An adoption a lifetime in the making…
Like a lot of adoptive moms, my heart for adoption was opened when I was a child myself. Growing up we had family and friends who had adopted, and I always felt that one day I would want to be an adoptive mom myself.
Fast forward a few years and I’m a full-time school teacher in a fourth-grade classroom. In walks Martha and she instantly stole my heart. Martha had such a sweet personality and her love for life was infectious. Neither she nor her parents let anything slow her down, not even being born deaf. Having Martha as a student further watered the seed of adoption that had been planted in my heart. A seed that wouldn’t bear fruit for ten more years.
My husband and I went on to have three biological children. After the birth of our third child, our hearts (and hands) were full, and so we thought our family was complete. I felt like maybe I wasn’t meant to pursue adoption after all. But when Asher, our youngest turned three, my heart began to really soften again.
God revived this desire for adoption, and I began to find myself praying more and more about it. I knew we were meant to add another child to our family, this time through adoption. Because of Martha, and having had a cousin who was deaf, my heart was open to special needs adoption. So, I began to research and learn about different medical needs that were related to hearing loss and deafness. But the more certain I became that this was the path for our family, the more patience I had to have, because my husband wasn’t yet on board.
This too, I have learned, is quite common. They call it the “reluctant spouse” and that was Jay. He is a great dad with a compassionate heart, but he just wasn’t sure. So, I stepped back and just prayed that if this was what God wanted, He would confirm it in my husband’s heart.
I wasn’t going to nag or try to convince. But in the meantime, I would keep learning and keep looking. The looking led me to advocacy websites like RainbowKids.com which is where I first saw her face. The face of the girl that honestly, I "favorited", but kept scrolling past for days.
Yet, I kept coming back to her.
Something about her drew me in. I stared at the picture of this girl who stood so far back from the camera, it made it difficult to see her features. Something in me knew I had to inquire more about her. She was an older girl with bilateral microtia, likely hearing impaired, waiting in China, and listed with Agape Adoptions.
The agency name resonated with me profoundly. Agape means unconditional love in the Greek language, and that was exactly what I wanted to give this child in our family. I was ready to wait for her for however long it took until my husband also felt ready. It turns out my husband was ready to give that same love too! After several months of waiting and hoping and praying, he was ready to say yes!
Ten months later we were in China signing papers and meeting our precious Annika.
Bringing home an older child, who had suffered neglect and trauma for eight years, who would end up having an undiagnosed heart condition along with her other medical needs, has changed our world. And we would do it all over again for her in a second. She is one amazing kid! Her entire world has changed too. She has had to learn so much, and in just two years she has come so far.
Every child deserves to be loved and well taken care of, and there are a lot of older children that need a permanent and loving home. Please, don’t be afraid to adopt an older child! Prepare appropriately, connect with a solid community of other experienced adoptive families, but know that it can go really, really well! Annika squeezed into the middle of our birth order, but her younger brother has really been like an older brother to her in a lot of ways and they are two peas in a pod. We came into this adoption knowing it would change our lives, most especially our other three children. We knew it was important to be okay with your other children processing their own emotions about all of the changes, in their own way too.
Adopting Annika has taught us so much. We have become better parents to all of our kids. We have connected with an amazing community of people, especially other parents of children who are deaf and hard of hearing. We hope that many more families will say yes to older kids and to children who are deaf or hard of hearing. Our daughter is a treasure!