Why would you want to ruin your sweet little family?
Think of all that your older kids will have to sacrifice for that child.
Why would you choose a child with special needs?
Won’t that be really hard on your real kids?
But your family is already so perfect! Why rock the boat?
When we first shared our “special needs” international adoption plans four years ago, these were actual questions and comments I got from people in my life at that time. By all outward appearances, we were living the American dream. We had a good marriage, two healthy children, and an SUV parked in the driveway of our home in the suburbs. No one could understand why we were choosing this unconventional path to growing our family.
The truth is that for the entire 15 months of our adoption process and for much of our time in China, I wondered if they were right.
Shifting the Conversation
Families come to the adoption table for a million reasons, infertility being just one of many. For some, it’s a prompting from God to care for orphans. For others, it’s an attempt to fulfill their desire to become parents after struggling with infertility. And for some, it’s simply something they’ve always wanted to do.
For us, it wasn’t a consolation prize. It was always plan A.
And the part nobody tells you upfront is that adoption is really not for you at all, parents. It’s for the child. And that’s good news.
My hope today is that maybe we could shift this uncomfortable conversation. Rather than focusing on how adopting a child is going to change the dynamic of our family, could we consider how the gift of a safe, loving family could forever change that child? It’s a subtle shift, but there are big ripples there.
Here’s the re-frame: adoption should be about finding families for children rather than finding children for families.
The Real Impact of Words
Nothing about grafting a new child into a family is easy, no matter if the biology matches or not, but for us, missing that critical first year together added an extra dimension to it.
And sometimes, as I walk upstairs yet again at 2am to comfort a child who cannot yet verbalize what’s so terrifying about sleeping alone in a dark room, I remember those words people said to me years ago.
That’s the thing about words—they stick.
Sometimes, I look at my children and wonder how each of their lives would be different if we had allowed those words to scare us away. It honestly breaks my heart.
The Truth About Siblings
93% of the time they are awake, my three kids are fighting. If you’re a mama, you know that is as scientifically accurate as it gets. Most of the time, we show off the 7%; the happy, color-coordinated, Skittles-bribed smiles. But the glue that holds these three together isn’t the 7%. It’s the 93%. It’s what makes their sibling bond the “realest” thing I’ve ever witnessed; blood or no blood.
I wasn’t prepared for how much our family would change four years ago as we walked into that stuffy conference room in China and became parents for the third time. When I look at these three, I see kids who have learned compassion and empathy and adaptability. I see two brothers and a sister who have lived out a story of redemption in their own home that has changed the minds of so many. Me included.
Will they have to answer tough questions as they get older? Sure.
Do we get extra long looks in public? Yep.
Do they have to sacrifice sometimes for each other? Absolutely.
But as I sit here tonight I can honestly say that each of these three make the other two BETTER. Teaching our children that the world does not revolve around them is NOT doing them a disservice. It’s actually a gift.
If I could tell you one thing about adoption, it’s this: It will ruin you in the best way.
It will break your heart and put it back together all at once. These three have no idea how their imperfect love for one another has changed each other and those around them. Our son needed a forever family, and we were willing to offer ours. It’s as simple an offering as that. The beauty that came from that offering is the icing on the cake.