Everyone’s timeline is different, but we waited two years and two months from the start of our first home study to the time we got our match call for our first son. The match call was nothing like I thought it would be. In my mind, we would be bursting with tears, jumping up and down, hugging each other, and calling all of our families to shout it from the rooftop.
Exactly zero of those things occurred.
Let me set the scene. About a week prior to our match, I called our placement agency for an update on the general timeline based on our application. “Probably two more years,” they said. Disappointing, but….
Baltic cruise: BOOKED!
Accept a new full-time job on base: PERFECT!
Move to a smaller house to save some money: CHECK!
Eight days later, they called back. “You’re probably not expecting this phone call…” they started. “…but there’s a really sweet little boy waiting in China that we think is your son.”
This was it: THE CALL!
It was 9 p.m. in Italy. Luckily we were both home. I was immediately nauseous and instantly forgot how to speak English. I remember repeating the letters OK over and over again like a robot psychopath. I waved my hands frantically at Greg and flashed him the universal sign for choking. He somehow figured out what the heck was going on, took the phone, and put it on speaker. “Is it OK if I sent over this little guy’s adoption file for you to review?” I heard her ask.
One last OK and then a click.
There was no crying. There was no jumping or hugging. There was no calling anybody.
“Open a bottle of wine!” I said. Greg looked at me like I was a lunatic.
I was shaking like a feral chihuahua. I think I drank a full glass of wine before the file arrived in my inbox. This was the first thing I saw when I opened it:
Sold. When can we leave? Wait, we need a stroller! A Carseat! A crib! A suck-the-boogers-out-of-your-kid’s-nose contraption!! FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THINGS HOLY, GET ME TO TARGET!
Not so fast. Greg says he needs some time to think about it.
*longest WHAT ON EARTH IS HAPPENING AT THIS MOMENT pause of our entire marriage*
Oohhkkaaaay….sure. Just take the all time you need. [Undertone: because apparently two years and two months wasn’t enough. Cue eye roll. Continue drinking bottle of wine and scrolling through Target.com.]
This is the part of the story where I tell you that Greg and I process stressful situations just a little bit differently.
Greg’s MO: Stress about the decision quietly, not caring in the least how long it will take you to arrive at a conclusion. Activate the checklist. Read and discern all eleven steps from An Ignation Framework for Making A Decision over the course of 48 hours. Do not in any way acknowledge your wife’s death stares from across the family room for 2 whole days and 2 whole nights. Give zero clues as to where you are in the decision process during this time. Arrive at a comfortable and rational conclusion. Remain confident and certain about it until the decision has been executed.
My MO: Immediately and emphatically say yes. Fully commit with the assumption that everything is going to be great. Act annoyed that anyone would approach this situation in any other way or accuse you of being stressed out. Repress all stress until the morning when said decision goes into effect. Have a full-on freak-out in the middle of the international breakfast buffet at the Guanzhou Hilton, a mere two hours before you meet your son in China. During this time, question everything out loud, including your decision to have children in general.
We’re a real pair.
No matter how long it took us to arrive at the decision, that little boy, Griffin Xavier, was ours.
All of my expectations were exceeded on the day that we became a family. Watching my husband become a father was the most wonderful thing that I had ever seen. Watching him watch me become a mom was a tight second. It was surprisingly natural.
Griffin is the type of child that makes you think you want twelve children. So, two years later, when we got another match call for Everett Pax, I picked up the phone calmly in the middle of my work day, took down some notes, thanked the kind lady on the other end, and said we’d get back to them soon. It may have helped that they are in my iPhone contacts as “Adoption Agency. Don’t freak out. Be cool.”
This time, it only took us both 45 minutes to call them back and say, “Definitely, Yes!”
Those two little Chinese boys were ours. And our love had always been theirs to claim. It is never anything I want them to feel grateful for. In fact I hope they take it entirely as a given, because it is. I hope that when they are teenagers, they behave in ways that only a mother can love. Because I for sure will love them, every single time. I hope they are never made to feel like they’re lucky to have been adopted. These boys’ stories started with unimaginable, tragic loss.
There’s nothing lucky about how our family came to be. Babies being taken from their first family, their culture, their language—that’s loss, not luck. So, as a rule, we always acknowledge the loss first, celebrating the joyful outcomes second. Greg and I believe that our paths crossed with two little boys half-way around the globe because of circumstances that were not ideal, but that were executed at precisely the right intervals.
My boys have this quote from the book The Alchemist hanging in their rooms: I love you because the entire universe conspired to help me find you.
For me, that sums up our adoption story.
We’ve learned a lot about trauma and an equal amount about resilience through the process of building our family. There are so many kids (domestically and internationally) who are waiting to cross paths with their parents. If I think about it for too long, it becomes overwhelming. If I think about it too much, I’d be driving a 15 passenger church van full of adopted children around for the next 32 years. Adoption is not for everyone. But nobody should shut the door on a desire to adopt out of fear.
If you’ve considered adoption, please, leave your heart open to it. Let the idea nestle in.
Take a page out Greg’s book and go through the steps of discernment with yourself, with your spiritual counselor, with your mom, with your best friend, with your spouse.
If you want to adopt and are hesitant because it’s uncomfortable or difficult, then, I say do the hard things. You are capable. Love is capable.
If you are nervous about the finances, do your research. Adoption is not just for the rich. Every day people with student loans and meager means adopt children. Grants, tax credits, military reimbursements, and fundraisers are all great options to explore.
MOST OF ALL, if you are scared because you are not sure you can love a child that you are not biologically related to, I have to tell you—that’s simply not how love works.
I thought that too, though. I worried about love up until the breakfast buffet at the Guanzhou Hilton where I had my meltdown. The love that we have for our children is universal—it crosses oceans and DNA and it doesn’t stop because things get too hard.
Parenting is a team sport! Anyone who embarks on the path of adoption is in good company. Greg and I have found so much support in an enormous network of other people who have walked this path before us. These are people we didn’t know existed when we first started the adoption process. People who, in a sea of pregnant twenty-somethings, probably also felt alone.
Adoption is my jam. You’ll find me talking about it until I’m old and can’t find my words anymore.
You’ll find me celebrating the day each of my kids joined our family as a bigger holiday than Christmas. Greg and I will watch our kids launch out of our home in a decade and a half (fingers crossed!), knowing that we have raised adults that were meant to be ours from the beginning. Two boys who became brothers and sons, not out of luck, but out of loss and out of love. So. Much. Love.
So, this November, I’m most grateful for a husband who walked this hard and worthy road seamlessly with me. I’m grateful to my boys’ birth mothers, and orphanage nannies, and foster parents who cared for them the best they knew how until we could get to them. I’m grateful to both of our families who welcome them and love them without exception. And I’m eternally grateful for the two little boys who were planted in the garden of our family before we even knew who they were. Guys, I’m so glad we didn’t miss this.