When my husband, Paul, and I finally decided to adopt, we were hopeful. Adoption had always been an idea we shared, and we were excited about the prospect of becoming parents. In our minds we pictured the high school cheerleader and football player, young adult, or entrepreneur who still had dreams to realize -- they were not ready, but we were. Or so we thought...
As we began exploring our options, the pool was much larger than we anticipated. We learned phrases like "domestic" (children born in the USA) and "international" (children born in another country), "relinquishment" (parents choosing adoption, infant) and "court-dependent" (domestic children who are removed from their parent's homes due to neglect and/or endangerment). Our heads were spinning with details of "private" (the ability to adopt a child born in your state or another one) vs "county" adoptions (adopting a child who was born in the county you live). We discussed the pros and cons of adopting an infant or older child. Ultimately, the desire to have the most natural start to our family, and the potential cost factor of private adoption eventually drove us toward the more affordable option of domestic, county, relinquishment.
After struggling through two years of infertility and research, we officially began our road toward adoption. Nineteen years later (including two miscarriages, countless fertility treatments, and being able to adopt 4-out-of-the-5 children placed in our home), Paul and I are still learning the fine art of parenthood.
We brought home our beautiful Lydia (@4 months), Daniel (@9 months), David (@1 month), Elijah, and Naomi (both from the hospital, open adoptions). Four were relinquished ("relinquishment") into our care by their birth moms, but Daniel was "court-dependent", and placed into his father’s custody after almost a year in our home. Although I dreaded handing him back, surrendering Daniel helped me understand the profound loss and selfless love of the women who chose me to be a mother.
Lydia (17 yrs) has been in and out of care, dealing with severe depression, anxiety, and PTSD. David (14 yrs) is Twice Exceptional (GATE + ADHD) and lives with pulmonary stenosis. Elijah (12 yrs) struggles with anxiety (his birth mom disabled by it). Naomi (10 yrs) is an explosive, hard-working, uber-focused kiddo (with a family history of Bipolar on both sides). And in walking this road I have, in turn, found myself exhausted, learning to navigate fear and uncertainty, and find the space where I try to effectively manage my own mental health.
We have guarded this information, feared our children would be pitied, or judged by situations that were out of their control. But it is only in that space of complete openness that truth can be found. Adoption is not a fairy tale, but a you-better-get-ready-to-get-down-on-your -hands-and-knees-and-get-scratched-up-and-dirty type of story -- a story worth sharing.
How we have been made, the intricate details of brokenness and healing are essential to the road we walk. When we look pain square in the face and say, “Now what?” opportunity awaits. I do not believe I was sent to rescue my children, but to sit with them in the muck of life, hands held, tears falling, rising only to fall again. Together. Not bound by blood but heart. This is family.