In 2011, my husband was 51, I was 39, our daughters were 11 and eight years old. We were out of the diaper phase and almost out of the babysitter phase. While we were enjoying this new phase in our family, our hearts yearned for another child. And though we were physically capable of creating a new life, we instead wanted to create space for a baby in need of a home.
When we began to talk about our decision, we received mixed messages from our friends and family. Some people were cautious, telling us that such a decision was a risk and that the baby could come with special needs. We were asked why would we want to raise an infant again at this stage of our parenting journey. And we were questioned about why we would want to do this, given that we already had two beautiful, biological children. Some were concerned whether I would be able to love a baby from another's womb to the same extent that I loved my own biological children. And that led to my own concerns. Would I be able to love all of my children the same?
On the other hand, many people were incredibly supportive, offering non-stop emotional support. Some friends even offered to come over and set up an instant nursery with the baby furniture they'd been holding onto in their garage to help show our dedication during adoption agency's home visits.
I was surprised when people felt the need to explain the risks to me. I am a professor of special education and a child psychologist. I teach teachers how to best meet the needs of children with special needs in the classroom. In my clinic, I have assessed countless adopted children over the years. Our very own godchild was adopted from Korea. If anyone knew the risks, it was me. It seemed a bit absurd that they were compelled to tell me these things, but I understood it was their way of showing love and concern for my family's well-being.
The love that filled my heart was nearly overwhelming.
I tried to articulate exactly what it was that had brought us to this choice, but it wasn't easy. How do you explain such a personal, intrinsic desire? How could I put into words the grace, beauty and incredible love I observed in families that had made this choice? How do you explain the deep need for human connection that is only made possible through opening your heart in this way?
Once a decision like this is made, one that feels so true to your family, no amount of skepticism can deter you. Almost exactly a year later, our infant son Jack was placed in our arms.
The love that filled my heart was nearly overwhelming. It was heady and destabilizing. But, of course, on every single level it was also one of the most beautiful moments of my life. He was born with some medical challenges that required a short stay in NICU, but that didn't matter to me. The love I instantly felt for Jack was just as intense as the love I felt after giving birth to my girls. I could not imagine that life could hold such treasure for my family and I, and that I was able to experience such a love three times over.
We had some fun the next Halloween. Would we dress up as people who won the "Jack-pot?" Would we put Jack in a pot? Could we dress him in a gold jumper and say he was the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow? How do you put into worlds the incredible luck? The incredible gift? The incredible sacrifice a young woman made for him? A sacrifice that fills me with earth-shattering gratitude and love.
This year, our Jack turned five years old. He started kindergarten at a wonderful school. He is taught and cared for by amazing educators (and I mean amazing!) He is learning and growing and making friends. Each day he seems to sparkle to me. He comes home from school filled to the brim with excitement and pride of his accomplishments that day. No matter how happy he is, I think I am always even more excited and a little more proud.
I cannot even imagine what life would have been like if we did not make this choice. I am so grateful to all the people, and the universe itself, for the cosmic magic of allowing me to raise this child. And for those considering the adoption journey for their own family, I encourage you to listen to what your heart tells you, how your family feels and, if it feels right to you, pursue it with all you have.
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