Answered Prayers

May 31, 2019

Campton couple’s adoption journey enriches their lives

By Jen Calhoun

Cathi, John and Madison May pose outside their home.
Cathi, John and Madison May pose outside their home.

Not long after John and Kathi May learned they would become parents in July 2010, they put together a photo album and bought a tiny stuffed caterpillar.

Then they mailed them both to China.

About three months later, those items came back to them alongside their daughter, Madison Grace, a 15-month-old bundle of love who would change their lives — and their hearts — forever.

Baby Love

The Mays adopted Madison from China after a long, rigorous process that included months of paperwork, medical screenings, meetings, interviews and gathering extensive references. They relied heavily on the internet for information and communication.

“The process started in August 2009,” says Kathi May, a medical technologist and the mayor of Campton. “We first had to choose our adoption agency, and we went with Holt International, which has been doing this for years.”

For nearly a year after the process started, the Mays waited and worried. Then, on July 21, 2010, they had their answer. “They called me that afternoon to tell me that they had matched us with a little girl,” May says. “When I hung up the phone with them, they had already sent all her information to me in an email.

We had her medical records and pictures. I printed it straight out and showed it to a nurse practitioner. Then we made an appointment with a pediatrician.”

In October of that year, the Mays left for Beijing, China, to meet their daughter and bring her home to Kentucky. “The main reason we chose a Chinese adoption over adopting in the U.S. is that, in America, there is a six-week time period that the birth parents can change their minds and take the baby back,” May says.

“We had already gone through so many struggles with our miscarriages that we didn’t want to take that on. We knew that once we went to China and got this little girl that she would be ours from the moment we got her.”

And she was. On Oct. 25, 2010, the Mays held their daughter for the first time. They now celebrate that date as Madison’s “Gotcha Day” — the day a person joins a family through adoption. The next day, the paperwork was official.

As part of the adoption process, the couple had to stay in China for several more weeks, which turned out to be a good thing, May says. “When we first got Madison, all we wanted to do was take her home,” she says. “But staying there actually turned out to be a very important part of the process. We were able to bond with her, but we were also away from everything here — the ringing phones and all the distractions. We needed that time to establish a bond and commit to our family.”

Learning and Growing

At just over a year old, Madison was developmentally behind many other children her age. She had been staying in a foster home in China as an infant. Her speech consisted of a few mumbled words in Chinese. She wasn’t walking, and she was still eating with a bottle.

But just a few days after she joined the Mays, she started eating solid food. By the end of the following January, she had taken her first steps. And by summer, the toddler was speaking up a storm in a cute Southern drawl. “We made friends with other American families while we were in China,” May says. “They adopted daughters there, too. When we met up with them later in 2011, they couldn’t believe her speech. She was already speaking full, clear sentences.”

Madison’s accomplishments didn’t end there. When she was 3, she started reading. “That’s another mind-boggling thing,” her mother says.

Now, Madison is 9 years old and loves cheerleading, her dance team and stuffed animals — especially a little stuffed frog named “Froggy,” which one of her preschool teachers gave to her. “Madison is very energetic,” May says. “She’s got the best little sense of humor — she’s a little spitfire, really.” She loves reading and science and even recently downloaded a game about the periodic table. “I told her the sky’s the limit,” her mother says.

Super Support

Madison’s adoption resulted in other positives, May says. While in China, the Mays became close friends with two other families who also adopted baby girls.

Every year, the Mays meet up with the families — one is from Iowa, and the other is from New York. “We go on trips together, and we call it our Chinese reunion,” May says. “Each family rotates as a host family, and we’ll meet up at a place near that host family. We all stay under the same roof. The girls are all from the same area in China, and they get to come together and bond. That way, they actually know two other people from where they’re originally from. And the families provide a great support system for each other. If one of us has issues, we can talk about it.”

This story appeared in the May/June issue of Mountain Telephone Connection.

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