My name is Rory and this is my family.
God put adoption in our hearts long before we were married. After the birth of our fourth daughter we said yes to adoption and jumped in with both feet. And whoah Nelly! Those waters were a lot deeper than we could’ve prepared ourselves for! What started out as an international adoption with a 6-9 month wait has now spanned 3 continents and more than 3 years.
Our family has been profoundly touched during the wait by intentional acts of kindness. The love we've received has been extravagant, filling our hearts to overflowing. On hard days its been a lifeline as we’ve navigated the currents of international adoption. Just today I opened up my front door to a bouquet of flowers being delivered by a friend who wanted to encourage me. Yesterday I received a carved wooden figurine of a mother and son that absolutely melted my heart. These acts of kindness are not lost on us; they are treasured. They buoy us with while simultaneously anchoring us to HOPE.
(And no, those are not smudges on your computer screen. Ha!
That's sharpie artwork on my table, compliments of my super creative kiddos.)
The truth is, I think most people want to be remembered, given understanding, and supported in whatever stage of life they're in. They probably don't expect it, but undoubtedly appreciate it when surprised by love. Families waiting to bring their adopted child home are no different, whether they are pursuing international, domestic, or foster-to-adopt.
So what can you do for a family who's waiting?
A simple text that says, “I’m thinking about you today and can’t wait to see your little one in your arms!” is enough to float a mother’s heart through many an uncertainty. Unlike pregnancy, an adoptive mom’s belly doesn’t grow, and the “due date” for adoption can change at a moment’s notice. Often this translates as delay, which can push an adoption out by months or years. Equally, the anticipation of friends and family around her tends to stagnate because there are often no physical signs of progress. Instead of pregnant belly photos you might see a lot of these:
When the wait is prolonged, questions like, “Are you STILL adopting? I thought you must’ve given that up a long time ago” should be avoided as well as phrases like “Everything happens for a reason” and “God’s timing is perfect.” (Please note, there is NO doubt God’s timing is perfect, but remember that waiting hearts can be tender.) Instead say, “We’re praying with you,” and mean it, or “It is beautiful to watch God empower you as you run this race.” Say, “I haven’t had a chance to sit down and hear your heart recently. Do you want to get together and tell me all about adoption and how your heart is doing while you wait?”
(These are just a few of the precious women who have daily poured into me and my family. We meet up yearly at a retreat to worship, laugh, cry, and learn together while we wait.)
I am so thankful for the times my friends have asked me out to coffee just because they wanted to hear my heart. No agenda, no strings attached. The opportunity has bonded me more deeply with them, allowed the contents of my hearts to be spilled healthily, and helped me to process out loud some of my emotions in the journey.
Waiting dads need friends like this too! While they may not want to spill their hearts over lattes, they might welcome the chance to go shoot some hoops, mow on some buffalo wings and watch a football game together, or take out some pent-up frustrated energy on a punching bag or at the shooting range. These daddies have been glorious wrecked in order to pursue the fatherless at great cost to their families. They feel the weight of responsibility at every turn and often are not surrounded by people who understand this unique call.
Adoption requires much in the way of time, finances, and schedule re-arranging. From the get-go there is a mountain of paperwork to be filled out, and if it were just paperwork I think most adoptive families would knock it out lickety-split.
(My husband signing off on the adoption paperwork piles we assembled before sending to China.)
The paperwork requires multiple visits to doctors for check-ups and signatures, interviews with psychologists (my husband’s and my interview took just under 7 hours to clear us for our China adoption—in one sitting!), bank statements to be gathered, more notary visits than you can count, visits to police stations for fingerprinting, FBI clearances, letters to be written requesting birth certificates/marriage certificates, drives to your state capital to get things stamped and approved, employment letters, references from friends/family/co-workers, and home visits by a licensed social worker. Paperwork can take anywhere from 2-6 months to complete, and it is like having a part-time job on top of regular life. When we complete mile markers we love to celebrate, and the celebration is that much sweeter when you join in!
(My husband jumping for joy as he sent off our dossier to Africa three years ago.)
Aside from paperwork many families have to fundraise in order to come up with $25,000-60,000 cash in a short amount of time. It’s not that they can’t afford to raise a child once they’re home, but that for most people the fact that a majority of these fees are due up front and immediately adds a financial challenge. Many families, after finishing their part-time paperwork job trade hats for their new full-time fundraising job. Believe me when I say no family wants to fundraise, but it’s part of the commitment we have to bringing our child home, and the alternative (letting a child languish in an orphanage) isn’t a reality we can sleep with at night. So fundraise it is!
(The first of several fundraisers.)
Add on to fundraising the fact that while there is a projected “due date” of when your child will come home, it is rarely 100% accurate. So, when you ask your friend if she can commit to being on the PTA like she has every year before, understand that in her mind she’s thinking, “I would love to, but I may be in Africa then, and I’d hate to commit and then back out.” As frustrating as this looming and moving due date might be for you, please know that it is tough for us as well. We wish we could look at our year and plan our vacations, our sports’ schedule, and our Bible Study attendance. For the most part we don’t put life on hold, but when we do it’s for good reason. And if by chance we have to back out of something we’ve committed to , please know we don’t have another choice. When our agency says “Come now!’ we have to drop everything and get on a plane, sometimes with as little as a week's notice.
(Our fllight to Ethiopia.)
As I mentioned, the process of adoption paperwork takes a lot of time and effort. When you offer to bring dinner to a waiting family, they feel like they've won the lottery. Offering to hang out and watch their kiddos while they run to the police station for fingerprinting will elevate you to sainthood. Cheerleading their fundraising efforts and sharing them through social media is also an excellent way to show your support and it doesn’t cost you a dime. We adoptive families know that budgets are tight and we don’t expect everyone to empty out their life savings for us, but sharing our fundraiser with your friends goes a long way.
Giving of any amount is extremely precious to us adoptive families. I have been blessed enough to watch friends give very sacrificially to us, and I’ve bawled like a baby more than once when I saw their names attached to donations. Some of the most moving gifts I’ve received have been from people whom we’ve never met. I will never forget what they did, and neither will my children. The people who gave to us are literally changing the course of our lives and the life of the child coming to us.
When we're fundraising we talk about it a lot, and we're sorry if it comes across as pushy.
The last thing we want is for you to feel uncomfortable around us.
The reality is children's lives do hang in the balance. Many of them are malnourished and in need of medical care, not to mention the fact that the sooner we get them home the sooner we can give them the love they so need and deserve. Not every child waiting is a breath away from death, but the truth is that many are clinging to life. Sometimes we feel helpless with our children across the ocean. We don't want to over-dramatize to get our point across, but we do want you to understand our fervency.
(My friend Cat's son, Cruz, who passed away while they were waiting to bring him home. To watch them fight for their son, to love him so fully, and then to fly to Ethiopia to claim him and lay his body to rest was one of the most holy events I've witnessed.)
The wait may be long and costly but these children are so so worth it. We'll wait as long as it takes to bring them home, and when folks like you come along side us suddenly the deep waters don't seem so looming and the fast current not so strong. The impossible becomes possible. God uses people like you to refresh our hearts, bring strength to our weary bones, release children home to their forever families and unleash JOY like we've never known.