For those who have been following my blog since the beginning or who know me personally you know I am an outspoken advocate for adoption.
Since November is Adoption Awareness Month I want to give you our beautiful family story.
Mark comes from a pretty rough childhood. One in which circumstances at home forced him to leave at the age of 15. Between the ages of 15 and 19 many families took Mark in and cared for his needs. The kindness of those people inspired him to one day want to do the same for a child in need. While my family was not violent it was often volatile and I too always desired to provide a safe and secure family for an orphaned child.
Our opportunity came fall 2003. We had decided we were ready to start a family and we gave it a good solid try for 3 months with zero pregnancies. At that point we simply sat down and had a discussion on entertaining the idea of adopting our first child since our finances were in order, we were healthy and settled with careers. Maybe now was the best time. By the next morning we were rapidly researching agencies and weighing the pros/cons of international vs domestic adoptions. We literally locked ourselves up in a snowy cabin in Colorado for the entire Thanksgiving weekend and by weekend’s end we had played about a kazillion games of Aggravation and made dozens upon dozens of phone calls. And just like that we had concluded that our first child would be adopted, the country would be Kazakhstan, the gender would be male, we did not need an infant but we would like a child under the age of 3 and if we were to get pregnant during the process, double bonus!
We worked with a local agency called Commonwealth Adoptions and adopting through them was smooth sailing. After our dossier was complete, fingerprints approved, background check and interviews cleared, monies paid, references submitted, and home inspected everything was set in fast motion for us. We received a picture of a little boy that needed us and we committed to meeting him, getting to know him, and ultimately to care for him for the entirety of his lifetime.
The summer of 2004 we traveled with two other couples, rented an apartment in Almaty, KZ for 6 weeks and embarked on the most beautiful journey of our lifetimes. I’ll never forget that first moment when we met this brown eyed boy. He was nervous. He had a giant bandage on his hand because he had been chewing the skin off his fingers. Five minutes and a few cookies later he gifted us with a laugh. That was the moment I fell in love. That was the moment he became my son. I can still hear the giggle while I sit here reminiscing. We spent the next 6 weeks spending time every day at the orphanage getting to know each other, learning his routine and habits, immersing ourselves in the Kazakh culture, preparing him to feel safe leaving the only home he’d known for 15 months. We presented our case to a judge, gifted all the wonderful women who had cared for our son, and before we knew it we were officially and legally a small, little family of three.
Caring for J has been one of the greatest joys of my life. This is a child who loves harder than anybody else I know. He’s kind, empathetic, environmentally conscious, a leader, an innovator, a damn good lego builder, and he’s the world’s best big brother. And I’m jealous of the genetics that give him thick, curly hair, perfectly smooth brown skin and the leanest body! My damn genes gave me a thick waist, acne, and man calves! LOL
After more than a year of trying we never did get pregnant and I still so badly wanted to experience a pregnancy and birth. It was another one of those things that I wanted to try because it was simply a new experience. I wasn’t chomping at the bit to have my genetics passed on or to have little mini me’s or mini Mark’s. I simply wanted to know what pregnancy and birth were like. We weren’t willing to do IVF as it was expensive, it wasn’t worth it to us, and we would rather just adopt again. Instead we opted to have 3 rounds of artificial insemination and eat lots of salmon! For those who don’t know AI is as simple as Mark depositing a sample, the lab spins it down, sucks it up in to a tube and then deposits sample closer to my uterus. Well we got pregnant the first round but I lost that baby at J’s second birthday party. Round 2. Nothing. Round 3 and I was so certain that I wasn’t pregnant that I had started researching adoption again. But it turns out that we were indeed pregnant with twin boys! And let me tell you I should’ve just left nature alone. Pregnancy was not for me. I vomited nonstop for 5 months and just when I began to feel good I blew up and had ankles the size of coffee cans. By month 7 I was on bedrest in the hospital and just a few days in to bedrest Pierce’s sac ruptured causing for an emergency C-section. After the C-section I got a high fever and pneumonia and was not able to meet the twins for the first 10 days of their life. I sat in a separate hospital room from them pumping milk for babies I had never met while they fought for their lives in the NICU. It was a very trying time for our family, full of worry and heartbreaks but also full of appreciation for the fragility of life. After 6 weeks the boys were able to come home and we became a family of 5.
At this point I’m feeling pretty beat down. Pretty tired. And we’ve decided this family is finished growing. That was until we met G. We knew G and his foster family from the time he was 7 days old. Circumstances did not allow for his foster family to adopt him and social services was going to move him in to a group home. That was not an option in our eyes so just before his second birthday G joined our family. We fostered him for 6 months before finalizing the adoption on April 6, 2008. G is the little gem of a boy who wouldn’t talk or play or let us love him in any way when he first entered our home. And with patience, gentle guidance, and lots of probing from his new brothers he has become our socialite. He’s the kid that is never afraid to talk, has a million and one things to say, makes up super silly stories, laughs until he can’t breathe, and fights to be heard. He loves to sing and dance and every day he will have another crazy accident in which it looks like we are going to need to call an ambulance and instead he jumps up and laughs. It’s become quite comical and we now refer to him as “noodles” or our permanent drunk driver. Always crashing. Never hurt.
So now I (we) are completely finished. A family of 6. Two adoptees with a pair of biologicals sandwiched between. It’s balanced and perfect.
I feel that I have a pretty good grasp on adoption. And I can tell you, Adoption Rocks!
The only thing I would do differently is have open adoptions. I do wish I had more information for the boys about their birth families. I hate not having those answers for them and I know it would fill some of the holes that sometimes leave them feeling empty. But maybe one day we will find the answers.
I think Adoption Rocks and here’s why:
Pregnancy is not all it’s made out to be. Really, ladies, I can tell you from experience that bringing home a child that someone else had the privilege of carrying really is ideal. No vomiting. No stretchmarks. No ugly veins. No premature labor. No pushing a big headed baby out of your vagina. No ripping. No c-section scars. No apologies for all the horrible names you called your significant other, No clogged milk ducts and saggy breasts. No post baby weight gain. And if you are lucky like us and you bring home toddlers instead of infants you don’t have to do all the sleepless nights! For those who are stuck on thinking they could not love a child they did not birth or that does not share their genetics, this is just plain ignorance! My adopted children are just as much mine
as the ones I birthed. So much so that I often forget that they are not biologically mine. For example the pediatrician recently told me that wetting the bed is genetic so when we were speaking about my oldest wetting the bed I responded with, “Oh that explains a lot. Mark has family who wet their bed for a very long time.” The pediatrician then went on to say, “Amy, I hate to break it to you but you are not in any way responsible for J’s genetics.” Ha! I totally forgot. Because in my mind he’s the same as those I nurtured, grew, and passed my DNA to. I live and die for these boys and where their life began has nothing to do with the depth of my love.
People often think they cannot adopt because it’s too expensive. While International Adoption can be expensive there is a tax credit that gives you nearly half of your expenses back. And you can claim that credit for three years after you adopt. And with foster/adopt we actually get paid to have G as part of this family. The state pays us each month until he’s 18. That was certainly an unexpected benefit.
People think they will get burned in the process and cannot handle the heartache. This does happen. But if you are willing to adopt a child that is already in the foster care system or who is slightly older your chances of having a failed adoption are far less. Going international can also lessen your risk. I know there are those of you out there who are shaking your heads at my endorsement of international adoptions. Just read Without Borders
and that will explain my take.
People often say to me, “Well, you know adopting a kid really is scary because you never know what problems they are going to have.”
Yep, you are absolutely right. We don’t know and we take that risk. But you take that risk when you get pregnant too. My twins were not healthy and one has severe asthma and the other has some speech issues. And, yes, my adopted boys both have special needs too. Starting life in an orphanage or in the womb of a cocaine addicted birthmom challenges the way one approaches life. And while their needs are challenging the love that we receive from them and the knowledge of how much better off they are with a loving family than in an institution far outweighs the day to day challenges. We gain more than we give if we choose to accept what these children are here to teach us and how rich they make our lives.
I know adoption is not for every one but with the millions of orphaned children in our world there are numerous ways you can help without having to commit to raising a child. Find a group home in your area and make sure the needs of those children are being met (I know of a great one in Tucson!), sponsor a child in any orphanage across the globe, spend time volunteering (if you want a very eye opening experience I’ll connect you with the organization I volunteered with in Haiti), or become a foster parent. There are so many ways you can make a difference in the lives of these children.
And if you really are brave and willing, go out and adopt! I promise you won’t regret it. Will it be difficult? Yes! But will it be worth it? A million times, YES!
I wish I could start a campaign called,
Stop Birthing. Start Adopting.
How different would our world look if we started caring for the least of us? Now that’s a movement I’d be proud to see.
Happy Adoption Month and kudos out there to all of you adoptive families.