Since we adopted Zoe, I’ve had many people ask us “why did you adopt?” or some variation of that question. I thought I would expand on it here for those of you who are curious.
Why did we adopt? The short answer: Olivia.
Olivia is my sister, who was adopted from China when I was 15 years old (my family had started the adoption process when I was 13.)
Liv was 11 months old when we adopted her. My little brother observed at the time, “she came from China wild and hungry.” She displayed TONS of personality right away, and immediately began frantically eating American food (despite our best efforts to feed her baby food, then Chinese food.)
We don’t know why Olivia’s parent(s) chose to place her for adoption (though there are obvious guesses, like China’s one-child policy) but we do know that someone wanted her to be found as she was left in a prominent location with a note attached wishing her good fortune. She was taken to an orphanage. On Halloween of that year, we got a tiny picture of a solemn-looking baby in China—our new family member. My parents traveled to China about six weeks later to bring her home.
Olivia is as much a part of my family as ANY of my sisters or brothers. Yes, it felt strange at first for someone to show up and say, “this child will change your family’s life and dynamics. She is your sister. Love her.” But that’s really not too different from how ANY sibling joins your family.
And she is so easy to love!
Six months after my family adopted Olivia, I went on a mission trip to Ecuador. For part of the trip, I worked at an orphanage with children who the center director told me “would not be adopted.” I had seen firsthand how easy and joyful it was to integrate a new family member into your life; I felt awful returning to my family who loved me when these children deserved homes and families too.
My experience in the orphanage combined with everything I had seen happen in my own family wove together into something stronger than a “desire” to adopt—it felt like a “calling.”
The calling burned inside of me as I ventured off to college, had more international experiences, and learned more about social justice. In adoption, I felt I could reconcile my faith, my deep desire to have children, my love of intercultural experiences, and my strong feeling that I should use the privileges I have (and don’t deserve) to create social justice in some small way.
(I also have a long rant about Christians who are “against abortion” but do nothing to provide alternatives or mediate the circumstances that lead women to have abortions, but I’ll spare you that one for now. Merry Christmas!)
I explained my feelings about adoption to David on one of our first dates. He thought it was cool, but we obviously weren’t serious at that point so he didn’t consider it for himself. As we became more serious, I told him it was a dealbreaker if he didn’t want to adopt kids. He began to pray about it, and felt his own desires change from “tolerating” adoption to craving adoption in the same way I did (again, I think Olivia had a lot to do with this!)
My desire to adopt has not wavered since I was 15. I always thought I’d adopt internationally, but when David and I started researching the current adoption climate (which has probably already changed since I started writing this blog post!) we decided that a domestic adoption met our family’s needs the best at this time. My experiences teaching in inner-city schools over the last 3 years certainly confirmed for me how many children here in the United States are in need of loving, nurturing families and physically safe homes. That being said, we are definitely interested in “going international” in the future. Laissez les bons temps rouler!
Do I want to have biological children, too? At this point, I don’t. I don’t have the “urge” like some women do to be pregnant or to produce a child who looks like my husband and me. I certainly don’t judge those who want to have biological children, but if I don’t have that strong urge, why should I bear a child when I would be just as happy taking a child who needs a home? (If I begin to feel “the urge,” I’ll try pregnancy–but with great joy that I first obeyed the calling that led us to Zoe!)
So, in conclusion, Zoe (whose name means “life,”) really begins with Olivia, and with my parents’ obedience to the calling placed on their hearts.
My family, July 2012
I realize that not everyone is called to adopt, but I strongly believe that every Christian is called to care about children in need…not just cognitively or emotionally, but with action. In his book Adopted For Life, Russell Moore says “adoption is central to the Gospel of Christ…[it is so important that] the New Testament starts with an orphan-protecting act of adoption, as Joseph takes into his family a woman and a child, and becomes a father.” This sets the stage for our own adoption as sons and daughters into God’s family.
And in response to God’s expansive love, James advises: “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress.”
In a future post, if you’re interested, I can offer my take on how to support these precious children and families going through the adoptive process if you want to help but don’t feel called to physically adopt a child.
In the meantime, feel free to ask any questions that you may have about adoption. I have SO appreciated the openness of other adoptive moms and dads as we’ve gone through this journey, and I am happy to pass that on.