I’ll begin with the story.
One of my favorite things about my husband is that he loves to read, and he lets books change him. He reads in random spare minutes when I would never think to crack a book (while grilling pork tenderloins, for example, or as he waits for our daughter to finish splashing around in the bath). He reads faster than anyone else I know, and his currently-reading pile puts this English major and former teacher to shame. Five years ago he read a book that left a permanent mark on our vision for our lives. He ranked it as the best book he read that year—which, considering the shelf space filled by a year’s worth of his reading, is saying something. We have been talking about it ever since.
The book was Russell Moore’s Adopted for Life (published by my husband’s employer), and it radically shifted our view of adoption from an action I thought was vaguely “cool” to a life change we wanted to make. The book lays out a detailed theology of adoption, but what I remember most is Moore’s insistence that adoption is not a second-rate way to build a family, that the children thus brought into the family are no less “yours” than your biological offspring, and that it is not a last option reserved for those who face infertility or have finished bearing biological children. It is just a different way to expand your family; it can be beautiful and profoundly meaningful; and it is deeply needed.
I always wanted to have a large family—my dream was six kids. This was probably partly fueled by my experience growing up as the only child at home. I loved my parents and I had a great childhood. But I longed for someone to talk to drowsily between bunkbeds at night, for someone to commiserate with about unreasonable rules, for someone who knew all about me without having to be told. I watched my friends who grew up with siblings, observing the mysterious understanding and the common culture and memories that formed the shared canvas of their lives. I resolved, as much as it lay in my power, to provide that kind of communal foundation for my children.
I had sometimes thought that adoption might be a part of that process. After we read Moore’s book, I knew that we wanted to grow our family both through birth and through adoption. But there seemed to be good reasons to wait on adoption—the financial costs are staggering, for one thing, and I wondered how much time remained for me to have biological children. Little did I guess how fast that clock was ticking. After two miscarriages and a long wait to rebuild my health, my pregnancy with Simon seemed to go beautifully. I felt that this might well be my last pregnancy, though—my body was tired, I was more uncomfortable than ever before, and my children had already endured a combined 9 months of a tired and sick Mama—with as yet no baby sibling to make it all worthwhile. And then there really was no baby to bring home—just a tiny silent brother they met once before they had to lay roses on his coffin.
For our children’s sakes as well as ours, we want to have new life in our home again—to have a baby on whom to lavish the love we have been storing up for the past two years. And there are babies who need that love. So we find ourselves ready to adopt: not because it will be affordable or easy (it will be neither) but out of love. Whether there will be another biological child in our family someday, I don’t know. There are many medical questions still to be answered, and even if those answers were positive, there is still the towering fact that for me, any future pregnancy would be not a hope-filled wait, but a black hole of terror. The time may come when we’re willing to risk that terror, or it may not—either way, that time is not now. But while we aren’t ready for a pregnancy, we are very, very ready to love a new child. And there are children who need families, and we are waiting to be chosen to adopt one.
I have had two main anxieties about sharing this news. The first is that people might hear it and conclude, “Great! She’s going to be all better. They will get a baby and that baby will replace Simon and everything will be wonderful again.” But adoption is not an attempt to replace Simon, nor is it a magical panacea for our grief. No child is replaceable; the child we adopt will be another one of our children, loved exactly like the others are, like Simon was and is. Adopting a child is no more an attempt to replace a dead child than having another baby would be an attempt to replace a living one. And the grief for a lost child goes on for the rest of your life, while you raise other children and go out to dinner with your spouse and pursue your career and scrub bathroom floors and shovel snow and read the paper. We hope that adopting a baby will bring a fresh source of joy to our family after much pain, but we don’t expect it to end all sorrow in our lives—which would be an insupportable expectation to place on any child, however she arrived in a family!
My second anxiety is that people will hear this news and think, “Oh no—this is way too soon. They need to get their lives back together before they do that.” I hope the story I’ve told makes it clear that this is not a new direction for us; it’s a direction we planned to take for years now, but are simply taking sooner than we had expected. And again, one does not finish with the grief for a lost child, as a person might walk through a room and close the door behind him as he enters the next. The loss of Simon will be with us forever; if we wait to be “over it,” we will never do anything. At the same time, we have gone to great lengths to ensure that we are indeed ready to take this step now. The adoption process builds in seemingly endless safeguards; although I have read many articles about the alarming abuses that sometimes take place under the heading of “adoption,” our experience makes it hard for me to imagine how those horrors happened. We have been fingerprinted and background checked. We’ve had multiple, extensive interviews with our social worker, a counselor, our adoption consultant, and a pastoral consultant. We have presented letters of recommendation and submitted reams of paperwork and attended classes and read books and watched videos. The finished home study has been in our hands for two months while we have mailed off packages of further paperwork to adoption agencies. The process has been grueling but ultimately, I’m glad it’s that way—because that protects babies, and families, and that is essential in adoption, where (as in many areas of life) much can go wrong.
Speaking of the dangers: there is no such thing as a risk-free adoption, just as there is no such thing as a risk-free pregnancy or, really, a risk-free life. But there are levels of vulnerability. We are choosing to wait for a less risky situation, to lessen the likelihood of us becoming attached to a baby that is then kept or reclaimed by the birth family. It’s hard to hold out for this, when I get emails about other situations, but we believe it’s wisest for us to minimize the risk of further loss as much as possible, for the sake of our whole family.
So this is where we find ourselves: in a nebulous waiting period that could last days or months. We are working with an adoption consultant who has access to information about available situations with multiple agencies. We have always been open to either gender and any ethnicity, and incidentally, both those choices could help decrease our wait time. When we hear about a situation that interests us, we ask for our family’s profile to be presented to the birthmother—and then wait a few days to learn whether we have been chosen or not. I mother the children I have with me, and check my email obsessively. I try not to hope too much. We talk often with our three older children about adopting a baby, and every time we watch their eyes light up. I am terrified to pray for a good and quick outcome, because so much pain has come in answer to my prayers these last years. I hold my breath, and wait.
If you are a person who prays, though—please pray for this! And if you are interested in helping in other ways, here is a link to our fundraising page. Because, wow, adoption is expensive. Nobody could afford it on their own! I will write more about that side of things soon. And if I have to write about it in a big hurry because we’ve been matched with a baby, I will be nothing but thrilled.