Updated: Mar 2
The Books I read during th adoption process (we use amazon affiliates linkin our blog. It costs nothing extra to you but helps us earn a small commission):
The Connected Child: https://amzn.to/3AL5qWu
It was April of 2013 and I was perusing Facebook when a photo came up in my Facebook feed. It was of 4 siblings and the organization was asking for "host families" for the summer. I just stared at that photo and those faces in it and I knew them. We had never met and I can’t explain it, but I knew each of them and I knew in that instant they were my kids. My sister had adopted and always told me, “You just know when they are meant for you.” I got what she meant in that moment, I just knew they were meant for us. It said that there was only 48 hours left to apply to host. I knew this was not a probable option for the summer. We had already begun our huge plans to RV the east coast all summer to celebrate my husband turning 40 and wouldn't be able to participate in this 5 week hosting program. Except, the photo gnawed at me all day. My desire to hold those children (ages 5, 7, 11 and 12) continued to grow until I couldn't take it any longer and showed my husband. I told him we would only call and find out more and that was all. A few minutes into the call, he was all in. We could take that trip another time. I won't go into the mountains we had to move in order to be approved in 48 hours, but there is no telling us something couldn't be done and we definitely felt some divine intervention helping us along.
July 7, 2013 - Our children arrived to spend 5 weeks with us. Nothing could have prepared us for what those five weeks would be like. It was chaos. I had managed an after school daycare for years in college and that was a walk in the park in comparison to wrangling these four. Despite all the chaos, we had fun with them, we loved them, we had dance parties in the living room, we cooked, we swam every day, we tucked them in every night and said prayers, and they loved every second of it. The end of our 5 weeks together arrived and I could not stop blinking back the tears. What I will never forget about that day is their concern for me as they sensed my sadness. In 5 weeks, we had bonded and had begun to become a family. We were not allowed to tell them we would be adopting them and that was the hardest of all. We were not allowed any communication with them during the adoption process and we worried non-stop that they would think we had abandoned them. Not a moment went by that I was not thinking of them, worrying for them, In my mind, I was already their mother. On March 10, 2014, 7 months since we last saw them, we walked into their orphanage and all six of us began the journey of becoming a family.
I think the most important part of adoption is to learn that paper and court do not make you a family other than in the eyes of the law. What it takes to become a family is much more than a court hearing. It takes everyone's participation and effort. I let my children know often that it was not just hard for the parents, but hard for them as well. I let them know that I understood they lost everything they knew to join out family. Our four children had to work just as hard as Chip and I did. If you are going to adopt a sibling group or older children, even a baby, it is important to really understand what is happening. Adoption is not a fairytale where some child and a set of parents get their happily ever after as soon as the court makes you a family. Something bad had to happen in order for the adoption to take place. My daughter Skylar said similar words to me after starting her new school. She had a teacher “out” her to the whole class that she was just adopted and then asked her in front of the class if she liked her new parents. Then the kids immediately started asking a ton of questions and she felt humiliated. She asked my why would the teacher do that. I explained how people are excited to think about them getting a family and she looked at me and said, "Don't they know something bad had to happen for us to get a new family?"
Things were tough like that for awhile. It does take a few years to adjust. They had to uproot their life from their friends, their country, their language, their home (the orphanage WAS their home), and the relatives that did not step up to be guardians but still visited them and had a relationship with them. They were thrown into new foods, new people, new school, new language, new family; and as great as it was, it was not an easy transition. We had to unlearn old behaviors and learn new ones for the first time, all while not speaking the same language fluently. We had medical issues pop up left and right. Every time we turned a corner it seemed that we had a new issue to tackle. School was incredibly challenging and I was quickly learning what an IEP, ESOL, ESL and children advocates were. For every inch we moved forward it felt like we would be pushed back 10 feet. Hard does not begin to describe it. I was far from the parent I envisioned in my mind, but Chip and I kept saying our motto, "Just keep swimming and we will reach the other side." We focused on each day and truly lived one day at a time.
Becoming a family took time, mistakes, apologies and many tears, but we kept swimming. We all kept giving our best and so much love. It was an endless flowing river of love and patience from each of us. I watched my children grow and develop bonds, empathy, selflessness and trust, where there once was none, but there was still a distance and sadness that existed from time to time. In October 2020, with our event businesses still suffering from the pandemic, we decided to take the family on a trip around the country in our travel trailer (or as Chip likes to call it, The Magic Cabin). We call it the Magic Cabin because it transports us from one amazing location to another, but it was truly magical in transforming us as a family as well.
Maybe it was all the uninterrupted attention, the family time spent hiking, cooking, packing, unpacking and the teamwork that is needed to live this life. Somewhere along the road, light began to shine where some darkness still hid. We grew close in a way that even I have not experienced in my lifetime. I love them so much and feel lucky that I was gifted with the title of their mom. When I look back at our videos or Instagram feed from the beginning of our trip until now, I am amazed at the physical change that took place as well. Our children had our undivided attention for 12 months and it showed in their development.
I have seen the impact of unconditional love and for those that think a large sibling group would be too hard to adopt, it isn’t. People will say to me, "Your kids are so lucky." that isn't true. Chip and I are the lucky ones. It just takes an abundance of patience, understanding, instinct, love and a really good support system. I was lucky to have a sister that had been through adoption and could really support me in any challenge I had. Knowing everything I know now - the ups and downs, the challenges and the successes, I would still do it all over again in a heartbeat. I have my 5 greatest loves between my children and my husband. My only wish is that I found them sooner.
If adoption is in your heart and you know that you have the patience and commitment ready that it takes, then just start the journey and quit thinking one day.