November is National Adoption Awareness Month. So to make all of us more aware of some of the issues and myths surrounding adoption, particularly international adoption, I interviewed a friend of mine, also an Albuquerque mama, who has three adoptive children of her own.
How did you all decide to adopt? What was the process like for you?
The process actually started when I was about eight, believe it or not. I was watching a 20/20 episode with my mom about some orphans in Romania, and I said to her, “One day, I’m going to adopt.” I can still picture the TV and the kids behind a gate with their hands out. My mom remembers me saying it too.
Then when I was in high school, I had a psychology teacher who would go every summer to work with Mother Teresa in India. He knew Mother Teresa on a personal level. And he’d come back with these slide shows of these children and people they worked with in India, and from then on I had a passion for India. This idea of adoption was part of what I wanted my future to look like.
When I was dating my future husband, I told him all this, and he was totally cool with it. So after we were married, we had our oldest son biologically. Our plan, if you can even have a plan, is that we would have two biological kids and then maybe adopt two kids and have this perfect little family. But then we had our second biological child, a daughter, who ended up passing away when she was four months old. And after that, we didn’t know if what she had was a genetic thing. We knew we didn’t want another child to suffer the way she did. So we thought, “Let’s just adopt now. Like, why wait?”
We didn’t jump into adoption immediately. It wasn’t like we wanted a replacement kid. It wasn’t like that at all. But we didn’t want a huge age gap between our son and whatever adoptive siblings he would have. I felt God tugging at my heart, telling me the time is now. Because we had lost a child, the agency we were working with took all the necessary precautions. They had us submit notes from a counselor saying we were ready to take on another child.
So we started the paperwork and adopted our little girl when she was 11 months old from India. It was an awesome experience. It was so natural. We bonded quickly. So we thought, OK let’s do round two. We thought it’d be just as seamless emotionally. We actually met our next daughter when we were adopting the first. She was 2 1/2 at the time. And we just kind of thought, “This is our daughter.”
We were able to adopt her, but it took another year and a half to bring her home. So this time, she was four with special needs that we knew about, but we didn’t know quite how significant they were. And we weren’t prepared. It was hard. We were even so worried about bringing her home while we were in India to get her. But our son, who was about seven at the time, said, “What do you mean? That’s my sister!” I believe God really used him to bring this little girl into our family.
So we brought her home. It was very difficult. A big adjustment. She had significant needs. It was a lot of work. A lot of questioning, “Are we capable of taking care of this child?” There was a lot of grieving on both ends. She was grieving. We were grieving what our family was like before. But a lot of it was our selfishness. I still have to remember it’s not about me.
And then we had another biological child, a son. He’s healthy and awesome. When he was about two, we were introduced to this little girl back in India, and we thought we might want to adopt again. My husband and I both wanted to adopt an older child who might have a harder time finding a home. Long story short, we adopted another daughter who was 13 when we brought her home. And that was hard, so hard. It’s so different from adopting a baby. The bonding is different with an older child. But God continues to bring us through it. Some days are easy. Some days are not.
If you could dispel any adoption myths, what do you think you might say?
Myth #1: There’s no way I could afford adoption.
We’ve done three adoptions that have ranged from $20,000 to $35,000. I’m a part-time nurse, and my husband is a teacher. We don’t have any family money or some big inheritance. But there are organizations out there that give grants. God has provided financially for all our adoptions. If money is the one thing holding a person back from adopting, you can figure it out. I believe God provides.
Myth #2: It’s all roses.
A lot of times you see people’s pictures on social media and hear their perfect stories. But adoption can be hard. It’s amazing, but there’s a lot of difficulty that comes with it. It’s not necessarily the way families were meant to be put together. Adoption can be so beautiful, but it always comes from brokenness. Bonding doesn’t always come as easy as it does with a biological child. Even if you adopt a kid from day one of his or her life, there are nine months of bonding you’ve missed out on by not knowing that baby in the womb. So it’s different. And sometimes you just have to choose. I’m going to love this child. Her circumstances are not her fault. And then those natural feelings will come in time.
Myth #3: My kids are so lucky they are adopted.
Actually, they’re not lucky at all. They got the short end of the stick. Comments like, “You’re so lucky,” from people to my girls make them feel alienated from the family. Even though I really want them to know their story, and they can always talk about it and ask about it, I never want my kids to feel like they stand out. Like they’re an exhibit. So it’s really helpful, if you’re an outsider, looking in on an adoptive family, not to view the adoptive parents like they’re some kind of savior or hero. Sure, we are giving these kids more opportunities than they would have had in the situation they were unfortunately in. But I never want my kids to feel like they owe me. I want people to know that my daughters are just as much a part of our family as our biological children.
Originally published November 2017.