Month: November 2017

The Day I became MOM

And Sometimes… We Struggle

It isn’t always easy to talk about adoption.  There is language to be mindful of and relationships to be respectful of, and I confess I haven’t always done it well.  There is a fine balance between speaking authentically and respecting my daughter’s right to her own story. I’ve had to learn to read my audience.  I’m getting better at sorting out who really wants to know how our adoption is going and who, in the wise words of Jack Nicholson,  can’t handle the truth.  It has sometimes been difficult to talk authentically about our adoption within the Christian community, but that is one place where support can mean the most.  I feel like a failure when our individual experience doesn’t immediately reflect that “beautiful Christian adoption narrative” that people often expect.I’ve figured out over time that many well meaning Christians assume that the emotional experience of adoption follows the same trajectory as that of salvation.  When we are brought into the family of God, our overwhelming response to salvation is great joy and thankfulness.   Our daughter came to us through international adoption when she was 13 years old.  She did have pain and injustice in her past, but she also had a native country that is thick with history and culture, a beautiful language, connections to biology, smells, tastes, sights that are all a part of what could have been a rich, beautiful, full life.  Her circumstances were difficult and life altering, but her heritage did not have to be.  She has gained parents and siblings, a large and loving extended family, a new family name, and a forever inheritance, but the losses bring up difficult emotions that we navigate together as a family. When I come across fellow believers who assume the emotions surrounding adoption are the same joy and thanksgiving of salvation, I end up feeling like we are failing each time we struggle.

And sometimes… we struggle.  I once emailed another adoptive parent I deeply respect and said, “I think we might be doing this wrong because it is hard!  It is supposed to be hard sometimes though, right?”  He assured me we were still on the right track.  No matter how much I want to make up for my daughter’s pain and loss, I’ve had to accept that hard truth that it isn’t in my power to “fix it”.  What our adoption sometimes looks like is simply sitting with our daughter in her grief.  Success right now isn’t an absence of pain, but letting her know she isn’t alone in it.   I believe in exchanging beauty for ashes, but when I quietly admit that there are still hard moments of hurt and anger and heartache it might sound like I am doubting the power of redemption.  It’s difficult to admit that faith doesn’t immediately disperse ashes when it feels like people are waiting for beauty’s dynamic reveal.

A few years ago, I opened up about the pain and loss in our adoption with a spiritual mentor of mine.  She listened to me as I tentatively “dropped the veil” and shared that while the joy and love she saw in our family was real, so was the pain and hurt that we work through privately.   She paused for a moment after I finished talking and then declared resolutely, “But it was all worth it!”  I was caught completely off guard by her response.  I had no idea why she felt like this was some conclusion I needed her to draw for me.  I realized much later that while I didn’t need that reassurance, she did.  I don’t think she understood that the words “hard” and “good” are not mutually exclusive when it comes to adoption.

What I have worked hard to find is my own small community in which I have the safety to sometimes say “Wow. This is hard today.”  I want to be able to say “Our adoption is hard” and not have people hear “Our adoption is without joy” or “Our adoption isn’t worth it” or “Our adoption isn’t successful”.  I don’t believe any of those things.  Honestly, I don’t think any of those things.    What I mean is that adoption comes with profound pain and loss, our love doesn’t automatically erase that pain, and we are all in the joy and the sorrow together.   Sometimes we are all weary.  Sometimes we are all hopeful.  We always need encouragement.  So let me express my heart with transparency and hope – our adoption is hard, but it is good.

Our Perfect Set of Twins

by Jenn Long

I wanted to be the mother of twins for as long as I can remember.  When I was a little girl, I always played house with my older sister and I was the proud mother to boy and girl twins for many, many days of my childhood.  When I grew up, got married, and became pregnant for the first time, I could not wait for my first ultrasound when it would be revealed that I was having twins.  I was surprised when the ultrasound technician only found one baby (it certainly did not help that everyone kept asking if I was having twins, I am only 5’2” people, there is not much space for a baby to go!).  We were excited to find out that we were having a baby boy and I figured God knew I needed practice with one before He gave me twins the next time.  After the delivery of my son, I swore we were never having any more biological children. But, when Brady was 13 months old, we found out we were pregnant again.  This time, I knew it would be my twins.  At the ultrasound, we found out once again that there was only one baby.  This time a sweet baby girl, Ella.  As happy as I was that we would have a boy and a girl, I was still confused because I thought FOR SURE that God had been preparing me my whole life to be the mother of twins.

When Ella was almost two, we found out that we were pregnant again.   Yes, we know how that happens (why do people always ask that?)  Now, I knew without a doubt, that this was going to be my twins.  This was going to be the big day.  At our ultrasound we found out that we were having another girl.  This time our Kinsley.  While I was thrilled to have another healthy baby girl on the way, I could not believe how wrong I had been about God giving me twins.  Little did I know, this was the time I would have twins.

Nineteen weeks after that ultrasound, I was in the hospital in the operating room having my third c-section to deliver my baby.  What I did not know, is that halfway around the world, a little baby boy, ten days old at the time, was also in a hospital recovering from surgery.

Our Bennett was born in China on December 19, 2012.  He was born with a life threatening condition that required immediate surgery.  He was given that surgery and then he went to live in an orphanage before entering foster care.  I did not even know he existed until July 14, 2012.  That was the day that I felt the tug on my heart to google “special needs China” and of the thousands of faces on the website, my heart stopped when I saw Bennett.  I clicked on his picture and saw his birthday and immediately, felt what I knew to be true, God had twins for me, just not the way I had always imagined.  I would have my boy and girl twins. My girl would just have the blondest hair and crystal blue eyes and my son would have silky brown hair and eyes the color of Hershey kisses.

Many people discourage “artificial twinning” and we actually had to get a waiver from our agency to allow us to adopt Bennett because they typically did not allow it.  There are certainly some challenges.  When we brought Bennett home, he and Kinsley were both a few weeks shy of turning 3.  Kinsley had to learn to adjust to not only a new child in the house, but a new child that was her age.  We send our kids to the same preschool, so there can be some natural challenges with sibling rivalry in the classroom when one child receives an award and another child does not.  However, the benefits have far outweighed the difficulties for us.

Kinsley and Bennett really did develop their own “twin” language when Bennett first came home and did not know English. She would tell us what he was trying to say.  They have confidence going into any room (whether church, school, playing) because they have each other.

I credit Kinsley with how well Bennett adjusted to being at home because she took on the role of being his best friend as soon as she realized that her place in the family was secure.  I love, love, love that this was the way that God chose to give us our twins.  We prayed for a twin bonding to occur in their hearts and I can say without a doubt, that God answered that prayer and they feel a twin connection, just like biological twins.  We could not have asked for a more perfect set of twins.

How Adoption Ruined my Big Kids

by Kristin Wooten

I’ve always known I wanted to be a mom. A mom to 2 kids to be exact. That’s the kind of family I came from: a boy and a girl. Seemed like the safe, midwestern thing to do. Until adoption entered my worldview and changed everything.

When I was pregnant with our first child, we met a family who had adopted from China. We were broken by the stories of kids without homes. Very quickly, my husband and I knew adoption is how we would grow our family in the future. When our son was a year old, we started looking into adopting from China. We weren’t old enough and we sure didn’t have the finances to support an adoption. So, we let the idea pass and had another biological son. (Good thing–we would have missed out on a cool kid!)

Another year had passed. I came home from work excited to tell my husband that something called a home equity loan existed and we could use it to remodel our kitchen! You see, we had the tiniest kitchen, a few inches of counter space and no room for a dishwasher. My husband’s response: “Yes, we could do that, or we could use the money to adopt. I’m open to either. You can decide.” Well, no real decision to make there, off on our journey to adoption we began.

Zoe joined our family in 2005. Zoe still teases me saying “Dad chose me mom, you were going to get a kitchen.” We were complete. Life was full with 3 kids five and under, a job, and a husband.

I remember going to a conference and hearing Donald Miller speak. He told a story of a friend who had a teenage daughter who was making poor decisions, doing drugs and dating a boy the family didn’t approve of. The dad knew his daughter needed a better story. Their family had a meeting where the dad announced they were going to raise money to build an orphanage in Mexico. His daughter ended up jumping on board with this plan, traveled to Mexico and eventually, dumped the boyfriend. That story really resonated with me. I knew I wanted to build a story for my kids that would be more attractive than the one the world was painting for them, but I had no idea what that story would be.

The kids are now 10, 12 and 14. We had always told our kids we would go to China one day so that Zoe could see and explore the country she was born in. It was important for our boys to come too and do this as a family. One night, I was researching heritage trips to China and landed on an adoption agency website that said “Effective, January 1, 2015, a few requirements for adopting from China have changed” and it went on to list the changes. Changes were made that would make us eligible to adopt from China again. I got that crazy feeling in my stomach, I just knew what this meant. I sent a text to my husband to tell him about the requirement change and his text back said, “I guess I know what our China trip will be”. Oh my gosh, he’s thinking the same thing, we’re adopting again!

We shared the news with our big kids. The youngest were onboard immediately. They have always wanted to adopt again. Our oldest, not so much. He’s our responsible one. He was worried about the time it would take away from the other kids, the money, how could we afford the adoption, let alone raising another child. Others were worried too. You have such great kids, aren’t you afraid this will ruin them?

They were right. It did ruin them. In all the right ways. They were with us every step of our adoption process. When each donation was made, they rejoiced with us. When we received grants, they got to see God work. When our adoption was fully funded, they got to experience a miracle. When we got each new picture of our future daughter, they got to oooh and aaah over her. When they

traveled to China with us, they got to see how other kids live. They saw how hard life in China is. They learned how to bond with their sister, how to make her laugh, how to comfort her.

My boys have gotten to learn dad skills. At 16 and 14, they know how to protect a girl. How to make her lunch. That taking her on Starbucks runs makes her so happy. These are things that most boys don’t get to learn until they are dads themselves.

My older daughter, Zoe, isn’t the type of girl that babysits or naturally knows how to take care of kids. But, her younger sister adores her and calls her “sissy”. She feels more confident and can change a diaper like a pro now.

Our family experienced something together that was so special and brought us together. Their faith in Jesus is stronger. I’m grateful that adoption ruined my big kids.

These adoption stories are funded by YOU.  All grants provided by the ONE17 Foundation are made possible through the generosity of our donors.  To become a one-time or recurring monthly donor, click here. Donations are tax deductible. Thank you for creating a ripple.