“Adoption was always on our radar,” Michelle Cobban told us. “Shane and I talked about it often, and I grew up in a large family and always wanted a large family myself. We have been involved with enough different organizations that our kids also have had a heart for adoption. So through the years, adoption was in the back of our mind. Then one day, we discussed logistics and decided it was time to pursue it.”
Shane and Michelle Cobban have been married twenty-five years. Two and a half years ago and twenty years into their marriage, they decided it was time to adopt. This was not a sudden realization or a rushed decision inspired by a compelling story or emotionally-weighted commercial.
In November of 2017, they adopted a six-year-old child, Zachary, from China.
The entire family was ready to add a new member. After all, the eldest daughter, Katie, had hounded her parents about adopting for quite some time. When Katie was seven, she set up a lemonade stand in her neighborhood so she could donate money to kids at the Shepherd’s Field Children’s Village, an orphanage in Tianjin, China. In addition to the oldest Katie who is seventeen, the Cobban family includes Kelly (fifteen), DJ (thirteen), and the newest member, Zachary, who is now nine years old.
“We lived in China for a couple of years,” Shane recounted. “I was an English teacher. And so our kids were part of that experience, our three oldest. We’ve always had kind of a heart for China. We’ve known other people who have adopted from the country, so it made sense for us. It was part of our family story.”
Katie was three when the Cobbans moved to China, and five when she left. She does have a few memories of the family’s time there. While in Asia, parents Shane and Michelle picked up some rudimentary Chinese which would later serve them well.
How did you find Zachary, your adopted child?
Shane and Michelle were looking for a child of a certain age. As older parents, they wanted an older child. They also wanted a child they would be able to care for and have the facilities to manage if their soon-to-be new family member had any kind of medical condition. Zachary met all of their criteria.
“I remember coming home from work, and Michelle showed me a picture,” Shane told us. “This picture was the perfect profile of the child we were looking for.” The Cobbans felt that this marked a good time to start their adoption journey, and they decided to take the next step.
Meeting Zachary for the first time.
The Cobbans travelled to China in November of 2017 and stayed for two weeks as is typical for an adoption there.
“I remember our hotel room had a giant window in it,” Katie recalled. “For thirty minutes before Zachary was supposed to arrive at our hotel, DJ, Kelly, and I sat by that window and watched all the taxis stop, with people getting out. Each time, we wondered, ‘Is that him? Could that be him?’ We were really excited, also nervous, but really excited to meet him.”
Kelly remembered, “We got to the floor we were supposed to be on but went to the wrong conference room at first. When we finally got the right conference room, Zachary was sitting at a table, drawing on a piece of paper. When the orphanage staff saw us, they turned Zachary around to us and said, ‘Here’s your family.’ That was really exciting.”
For Shane, it was an exciting and amazing event as well. “We had waited for so long. We had seen pictures and videos, and to finally see Zachary in person, was magnificent. It was nothing else like I had experienced. It was very emotional.”
Michelle remembered getting the text that said, “Your son has arrived.” She said, “I remember feeling so much, and it makes me emotional thinking back to it, and I couldn’t breathe for a second when we saw Zachary. And I thought, ‘Wow. He is here.’ It was such a touching moment, and it took our breath away. He was this beautiful boy, looking at us. He seemed excited and scared at the same time.”
After that first day, what has it been like to go from then, to becoming a family?
“Part of the emotion of seeing Zachary for the first time is that I’m now responsible for this child for the rest of his life,” Shane remarked. “Adapting to his behavior, and him trying to adjust to us in his new life with these strange people in a strange place, there were some challenging times with discipline. But there were also great times, with memories of eating together and trying to communicate, going places with him and experiencing new things along with him.”
For Michelle, it was super exciting to have another family member. “All five of us, hands-down, would say it was great to have Zachary in our family,” she said. “Since we had lived in China, we could communicate with him on a pre-school level. Our tongues were not the greatest, but we could understand each other. I think when I first adopted, my biggest fear was about his medical conditions because we knew Zachary had a heart condition. Also, he had a hernia and a lot of dental needs. I was so worried about how he was going to handle everything, but probably harder was the emotional adjustment for him and learning to trust us and us learning to communicate in a way that he understood. That was really challenging. Zachary had experienced enough trauma that it was really eye-opening for us to understand where he was coming from. We didn’t always understand him. But he’s just grown so much since then.”
For Katie, she felt like Zachary was a stranger for a while. She had to figure out the best way to communicate with him and figure out the things he might want to do or enjoy. The initial adjustment to getting to know him was an adventure. For Kelly, she felt like getting to know him was one of the hardest things. Learning how he would think or how she could communicate with him while he was still learning the language was not always easy, but ultimately a way to bring them all closer.
Since the Cobban's have such a great story about their experience, we split it into two parts. The 2nd half will be available soon. Stay tuned!