I am Kylie Gray. I am a wife, a mother, an amateur farmsteader, and most of all, Jesus lover. A year and some change ago, we adopted our 3 boys out of the foster care system here in the U.S. This past year was the hardest, most beautiful year of my entire life. My husband, Trey, and I always knew we wanted to adopt. When I thought about it, I just assumed we would adopt from some far-off land like China or Africa, but God had other plans for our family.
We’re on our way to see a Hindu priest who lives in Chatsworth, a township outside of Durban where Indians, many whose ancestors were brought to South Africa during the Dutch colonial era as slaves, were again forcibly relocated in the 1950s by the apartheid government. The South Africans I am with have been visiting this priest for years, so they have little trouble finding his house and the one-room temple he has constructed in a small courtyard behind it. We roll up onto the curb that lines the narrow street, and six of us pile out, seeking—I can only speak for myself—a bit of light on the journey.
As I write, I am on holiday with my two children. They are playing outside in the sunshine, laughing and talking about the fun they will have in the outdoor pool later, jumping in off the side and diving for hoops.
This is the dream of parenthood. Summer holidays soaked in sunshine, family time, and long lazy days enjoying being together. Like many adoptive parents, though, I am also aware that this dream has been—and still is—somebody else’s nightmare.
Welcome to Parenthood! Here’s Some Pink Eye.
My husband, Sean, and I always dreamed of having kids. When we married in 2004, like any fresh-faced couple we planned out our future—we were going to make babies and start a family. Finding out that the traditional path to parenting was not possible caused us intense anguish. Since the desire for children still beat in our hearts, we started looking into other possibilities. Thus, began a twelve-year journey from Alaska through the Midwest to finally land at the bottom of Texas. On the way, we survived the pain of fertility treatments, explored the unpredictability of private and international adoptions, and when one door after another—mind-blowingly—closed, we turned to foster care.
I was born December 20th, 1974 at the Mobile Infirmary in Alabama. I was born without a name, without an identity. I do not know what kind of day it was, I do not know what time I was born, nor do I know how long I stayed at the Infirmary before going to a hospital in Mississippi where I awaited a family that would take me to a place that would become my home. Very old records reveal that the nurses in the hospital called me “Susan” and thankfully they kept a small journal regarding my 6-week stay. Sadly, they wrote that I was not a very happy baby. I cried a lot and was not soothed easily. I may have had colic, or maybe I was missing the warm touch of a mother and father. I have to believe that being born into a state of chaos can cause discontent, even in a baby who does not seem to know what is going on around her. The nurses, though, took very good care of me and gave me some stability. It was not long until the warm touch from a mother and father—and a brother—arrived! I may not have been born with a name or an identity but I was born with a purpose; I was adopted.
I was recently at a medical appointment, my toddler daughter in tow. The doctor was running late. Like an hour-and-half-late. My daughter, out of snacks and out of patience, was doing what we call “noodleing.” Basically, she had willed her body to become a wet noodle, and nothing could appease her.
The doctor finally came in, and as we were talking, my daughter doing what toddlers do, I said jokingly, “I know you can fix my orthopedic issue, but do you have anything for tired moms?”
And the doctor’s reply? She was totally serious and said, “Why did you have so many kids?”
I was shocked. But I shouldn’t have been.
Everywhere we go, especially during the summer when my four children are home, women (always women), usually over the age of sixty, come up to me and exclaim, “You have your hands full!”
There was a time when I could not speak the word “adoption” aloud. It was so charged with pain, the very thought of it overwhelmed me. Thorns of bitterness accompanied the word forming a thick barrier.
Adoption represented trauma and deep, unresolved grief.
As a young teen at the very end of the 1970’s, I became pregnant. My parents turned to their church for advice which led to me being sent to live in a foster home far from everyone I knew and loved.
I trudged to the front of the group, my palms clammy and heart racing. The gym was overcrowded with sweaty kids, a typical 90’s summer day club. The promise of good times and trying new activities had become disillusioned for me quite early on. My quiet, slightly pudgy 7-year-old self had won the attention of the camp director. And since attention was neither appreciated nor desired, dread—not laughter—filled my summer days.
All three of our children came into our family through adoption. One Sunday, when Rachel, my youngest of three kids was just a couple weeks old, we sang Oceans during worship. I’d never really attached to the song like so many other Christians that I know did. But that morning, the song fell on me fresh.
“Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders / Let me walk upon the waters / Wherever You would call me / Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander / And my faith will be made stronger / In the presence of my Savior.”