Bringing home their ‘angel’

Washougal resident publishes book about international adoption experience

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For more information about donating to help orphans in Nepal or to purchase Tuell's book, visit www.ourangelfromnepal.com. The orphanage Maya was adopted from, DOCS Foundation Nepal, is also on Facebook. Tuell's book is also available on Amazon.com for those who want it in a Kindle format.

For more information about donating to help orphans in Nepal or to purchase Tuell’s book, visit www.ourangelfromnepal.com. The orphanage Maya was adopted from, DOCS Foundation Nepal, is also on Facebook. Tuell’s book is also available on Amazon.com for those who want it in a Kindle format.

It took some time for Michelle Tuell to convince her husband, Chuck, to consider adoption.

“I had always wanted a daughter,” she said. “But after having three boys, I thought it wasn’t in my family plan.”

She began looking into adoption.

However, the couple was in their 40s and Chuck also had two other children from a prior relationship.

“He thought I was nuts,” Michelle recalled with a smile. “It took three years to convince him.”

By that time, the entire family supported adopting a baby girl to add to the family. After researching different options, they decided on international adoption.

“It is just something that worked best for us,” Michelle said. “Any way to adopt is good, whether domestic or international, but since I already had kids, I needed to consider the family dynamic and found out that with domestic adoption, kids are usually tangled up in the foster care system for years. Also, the ratio of caregivers to kids in international adoptions was really good.”

At first, the Tuell’s considered adopting a child from India, but the red tape involved in the process was daunting. Michelle then learned of a pilot adoption program in Nepal. That was in 2003.

Today, her daughter, Maya Marie Anuja Tuell is a 12-year-old sixth-grader at Canyon Creek Middle School in Washougal. She loves water, spending time with friends and climbing trees.

Michelle, 62, shares the adoption journey in “Our Angel From Nepal,” which details the family’s experience and includes a reference guide for other families seeking to adopt. The book was recently released on Amazon.com and is also available for purchase from Michelle’s website, www.ourangelfromnepal.com

“I wanted to share my story of how it all unfolded,” she said. “I talk about the culture of the Nepalese people and their religions. I talked about my family and feelings about adoption, Nepal and Maya.”

Michelle also wants to provide a resource for other families considering adoption.

“I didn’t know how we could afford it or about tax credits or anything,” she said. “I would have loved to have had a guide that told me, step-by-step, what to do. That’s basically what I do in the book.”

It took two trips to Nepal and about a year to adopt Maya. The first time, Michelle traveled alone to Kathmandu and could only meet Maya, take her for a doctor’s checkup and begin to sign documents for the adoption, which was a whole adventure on its own. On the second trip, she brought her then 15-year-old son, Justin, who kept a journal of the entire experience. They arrived home with Maya on April 26, 2004. Any fear that her family wouldn’t accept the baby melted away when they first laid eyes on her.

“Chuck told me that the moment he laid eyes on her, he felt complete love for her,” she recalls in the book.

Michelle said she felt the same.

“One of the biggest problems I have seen with adoption is that people are worried that they won’t feel the same way toward their adopted child as they do toward their biological child,” she said. “I have both and I can tell you there is no difference. I would really like people to know that.”

Surprisingly, Michelle told no one outside of her immediate family that she planned on adopting. Even her parents, Dick and Dede Lasley, had no idea until after she brought Maya home.

“It was an important personal decision between Chuck, the boys and me,” she recalls in the book. “I did not want to hear any negative thoughts or opinions from one solitary soul. I only wanted to hold onto good positive thoughts.”

The book, however, is an endeavor that involved her whole family: Her father, Dick Lasley, created all the illustrations. He is a professional artist who worked in the movie industry in Hollywood on films such as Poltergeist, Karate Kid, Gremlins and Back to the Future.

Michelle’s mother, Dede Lasley, helped edit the story for publication and husband Chuck supported her in the creative process.

“He consistently encouraged me to write and believes Maya’s adoption journey brings hope into the adoption world,” she said.

Writing the book was an 8 year endeavor. Similar to a pregnancy or adoption, it includes many different highs and lows.

“It was such an emotional journey to relive this,” Michelle said. “I remember that first time I boarded the flight for Nepal. I had never been out of the country before. I remember the first time I met Maya and when I brought her home. I relived the process we went through to adopt her.”

Her book was released in the aftermath of two massive earthquakes that have killed more than 8,000 people in Nepal.

“I am really hoping to bring some attention to the people in Nepal,” she said. “They already have a huge orphan epidemic over there and this will only make it worse.”

She was designed a website with the help of Washougal resident Hunter Nelson, which gives information on the orphanage Maya was adopted from and how to donate funds.

“All of that money will go directly toward the orphanage,” she said. “The problem with some aid that is being sent now is that the government officials keep it and it doesn’t get to the people who need it. Things are very corrupt.”

Maya was brought to the orphanage after she was found abandoned at a bus depot at four months old. Poverty is extremely high in the Kathmandu Valley, and mothers can often be seen on the streets, begging for money to feed their children. It is not uncommon for babies to be abandoned in less visible locations.

“Someone really loved her because they put her in a place where she would be found right away,” Michelle said. “She was taken right to the orphanage and had good care.”

The story is almost surreal to Maya, who only remembers life as an American.

“It’s kind of strange,” she said. “I feel like they are talking about someone else when I hear it.”

Michelle describes her daughter as wise beyond her years.

“She is so smart, well adjusted and everything somehow worked together for her to be in a safe place at the right time,” she said. “We just feel like she was meant to be in this family.”

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