One. The number of medical issues we had that led us to considering adoption.
Ten. That’s the number of years my husband and I have been in the adoption community.
Twenty. The number of times our profile book was shown to expectant parents.
Four. The number of children we have adopted. Also the number of open and transracial adoptions.
One-thousand. The number of times I’ve mulled over our adoption journeys. Perhaps more… Definitely more.
If you passed by me in the grocery store, you’d very likely think the same thing that old ladies articulate to me all the time: “Wow! That lady has her hands full.” You’d see my nine-year-old’s nose stuck in a book as she ambled around, occasionally looking up to order her younger siblings about. You’d see my seven-year-old shooting invisible basketballs and pretending to shoot webs, Spider-man style, out of her wrists. You’d observe my almost-five-year-old son touching every single surface (because sensory seekers LOVE texture) while speaking an entire plot from his current favorite tv show, Paw Patrol. You’d smile at my one-year-old baby girl who is almost walking but will probably be carried until she’s five (because she’s the baby and that’s how it works). And you’d see me: in workout clothes, hair in a messy top-knot, with a list in one hand and pushing a cart with the other while encouraging my children to “stay with mommy” and put down whatever item they had plucked from the store shelves.
I know my hands are full. Really, really full.
Our crew is loud. Emotional. Fun. Silly. We are a mix of personalities, sometimes a clash. The various ages and maturity levels means that there’s never a dull moment. Our different skin tones garner many second-glances and sometimes questions. But we’re a real family. A happy family. A family built by adoption and love.
And I’m not sure I’m ready to say goodbye to the possibility of adopting again.
It’s not that the journey is easy or even enjoyable. In fact, choosing to adopt means embarking on a roller coaster ride of wild twists and turns. It requires vulnerability, faith, steadfastness, and empathy. It requires a financial commitment. It requires an ability to wait, and wait, and wait. It requires a willingness to allow social workers into your home for months on end, to let the legal system determine your worthiness, to prove yourself to expectant parents. There is nothing easy or quick or simple about it. Adopting is challenging, heartbreaking, and life-changing.
Yet, there’s something about becoming a mommy again that is so precious, so sacred, that leaves me questioning, “What if?” What if our family isn’t complete? What if, right now, there is a woman expecting a baby, and that baby will become our child if we would just open our home and hearts? What if we should have a homestudy completed “just in case”? What if we should be saving money for legal fees?
Two months ago, I was organizing our basement storage room. We have totes and totes of clothing, shoes, and infant gear. Our baby girl had outgrown many outfits and things like the baby bathtub and Bumbo seat and play mat. As I sorted, making piles of items to price for a future yard sale, I lovingly touched each baby item, willing myself to put it in the pricing pile. Then I picked up tiny pink outfits, bringing them to my nose and inhaling, desperately yearning for the scent of a milky newborn.
I had a moment of panic. How can I possibly even think to say goodbye to the life I’ve known for a decade? How can I close the book on something so familiar, so normal, so wanted? Bidding farewell to possibility is a tender, sacred action.
I don’t know that I can do it. Is saying goodbye to adopting a slow release? Or should I make a swift break? Perhaps I’m simply procrastinating, hoping the decision will somehow be made for me.
Every time I see another smiling family on Instagram, a tiny baby in the cradled arms of a glowing mother or a newly adopted toddler on the hip of a proud father, my heart dances. Possibility. Change. Joy. Beauty.
This season of indecisiveness, of uncertainty, I know it is normal. But I cannot help but sense a small bit of energy when another person asks me, “So, will you adopt again?”
My immediately reply should be a firm “no.” But usually I just smile or even giggle and say, “Probably not.” Because “probably” feels safer and less final than rejecting the notion. If my husband is beside me, his eyes usually grow wide, because unlike me, he is perfectly and fully content with our family as-is. We are so different, he and I, yet we’re a team, a partnership, and I know that one day we will land on the same page. It’s just not today.
I don’t know what it is about motherhood through adoption that makes me so weak-in-the-knees. My children are my greatest joy, and I guess I’ve determined that love grows, it doesn’t divide. More children means more love. One can never have too much love, right?
As these tender thoughts and questions dance in my mind, sometimes popping up at unexpected times, I am reminded that perhaps my purpose going forward is to keep loving the children I have while continuing to dedicate my talents to encouraging others on their own journeys. Promoting ethics, providing education, prompting positive change.
Only God knows what my family’s future holds. Perhaps it will be the gentle caressing of another baby. Or perhaps that chapter of our story is complete. But what I do know is that adoption has taught me that predictability and control are laughable, and I have been chosen—four times—to parent the most incredible human beings. The lessons I’ve learned so far will not be in vain. They have taught me how to love and love well. Isn’t that what parenthood is all about?
Rachel Garlinghouse is the author of six books, including the newly released The Hopeful Mom’s Guide to Adoption: The Wit and Wisdom You Need for the Journey. Rachel is a mother of four, Christian, cheese-fry and dance-party fan, Black Lives Matter advocate, type 1 diabetic, and breast cancer survivor. Learn more about her family’s adventures and connect at her blog White Sugar, Brown Sugar.