The Story Behind the Photo: The Homecoming

Last year, California mom Amber Kanallakan and her husband adopted their son Oliver from China — a little boy with limb difference. They were featured on the cover of Holt’s 2015 annual adoption magazine. We’ve also shared some of Amber’s blogs about their adoption process and her advice about fundraising for adoption. Now, she shares about another part of their journey to Oliver — their homecoming.

Friends and family gathered at the airport to welcome Oliver home from China. Photo by Jacki Potorke Photography

During our adoption process, I often dreamed of the moment we’d walk through the double doors of the airport foyer, holding our long-awaited and already dearly loved son, and introduce him to our people.

Considering the sleep deprivation, hunger pains and overwhelming emotions, I’m impressed my brain has held onto the details of our actual homecoming like it has.

Amber’s husband, center, holds their biological son upon returning home from China with their adopted son, Oliver. Photo by Jacki Potorke Photography

Our journey from Guangzhou to central California took just under 24 hours. Our new son, Oliver, was 10 months old and slept a total of four hours during our three flights. His little stomach was irritated due to his anxiousness and new formula and both my husband and I had to change our clothes and his multiple times. I remember boarding our final flight, knowing my two older kiddos were just two hours away. I’ve never wanted to see them so intensely.

We had invited our friends and family to meet us at the airport, and had kept them updated on our arrival time throughout the day. Reality was, all three of us were exhausted. My body was tired in a way I had never experienced. My brain was foggy and my eyes were bloodshot. After traveling in airplanes for over 20 hours, the last thing I wanted was to sit, yet my legs felt like rubber.

Welcome home, Oliver. Photo by Jacki Potorke Photography

Oliver was strapped tightly to my chest and, finally, sleeping. My husband was on shirt number three and barely hanging onto consciousness.

Oliver was about to meet the rest of his forever family: the big brother and big sister who had written him letters and drawn him pictures and imagined what he was doing at his orphanage while we worked so hard to get to him. This was a moment — an encounter, a meeting — that would only happen once and I vowed to cherish and remember it.

As we walked toward the airport foyer, knowing a crowd and our kids were waiting, I remember my eyes filling with tears.

I tried to focus in on what was happening. I fought to be present and alert. As we neared the double doors, I could hear our village cheering.

First meeting for brothers and sisters. Photo by Jacki Potorke Photography

This was it. Oliver was home.

The doors opened and the camera flashes and cheers woke up our newest family member. My 4-year-old daughter screamed and ran into the arms of her daddy. Two weeks was too long to be away and she felt our absence deeply. My 6-year-old son approached slowly and cautiously, reaching his hand out to touch the chunky leg hanging out of the baby carrier. I remember kneeling down to grab him and kiss his face.

“This is Oliver. He is very tired and overwhelmed and I am so happy for you two to finally meet,” I told him.

I remember hugging and kissing many dear friends and family members who had come to welcome us home. Grandmas and grandpas, uncles and aunties, pastors and neighbors, all waving homemade signs and banners and crying with us.

Praying together. Photo by Jacki Potorke Photography

My daughter, still clinging tightly to her daddy’s neck, reached out for my hand. The five of us walked over to a row of chairs and sat together. Together. All five of us. For the first time.

My older kids asked a few questions and gently touched their brother’s arms and feet while he stared back at them — our village watching our every move, whispering their feelings of joy to one another.

Our homecoming ended with prayer. Right there in the airport, gathered in a circle, hand in hand, we thanked God for his goodness and faithfulness and favor to our family and our new son. It was during that time of worship and thanksgiving that I lost it. The tears flowed freely and I could feel my weary shoulders shake.

What a moment. What a homecoming.

I am so grateful for the images of that night that stand as an altar and testimony to what God did and continues to do in building and healing our family. I will never forget.

Amber Kanallakan | Oregon


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