November is National Adoption Month. But what does that mean to the average person? Unless you have a friend on Facebook who has been touched by adoption and is posting about it, you may not even be aware that November is National Adoption Month.
So I’m going to make it personal and share our adoption story. There are many ways that families are formed with adoption, and ours is just one example.
I met the love of my life a few weeks before my 29th birthday. We got married when I was 31 years old. I had traveled the world and was enjoying a great career, but I wanted to be a “young” mom, so we knew that we wanted kids within the next few years.
Before we got married, we talked about how many kids we wanted and our general philosophy on how we would raise them. We both wanted two kids, but I had it in my heart that we should adopt a child. When I was in college, I spent some time in Guatemala to improve my Spanish language skills, and while I was there I volunteered in an orphanage. That experience changed my whole outlook on kids. A seed was planted in my heart to adopt a child, and it stayed with me as I grew older. I shared this with my husband before we got married, and he was very open to the idea of adopting. We both agreed that we should have a biological baby first (while I was young) and then adopt.
A few years passed, and we were ready to start our family. As with most things, I was impatient. Six months of trying, and nothing. But I kept coming back to adoption. Was this a sign that we should adopt? Most couples probably would have tried longer or harder to have a biological baby, but we weren’t interested in going through any tests. We decided that we would adopt.
We spent months researching adoption. We researched domestic and international adoption. We looked into the foster care system. We talked to people who had adopted, called many adoption agencies and went to an adoption seminar. For each adoption method, we researched the cost, time involved, the number of kids waiting to be adopted, etc. It was not an easy or short process to research all of this. In the end, our hearts were led to adopt in Russia. It helped that we both had co-workers and our family doctor who had recently adopted from Russia.
Once we decided to pursue adopting from Russia, we spent more time researching adoption agencies that specialized in Russian adoptions. We poured through adoption agency pamphlets, websites, and spoke with several agencies over the phone.
After months of research and carefully made decisions, we started the adoption process in the Fall of 2006. With great joy and enthusiasm, we broke the news to our friends and family. We received mixed reactions. While many were supportive, we were also bombarded with questions, like “Why aren’t you adopting a black baby from the U.S.?” and “Did you try in-vitro?”
Thankfully, I found a few online adoption support groups that helped me keep my sanity throughout the adoption process. The adoption paperwork was long, intrusive and never-ending. We had numerous background checks, we had to be fingerprinted several times, we asked friends and family to fill out recommendations on our behalf, we opened up our family financial history and we were interviewed about our childhood extensively. We attended adoptive parenting seminars and went through agency training classes as part of the requirements for adopting.
On April 26, 2007, we got the call we had been waiting for. Our adoption agency called me at work, told me that the Russian Department of Education had matched us with a child, and we would be traveling to Vladivostok, Russia in less than 2 weeks. What followed was a whirlwind of activity to get Russian visas, flights and hotels on short notice.
When we met our future son in Russia, he was just 2 weeks shy of his 3rd birthday. He was severely malnourished and as a result was about the size of an 18-month-old. He was developmentally delayed physically, emotionally, socially, and cognitively. The doctor at the orphanage told us he may never walk correctly, and he may never overcome all of his delays.
We took a huge leap of faith and adopted him. And our son, in turn, took a huge leap of faith in learning to trust us and love us as his parents.
His first six months home were much more difficult than we all imagined. We had a language barrier. We were first time parents and didn’t know how to parent a 3-year-old. Our son was adjusting to living in a family setting.
But our son blossomed, and we found our groove as a family. Soon, we wanted to give him a sibling. And we knew without hesitation that we would return to Russia. After meeting the kids there, seeing their faces, we knew that’s where our other child was.
So we repeated the entire process. We had to re-do all of our documents and endured more social worker visits, more interviews, more fingerprints. We received “the call” right before Christmas, 2008. We traveled to meet our second son in January 2009 when he was 13 months old. We brought him home that April at 17 months old. I quit my full-time office job to stay at home with our two kids.
Two adoptions, 4 trips and 10 total weeks in Russia, a mountain of paperwork, and endless medical and therapy appointments in the U.S.….but we were finally a family of four.
Less than a year after bringing our second son home, I became pregnant. It was a bit of a shocker, since we hadn’t been “trying”. I gave birth to our daughter at the age of 37. We are now a family of five, created through adoption and biology, and I can’t imagine us any other way.
We don’t think about adoption every day. Adoption is a part of how our family was formed, but it does not define us. However, adoption will always be a part of our story. As our kids grow older, they will have more questions about their history, birth families and birth place.
Adopting a child might not be right for every family. But there are still ways you can support adoption during National Adoption Month and the rest of the year. Consider the following:
• Ask a family in process of adopting if there is any way you can help them (through prayers, fundraising, or meals after their child has arrived.)
• Encourage your employer to offer adoption benefits to its employees (i.e. paid parental leave)
• Contribute financially to an organization that supports adoption or orphan care. Here are a few:
- Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption—Finding forever families for kids in the U.S. Foster Care system
- Orphans at Play-- Dedicated to raising funds for basic needs, accommodating requests from orphanages, and providing support for the Grandma mentoring program in Vladivostok, Russia
- Embrace Texas--Provides support to adoptive families including tutoring, respite nights, etc.