In case you’ve ever wondered about how and why we’ve built our family the way we have, here’s a little Q&A …
Q: What made you decide to adopt?
A: We wanted children. After trying the old fashioned way for almost two years, we decided there were other ways to build a family. I wanted a baby much more than I wanted to be pregnant. Adoption was the obvious choice.
Q: Was this a hard time for you?
A: Uh, yeah. The path of infertility is dark and painful. I cried. A lot. I had moments of severely disliking God. I remember quitting church one Wednesday; said I was never going back. I wasn’t going to serve a God who wouldn’t answer the most natural of prayers (I wasn’t praying for a unicorn, you know). Thankfully, God is slow to anger and abounding in love. I repented and was back in church by Sunday.
Q: Why Colombia for your first two adoptions?
A: Several reasons. Lee and I had spent time in South and Central America. It was close. I knew Spanish. The program was top-notch; with great medical care. The biggest reason, though, was that we could adopt an infant. Nowhere else in the world (other than the United States) could we adopt a 6 weeks old baby.
Q: Why not adopt in the United States?
A: We get this question a lot. Truthfully, I think international adoption is much more altruistic. I know there are wrinkles in our foster care system, but the fact is, this is America. There are rags to riches stories on every corner. A child can grow up in foster care, work hard, go to college and be a millionaire by the age of 40. It is possible. In third world countries, there is no rising above. Un-adopted orphans can’t get grants to go to college. They can’t go to a rescue mission and borrow a clean set of clothes for a job interview. There are no halfway houses or food banks. It’s crime or starvation.
Q: So you think International Adoption is better?
A: No. Not at all. God doesn’t love Colombian or Ethiopian orphans any more than He loves American orphans. I think it pleases Him when we open our hearts and homes to any child, no matter his nationality. That said, I think one can make a case that there are more at risk kids abroad than here at home. I know several who would challenge me on this issue, and that’s ok. God hasn’t sewn the same seeds in all of our hearts. My harvest isn’t any more holy than someone else’s harvest if we share the same Gardener.
Q: Getting back to your Colombian adoptions, how long was each process?
A: Both adoptions were 10 full months. Our son was referred to us when he was 5 weeks old and we traveled 2 weeks later. Our daughter was 6 weeks old and we traveled 1 week later. It was crazy traveling with Zeb when he was just 18 months, but there was no way we could leave him. My parents were a huge help; traveling with us and taking care of Zeb while we began to bond with Michal. They are 16 months apart.
Q: Four years later, you birthed a baby, correct?
A: Yes, and it was no vacation. I thank God for the experience, but I'm glad it's over and don't intend on doing it again. I tell Liliana that even though she's not adopted, I love her just as much as I do the other three. And I truly mean that.
Q: For your 3rd adoption, why did you choose Ethiopia over Colombia?
A: Colombia is able to place their children either in country or with parents living elsewhere who are Colombian. Even though our first two children are Colombian, we didn’t qualify. We researched all the programs available to a 5-member family and Ethiopia was a good fit. Plus, I’ve always wanted to go to Africa. It’s amazing.
Q: Were you concerned about race at all?
A: Very much so. We live in the south. People can be mean. Adoption issues are tough enough, but trans-racial adoptions are even tougher. Many advocate that children are better off being raised on the streets of their own country than to be raised in the loving homes of foreigners.
Q: What made you decide to go ahead with the adoption?
A: Somewhere out there was a little boy whose choice in the matter was irrelevant. He was going to be adopted and raised abroad. My decision to adopt would not change his fate. Yes, it would be better for him to be raised in his village with his family, but this wasn’t going to happen. Someone was going to adopt him. Why not me?
Q: How long was the process?
A: We started the process in October of 2009 and were finally matched with a little boy in October of 2010. We traveled to Ethiopia in January of 2011 to attend court and legally adopt him under Ethiopian law. We spent 5 days getting to know him before returning to the United States without him. Our second trip was in March of 2011 for our appointment with the United States Embassy and to bring our boy home!
Q: Was this adoption harder or easier than the first two?
A: Harder emotionally, but easier in every other way. The two trips were wonderful—a blessing, really; but my heart ached to bring him home. Even before I met him, I knew he was out there, somewhere, and that he needed us. For the majority of our first two adoptions, our kids were actually in the womb. It was hard knowing our son was more than likely hungry and thirsty and without shoes.
Q: So now that you’re home, how are things going ?
A: Great. Amazingly great! He is so my favorite kid right now. Ask anyone in the family and they’ll tell you.
Q: What about language?
A: We use a lot of sign language and pointing. He’s picking up words here and there. We also learned a few command words in his native tongue (Sidama) and that has been helpful. English is actually his third language. He learned Amharic at the transition house where he lived for about 8 weeks during and between court and embassy.
Q: So is this it? Any more adoptions in your future?
A: I don’t know. Maybe. Probably. It would be fine with me if in a year or so we looked around the table at dinner and had a “this is it, we’re complete” moment, but I don’t anticipate that. We can’t house all the orphans out there, but we could probably manage at least a few more. If money were no object, we would start another process as soon as possible.
Q: Speaking of money… How much does it cost to adopt?
A: That depends heavily on the country. Russia seems to be pretty expensive. Ethiopia was very affordable until they began requiring two trips. I think a stateside adoption through Children and Families is only around $16,000. I’d say that a family would need to be prepared to spend around $25,000 on average. That’s a lot of money, I know; but I paid almost $30,000 for my van and it’s a piece of crap.
Q: Why so much money? It seems people pay a high price for babies.
A: I hate the concept of “buying a baby.” Very little money goes to the actual orphanage. I would venture to say that hundreds of people are involved in every adoption, and they all deserve a paycheck.
Q: How has adoption changed you spiritually?
A: Oh, goodness. It’s changed me completely. I think those touched by adoption understand a little better the concept of being adopted children of God. How He could love us enough to die for us, even though we’re completely different than Him.
And how about how God can take 6 people from 5 different places with 5 different sets of DNA and BOOM! create a lasting family. If that’s not a picture of Heaven, I don’t know what is.
Racism takes on a new meaning as well. I have four children and they are all racially different. It’s ludicrous to think I would love one child better than another because of their respective skin tones. Imagine how God feels when we assume He loves “us white people” better than those blessed with some color. He’s our Father. He created all of us. Racism breaks His heart.
Q: We’re running out of time, so what’s one thing you’d like for everyone to know about adoption and your family that we haven’t covered so far?
A: Hmm. Probably that my family is normal. My kids are normal and they want to be treated as such. It’s not okay to ask questions about their adoptions or their pasts in front of them. It’s not okay to refer to Liliana as my “real” child or ask if she’s “mine.” That’s just not okay; and it’s really not anyone’s business which child passed through my birth canal and which child didn’t. That’s pretty personal information. I realize people are not trying to be hurtful, so I am careful with my responses. I try to be graceful. I know I’ve unintentionally said plenty of hurtful things to others in the past.
I was out with my two daughters a few months back (one adopted, one biological) and a man pointed to Liliana and said, “Is she yours?”
“They’re both mine,” I kindly replied.
“Well, you know what I mean,” he said while cocking his head.
“I know exactly what you mean,” I gently said and pointed towards Michal. “It’s whether or not she knows what you mean that’s important. And yes, they’re both mine.”
I dread these kinds of conversations, but it’s what I signed up for, you know? I knew that we’d get a lot of ignorant and inappropriate questions along the way, and sometimes I have to mask my rage with a pleasant smile. I wouldn’t change anything about how we built our family. I love us!
Q: Thanks so much for sharing a bit about your family.
A: It was a pleasure.