There were times when Mary Lynne Lorch thought she’d never escape the darkness of grief. She was sure she would never again find light and joy.
Mary Lynne had endured four pregnancies that ended in miscarriage before she brought little Kelly into the world. Kelly was 12 weeks premature and weighed only 1 pound, 15 ounces. The 95 days that baby Kelly was in the hospital seemed like an eternity to Mary Lynne, her husband Bob and son Greg, who was only seven at the time.
Even though Mary Lynne was worried that her baby was leaving the hospital before she was ready, the medical team felt it was time for Kelly to go home. She was still fragile, but they expected her to gain strength and grow at home.
Kelly had to be given seven different medications, each by syringe, before she ate. And she could only take about two ounces of milk at a time. Mary Lynne was understandably upset when little Kelly would spit up an amount that looked like the two ounces she’d just given her. Kelly desperately needed these medications, especially the diuretic for her still very fragile lungs.
But the nurse at the hospital and the visiting nurse said there was no need to worry.
Mary Lynn remembers repeatedly calling the hospital and hearing the annoyed response, “All babies spit up! You need to stop calling with the same questions. We have babies here who need our attention. Absolutely call if something different happens. If not, you can talk again with the visiting nurse when she comes.”
The circle of Kelly’s challenges, followed by assurances from the nurses and then even the doctor, continued. On day nine of being home, Mary Lynne and Bob took Kelly to the doctor, who was pleased that there was a modest weight gain. Everything looked good, he said.
But Mary Lynne’s mother’s intuition again told her that things were not good. Kelly still had difficulty drinking her bottle (and along with it, her medicine) and her cries became increasingly more desperate.
The night after the visit to the doctor, Kelly wouldn’t drink her bottle at all. She cried fitfully all night. At 3 a.m., Mary Lynne called the doctor’s office, and the nurse said she would contact the doctor. But she never heard back from him that night and continued to call for help.
On one of the trips from the phone to the bassinette, Mary Lynne saw that her baby had stopped crying and had a fixed stare. Mary Lynne screamed, and knew they needed immediate help. There was no 911 service in her community at the time, so Mary Lynne, Bob and young Greg all got into the car to take Kelly to the hospital.
During the drive, Mary Lynne kept making sure that Kelly was still breathing. They were 15 minutes away from the hospital when Kelly stopped breathing. Mary Lynn was trained in CPR for infants and attempted to administer breathing, to no avail. She was frantic and saw that they were approaching another hospital. Bob turned in and Mary Lynne ran into the Emergency Room screaming, “Who can help my baby?”
The nightmare continued at the hospital while doctors and nurses did their best to save little Kelly.
Time passed. Eventually, a nurse delivered the news. “I’m so sorry. The doctors worked for 45 minutes to try to bring her back, but she is gone. She is so beautiful we didn’t want to let her go!”
And neither did Mary Lynne. She was angry. Angry that no one had listened to her. Angry that Kelly was sent home too early. Angry that the doctor didn’t return her call that dreaded night—and all because the batteries in his beeper were dead. And most of all, she was angry that her baby wasn’t given a chance to survive and thrive in the world.
But while everything seemed dark, she knew she had to keep going. Her son Greg needed her.
“The heartache made it seem impossible to go on. My friends and family were concerned because I lost so much weight. They gave me a tremendous amount of love and support. And I knew I had to be strong for Greg,” she remembers. “That’s a good thing, because otherwise I would have quit functioning and would have ended up in a psychiatric hospital!”
“Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.”
- Psalm 30:5
Mary Lynne says that her unwavering faith in God helped to get her through the loss of Kelly.
And it wasn’t long before she and Bob knew that there was another plan for them that would help them to heal and move on. The two agreed to the idea of adopting a daughter.
Mary Lynne says, “We both knew we could never replace our child, but we needed someone else to love. My arms would physically ache when I thought about holding a baby. It didn’t matter whether I gave birth to a baby or adopted one. I just knew our baby needed to be a girl.”
Mary Lynne and Bob prayed for guidance about their next step. Should it be a domestic or international adoption? And if international, from Russian, China, Korea, Romania, Guatemala or someplace else?
When Mary Lynne was sitting in church one Sunday as an infant baptism took place, she started crying as she thought, “Why couldn’t that be me with my baby girl?” She prayed again for a sign about the direction for adoption.
After the service, she walked towards the back of the church, where she saw a couple holding a beautiful baby girl. Mary Lynne looked closer and saw the baby was Asian, with beautiful almond-shaped eyes. She started crying again and the young mother asked if she was okay. Mary Lynne explained that she and her husband had been considering adoption. The woman told her they had just brought their daughter home from China a few days earlier.
Mary Lynne said to her, “I need to tell you that I just prayed for God to send me a sign about what we should do about adopting. And then I saw you.”
Mary Lynne asked her, “Are you my sign?”
The woman, looked at her in disbelief and said, “I am your sign! We’ve never been to this church before. We still have jet lag and called around to find a church with a later service. After the service, I told my husband that I felt we should wait here. And here you are!”
The woman shared about their journey and gave her the name of her social worker at Adoptions from the Heart. Mary Lynne wasted no time in getting the ball rolling. She filled out masses of paperwork, underwent interviews and prayed they would get their baby.
Bob says, “While Mary Lynne can be very emotional, she can also be very strong, as sturdy as a rock. I saw that side of her as she dealt with the loss of Kelly. We all deal with our grief differently. Mary Lynne surprisingly and very quickly diverted that grief into optimism about adoption. She found comfort in working evenings and weekends on the process of adopting our daughter.”
Mary Lynne will never forget the day she got “The Call” from the social worker.
“Your Kelly is smiling down on you today because you have your match. There’s a baby waiting for you,” the social worker said.
In December of 1998, a little more than two years after Kelly was born, Mary Lynne traveled to China with some other women who were also adopting little girls. The process was quite an ordeal, including taking thousands of dollars in new $20 bills, along with gummy bears, Cognac and cigarettes for the judges.
And the women on the trip became life-long friends, especially Ruth and Sheri, who each experienced their own personal journey from despair to hope.
Each of them adopted and brought home a precious baby girl.
Mary Lynne, Bob and young Greg all welcomed their new baby into their home. Her name is Katie and she is a delight and joy beyond measure.
“When I was in China for the adoption, many people said, ‘What a lucky baby.’ I would say, ‘No, I’m the lucky one.’ I don’t know what I would have done without my Katie.”
An artist friend, Bev Beatty, painted a mural in Katie’s room of two angel babies, each with one wing, reaching out to one another. One represented Kelly and the other represented Katie.
The painting brought to life the words that hold such meaning for Mary Lynne.
“We are each of us an angel with only one wing and we can only fly by embracing one another.”
Mary Lynne, Sheri and Ruth, once strangers, became friends during their adoption journey together in China. Today, they are like sisters, with a bond that feels more like family.
And the babies they brought home – Katie, Sarah and Loretta – are family, too. They call each other their China sisters. They grew up with playdates and sleepovers, fun and laughter. And each year they celebrate their Gotcha Day.
It’s the day for the women to remember when they brought home their bundles that changed their lives forever. And it’s the day for the daughters to celebrate the day they found their families and each other.
Mary Lynne, Sheri and Ruth each had unique and horrible experiences that led them to adopt their precious babies. The driving forces were terror, heartbreak, deceit, rape, tragedy, despair and the will to survive.
Mary Lynne describes, “The journey that we have shared and continue to share led from deep darkness to beautiful light. We have a bond that continues to grow as we hope to inspire others who face great difficulties.”
In their quest to share hope with those on a challenging journey, the three women have written a book called “Bundles, A Journey from Despair to Hope.” Published by Austin MaCauley, it’s available on Amazon and other places where books are sold.
The book is already making an impact. One woman says, “Reading the stories of these three strong women, who have been through devastating experiences but never gave up, is inspirational. They show a path from terror, deceit, heartbreak and tragedy to hope. They all came out on the other side of despair. I couldn’t wait to find out what happened on each page – and it was beautiful.”
Beautiful is a good way to describe life today for Mary Lynne. Life has slowed down since she retired from teaching at the School for Blind Children in Pittsburgh. She works part time at a women’s clothing store in a nearby mall, and enjoys the interaction with associates and customers. She adores the men in her life – husband Bob and son Greg.
Her friends are important to her, especially her sisters of the heart, Ruth and Sheri. And she is important to them.
Ruth shares, “Mary Lynne is caring, friendly, strong and connected to so many people who know and love her! She had a gift of words, can talk with anyone, and makes others laugh! She has survived difficulty, heartbreaking times in her life but remains a very positive person.”
And of course, Mary Lynne has a bond with Katie that will never end.
“Katie continues to bring us joy and pride. I’ve loved watching her grow into the beautiful young woman that she is today. She can be quiet, but when she speaks, her words are powerful and impactful.”
Katie, once abandoned in a public place in China by parents who couldn’t keep her, was a bundle carried across continents to find her new home. She is busy and happy with a career in graphic design. She’s in a wonderful relationship with a young man named Jeremy, has a lovely home, a dog named Momo, and a cat named Stella, along with a lizard and a snake.
Bob has a perspective gained through the journey. “At one point, I lost my faith, but Mary Lynne’s got stronger. And through the process of this hardship, my faith increased, too. That terrible dark time took us both on a wonderful journey leading to our beautiful daughter Katie.”
There’s no doubt that the darkness was terrible. But there is also no doubt that joy came in the morning.
“Bundles –A Journey from Despair to Hope” is available on Amazon and other places where books are sold.
This is the first part of a www.PeopleLivingWell.com trilogy about the women of Bundles – Mary Lynne Lorch, Sheri Kunkle and Ruth Carosone. They each experienced immense, unique and personal difficulties that led them to China to adopt their daughters. Their families are now part of the historic mass exodus of Chinese girls from their troubled homeland in the late 1900s and the early 2000s.