home and wanting to start a family so badly. We tried to conceive for a while (you can read more about that here), but we set a time limit that if we didn’t conceive by our fifth wedding anniversary we would start an adoption. I began to realize that I was totally fine with not getting pregnant and looking forward to starting the adoption just as much (honestly, even more so!) after I realized that I had never cried in all the months I’d taken negative pregnancy tests. As someone who cries easily (Super Bowl commercials, a slightly harshly worded text message or anytime Forever and For Always comes on—haha), this realization was pretty shocking to me. From that moment on, I embraced adoption as our future plan and at the risk of sounding terribly cheesy, I knew it was our destiny.

After our anniversary, we started to seriously look into options for adoption. After a month of phone calls and emails and reading different stories, we chose to adopt from China. You can read more about the reasons here. After that, we spent the rest of our year doing what felt like a mountain of paperwork. I’m not the most organized person, so this was no small task to me. In the end, I was grateful for how all the paperwork forced me to get more organized and I had never felt “so adult” in all my life. It was pretty empowering!

After that, we waited … from the early winter of 2017 until late summer we were pretty much just waiting. It was the longest and most difficult season of my life. I was so anxious, excited and motivated to become a mom … so not knowing when it was going to happen was pretty frustrating. I surrounded myself with support, we traveled and I dove into completing my home renovation as well as our project house to keep myself busy. It was a very productive year for me professionally, but very brutal personally.

I wrote a few updates during the waiting period: Our Month 10 update, Month 12 and things that helped us cope with the wait to be matched.

But then, one day it happened! We found our daughter! I shared the whole story of our match here. After that, we knew it was just a matter of a few months before we would travel to meet her and become a family of three. It was the greatest feeling on earth!

During the three and a half months we waited to travel, we worked on getting more educated about albinism, finishing up a lot of projects in our careers and preparing our home for a 2-year-old. We were SO HAPPY.

Then, on November 30, we left for China. It was so weird to say goodbye to our friends, our home and our dogs knowing that we’d be back pretty soon with little Nova. We spent two nights in Beijing at the beginning of our trip. We had the best last few date nights (the Peking duck dinner was SO good!) and some time to walk around and experience China without a toddler. But our brains were super focused on what was about to happen … also we had jet lag.

Next, we flew to Changsha, China, which was the capital of the province where Nova’s orphanage was. Jeremy made a video starting the morning we met Nova. We sent it to our families on Christmas Eve (we were unable to be with them this Christmas due to just getting home with Nova). This video is so special to me, I still can’t watch it without crying …

Music by Sleeping At Last. The song is called “Moon.”

We’ve now been with Nova for two months and I finally completed the story of her adoption day (we call it our “family day”), and the two weeks we spent together in China. Adoptions are never easy, whether for the families or the adoptees. That said, I can honestly say it’s the best choice we’ve ever made in our lives and we feel like the luckiest family in the world.

Since we’ve been home, our bond has grown so strong! We are so proud of Nova and I don’t think it’s bad to say we are really proud of ourselves as well. In hindsight, our transition seemed relatively quick and easy, but day by day it’s been super challenging. I think any new parent can relate to these feelings.

We still feel like we’re getting to know Nova (she’s full of surprises!) and we love her more every day. She’s funny and smart and confident and so brave.

On a personal note, I have never been happier! I still wake up every day and cannot believe this is my life now … it’s the most incredible gift. I’m working hard to be present every day and enjoy this season while I’m in it. I’m definitely guilty of over-documenting, but I’m working on that (she’s just too damn cute!).

Throughout our adoption I got a lot of questions, so I compiled them into two massive Q+A posts. You can read part one (about getting started and those early decisions) and part two (about special needs adoptions, China adoptions and questions about money).

Thank you so much for your kindness and love. Our family felt so supported throughout this journey. xx! Elsie

Check out My Advice to Families Considering Adoption and How We Chose Our Children’s Names!

  • beautiful love story.
    God bless you and your family with lots of happiness, peace that surpasses all understanding!

  • Beloved child. You guys are giving her the best life she can get. She has waited and deserve your love. She’s the most beautiful thing.

  • congrats elsie! it’s been so fun following along with your story. i’m so glad nova finally made it into your lives!

  • This video brought tears to my eyes! Happiness always to this wonderful family! May God bless you always!

  • Your daughter is adorable and your adoption story is so heart touching.. Congratulations
    May God bless your family

  • Congrats to you!
    As someone who had a bumpy road to starting our family, I was so happy for you guys when you announced your match. Much luck and love on your family journey!

  • This is my first post of yours to read (drected here by Tradlands) but I adopted in Changsha in 2002 and 2006 and am so grateful to have made a family this way. Congratulations and all best wishes to you three!

  • Bawling over here. That video was so beautiful, and I am so happy for you all!! kisses-cat

  • Thanks so much for your generous and honest sharing Elsie. My 15 year old daughter, who we adopted from China when she was 15 months old, has been following all your posts along with me. We’ve both delighted in seeing Nova blossom & slowly relax and the beautiful bond & love that has grown between the three of you. It’s opened up wonderful conversations for us about adoption. So good to see positive stories told – and yes, most are positive and beautiful and never stop being about the best decision ever. Wishing you all the happiest of lives together. PS – glad you took the stacker cups & found them fun & helpful.

  • What a beautiful video. It almost make me cry! Congratulations on your wonderful family

  • I’ve been following along in your adoption via instagram for quite a while, and I have to tell you how inspired I am. Yours and Jeremy’s dedication to this journey and the little girl at the end of it is such a beautiful thing. I hope the negative comments you posted about a week or so ago don’t get you down. Your family is beautiful and what you are giving your daughter is through adoption is the one of the greatest gifts you could give someone. (ps I LOVE her name- just thought I’d throw that out there 🙂

  • This is so cute !!! i really admire you for what you did. Your daughter is adorable ! Enjoy every moment with her !!

  • That video made me cry so many happy tears it’s insane… the fact that your adoption video only show Nova and almost nothing or no one else, show what kind of parents you are. That sweet little girl is loved and i couldn’t be happier for you guys! Lots of love to you 5 (yes i’m always counting the puppies! haha!)

  • I am so enjoying all your pictures and posts. My daughter, Mia, is adopted from China. She was 2 when we adopted like your Nova. It was over 10 years ago but these posts bring me right back. 2 is such a fun age – still baby like but some independence as well. I feel so lucky that I get to be her Mom. Thank you for sharing your life and family with us!

  • You know God sends angels where they can do their best work… your precious baby is on the job! She was meant to be yours. <3

  • She is so precious and I couldn’t be happier for you!! I wish you all the very best!!!

  • I think she is so cute and you do great as far as i can see (love ig and stories) i’d love to make her a dress but not sure you would like it or what size shes in.
    X angela

  • Elsie,

    This was a beautiful post! The video is just so precious. Thank you for sharing this beautiful journey to Nova and becoming parents. It has been such an eye opener ( I never had children) on so many levels. The biggest for me though is having a better understanding of what it means to be “called” to adopt children. I always thought it beautiful, but I have a much clearer picture of what it means to go thru the process. It’s a different way of birthing a child into your life, but just as precious and unique, original and one of a kind. While I completely support any need for privacy, I am thankful for what you do share and hold it with the utmost respect. I SO HAPPY FOR YOU and JEREMY!!

  • I never really leave comments, but your adoption story really touched my heart. She is SO beautiful! I never wanted kids of my own and always claimed that if I ever would get those motherhood-feelings, I would want to adopt. As we speak I’m 32 and who knows what comes…

  • As if you need another somebody to tell you how beautiful and perfect this is. So many tears of joy, and honoring all of your resilience. Thank you for sharing this journey with the world.

  • You have got to be kidding me, I’m pretty sure my heart just exploded. Congratulations!

  • She is really beautiful, she looks like an angel. It was born for you, I do not doubt it, it is your daughter who was born far away, to later find you again. Do you already speak some English? Do you like glasses, have you adapted to them?

  • Thank you so much for sharing your story and your journey. We are in a similar situation and have given ourselves a timeline for adoption if we don’t fall pregnant. I feel like same as you when it comes to adopting vs falling pregnant. I want to be a mother, it doesn’t matter how it happens.
    Between you guys and the Mindells adoption is something I feel so much more positive about.
    Thanks again for being amazing advocates and clearly amazing parents to Nova, I love watching your story.

  • I just ready your story in China. I am a mom of six and during the teen years you can feel that rejection in a different way. It is not the same, I know it isn’t, but you had me in tears. I could imagine your fear and strength. You are an absolutely beautiful soul.

  • Just so very beautiful; what a story. Just wishing you *every* good thing as you all grow together xxx

  • I have loved watching your story so very much. What a blessing Nova is and what a blessing you are to her! Congratulations on becoming a family of three.

  • “She’s funny and smart and confident and so brave”. What a beautiful way for a mother to describe her daughter. ????????????

  • Crying! My husband and I want to adopt too. Your story has filled me with hope. Thank you for sharing it.

  • I’m so happy for all of you. Becoming parents is immediate. One day you’re not a parent and the next day you are. It’s an instant shift. And it’s a life long role. You’ll be a parent your whole life. It’s so wonderful. You’re going to have an amazing life with your amazing family!

  • Thank you so much for sharing your story! The video is so beautiful and touching. And I also LOVE Forever and For Always! Sooo sappy, soooo good.

  • A huge congratulations on your adoption. It’s clear that you are all very lucky to have one another. Being a foster/adoptive parent has been a dream of mine and I so appreciate your honest perspective on your process. It’s incredibly brave of you to share how your family came to be and I wish you all the best.

  • that is such a wonderful video that you can show her when she gets older. I cried!!! it’s just so heart warming and she is just so beautiful! congrats again to you guys!!!

  • i have loved following along on your adoption journey, elsie! thank you for sharing it all with us. as someone who has been TTC for over three years with my husband this makes me so happy to see your family come together like this and honestly brings some tears to my eyes. adoption rocks!

  • Watching your adoption process has been so amazing! Nova is a beautiful girl with so much personality, and I’m sure you’re both excellent parents. In that video, you all look so radiantly happy! You’re all very lucky to have each other, and I can’t wait to see your family’s happiness continue through the years.

  • Hey Elsie (and Jeremy!),
    I remember when Ashley began her adoption process, and it has been incredible to check back in from time to time to see how much her little girl has flourished. It is so inspiring how her story prompted a new chapter in yours; I often forget how far (what seems like just our own) decisions can go. I’m still single and in my early twenties (started following Ashley and you all shortly after when I was 14!), but adoption still hangs as a possibility on the distant horizon for me. This video was really touching to me, and gave a new depth to the impact of adoption. Thank you (both of you) for remembering to creatively capture these snippets- an artistic mediation like this one challenged me in a new way, and I’m sure it has for many others.

    So happy for your family!

  • I never comment, I look and read and enjoy, or not, that said, how sweet, what a beautiful story and Little Nova is so beautiful and cute, like a sweet spring daisy or something, many blessings, I am so happy for your family!

  • I follow you guys on IG and had to pop in to read your story. I’m bawling here – and I don’t even know you! What a beautiful story and video. Thanks for sharing so candidly with us. 🙂

  • Congrats!!! She is a doll! Enjoy every moment with her (looks like you already are – love it)!

  • Hi Elsie – I check in on “A Beautiful Mess” blog every once in awhile. I am so happy for you and your husband. Nova Winter is a beautiful name for a beautiful little girl. She is so lucky to be in such a loving family!

  • Elsie, thank you for sharing your story with us — it’s so magical. Nova has a bright future and the biggest fan club! ❤️

  • Oh my goodness, please excuse while I go reapply my makeup!! That video is seriously the sweetest! I’ve been following along your story since you shared that you were going to adopt and I’m so happy for you all the Nova is finally home! 🙂

  • What a beautiful film. You can see her trust and joy with both of you. So meant to be ❤️

  • What a beautiful and bubbly little girl you’ve got!! Such a cheeky wee smile, she must light up the room with that!! Jeremy looks made up with his little girl, so nice to see him teaching her rhythm and music, it’s so special to share the things you love with the people you love. Our little boy Jack is 2 months old and his art supply stash is already unruly! Enjoy your wee family, and all the best for the future, grá from Ireland!

  • Hi Elsie, thanks for sharing your beautiful story and video! It tears me up. Best wishes to your family!

  • Thank you for sharing your story! My husband and I are in the process of adopting domestically (we just went through our second failed adoption), so reading adoption success stories is getting me through right now! What a beautiful family you have, and you’re right to cherish every moment. They slip by so fast don’t they?????

    • You are so strong! I’m so proud of you! Keep going… it will all be worth it soon!

      Our waiting period was one of the darkest times in my life- followed by the happiest, by far!
      Sending love!

  • In my heart I’ve always been open to adoption. I grew up in a church that was big on families and it wasn’t uncommon for a family to have 6+ kids, maybe only half of them biological.

    As I got older and life didn’t follow the timeline I made in my head, I began to really consider adoption, and it is one of my heart’s biggest desires to at 35, regardless of being married or single, begin the process.

    I’ve learned so much from your Larson House blog, as well as posts here, and the love in the pictures and posts fills me with so much joy and encouragement!

    Thank you for being so wonderfully open and sharing with us. We are so overjoyed for you!

  • Love that you call it family day! We just celebrated two years with our son. congrats to you all. ????

  • Elsie, I follow along with all your adoption related posts and Nova updates daily and it makes me so incredibly happy to see what joy she brings into your lives. She is so precious. It sounds cheesy but all the little photos and videos have cheered me up so many times during the difficult season I am in right now. Thank you!
    I am so, so happy for you and your family! <3

    • Thank you! I’m so happy our little updates could be a bright spot for you.

  • I just went and read your story of meeting her in China.
    I’ve been so scared of international adoptions but what a beautiful story. Thank you for sharing it!

    • Thank you! I’m happy we can show a different side of it. Being a new parent isn’t easy (for anyone) but there’s nothing scary about what we went though. It was the best choice we ever made! xx

  • Thank you so much for sharing your story. When you first talked about adopting I recalled so many stories I’ve heard told to me first hand about how difficult and sometimes awful adoptions can be. But your story has definitely changed that in my mind. It’s such a beautiful thing to take care of a child. Best wishes to your new family!

    Eva | www.shessobright.com

    • Thank you!!! This is one of the number one reasons we share our story! I hate how negative adoption stories get retold far more than positive ones. I’m happy we can show that it’s not scary. xx!

  • I seriously adore adoption stories. I always find myself crying or at least, tearing up, while reading them!! Thank you for sharing your’s, Elsie. I will watch the video when I get home! 🙂 ❤️

    Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog

  • I’ve been following your story since you first posted that you were planning to adopt. Thank you for sharing your experience and your journey with us. I was adopted and even though I know my birth mother now, my adoptive parents are still and always will be my mum and dad. I am sure you have heard this from many others, but I felt like I needed to share given how much your story has touched me. Thank you for opening your hearts. And your video had me bawling, it is so beautiful. Peace love and happiness to you and your beautiful family.

  • Dear Elsie,
    This might sound unusual but I can’t put into words how much following your journey has meant to me. I’m still looking for my person and hoping someday to be a mother. While I’m still young I wonder if I will have the time to have my own.
    When I read your story it changed my entire way of thinking about my future. I’m tearing up writing this because I know I will how hard you worked to find your Nova (best name ever by the way!) and then bond with her. I shared your story with some of my closest friends and we have all been texting back-and-forth over your posts. We love them so much I hope you will continue to post as much as humanly possible of your adorable beautiful little girl.
    I just wanted to say thank you so much for sharing so much of yourself. I have followed your blog since before you or Emma were married. While I don’t know you in real life I feel like I have been lucky enough to follow from a distance and learn so much. Thank you again!

    • Thank you!!! That’s so kind and means so much to me. We felt SO supported from our online followers throughout this whole process and it’s been so wonderful! xx

  • I love reading adoption stories- they always warm my heart! My husband and I have dreamed of adopting since we were dating. We just gave birth to our son almost 2 months ago, but we still talk about adopting somewhere in the future.

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