Who knew that writing a paper in high school at the age of 17 would change not only my life, but also the lives of our family. Let me set the stage; I was writing a persuasive argument in favor of interracial adoption. It’s nearing midnight and my bedroom is silent (it was too distracting for me to work with music on) and I hear a deep voice say, “You will adopt someday.” I literally turned over my shoulder because I thought there was a man in the room with me. I shrugged it off as my delusional mind from burning the midnight oil and sleep deprivation. Then I heard it again, “You will adopt someday.” Now mind you I had little faith at that time. I believed there was a God, and I would have labeled myself a Christian, but I never attended church, I could not quote scripture, and the spiritual aspect of my life was zilch. However, the seed for adoption was planted. I knew in my gut that I would adopt someday.
Fast forward three years and I met my husband Jeff while we are both attending school at the University of Kansas. Before too long we started talking about a life together. I brought up the desire to adopt to Jeff, and he replied, “Well sure. Can we have biological kids first?”. Jeff and I got married June 8th in 2002. We jumped into parenthood and had our first son, Joseph, in February of 2004. Our second and third sons, Nathaniel and Warren, were born in 2006 and 2011. We knew at this time we were done with having biological children. And so the adoption talks began when Warren was 6 months old.
Our first thing to address was domestic or foreign adoption. We felt that we had been blessed with three healthy children and with my job as a nurse, we were being called to adopt a child with some sort of health issue. My role as a nurse had led me to meet multiple families that had adopted internationally through Holt International. We knew we wanted a girl to balance out all the testosterone in our home. That is when what I like to call the “what ifs” began. Jeff and I started a crazy cycle of “what if” running through our discussions. What if she doesn’t connect with us? What if we can’t afford it? What if we die in a plane crash flying across the world to get her? The list of what “ifs” was endless, however one concern I NEVER had was our ability to love her.
Jeff and I honestly got so tired of our endless talks about if we were going to do this, that we decided to not discuss it for six months and just pray on it. You know that saying “If you want to make God laugh, tell him you have a plan.” The following Sunday, Jeff and I were teaching the children’s lesson at our church. In walked a lovely, young, girl about 10 years old, of Asian descent. She walked in and very politely introduced herself as, Grace. We proceed to be wowed by her. Grace was so polite, well-spoken, and mature you would have thought she was 30, not 10. As we walked back into church with the children, we saw Grace sit down with her white parents. Jeff and I both looked at each other and were both thinking the same thing, “Okay God, we get it.” We started our adoption paperwork later that same day. As we would come to realize, we never saw Grace or her family again and our daughter was born that very week. God certainly works in mysterious ways.
If you don’t know someone that has gone through international adoption, the amount of paperwork is overwhelming, as are the financial aspects. Our adoption agency, Holt, was with us through every step of the way. It was about six months after our process started that we got to see Willa’s beautiful face. It happened that Jeff was the one who got to find out about her first. I was sleeping at the hospital between night shifts due to a snowstorm for fear of not making it back to work. The phone rang in the hospital room I was sleeping in and Jeff could barely contain his excitement, “We have a baby, she’s beautiful, look at her eyes, we have a baby, check your email!” was what rattled out of his mouth. I was instantly awake and I checked my email. Willa was born with a cleft lip and palate, neither of which had been repaired. However, I can honestly tell you the first thing I noticed were her huge, beautiful brown eyes. We had 24 hours to decide if we “wanted her”. I don’t think we even needed 5 seconds. We both felt an instant connection to that picture. It is the same feeling parents feel looking at a little alien life form on an ultrasound.
Willa was 11 ½ months old when we got to China. I can’t explain the joy of having her in my arms. We had to wait six long months to go get her after seeing her beautiful face. It was torture knowing she was there in an orphanage, when in our minds she was already ours. Again, our adoption agency did an amazing job coordinating all our travel. Willa turned one the day after we got home from China.
I think the biggest thing adopting Willa has taught us is to not let fear win. If we would have let the “what ifs” (which let’s face it, were fears) cripple us into inaction, then we wouldn’t have her. I feel so strongly about conquering fear, I got a tattoo on my right foot with Faith superimposed over the word Fear. I have met so many people that said, “I always wanted to adopt.” When I ask why they didn’t, typically it was fear that kept them from adding to their families via adoption. None of us can imagine a life without our beautiful Willa-girl in it. There is no fear or “what ifs”, only a thankful heart that we chose faith over fear for what God had put on my heart and mind when I was 17 writing a paper in the quiet of my room.
What is National Adoption Month?
November is National Adoption Month is about spreading awareness. It is a month to encourage others to learn about adoption, to hold adoption related events, and to acknowledge the people in this country whose lives have been impacted by adoption. The mission of National Adoption Month is to celebrate the families who have grown through adoption, and to recognize the many children who are still waiting for forever families.