At the age of 39, Kristen Grae Williams decided to adopt a baby. "I always dreamt of being a mom and just because I didn't have a partner, I didn't want to miss out," the Cincinnati resident told Humans of Bombay in an interview published yesterday on the occasion of International Day of the Girl Child. Although plagued with doubts about being a single mother, Ms Williams soon realised that any child would be happier at home than at an orphanage.
But being a "single female" restricted her options, so the American woman started exploring international adoptions. "I applied to Nepal, paid 28,000 dollars and even got accepted, but when the US department of State suspended adoptions from Nepal, I was heartbroken," she revealed.
Having lost the money she had put up, Kristen Williams prayed for a miracle. Then one day, she received a call from an adoption agency in India, which told her that she had been cleared for adoption from the country, but only if she adopted a child with special needs.
Ms Williams says the call left her overwhelmed, but she soon received a second phone call - this one from her mother. "I took a deep breath and said, 'Mom, I'm going to be a mom to a special baby!' In that split second, I had made my decision," she said.
Two weeks later, the Cincinnati teacher came across the profile of Munni, a five-year-old girl who had behavioural issues because of abuse faced at the hands of previous caretakers. She had a smile that Ms Williams says "jolted" her, and she decided to adopt Munni.
Her father wasn't too thrilled -- "Why aren't you adopting a white baby?" he asked her -- but when Ms Williams was short of a few thousands to pay the agency, he stepped up to help her out.
Munni finally came home on Valentine's Day in 2013 - and her bond with her mother grew as she did. But as she watched Munni grow up, Ms Williams realised she did not want her to be a single child, and so she geared up for her second adoption.
"A week later my agent called and said, 'There's a 22 months old girl. She's healthy, but she doesn't have a nose. Do you want to pursue this?'" she revealed.
That's how Kristen Williams first heard of Roopa, a little girl who had been abandoned on the street by her parents and attacked by dogs before she was discovered. A year after she received the phone call, with all formalities completed, she brought Roopa home to the US.
But Roopa's transition wasn't smooth. "She cried all day for a week as I wondered if I'd made a mistake," Ms Williams said. A lucky break came one morning when Roopa started laughing while playing with a balloon. Her mother joined her, and so did Munni. From then on, Roopa and Munni were inseparable.
"I loved being a mom to my girls and if I could get more girls' to be addressed as 'daughter' instead of 'orphan', my life would be complete!" Ms Williams said. "So that's what I did and within 2 years, Mohini and Sonali joined us and made our little family slightly bigger!"
With that, Ms Williams switched careers and moved to real estate. Raising four girls on a teacher's salary wasn't easy, she said. She started working from home eventually, keen not to miss watching her children grow up.
By 2019, Ms Williams had her hands full raising her four daughters, but "it felt as if God was trying to say something", she says, as she started noticing children with Down Syndrome. "And indeed, my hunch was right, little Snigdha was waiting to come home."
Ms Williams adopted Snigdha in January 2020, but was able to bring her home only two months ago because of the pandemic. "It's a full house now. Snigdha is still adjusting; it's a little tough to interact with her, but we're getting there!" she says.
For Kristen Grae Williams, the biggest happiness is seeing her family blossom. "I love seeing my girls so tight! I always tell them that people will come and go but sisterhood is for life and they live by it," she says.
"I started creating this mosaic when I was 39, at 51 it's complete. 12 years! These 12 years will always be sacred, because in these 12 years all five of my daughters found their way home."
The touching story has also won hearts on social media. Since being shared yesterday, it has racked up thousands of 'likes' and comments.
"What an awesome woman, am left speechless at her selfless love and dedication," one Facebook user said.
"What a beautiful family and a beautiful story," another commented.Click for more trending news