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Waiting for Kara

Family to spend first Christmas with adopted daughter

Adoption-1

The Hartzler family was provided with this photo of their daughter Kara earlier this year from their adoption agency. (PHOTO| HARTZLER FAMILY)

A local couple received a gift this year that they have anticipated for many years. Their special present from overseas has filled their hearts with joy and gratitude, and will set this Christmas apart from any they’ve experienced before.

On this Christmas Eve, Bellefontaine residents Tony and Judy Hartzler have wrapped up lots of toys and clothes that are set out under their Christmas tree for their newly adopted daughter, Kara.

After seven years of wading through the international adoption process, they finally got to meet their 2-year-old daughter July 29 in China.

“A couple of times we were ready to give up,” Mr. Hartzler said. “You put a lot of time and energy into it and you don’t know what’s going to happen.”

“We went through seven years of waiting and going through the motions of asking God ‘why?’ ” Mrs. Hartzler said. “It wasn’t easy, but now we see her, and we truly do know ‘why.’ ”

From the beginning

Mr. and Mrs. Hartzler met through mutual friends in 2002, and were married in 2004 at Gretna Brethren Church, where they are now regular attendees.

They hoped to start a family, and while they were unable to conceive in the first several years of marriage, they very briefly considered fertility treatments.

However, they ultimately chose adoption from China after carefully considering their options.

“For us, we felt like why spend all of the money on fertility treatments when you’re not guaranteed anything?” Mr. Hartzler said. “There are so many kids out there who need a good home.”

“Tony has cousins who adopted from China, and we have met others who adopted in China as well,” his wife explained.

“We’ve learned that China is a stable country to adopt from. They follow the Hague Treaty, which was created to protect children. In countries that don’t follow the Hague Treaty, children are sometimes sold on the black market.”

The waiting game

So in July 2006, the family started down the long road of the international adoption “paper chase,” as Mrs. Hartzler describes in her blog, Worth the Wait — Kara Elizabeth WenDi, http://worththewait-karalinann.blogspot.com, which she began in 2008.

This paper chase involves compiling documents such as birth certificates, marriage licenses, financial statements, employment letters, and completing criminal background checks and physical health exams.

Immigration paperwork also had to be filed, and the couple also had to undergo a home study, where their residence was thoroughly inspected for child safety hazards.

“We joked that if all parents had to go through all of this just to have a baby, it might deter a lot of people from having children,” Mr. Hartzler said. “It’s a very long and involved process.”

About four months later, all of the compiled documents were sent to their adoption agency for review.

Hartzler-Adoption

Tony and Judy Hartzler sit by their Christmas tree at their Bellefontaine area home with their daughter, Kara, 2, who they adopted from China earlier this year. (EXAMINER PHOTO | MANDY LOEHR)

“This paperwork became our completed dossier,” Mrs. Hartzler wrote in the blog. “It was then sent to China by our agency, and became officially ‘Logged into China’ on Dec. 31, 2006.”

During the years that followed, adoption availability in China changed somewhat in that the majority of children available for adoption had some type of special needs. So the Hartzlers updated their dossier to reflect that they’d be willing to adopt a child with minor correctable special needs.

Several referral children soon were presented to the Bellefontaine residents, including a girl with a blood disorder and another child with a heart issue. However, the family had to decide what they could handle and what was the right fit for them.

“That was really hard,” Mrs. Hartzler said. “We prayed and prayed about it, but with these children, it just didn’t quite feel right.”

In the meantime, all of the documents they previously submitted had to constantly be updated, as some of the background checks and other official certifications expire after two years.

An entry from the “Worth the Wait” blog dated Dec. 31, 2006, describes some of their feelings from this time.

“Two years ago today, our paperwork was logged into China! At that time we thought that in about 12-13 months we would be parents.

“But as time raced on, the wait time started to become longer, then longer, then even longer. This is something that we definitely don’t understand, and to try to explain it is even more difficult.

“…Life goes on, but as we continue to wait, we do know that our God has that perfect little one already picked out for us, we know that He will help us to be patient as we wait on his timing.”

‘Gotcha Day’

In 2013, the Bellefontaine residents’ wait would finally come to an end. The Hartzlers received a referral from their adoption agency in March, and instantly, they felt a connection with this young girl, who is now their daughter, Kara.

“As soon as I saw her picture, she stole my heart,” Mrs. Hartzler said. “I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, this is the one!’ I took a picture of my computer screen and texted it to Tony right away.”

They learned that the girl pictured on the computer screen was born April 20, 2011, and lived in an orphanage in the Hubei Province. Following her birth, she had been left at an area hospital and had suffered complications from an abdominal hernia.

However, Kara had already been through two surgeries to correct the hernia issue, and was a happy and healthy little toddler. In Mrs. Hartzler’s blog entry from March 23, she shared the big news with friends and family on the site.

“Time has flown by and here we are ... close to the end of our journey! It is with praise and gratitude that we are on Cloud 9 right now! We have reviewed a file of a little girl ... not yet 2 ... She is beautiful, adorable, cute, cute, cute!”

Not long thereafter, Mr. and Mrs. Hartzler received the official word that they were approved for the adoption, and travel plans were set into motion. They would leave July 24 for China and return home Aug. 8.

After a lengthy flight to Beijing, they arrived in the country and did some sightseeing, including stops at the Great Wall of China and the Forbidden City, before venturing to the Hubei Province several days later.

There they would meet their daughter in the city of Wuhan. While they had watched many “Gotcha Day” videos of other families meeting their adoptive children for the first time, this was finally their big moment.

“Some ladies from the orphanage carried Kara into the building because she was asleep. I thought I’d cry and be very emotional, but I didn’t, I was just taking it all in,” Mrs. Hartzler said.

“She woke up later in Tony’s arms. We went back to our hotel and got to spend those first special moments with her.”

Although Kara couldn’t speak English at that time, they quickly got to know her personality and her likes and dislikes, as noted in the blog.

“She has a strong little will, she lets us know what she wants by grabbing our hand and taking it to what she wants. She can have little temper tantrums if she doesn’t get her way. She is not too fond of baths, she loves to look at herself in the mirror, and she has the most wonderful laugh ... Tony and I are both head over heels in love with this little girl!”

Christmas wishes

Settling into a routine with their new daughter since their homecoming, the Hartzlers said Kara also has adapted well to her life in a new country.

Her overall health has been good and she continues to grow and develop new skills. The 2-year receives early intervention services from the Discovery Center to work on her speech.

However, her English comprehension is progressing very smoothly. At the couple’s home last week, Kara listened and responded to many different instructions, and likes to tell her “mama” and dada” she loves them.

“Her overall transition has been really good,” Mr. Hartzler said. “She is the easiest kid that I’ve ever been around. She’s very laid back and likes to rough house, play and act silly.

“It’s amazing how God picked this one for us. She just fits in our family.”

“It’s hard to imagine life without her now,” his wife agreed. “It’s definitely going to make Christmas special for us.”

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