One of the most difficult aspects of building our family through adoption has been measuring when to say "when". At what point should we say, "This is it, our very last child."
This decision is as much about us and our resources, as it is about the children left behind. These children who wait are not just ghosts of potential family-members. They are living, breathing children who wait on the RainbowKids photolisting, on agency waiting-child lists, and within the US foster-adoption program. They are real children and faces that I can view online every day, children who have the potential to be woven into the fabric of our family.
It is a cliché to say that adopting our children has changed our lives. Of course, adding children to your family always changes the lives of everyone in your family. But there are those bigger-than-life moments that are so hard to explainlike the time we were brought to the nursery in the orphanage and realized we would never, ever, have enough arms to hug or hands to hold every child that reached out to us. My husband found me in the hotel-bathroom that night, quietly crying with a new knowledge of what life truly is like for so many.
Or the time our oldest daughter, adopted at age nine, innocently asked a year after her adoption, "Mom, why did it take you SO LONG to come for me?" Because she truly believed that every child in her orphanage had a 'turn' to be adopted, and would eventually get a family.
Loving these children, our gifts from other mothers, countries, and cultures, has opened doors to the world that I no longer hesitate to enter. Our children have introduced us to the world of birth families, world cultures, racial issues, traumatic realities, unexpected surgeries, parasites completely unfamiliar to US doctorsour children have forced my husband and I to gain knowledge, face prejudice, challenge beliefs, explore religions, compare cultures, establish behavioral routines and stretch our otherwise-normal-and possibly-boring lives to embrace five vibrant, fabulous human beings whom we love desperately.
I often thought that we would continue to grow our family for many years to come. I imagined a truly full house, with perhaps a dozen or more children. Part of the desire for a large family is simply the pure joy our children bring to us on a daily basis. And another part is the first-hand knowledge of the extreme need of the many orphans throughout the world. Children growing up without a mom or dad to hug away their tears, delight in their scribbled drawings, kiss their chubby tummies and love away their hurt and pain. Little people growing up without unconditional love or the support and encouragement that only a parent can provide.
It's been a struggle to draw the invisible line and say, "this is our last child." Once the family has adapted to the newest child, and life has settled down, it is tempting to consider adopting another hurt or lonely child. Our oldest is now 19, our youngest 9. Why not one more?
And that is when I remember that there is truly, in each family, a personal tipping point.
It's different for everyone, but incredibly important to realize when it has been reached. It's often has much less to do with the balance in the checkbook than with the emotional balance of the family. The cost in time, care, activities, devotion and attention is always far greater and much more needed than the new tennis shoes. The moment comes, for each of us, when we must look at our family and know in our hearts, "we are done."
The desire remains, at least in my heart it does, but the tipping point has been reached in our home with five funny, passionate, loud, beautiful and sometimes-smelly children. All that is left to do is raise these lovely humans into caring adults who will pass on the love they receive in our family in whatever way they choose to.
As for me, I will continue to advocate for all of the children who are left behind. Who wonder when it will be their turn to have a family.
I will continue to encourage families to open their homes to children who may have a special need, or who may be older.
I ask our readers to join in promoting Special Needs Adoption by linking to RainbowKids, or sharing your story of adoption.