I will tell you that every single day I have an even better feeling in my gut about what we are doing. Many of you have asked me, why adopt? are you infertile? did you have a miscarriage? The answer to these questions is no, we have no reason to think that we cannot have biological children. I answer it only so you will not be feeling like you cannot ask me about it. So, the why question comes up again. I hope I can help you understand.
Here's part of that answer. This is only part because some of this will be only my half. Josh's and my stories intersect, but I feel that our adoption was born in our hearts long before we met.
Ever since I was a teenager doing Power Hour (a Bible hour the youth group would do for kids in an impoverished community in our town) I would always meet a child there that I wanted to take home. I would find that one little girl or set of siblings that my heart just went out to, and I would find them every week and sit with them and color with them and sing with them. There is a picture in my Bible that I have had ever since then of me and three little girls with whom I fell in love. I don't remember their names, but I remember them. I have always had what you might call a "soft spot" for kids in tough situations.
I also have a cousin whom I love so much who was adopted at birth. Her parents adopted her from a reservation. It has never been an issue for us, she was a cousin and that was that, I have never thought of her as anything but my family. My aunt and uncle have been a great example to me, because I feel that they treated their daughters (one adopted and one biological) the exact same. This is just more of what my framework was growing up regarding adoption.
Later in life, I would see families at church who had fostered or adopted, and I thought it was something I'd like to do someday, perhaps when my kids were older. After I was married to Josh, we often talked about how we wanted to adopt or become foster parents "at some point"... Then, one day, that changed for me. I will mention here that perhaps this sounds cheesy, but I had a revelation at a Steven Curtis Chapman benefit concert for AGAPE. First of all, his stories and songs about adoption make you want to just go open your home and let the kids flood in the doors, and the work of AGAPE (adoption/foster care agency in Memphis) that was presented that night touched me so much. I started thinking that perhaps we could adopt now! Why not? I thought. This way our child will have our full attention, and the honor and precious place of being our first.
After presenting this to Josh, he was all for this idea. So we quickly starting investigating all the many options from which we could adopt a child who was in need of parents. There are so many children in need of families. Here in the US alone, there are over half a million children in the foster care system. Worldwide, the number is even more staggering. We looked at many, many options. We did not pursue any particular "type" of options: we were open to all races and all cultures from the start. We began to research adopting from other countries. The international adoption scene, however, if you are not involved in it, is quite complex. Each country has its own rules and stipulations. Some countries have been allowing US adoptions for many years. Most people know a family who have adopted from Russia or China. Guatemala and Korea are the next most common places from which to adopt currently by US citizens. The Ethiopian program was not the first one we seriously considered, mostly because we didn't hear about it until much later. But it was the one that after all was considered, met the qualifications we were looking for. We felt drawn to this country for many reasons, not the least of which was that we grew up in an age where images of the famine in Ethiopia were all over the television. Those don't leave your mind. The need there today to care for orphans was a strong reason that Ethiopia was our choice as well. According to UNICEF,
"Ethiopia counts one of the largest populations of orphans in the world: 13 percent of children throughout the country are missing one or both parents. This
represents an estimated 4.6 million children – 800,000 of whom were orphaned by HIV/AIDS."
...and also from UNICEF:
"Preliminary results from the 2000 Ethiopia Demographic and Health Survey (DHS
2001) indicate roughly that:
• one out of every 20 children born alive die in their first month of life
• one out of ten die before reaching their first birthday
• one out of six die before reaching their fifth birthday."
And lastly, we felt in our heart after much prayer, reflection, talking with our families and other wise people, that Ethiopia was where we wanted to pursue an adoption.
Then fast forward 15 months. We have done the paperwork, the background checks, the notarizing, the letters, all of it. We are just waiting now for the agency to call us sometime in the next 4-6 months. And as we go, sometimes I still get scared. There are many things that could go wrong, I know this. There are questions I haven't even thought of, and scenarios I haven't yet imagined. (However all the books on adoption could scare a person to death!) And not just being an adoptive parent... but being a PARENT.... that is a scary thing and I am not sure I am ready.
But it seems that on the day I get up and feel a little anxious or unsure, God sends someone or something my way to tell me to calm down and be joyful. God has a way of continuing to use people to confirm our path. First, I want to mention here a little about my husband. He has stood by the decision to do this from the start. Never has he wavered from this. He is the first confirmation I would mention about whether this was something that we felt called to do. One of my favorite things about Josh is that when I get worried and weighed down by this process, he is still dedicated. He will not let me be burdened by all there is to do to actually get this child! He has been a rock for me, and even more he has pointed me to the reasons we wanted to do this in the first place. More than anything we share the belief that this is the direction to which God is calling us.
One couple has been giving us fifty dollar checks every month ever since they heard about the adoption. This wasn't something we asked them for... it was them giving us support. And it has been one of the ways God has used people to confirm us. One thing that happened recently really blessed me as well. I was told by our friend Debbie's daughter-in-law that she had been talking to Debbie one night a couple of weeks before Debbie's death about my and Josh's adoption. She recounted to me their conversation and how Debbie was so supportive of our decision. I was amazed because I don't remember talking to Debbie that much about it. And then, out of nowhere, she is blessing me even after she has left this life. God is using her words to bless me today.
We feel so blessed and so supported throughout this adoption process so far. Thank you to all who are "rooting" for us. I absolutely cannot wait to bring our baby home to meet all the people who have been praying for him or her. Our desire to be parents is about to be fulfilled in a child who has a need for us, too!