I walked into the children’s receiving home with my husband that crisp fall morning six-and-a-half years ago, my heart galloping in my chest. This was the day we were going to meet our children for the first time. Our social worker told us about them only the day before, and we hadn’t seen pictures or received much information. All I knew was a two-year-old boy and his six-month-old half-sister waited for my husband and me somewhere in that sterile government building. Waited for us to scoop them up and take them to safety and be their forever Mommy and Daddy. That was what my galloping heart pounded out, loud and clear and urgent.
When my phone rings, no matter the time or how busy (or not) that I am, I rarely answer. I let it turn to voicemail, filtering the message to determine if it’s something I want to deal with, save for later or—let’s be honest—blatantly ignore. So why, on an early August morning when I heard God calling me toward adoption, did I decide to tune in, on what would otherwise be the first ring?
It was the first week of August 2018 and I went out for a walk with our dog, tuned into a random podcast and heard the hosts speaking on adoption. Adoption had always sounded like a nice idea but was not yet on our radar. Nevertheless, I came home from that walk and told my husband all about it, ending with something like, “We have to do this.” I think he was probably a little shocked, that my usually detail-minded and indecisive self would be so spontaneous and certain. Months later we’d learn that our son was born on nearly the exact morning I felt that nudge. Even later, we’d be amazed to find that our son legally became our child on the anniversary of the night my husband and I started dating. To put it clearly, we have no question as to the divine intervention that orchestrated the growth of our family.
Scars are signatures of painful events in the life of our bodies. They are a reminder that informs us that we are not always in control of our lives. I have many scars. Scars on my hands from bee stings received while playing hide and seek; a scar on the lower right side of my abdomen created by a surgeon’s scalpel to remove an angry appendix; and a scar on my left arm as a result of being “cleated” while playing football.
Of all my scars, I have a favorite, the scar on my left knee. When I was almost three years old, I was running through the house and tripped and fell on my sister’s toy sewing machine. It was made from metal and had a sharp edge on the base. The gash was severe, and the blood began to flow. My father took a sheet, began ripping it, and wrapped my knee to stop the bleeding. What I remember most was sitting in his lap with my mummified leg, being comforted by his big hands. I will never forget his hands. Those hands are forever etched into my memory as a visual reminder of my father’s love.
We sat in front of him, listening to the statistics of why we had a very low chance of conceiving on our own. All we could do was smile. That was it. It was the permission slip we were waiting for. The green light from a fertility doctor, giving us permission to pursue adoption. He gave us the facts about our treatment options and instead, we drove down the street and sat in on an adoption meeting for new adoptive families. Adoption had been on our hearts all along, yet we felt like we had to try everything else first. Like society expected that from us. Like we couldn’t announce our plans to adopt until we had exhausted every other measure. Like adoption was our Plan B.
I don’t really know how to write this letter, but I’m going to try. I’m going to try and express in words what I have kept deep inside ever since we first reunited when I was a teen.
Do you remember that day? You were standing in a lilac dress in the middle of a crowd of people at Heathrow airport. I was so young and nervous. Not assured at all of how our reunion would go.
I was terrified inside, really. Scared speechless of being rejected, again. I promised myself that I would protect my heart. That all I wanted was information about my history—our history. I felt that you held the key to all of it: the key to my story and my identity.
1.) Have expectations.
Often, in international adoption, the timing is the biggest misconception adoptive parents are led to believe. I think most countries have good intention for matching a child with prospective parents, and maybe they even have good intentions on making an adoption happen in a relatively timely fashion. However, if you are looking into international adoption and you are wanting to grow your family within months or even a year, stop now, turn around and look the other way. International adoption may not be right for you at this time. I’m not saying you should turn your back on the possibility completely, just make sure you rethink your expectations before pursuing it.
When I was younger, I dreamed of marrying my true love in a beautiful church with stained glass windows. I dreamed that I’d live in a white painted cottage-style home with a cherry-red door, and a giant tree swing would hang in the front yard where I’d push my two boys in denim overalls and two girls in matching dresses. My baby names were picked out. My maternity clothes were selected. Adoption, however, was never part of the plan.
Sometimes our most thought-out plans can be tailored to something greater than we ever anticipated. Over the years, I’ve learned to embrace adoption as a beautiful part of my life:
I am a birth mom of one college-age daughter.
I am a biological mom of three teen boys.
I am an adoptive mom of one adventurous ten-year-old son.
Will I love more kinds of people than ever before in 2019? This question was posed in my church on Sunday. I sat in my seat, closed my eyes, and focused in. Will I love more kinds of people…? It was a question of diversity. Surely my life is filled with a diverse kind of love, I thought to myself. After all, family diversity and far-reaching inclusivity are my topics of passion.
I’m an international adoptee, mom-by-international adoption, and believer in the power of embracing difference. I think we should, as my church community says, love everyone always.
I’m in a small group of women that meets every Tuesday. We pray together, listen to each other, and support one another through life’s ups and downs.
I love these women so much because they’ve shown me what it means—really means—to feel wanted and included, heard and seen within an intimate group. Their hearts are filled with grace and love.
I wonder if they know just how beautiful they are. I look at each of them and see radiance and kindness. I hope they notice the same qualities, too, when they look at themselves in the mirror.
What is better—to continue to love but ache from the bitter slashes of hurt and betrayal or to build a wall of steel and never love deeply again?
Early in my life, like so many of us, I learned about the sting of rejection and careless words. That sting took a toll on my heart and affected me emotionally for many years. Eventually I built a wall, placing it between myself and meaningful relationships. Turning my back when things got rough seemed to be my safest option…or so I thought.