I hope you enjoy today's Friday's Family post. Monica is our social worker here in China and helped us update our homestudy last fall. A few years ago she wrote a series of articles regarding adoption for a national Chinese magazine. I've included two parts of her series.
Growing a Family Our Way
Growing up I was not the type of girl who dreamed about my wedding day, my Prince Charming, and our happily ever after. Nevertheless from a young age, I believed marriage and family were special, important, and sacred. They were two things in life that needed to be taken seriously and that should be seen as special gifts. When my husband & I got married, we both knew that in the near future we would like to have a family, and we both knew that our family might be a bit different than the traditional family.
When most people think about starting a family, they think about the traditional method: husband and wife get pregnant and 9 months later a beautiful baby is born. As we began talking about staring a family, we both had a desire to birth children, but we also had a desire to grow our family by a non-traditional method. I birthed our first son when I was 25 years old, and I birthed our second son when I was 27 years old. Our daughter was born when I was 29 years old, but I did not birth her. She was born in the beautiful countryside in Ethiopia, Africa. She is our daughter by adoption.
Everyone has a different reaction to our decision to grow our family through adoption. Some people are excited and supportive. Some think we are doing a “kind deed” by helping the poor child. Others are skeptical and wonder if we will love the child the same as our birthed children. Some people feel the need to share some examples of other adopted children who rebelled when they grew up and treated their adoptive parents poorly. Others are in dismay as to why we would adopt a child when I can physically birth children, and they are perplexed as to why we would want a child of another race. Others are against adoption, especially international adoption.
Our reason for adoption is simple: love. We wholeheartedly believe that every child is uniquely created and is deserving of love. We believe that every child, regardless of skin color and special needs, was created to grow up in the context of a loving family. All children were wonderfully and lovingly made, but we also know that this world often times is not what it should be. We have all experienced heartaches and pain. We have all been let down by others or felt the pains of rejection. Some of us have experienced poverty, discrimination, and other disadvantages. Deep down within all of us, we know that this is not the way we were created to live. We were created for more.
Our daughter is no different. She was lovingly and wonderfully made. She was created to grow and flourish in a family, but sometimes life is not how it should be. While in a perfect world, every child could grow up with their birth parents, often times that is not possible for many reasons. People might reason then that we are adopting because we pity her situation and feel compelled to save her. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. We aren’t trying to be a savior. We by no means are perfect parents, but we do love her, and we believe love is deeper than blood lines or skin color. We love her like we love the children we birthed. In our eyes, she is no different than our two older sons. We believe that she is a perfect fit for our family. She, like our other children, is a special gift.
My family loves living in China. We love living in a neighborhood of mostly Chinese people. We love working with Chinese men and women, and we love learning about this culturally rich country. That being said, when we moved to China, we had no idea how much we would really stand out. Our two boys have curly blonde hair with very fair skin and blue eyes. When out in public, it is easy to spot my boys. When our daughter, Evelyn, joined our family, we were already a conspicuous family. People passing by on the street would stop, turn around, and stare at us. Others would walk up to us and try to touch my children’s hair and skin. Others would ask a plethora of questions, some of which are appropriate and other’s that aren’t very sensitive. Even before Evelyn came home, people were curious about my kids, but now people are extremely curious.
One of the most common comments we hear from people are, “She (our daughter) is so lucky to have you.” These well meaning people have it all backwards though. Really, we are lucky to have her. She has brought great joy to our family. She has a contagious smile that makes you glad to be around her. She has a pleasant personality, and she brings a different dynamic to our household of boys. Before, our home was full of kicking of balls, wrestling, and loud noises. Now that Evelyn is home, I have seen both of my sons show a softer side to her. They will hug her, kiss her, bring her toys when she is crying, tickle her, and sit down to play with her quietly. Our daughter has given our sons great joy.
Perhaps one of the greatest joys of bringing Evelyn home has been watching her process of attaching to us as a family. While my heart was full of love for her from the moment I first saw her picture, I was merely another stranger to her. Like a drop of water in a bucket, she could not distinguish me from any of the other women who took care of her. The first few days I spent in Ethiopia with Evelyn were full of trials and joy. The very first day I was allowed to take Evelyn home with me to the hotel I was staying at was challenging. I did not know how she liked to be held, what comforted her, what temperature she liked her bottle, how she best fell asleep, and so on. I was by myself and feeling overwhelmed by the reality that I was a complete stranger to her, and in her mind, I had taken everything she new as home and comfort away from her.
As the weeks progressed, Evelyn began to trust us. She would relax more easily in our arms when we were rocking her to sleep. She would sleep longer stretches at night. When we were out in public, she would turn her head into our shoulders when we held her instead of always trying to reach away from us. She began to crawl, stand up, walk along furniture, say “dada” and “mama” and shortly thereafter said “gege.” With each development, we praised her and loved her, and she would slowly respond with squeals of delight.
No matter whether a child enters a family through birth or adoption, that child always has a special place in a parent’s heart. Raising children is not for the faint of heart. Being a parent can be painful and hard. Parents must navigate through the waters of discipline. They must teach children values, morals, and how to make wise choices. The impact a parent has on their child is immeasurably great. In this modern age, where both moms and dads work stressful jobs, it is easy for a mom to feel that she has little impact on her child’s life, but every child is looking up to their parents, and asking, just like Evelyn did, “Can I trust you?” “Will you love me unconditionally despite my weaknesses?” “If I reach for you, will you catch me?” All children need parents to protect them, love them, teach them, and guide them. Even though parenting is painful and hard, it is the most rewarding and life changing job.
Regardless of how a family is formed, through adoption or through physical birth, love is what defines a family.
Don't miss a thing! Follow the entire 30 Days, 30 Posts: Adoption series.