Published November, 2011
"Why did you choose to adopt?" Since adopting our daughter from Ethiopia, I've been asked this question with some frequency—probably because I also have two biological sons. When people ask about how we chose to grow our family, I don’t have a simple answer.
When my first son was born, I thought he was absolutely perfect. (I know, what mom doesn’t think that about her kid?) And frankly, I wasn’t sure I wanted more children. My husband, on the other hand, was sure we should have two. His sister is much younger than he is, and I think he missed having a close sibling and didn't want our son to lose out in the same way. When my eldest was 3, my thinking changed. With a little gentle nudging from my spouse, we decided to add child number two to our family.
Once I had my second son--born on his brother’s fourth birthday--I was sure we were supposed to have three. I still recall a bright sunny day in June when I was playing with my 6-month-old. He was a butterball with such an amazingly sunny disposition that my friends called him "hunk of baby love." I was holding him above my head and looking into his big, liquid brown eyes with impossibly long lashes when it felt like I was hit with a thunderbolt. He can't be my last! I thought. There is one more child in our future.
At different times over the subsequent years, my husband and I discussed adoption as a way to continue to build our family. We liked the idea of helping a child who needed a family. We gravitated toward international adoption since our heritage is already multicultural. However, when my sons were 3 and 7, I was diagnosed with a serious illness. Our focus turned to dealing with that and protecting my sons from the scary maelstrom that accompanied--surgery, doctor’s appointments, waiting, hoping, and worrying.
Six months later, I was laid off when my company merged with another. Within a few months, with the worst of my health issues addressed, I was moving with the boys across the country after landing a great job in a distant city. My husband stayed behind for the first 10 months. Once reunited, we focused on bringing stability and peace back to our family after reeling from all the change. Adoption still whispered to me, but there were louder voices--my job responsibilities, the boys’ increasingly active school and sports routines, adjusting to a different part of the country and a new family routine after months of living in multiple states--demanding my attention.
We settled into a routine after a period and again began discussing adoption. But life intervened with another medical scare, which caused us to put our adoption plans back in limbo. But this time, the thoughts of adopting would not be relegated to whispers. Instead, they were like the loud, persistent ping ping of water hitting a metal sink from a faucet that has not been completely turned off.
My life motto has always been "No regrets." I can accept failure, although obviously it is not my preference. But regret is different. I didn’t want to wish I had taken the risk or made the choice after those options were gone. I wanted to avoid that hopeless, helpless feeling if at all possible. I asked myself, “If we don’t pursue adoption and try to get our little girl, will I regret this later?"
As I reflected on this inquiry, I fast-forwarded in my mind to my later life. I imagined my boys grown with their own families. I imagined thinking back to this time and this decision. I felt the searing sting of regret when I contemplated the hole in my heart where my daughter, our third child, was supposed to be. I had my answer. Although I knew there was no certainty we would get the outcome I desired, I believed we needed to start down the adoption path. The decision gave me peace.
Obviously, we know how things turned out (although as I blogged previously—my health history led us down a different path than we originally planned for ourselves). We recently celebrated our daughter's third birthday at a local Ethiopian restaurant. The picture above was taken outside with my two youngest. She has brought amazing joy to our family.