Adoption: your story
November is Adoption Awareness Month so we asked ourselves what that means. We decided that it means learning more about the gift and the journey of adoption so that we can better support and understand families who are called to adopt, and be open to God’s plan for our own families. The best way we can do this is to listen. We are delighted to present the stories of five couples who have grown (or are growing) their family through adoption and we would like to thank Gillyan, Mark and Alyssa, Dara, Dominique and Mary for sharing them with us.
Where are you in your adoption journey and what was the motivating factor in your choosing adoption?
Gillyan: We have what we call “very explained infertility”, so the door on biological parenthood was firmly closed early on. Adoption became the logical next step, as our hearts desire a child and children deserve a safe and loving home. We had actually discussed adoption during our engagement and were both very open to the idea. We are in the dreaded “waiting period” after all the paperwork is done but we haven’t been matched yet.
Mark and Alyssa: We adopted a baby girl in May 2021 through foster care. She was a Safe Haven baby - surrendered at a fire station the night of her birth, and then placed with us until the adoption was final. We never wanted adoption to be a "back-up plan" if we could not have biological children. Adoption is not for everyone and it is certainly not something you "just do." We needed to be in a place of trust with God that His ultimate plan was the best for us, with or without children. We had to be very open and on the same page with one another about our root motivations for adoption. We just wanted to build our family and we really felt God was allowing us to pursue adoption in order to do that, so we followed His lead.
Dara: I wanted to be a mother and love and raise a child. We adopted my daughter through domestic infant adoption.
Dominique: I was an adoptee myself, and I have adopted two children. I personally had a positive experience as an adoptee, so I liked the idea of growing our family through adoption. Once we faced infertility and treatment wasn’t working, we felt it was even more clear that we were meant to pursue adoption.
Mary: We wanted to grow our family but couldn't get pregnant. We spent some time within the fertility medical studies but I found it difficult and depressing and clinical. Whenever I spoke to anyone about adoption it seemed so hopeful. We adopted our son who is now 16 years old. We tried to adopt a second time but after a 3-year wait we removed ourselves from the waiting list.
What does adoption mean to you?
Gillyan: I anticipate adoption being the best and hardest thing to ever happen to us. I don’t take for granted that this beautiful gift will be born out of brokenness. I intend to take nothing about motherhood for granted, especially our unique journey to get there.
Mark and Alyssa: Beauty and joy revealed through brokenness and suffering. We are so honored that God has entrusted us to raise our baby girl. When we ask ourselves how this came to be, our answer is that there is no other way than God's way. Adoption was God's plan for us and we are experiencing the days and moments we prayed many years for.
Dara: Adoption is love! Out of difficult situations, God brings about good. We are honored to be our daughter’s parents and to love and raise her to be the person God is calling her to be. My daughter’s birth family and our family love her so much and want the best for her. That is beautiful.
Dominique: Adoption is an important part of my whole life. It is an incredible blessing. I am so grateful that my family was able to grow through adoption.
Mary: Adoption means life: life for my son, life for my family, life for me. It means opportunity: an opportunity to give and love selfishly. Adoption means awareness: I've grown more aware of the fact that there are many people in difficult circumstances for whom a pregnancy is not helpful, or maybe not wanted. Yet, birth parents make the most selfless decision possible. I want to honor that in how I live and how I parent. I guess in the end it means loving - loving those that suffer, those that have loss, and loving the joy that can come from that.
The highs and lows
What challenges did you face on your adoption journey and what advice would you give yourself looking back now?
Gillyan: The lack of control is even harder than I’d imagined. We’re completely at the mercy of God’s plan in a way that I don’t believe I have ever been before. My trust and faith have been shaken to their core. I would go back and tell myself to let go at the start, but I know I wouldn’t listen.
Mark and Alyssa: The main challenge we faced at first was finding an agency that reflected our morals and beliefs. When we found one, they informed us they were not placing any other couples on the waiting list for infants because the list was too long. This actually led us to pursue foster care. We knew our family would grow differently this way, but we knew we were ready to love and support children in need. After a year of being foster parents we decided to contact a different adoption agency. Our biggest challenge (and unexpected last twinge of hopelessness) was the financial obligation. We knew it would be expensive, but it was a bit more than originally expected. The *next day* after meeting with this agency we got the call for our baby girl! Looking back, the advice (or perhaps a reminder) we would give ourselves would be to continue to cling to hope and keep praying. God really does hear our prayers!
Dara: It can be challenging to find ethical agencies and attorneys who provide excellent and compassionate support for expectant parents, but they are out there. Always remember you are simply an option for birth families until paperwork is signed. Make sure you fully understand the process before beginning. Talk to others who have adopted or who are adoptees to get advice, support and real life experiences. Then surrender any worries you have to God.
Dominique: The financial aspect is definitely the largest hurdle at first, but there are many resources to make adoption more doable. If I could go back I would tell myself to do more research into those avenues. Also a lot of people don’t understand adoption. I wish I had more resources at the time we were adopting to explain it to them.
Mary: Be sure to grieve your own infertility, if that is what brings you to adoption. I was so focused on having a family and moved quickly to adoption. I probably didn't give enough time to letting go of my inability to control the destiny of my motherhood. When the second adoption never came to be I was devastated - I didn't want to raise an only child. In time I came to realize that I had never really processed the fact that I couldn't just "get pregnant" like my friends, nor could I “simply adopt”. In the end I couldn't control the outcome of what my family would be. It is wonderful and beautiful and fabulous but to accept it I had to let go of my previous dream of what being a family meant. In healing, I have very much reconnected with my faith and my understanding that what I want may not be what God plans.
What is the greatest peace, gain or grace you received from the adoption process?
Gillyan: My husband and I have been fully united in this endeavor. No one will be able to understand in the same way we truly understand each other and so we have leaned hard into our relationship. We have also leaned on God more as a couple and family.
Mark and Alyssa: The greatest peace we have received through this process is the realization and ability to marvel at God's plan in the details throughout our journey to parenthood. To be able to look back at our years of struggle, years of prayer, several pilgrimages, medical procedures, and countless tears and see the purpose, the plan God had for us all along, has literally left us speechless and in awe. At last there have been more tears of happiness this past year than of hopelessness. God is so good and He has granted us the peace we have desired for so long.
Dara: We gained our beautiful daughter and her birth family, and we also gained a supportive adoptive family network and new friends.
Dominique: My children are such a beautiful blessing. They are such a joy and gift. I also grew a lot in my faith by relying on God through the ups and downs of the process.
Mary: Parenting isn't easy either way. However, I have found peace in that I am raising exactly who I was meant to. Someone chose us and thought enough of us to place this child with us. I don't know what it is like to give birth to a child, but to have another woman "hand" you her child to raise is humbling, inspiring and overwhelming. I used to pray to get pregnant, then I prayed we could adopt again. I've come to realize that this is exactly God's plan and I wouldn't have it any other way. My son makes me a better human being (when he's not making me crazy, remember he's a teenager!) and he has made me say "yes" to my faith more.
The adoption process is full of milestones. How did/do you celebrate your milestone moments?
Gillyan: We have thanked God for each step of the process. We’ve also ordered Indian food!
Mark and Alyssa: As our baby girl grows, I am sure our milestone moments will be celebrated with ice cream! Or any dessert of her choosing!
Dara: Talking with our families and sharing the process with them from start to finish was very special. They were always positive and supportive. After we finalized, we had a summer celebration with our families.
Dominique: Telling family and friends. We didn’t really do much big celebrating along the way. Once we were matched our friends and family threw baby showers for us.
Mary: I call the first part the paperwork phase: heads down to complete the paperwork, approvals, appointments. My husband and I were so focused on completing all that. Once everything was turned in we went on a beach vacation because after that it was out of our hands and we waited. We didn't celebrate milestones in between because nothing was for sure. It wasn't that I was afraid, I was just practical and didn't want to celebrate something that might not come to be. I was also very aware that my celebration came at someone else's loss; my happiness came while someone else was grieving.
Advice for those who choose adoption
Every adoption experience is different and there are many unknowns. What advice would you offer someone beginning the journey so they could process the experience?
Gillyan: However hard you expect it to be, it’s going to be harder. But I am told it’s all worth it in the end, and I look forward to confirming this!
Mark and Alyssa: Our adoption experience was certainly not a typical experience. We adopted through foster care (as opposed to an agency), we do not know our baby's birth parents because she was left at a fire station the night she was born. Although we do not know her birth parents (essentially we have a "closed" adoption due to the protection of birth parents through the Safe Haven Law), we will forever be connected and we will forever pray for them. If you are beginning this process, meet with multiple agencies and find one that reflects your values. Ask about how birth mothers are supported throughout the process and after the adoption is finalized. Pray for the birth parents. Pray for wisdom, guidance, and God's will to be done. We had a litany of saints whose intercession we asked. Looking back at our experience this past year, we have truly seen how each saint in our litany has helped us and our baby girl. Ask questions, take notes, keep a journal: God will reveal the significance of the details in His time.
Dara: I would advise researching what type of adoption you feel called toward. Look into ethical agencies and attorneys and be open to open adoption and its benefits. Talk to adoptees about their experiences so you can best support and help your future child. Trust in God during the wait and unknowns that come up!
Dominique: There may be more highs and lows going into adoption than you expected. Adoption is bittersweet, and even successful adoptions come with great losses to all involved. I think it’s important to make sure you are communicating with your spouse about how you are both feeling in order to support one another. Make space for yourself to process your emotions, as well as to acknowledge the feelings of others in the triad as well.
Mary: Spend the waiting time trying to be "you". Enjoy friends, family and each other. Try to trust in the process or that it will happen at the right moment. Our first adoption came quickly, but the second attempt never happened. We waited three years and I wish I had spent less time waiting and more time living. Looking back, I realize I was waiting to make some big decisions about our life until "after the second child". We should have just gone ahead and moved, or travelled, or put work on hold, or whatever it was we were waiting to do. I also think you have to realize that adoption will always be “something” in your life. My son struggled in middle school and I often wondered if he was having a problem with who he was because of his adoption, because middle school is about finding our identity and fitting in. We've come to realize that adoption isn't always “the thing”, but it is always a part of the thing. I'm not sure I really understood that until my son got to his tween years and had bigger questions about who he was, why, etc.
How to support those who choose adoption
What help or support did you have or wish you had from your family and friends? How might loved ones accompany a couple pursuing adoption?
Gillyan: Some of our family have been just as excited as if we were pregnant. Some have not been. I would say that if you have any apprehension, please keep it to yourself. The couple is already worrying about all of your worst case scenarios and more, I promise. Please come to them with hope and prayers and the positivity they need to get through.
Mark and Alyssa: We always had support from family and friends. The greatest support they provided was prayer. It was challenging at times explaining to them why we did not originally “just adopt”. It was also challenging explaining the goal in foster care is reunification and that we would not be able to keep all the children we foster. Family and friends can accompany a couple pursuing adoption through prayer, asking the couple questions when they do not understand, and listening (no need to offer solutions, just listen). It is an emotional process and speaking about it with the ones we love is very helpful.
Dara: We had so much family support and prayers that meant the world to us. Loved ones should also research about adoption-friendly language and how to best support an adoptee as they grow up.
Dominique: Our friends and family were generally very supportive and excited for us. The one thing I wish people would stop saying is “now that you are adopting, you’ll get pregnant!” It makes adoption seem like a consolation prize, rather than beautiful in its own right. While some people do get pregnant after adopting, that wasn’t the case for us, but we are just thrilled we were able to grow our family.
Mary: Friends and family were very supportive. They just need to be there and realize that waiting to adopt is not like waiting to give birth. It is waiting in uncertainty for different reasons. Listen, ask, and don't assume.