They’d all warned her and her husband not to adopt the girl, saying she was unadoptable. But the couple did it anyways, having already fallen in love with her.
The adoption process took a few months, and before they knew it, they had a daughter as they’d always wished. But it wouldn’t be long before trouble came knocking.
When Dean and Melissa Hawthorne decided to adopt a little girl as their next child, they’d only hoped to add to their family while helping a soul that needed the love and care they could provide.
The family had long wanted to have a daughter, and after four boys, who were now grown up and in college, Melissa suggested they try adoption. Such a simple suggestion would result in a massive problem for her entire family.
Dean and Melissa married when they were in their mid-twenties, and by the time they reached their forties, they already had a big family, complete with four sons.
But although theirs was a beautiful family, the couple always felt like they were missing something integral. Despite having everything they wished for, they missed one thing.
For the longest time, Dean and Melissa wanted to have a daughter. After years of trying to conceive a baby girl, Melissa would suggest something that would provide a solution to their issue.
The two had already put all of their sons through high school when Melissa landed on adoption as a way to have a daughter. But she sat on the idea for a while, fearing what her husband would say on the matter.
The house was empty after their four boys went off to college when Melissa finally opened up to Dean. His eyes lit up immediately, the way they always did whenever he was on board with something.
Three months later, the couple thoroughly revised all adoption procedures. An agency would invite them to an adoption event that would change their lives forever.
The adoption event was the first the Hawthorns ever attended, and although they met several kids with whom they instantly connected, their heart was snared by a black and white photo of a little girl who wasn’t at the event.
“It was more than your average love at first sight,” Melissa shared, recalling the moment. “We saw her in the photo and knew right then that she was the one.” But a problem would soon bar them from adopting the child.
Dean and Melissa presented their interest in adopting the girl, but the agency advised them against it. “The adoption agents, caretakers, and orphanage heads all insisted that the girl was troubled,” Dean said.
“They said she’d been through a lot in her life, and at her age, it was best if they took her to a mental hospital instead,” Dean revealed that their house felt lonely after their four sons went to college. The girl would fill this void.
The Hawthornes fought tooth and nail to bring the little girl, Ana, home with them. The process took months, but they finally adopted her as the daughter they’d always dreamed of having.
But as the days passed by, it became evident that the people at the adoption event had not lied about Ana. The Hawthornes would soon find out.
A week passed after the Hawthornes brought Ana home before trouble began. At first, she was a quiet seven-year-old girl, keeping to herself and never uttering a word.
But as she got used to her new environment, she began showing her true colors, all of which more than freaked out the Hawthorns.
The first thing that Ana did was lash out at her parents or brothers whenever they interacted with her. This was usually followed by snarling or chattering like an insect. She’d sometimes scratch if any of them got too close.
This behavior lasted for a week before she began scratching at her room’s walls at night. She’d also scream and cry out of nowhere. But something about her was even more harrowing.
With everything happening to Ana, one thing made the experience even more chilling. “She couldn’t form words, let alone speak, despite her age,” shared Melissa.
“This alone heightened everything as we couldn’t tell what was bothering her. It was even scarier when we realized why she was doing all this.”
“She was doing all this because she was scared,” shared Ana. She and Dean had rushed Ana to the hospital as soon as her episodes worsened.
At first, they’d thought she didn’t like her new family, but the doctor told them she’d had many traumatic experiences that she was still fighting through. Dean and Melissa were beyond themselves with worry.
As it would for any loving parent, the news shocked Dean and Melissa to their core. But the two couldn’t help but love their daughter more.
It was clear what they had to do. Ana needed to feel safe with them, and that quickly became their biggest goal in life. But to do that, they’d have to dig deep into her past’s horrors.
After a few days of thinking it through, Dean suggested that he and Melissa look into Ana’s past. But although this was the only way they could help Ana, he was afraid of stabbing her still-healing wounds.
Still, he doubled down on his courage and talked to Melissa about it. He wouldn’t let his daughter face her fears alone when the entire family was there to stand with her.
Dean and Melissa needed to know what could be so terrible that their seven-year-old daughter still suffered nightmares and phobias. They spent a few days backtracking through Ana’s adopted life.
They needed to understand everything that had happened to her. Their first stop was the orphanage she had been staying. If they were going to uncover anything, it would be there.
Dean and Melissa didn’t waste time asking about their daughter’s past. Although most of what they wanted to know was unorthodox by most adoption standards, they knew the difficult questions would lead them through the darkness.
The orphanage was reluctant to divulge information at first. But after the parents explained the situation, telling the office about their challenges, the orphanage opened up. What it shared left Dean and Melissa speechless.
The orphanage went into a detailed report about Ana’s past. Dean and Melissa held back tears as they listened.
They found out that Ana had been rescued by an officer on the other side of their city. They knew the place well. Picturing it alone made the tears they’d been stemming stream down their faces. But they’d only scratched the tip of Ana’s full story.
As with everything with Ana, the news shocked Melissa and Dean. But the report would hue darker the more the two continued to listen.
The orphanage shared everything with the loving parents. They even shared the police officer’s number, telling Dean and Melissa to contact him if they needed anything else. But they also offered something else.
The orphanage offered to help with Ana’s issue. Once an adoption process is completed, it cannot be reverted. But the orphanage was willing to step in and take Ana while Dean and Melissa uncovered her past.
But the two turned down the offer. Ana was their daughter, and if anyone were to watch over her while they were away, it would be trusted family members such as her brothers, cousins, aunts, and uncles. With that settled, Dean and Melissa set off to see the police officer.
The two parents spent the next two hours on the road, traveling to the other side of their city. The place was a rundown landscape filled with barely standing houses and trailers.
The buildings were old, built years before any of Dean and Melissa’s sons were born. There were little signs of life here, with the occasional drunk staggering through. Melissa’s eyes grew wet again.
Dean called the police officer, informing them they had reached the area. The officer told them where to go, promising he was already waiting for them there.
After comforting his wife, Dean drove to the place, following the officer’s directions. It wasn’t long until he saw it, a sight enough to break any man’s heart.
The house that met Dean and Melissa’s eyes had a broken door and cracked windows. Its paint was chapped, the wood all over it half eaten and rotten.
Beside the derelict structure stood the police officer leaning against his cruiser. He waved to Dean and Melissa and pointed to where they could park their car. The truth was only a step away.
Dean’s heart pounded as he stepped out of the vehicle. He walked to his wife’s side and helped her out before they approached the officer and introduced themselves.
After the preliminary niceties, the officer asked them into the house. Dean could see that he, too, was spooked by the place. Whatever happened here was enough to shake a whole officer of the law.
The officer took the two through the house like a guide showing tourists through some ancient cave. He started with the living room, a space filled with dirt and twigs. The furniture available, a couch and table, was dirty and rusted.
The room had layers of cobwebs in every corner, the layers so thick they looked like blankets. Pushing through some of them, the office led Dean and Melissa upstairs.
The corridor Dean and Melissa stepped into looked worse than the living room. It was dark and soggy. A pipe was broken somewhere in the bathroom, resulting in flooding.
The water was brimming with plant life, turning it into a sludge that was difficult to walk through. The place had a bad smell to it. But it wasn’t enough to deter Dean and Melissa from their mission.
The corridor ejected the three into a small dry room. There was a dirty mattress and blanket in one corner, with a pile of clothes and food wrappers in another.
“This is where she lived,” the police began, and Melissa choked back another cry. “When I found her,” added the officer, “she was crouching there, scared.” What he’d reveal would be too much to handle.
“Ana lived in neglect with a single mom who didn’t care about her,” said the police officer. “She stayed alone while her mom ran around the city doing only God knows what.
The mom would come here sometimes, leaving food and clothes before disappearing again.” What he’d say while leading the two out of the room would explain why Ana was so hostile.
“Your daughter never learned the basics of human interaction that would help her express herself in life,” the police officer said. “She didn’t have any friends or relatives she could learn from.”
Walking through the house, Dean and Melissa saw how much living here tormented Ana. The place didn’t do much to shelter her from the elements. It was a miracle she was still alive. Even the officer suggested the Hawthorns surrender their daughter to a mental institution.
Dean and Melissa uncovered all they could about Ana that day. Although they were shaken by what they found, they came out stronger, knowing they had to help their only daughter heal.
The first thing they agreed upon was that they wouldn’t send her away. Yes, they would give her all the medical attention she needed, but they would do it with her by their side. They hoped everything would end well.
Dean and Melissa enrolled Ana into therapy, both physical and mental, and helped her go through the motions of her trauma.
As time passed, Ana became less violent and even learned a few words of language like mom, dad, and bros. At the moment, she’s still going through therapy. But she’s come a long way from when the Hawthornes adopted her. Keep fighting, Ana!
Disclaimer: To protect the privacy of those depicted, some names, locations, and identifying characteristics have been changed and are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblances to actual events, places, or persons, living or dead, are entirely coincidental.