Adoptive Family Stories
By Audrey Monke, Adoptive Mom
Countless times, people have asked us, “Why did you decide to adopt?” The simple answer is that we felt called by God to take a leap of faith and open our home and family to an orphan.
The long answer includes years of learning and talking about adoption, meeting people who inspired and helped us, dragging our feet, listening to our fears instead of God, and not taking action.
My husband, Steve, and I both felt that we had the capacity to love and welcome an adopted child into our already-large family, and we knew that God was calling us to do so. But, we also loved our family just as it was, and we feared the inevitable changes an adopted child would bring.
- Ten Lessons From Our Chinese Son
- Trauma, Triggers, and Therapy
- Building Brotherhood
- There Are Rainbows: The ADOPTS program teaches parents new skills
- Eyes on the Lord: When “Happily Ever After” isn’t your reality
- Gifts of Our Children: Wonderful cultural gifts that can accompany transracial adoption
- Color & Kindergartners:Preparing young children for a diverse world
- The Father’s Plan: A family of six brought together by God
- Our Journey Through Open Adoption
- Adopting a Child With Down Syndrome
Ultimately, it was our four children who would not let us forget about the child waiting for us. In late 2009 we started talking about adoption—again—as a family. We spoke honestly with the kids about how it would be difficult for everyone and how a new child would need a lot of attention—attention that would come from our time with them.
Our daughter, Charlotte, was persistent. Every day after school she would ask me, “Did you call yet?” meaning, “Did you call the adoption agency yet?” Finally, in December 2009, I called Bethany and made an appointment. The wheels started turning, and our adoption journey began.
When our Formal Application was approved, our family gathered around my small laptop and looked at the many kids who were waiting for families. Three or four kids stood out.
The next evening, as we were tucking in our girls, I asked if they were still thinking about any particular child. Meredith answered, “The 8-year-old boy who likes noodles and running, just like us.”
Two years later, we were on a flight to China to adopt our 10-year-old, noodle-loving runner, our son, John. Even then, my fears persisted about his physical problem, his ability to attach as an older child, and how our family would change.
I have learned many lessons since John joined our family, and I hope that other families who are adopting an older child from another country will learn from our mistakes and successes.
1. Have Low Expectations
Because of all the research I had done about emotional, academic, and other problems that many older adopted children have, I was prepared for the worst. These low expectations ended up being very helpful.
I was pleasantly surprised by John’s ability to bond with us, and while he definitely has social and emotional deficits, they are not nearly as bad as some I had read about. Having low expectations and preparing for the worst helped me accept the highs and lows of this year more easily. I have heard some sad stories of disrupted adoptions, and it seems that in many cases the child simply did not live up to the adoptive parents’ high expectations.
2. Remember Your Own “Adopted” Status
While he is generally easy-going and pleasant to be around, John can also be stubborn, demanding, and ungrateful. When his behavior is like this, I remind myself that I, too, am an often ungrateful, adopted daughter of a Father who still loves me even when I am misbehaving.
3. Pick Battles Carefully
Since John is small for his age, and I could see his rib bones through his skin ribs when we went to China, I was very focused on making sure he ate good, well-balanced meals and snacks, right from the beginning. Unfortunately, his food tastes leaned toward Coke and Doritos, not vegetables and fish. I repeatedly asked what healthy foods he liked, but the only healthy food I was successful at getting him to eat in the beginning was fruit. He would eat and say he liked something one day, then dislike it the next (after I had stocked the refrigerator with a large supply). Looking back, I realize that it probably did not matter what he ate during our first few weeks together, and my nagging and frustration was not necessary.
John also had (and continues to have) poor table manners, a keen ability to step on people’s feet, and difficulty letting anyone else speak or have my attention. I could harp on any one of these annoying habits, but I try to ignore them and focus on the bigger issues. So, we talk about the importance of being kind and grateful, and I try to ignore the open-mouthed chewing (for now).
4. Get Tutoring and Translating Help
In the months prior to John’s arrival, we had a Chinese tutor meet with our family several times. We each learned to say, “I am your mother/brother/father” in Chinese. We also learned the words for “like,” “don’t like,” “want,” and “don’t want,” as well as simple phrases like, “Do you want something to eat?” The tutoring ended up being really fun, and, although none of us speaks Chinese well, John has had some good laughs as a result of our efforts.
When we first got home, I relied on a local translator/tutor quite a bit with John. There were so many things we wanted to say to him, and so it was very helpful to have her translate conversations for us. I had her translate our family’s rules. I wrote things like, “Don’t walk away when parents are talking” and “use ‘please’ to ask for things,” and she wrote the translation in Chinese below the English. Being able to point to a rule and know that he could understand was very helpful!
5. Write It All Down
I knew I would not remember things about our early days together if I did not record those moments, so I kept a blog during our travel to China and during our first weeks at home. When I recently read some of the early posts, I realized how far he and we have come in this year. Writing things down gives a better perspective on how our relationship and his behavior have improved with time.
6. Find Ways to Use Touch and Give Affection
Since he is older, and I did not get to hold him and feed him as a baby, I have felt that it is very important to make up for that loss of early bonding with lots of affectionate touch now. Another adoptive mom gave me the idea of using lotion as an opportunity for touch. I put lotion on John’s legs, arms, face, and back after most of his showers. Another way we incorporate touch is with a nightly backrub. He very much enjoys having both Mom and Dad rub his back for a few minutes before bed.
We are an affectionate family, so John has seen a lot of hugging and kissing modeled. I taught him that a morning hug is part of his day, so he walks up to me first thing in the morning for his daily hug.
7. Provide Structure
Although John lived with a foster family for several years, he spent the three years prior to joining our family in an orphanage. With all the disruption he had experienced and his being accustomed to an extremely structured environment, I understood early on that John needed more structure than my other kids. He was always concerned about the schedule, where his next meal would be, and where everyone in the family was.
After he had been home for about a week, I started using a legal pad to provide him with an overview of the day’s schedule and what everyone was doing. He liked it and referred to it often. It was pretty simple, and I had to make changes sometimes, but I think the structure and predictability was comforting for him. The tutor helped him read and understand the schedule, so I also think it helped him learn some English.
8. Take a Break
Having an older adopted child is a lot like having a busy toddler in the house. John is not a typical 10-year-old; he is much needier and less mature. When I am with him, I rarely get a break from his needs and questions. As his main caregiver and the person John turned to for help in the early months, I found myself getting very drained and not responding to him with the patience and love I had envisioned. Sometimes I was appalled at my tone of voice, frustrated facial expressions, sarcasm, and other ugly mothering.
When I started taking much-needed breaks from John—by going for a run, meeting a friend for coffee, or going on an outing with one of my other children—my demeanor improved. I hate to admit how much I needed a break from him, but I did.
9. Avoid Stores
Having nothing of his own, and arriving in California with the clothes on his back (PJs we had sent in a care package to him), John quickly acquired a “gimme” attitude. He likes Legos and other toys and never seems to have enough, so he asks to go shopping frequently. I have found that it is a lot easier to rarely take him to stores and focus instead on keeping track of things he likes for his birthday or Christmas.
10. Limit Electronics
Thinking that it would be useful as a translator, we bought John an iPod Touch with a translator app and some other games on it. Unbeknownst to us, he had been exposed to a lot of technology in the orphanage. He had watched hours of TV and played on a computer. He also had access to some hand-held electronic games.
Like most boys, John loves playing games and is obsessed with computers and all things electronic. Even with clear rules in place, our biggest behavior issues of this year have revolved around his not wanting to stop playing with some sort of electronic device. We are now down to weekends only and one hour per day, but even that presents challenges. His behavior and personality are much better when he’s not thinking about or playing with electronics. I think they provide him with an escape that is not helpful to being integrated into our family. Since John never used the translator and mostly wants to play shooting games, I would place our giving him an iPod on the “mistakes list” for the year.
These are just some of the many lessons I have learned in our first year together, and I continue to learn from John every day. His resilience is astounding and provides an excellent example to those of us who struggle with minor setbacks. When John throws his head back in a hearty laugh, I thank God that He brought this joyful person into our lives and gave us the ability to be a family for him.
Children can heal and grow after adoption
By Teryl Hall, Adoptive Mom
My husband and I wanted to have many children, but due to multiple unsuccessful pregnancies, we decided to look into adopting through our state. Our hope was to adopt two or three siblings. We became licensed for foster care in six short months, and in December 2008, we first heard the story of our soon-to-be daughters.
Isabella was a sweet 10-year-old who had a big-eyed, cute, 4-year-old sister named Alisa. With more than ten years of child protective service referrals in their family’s case file, the oldest child of the family, Isabella, was completely “parentified”—her three siblings looked to her as their mother, despite her age.
The girls’ biological mother eventually had a fifth child. By that time, one brother had been moved to his paternal grandparents, while another brother had been placed in alternative housing. We loved the idea of adopting three children, but we felt we were not ready to meet the other children’s needs. Providentially, one brother was adopted locally and now lives just minutes away. The oldest three children see each other constantly, and the other two brothers—who live in other placements—see their siblings monthly or quarterly.
In 2010, we were able to get all five siblings (from four separate households) together at Christmas for a photo, and we hope to make it an annual event. It has been amazing to see so many families work together to form a community of support for these children. We are all working to maintain the sibling connection for these brothers and sisters who otherwise would most likely have been torn apart and lost all communication with each other.
Even before we finalized the adoption of our daughters in December 2009, we knew we had some hurt kiddos who needed to know what unconditional, healthy love looked like. They needed routine, structure, and safety to fully begin their healing. Although I had never cooked in seven years, I learned to fake it pretty well and was so thankful for the girls’ flexibility in letting me try new recipes on them. Sitting together at our 1950s, red Formica kitchen table, our girls began to heal…and so did we.
Bethany’s ADOPTSSM program is where we learned that our girls and their brother suffer from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), which takes a long time to begin to heal.
- We have been able to take advantage of individual weekly counseling, which includes play therapy for both of the girls.
- As parents, we also utilize the counseling services to educate us on the best ways of working with these special needs kids.
- One of the best parts of the program was a parent group that Bethany put together, which separated the kids and parents in two different rooms and allowed us to get to know other adoptive families. There was an emphasis on PTSD education.
- Isabella also became involved in a weekly teen group that helped connect her with other older adopted kids. The support she felt from those girls really helped start her dialogue about her feelings now that she was adopted.
With Bethany’s specialized PTSD training, we have been able to take Alisa from a 4-year-old who zoned out, did not smile, and growled most of the time to an average 7-year-old first grader who keeps up in school and makes new friends daily. We see improvement in her delayed verbal skills each day.
Now 13 years old, Isabella was a typical sixth grader who worried if her graduation outfit would look okay (last June) and is now excited about being in the seventh grade. Her sixth-grade yearbook is filled with pictures of her surrounded by friends. Just a few years ago, she worried constantly about her brothers and sisters and wondered where their next meal would come from. School was a luxury that rarely fit in with their lifestyle—moving every two to three months whenever their mother decided it was time. She remembers being 6 years old and using one hand to hold the hand of her 3-year-old brother and the other to carry her newborn sister, all the time crying from fear and hunger.
Isabella’s PTSD appears when she becomes stressed and when she is unsure of where we may be traveling. She does not like surprises. She always likes to know what will be happening in the future, even when we visit her brothers. With the help of ADOPTS, we have seen vast improvement in her ability to handle change. For example, now Isabella feels more secure when we visit her brothers, and she is a bit more spontaneous when we have surprise family weekend trips. She now trusts us and understands that family gives you a safe place where you can be happy.
As parents, we value Bethany’s post-adoption services. We have learned the signs of PTSD, and our communication has improved with our children. We are reassured by our counselor that we are on the right track and that setbacks will happen, but she will be there to help us.
Childhood regression (a child reverting to an earlier developmental stage) is common with PTSD and can sometimes be triggered by something as simple as a Disney movie they used to watch when they were afraid in their past. Our daughters’ regression means that, some days, we aren’t really the parents of a 7 and 13 year old but of younger children. We now have the skills to recognize when triggers occur and are able to help our daughters communicate about their feelings and begin to heal from their past.
We know that the future is going to be amazing for our girls, who talk about college almost weekly. Each day we feel blessed and are thankful for what Bethany’s post-adoption services have done to help our family and other families heal and grow together.
Strengthening the bonds of older siblings
By Katherine Norris, Adoptive Mother
When I decided to adopt as a single young woman, many people made it a point to tell me some “war” stories of failed adoptions. I’m not sure if those stories were really attempts by my friends and family to “save” me from the rocky road that was sure to come or if the stories were just examples of loved ones speaking from fear. But because I felt sure that God had called me to adopt, I moved forward in prayer.
I adopted my first son as a toddler, and when he was 12, I adopted my second son, who was 8 years old. Over the years we have had many ups and downs, and there have even been times when I wasn’t sure how we would make it as a family.
One of the challenges I hadn’t fully anticipated was the difficulty in forming a bond between my two children. Adopting an older child posed many challenges, but getting two boys from varying backgrounds to form a sibling bond during an already difficult time in their development proved to be a larger barrier than I had anticipated.
During the discussion of adoption and during our pre-adoption visits, I was encouraged. My older son seemed to like having a little guy follow him around and copy his every move. They watched wrestling, played with wrestling action figures, played video games, and enjoyed being outdoors. But the week that my younger son came to stay permanently, things were not quite as fun anymore.
My younger son’s “following around and the copying” became irritating and annoying for my older son, who no longer was okay with sharing his toys or playing together. Then the fighting started, and I often felt caught in between. My older son was fighting to keep his place in the family and for his independence, while my younger son was trying to belong and gain the affection of his older brother. I became worried about the best way to handle this delicate situation.
How could I foster a sibling bond without them ending up resenting me for encouraging it?
About four months into the adoption—when the fighting was at its height—the boys weren’t playing together or even talking to each other. had to do something. In the middle of one of their fights, I told them to go upstairs and change into old clothes and their crummy sneakers. When they asked why, I didn’t respond…I let them wonder.
The first change in their behavior occurred while they were upstairs changing. I heard them talking and wondering what they were getting ready to do. They asked each other, Are we in trouble?
I changed my clothing too, and then we walked together to the nearby creek. This was a new activity for the boys—we hadn’t gone to it before. While we walked through the woods to the creek, the boys ran ahead of me looking for the biggest stick. They talked about seeing animals and the creek ahead.
Once we got to the creek, I gave them a job: They had to cross the creek, which was very shallow and safe, but challenging. I stood on the bank of the creek and watched the boys struggle to find a bigger stick to help them cross. They relied on one another to point out the best rocks to step on and gave each other a hand when they accidently stepped into the water. They even helped each other roll up their pants and tie their sneakers. I watched them work together to successfully cross the creek. As we returned to the house, the boys talked and laughed about their experience.
Back at home, they laughed as they tried to figure out how to strip down in order to not track mud into the house. They ran upstairs and raced to see who could get to the bathroom first. I don’t really remember what else we did that evening, but I am sure that it didn’t involve fighting.
I often remember that day at the creek as a turning point in our family. I learned an important lesson about parenting. I continue to create experiences for my sons where the rest of the world is tuned out and they are creating experiences together.
Families are partially built by sharing experiences and memories. Instead of yelling at or sending the kids to their rooms, I decided to block out all of the distractions—noise from the TV and computer, and competition over toys, etc. Instead, we took a walk in nature to build a memorable experience that I hoped would be the beginning of creating a bond between brothers that would last forever. Camping is another activity that I use to bond the members of our family, and now we often go twice a year.
I would be lying if I said that everything was fine between my sons since then. They have their ups and their downs, their good times and their bad times. Sometimes I wish they were closer or that they would spend more time together. But when I walk past their rooms and hear them sharing stories, or when I hear them in the basement playing video games together, or when—on a rare occasion—they decide to hang out together, I am sure that they are brothers who have formed a lasting bond.
As I think about adopting again, I know that more challenges will come. But I have learned now that sibling bonds can begin when great memories are created. Sometimes we need to block out the rest of the world and make more time for family.
The ADOPTSSM program teaches parents new skills
By Mary Ann Valenti Boyer, Editor
With only one teen still at home, Jean (45) and Dan (46) were looking forward to more quiet, more travel, and their upcoming empty nest. They had raised their children and were ready to take it easier, although neither was close to retirement.
But life has a way of changing our plans in the most unexpected ways. In 2004, Jean sat by her sister’s side the night before she entered the hospital to undergo a diagnostic procedure to check if she had cancer.
“My sister went to the hospital and never came home,” Jean remembers. Everyone was devastated, especially her sister’s children, Jean’s six nieces and nephews, five of whom were age 5 and under and the sixth who was an adult.
For the next four years, the children lived with their father until it was determined that he could no longer care for them. By that time, the three older children were suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). They had lost their mother, and then their father, and had suffered from abuse and neglect. That’s when Bethany placed the children with Aunt Jean and Uncle Dan, first through kinship care in 2008. Their adoption was finalized in 2010.
Breaking Down the Walls
One of the first behaviors the couple noticed was how withdrawn the children became if they were being disciplined. Even gentle reminders seemed to automatically make the children retreat behind a wall of silence and fear.
“If you got upset with the kids even just a little, they were afraid that you would hurt them. Any discipline was magnified a hundred times for them,” Jean remembers.
Dan and Jean knew they needed help, so they signed up the three oldest children for counseling at Bethany. In addition, the two older children went through the ADOPTSSM program for a year (see sidebar).
Perhaps the greatest transformation happened with their oldest nephew. Before the ADOPTS program, he would not join a group or even interact with others. “Now he has lots of friends, participates in groups, volunteers, and is excelling in extra curricular activities.”
Jean’s oldest niece has also made significant strides. Before ADOPTS, she got angry quickly and lashed out at people by destroying things. Through the ADOPTS program, she has learned to calm herself and think before she acts.
Jean explains, “We learned to give her a little space. Then I could talk with her about her feelings and the problem. She has grown so much now that if I give her a little space, she can think things through, find solutions to a problem, and take more appropriate action. The teachers can’t believe the changes that have taken place. The kids have really blossomed,” says Jean.
Old School, New School
Dan and Jean attended ADOPTS together and found that they needed some retraining as parents. They had to adjust their way to parenting because the kids had issues the couple had never dealt with before (see “Perception” sidebar).
“My husband and I were raised in the old school way; you got in trouble if you did bad things. The ADOPTS program taught us that even gentle discipline was huge to the kids. We learned to reassure them that they were still loved, even if we had to remind them about things. We learned to praise their good behaviors because they want to please adults. Just saying that I was disappointed about something made these kids feel devastated. That was enough…. We didn’t have to get after them the way we did with our older children.”
In fact, at times Dan and Jean’s adult children resented this softer, quieter approach to discipline used with this second set of children. It took a while for their older kids to understand why this way worked best with these siblings. “ADOPTS helped them and us.”
Over time, the children have learned to trust their parents. Consistency and reassurance have been the keys to building that trust.
“What’s more difficult,” Jean says, “is getting them to trust strangers. In their past, if a stranger came into their home, that person might cause trouble or try to take their father away.”
Now, before a visitor comes to the house, Jean explains to the children who the person is and why he or she is coming. She prepares them for what is about to happen so they are not afraid. Since the ADOPTS program and the finalization of their adoptions, the children have become secure in the home and are not so worried anymore.
“Some days I don’t know if I am coming or going, but I do know that we’ve been blessed with awesome kids,” Jean says with conviction. “I love these kids totally and unconditionally. I feel really blessed to have them, especially with losing my sister. It’s like having a part of her with me.
“I was scared to death when we first got [the children]. I wondered What did we get ourselves into?Before ADOPTS, I used to be afraid that they would never grow out of their behaviors. But after ADOPTS, I expect these kids to graduate from high school and go to college or a trade school and to be happy, productive adults. I have a lot of hope now.”
“If you are having difficulties, reach out for help,” says Jean. “There is no shame in asking for help. The more you help the kids, the better things will be in the long term. And don’t give up; there is a rainbow out there. Reach out to your community, your church, and your Bethany office.”
ADOPTSSM (therapy to Address the Distress of Post-Traumatic Stress)
Bethany’s ADOPTSSM program helps children overcome traumatic experiences, such as abuse or neglect that occurred in their lives prior to adoption.
The program focuses on increasing a child’s ability to form healthy attachments to others; understanding how trauma affects his/her life; identifying and managing emotions in healthy ways; and developing existing and new personal strengths. ADOPTS offers understanding, practical skills, and hope for healing.
Services are provided by master’s-level clinicians experienced in working with foster and adopted children, and who also have specific training and expertise in the areas of trauma, posttraumatic stress disorder, and the ADOPTS program. Check with your local Bethany office to see if they offer ADOPTS.
The Power of Perception
One of the most valuable, lasting lessons Dan and Jean learned in ADOPTSSM was concerning the perception of the kids. The counselors showed the parents a beautiful, peaceful coastal scene of a beach, crystal blue-green waters, and a clear blue sky. Then she asked the parents how it made them feel. People responded, “Calm, peaceful, relaxed, etc.”
Then she showed them the same scene while playing the theme music from Jaws. She then asked, “Now how do you feel?” Suddenly, the parents said they were fearful, anxious, and on-guard. The same scene had brought about a completely different reaction. The counselor explained that children with PTSD don’t see or interpret the world the way we do. What might seem pleasant to us could be threatening to them.
Jean took this example to heart. That is when she began to understand why her reminders about taking care of their toys might be interpreted as a threat that she would hurt the children, leave them, or even stop loving them. In their past experiences, any reminder might have led to devastating results for the children. Knowing this helped her and Dan to parent their new children differently.
When “Happily Ever After” isn’t your reality
By Linda Curtis, Adoptive Mom
When we decided to adopt an 11-year-old boy from Ukraine, I thought, Once I get through the paperwork, it will be clear sailing.
And then we went to Ukraine, and I thought: That paperwork was the easy part. This is the hard part, with the travel and dealing with the officials. Once I get through this, it will be clear sailing.
And then, toward the end of our visit to Ukraine I thought: You know what? Maybe this wasn’t the hard part…maybe the hard part is still coming!
I was right. The first month was very difficult. Joshua was prone to emotional outbursts. He was missing his friends in the orphanage, and he didn’t like being corrected, no matter how gently I spoke to him. He refused to eat dinner and attend Christmas Eve service with our family.
Our Motivation for Adopting
My husband, Bill, and I had been looking for ways to share our blessings with others. In 2009 we learned about a hosting program that brings Ukrainian orphans to the U.S. for a month during the summer, and we decided to become a host family. The young man placed with us was named Andrew (who later became our second adopted son). After a week or two, we felt like God was shouting “adoption” to us from many different directions.
How? Well, for example, there was a sermon at church about Christians not seeking to live a life of comfort, convenience, and safety. That message really spoke to me because I like things to be neat, orderly, and predictable. I pondered that a long time. I am not, by nature, a risk-taker. Yet all four of us—I, Bill, and our daughters Michelle (now 19) and Sharon (now 13)—wholeheartedly agreed that we wanted to adopt Andrew into our family.
The next step was to find out if Andrew was available for adoption. The disappointing answer from the adoption facilitator was “No, and don’t have any hope because he will not be available for adoption.” We felt totally crushed. After catching our breath, we prayed and asked God if we were supposed to adopt. Should we continue with the paperwork? Maybe God has someone else in mind for us. We felt certain that we were to proceed with the paperwork and keep on hoping.
In May 2010, we learned that Andrew was going to be available for adoption but that he would not be considered for international adoption for another year. Then, a week later, we were notified that we could travel to Ukraine to proceed with our adoption—of another, unknown child.
What were we to do? Wait a year for Andrew or move ahead now to adopt another child and then return to adopt Andrew? We decided to go to Ukraine, and we brought home Joshua, who had also been in the U.S. during the hosting program. We didn’t know Joshua, and he didn’t know us, which made the transition difficult. It was also tough for him because he didn’t speak English.
Navigating New Territory
As first-time adoptive parents, Bill and I decided to take a proactive approach when it came to getting help. It wasn’t that there was anything dramatic or specific that led us to seek counseling, but we wanted to get help before anything developed. After all, adoption was new territory for us. I had read books and attended a seminar about adoption before we brought Joshua home in October 2010, but you can never be too prepared. You still need help when reality comes.
I learned about Bethany’s post-adoption counseling services through a friend who had adopted. We chose Bethany based on her recommendation and because it’s a Christian agency that offers individual and family counseling.
Our counselor helps us understand why Joshua thinks and acts the way he does. She explains how he is interpreting things. She makes suggestions about ways to respond to his behaviors, helps us to process the challenges, and gives us advice.
We’ve seen so much progress with Joshua since the counseling. For example, Joshua likes things to be predicable. If there were a change in routine, he would react. Now we help to prepare him for change, and he is better at adapting, at changing gears.
Counseling has really helped our son learn to regulate his emotions, especially in preparation for attending school this year. The first year he was with us, I homeschooled him, and I used an ESL tutor a couple of times a week, which also helped with his learning English. He is learning to deal with his anger and disappointments in appropriate ways. Writing and reading remain difficult for Joshua, but his verbal skills are very good. School is hard, but he’s handling it.
We’re continuing with counseling, especially since we’ve also adopted Andrew. Even though we’ve been through counseling before, we need help for each of our children—who have different personalities—and for us as parents. We’ll need help with the transition.
I would recommend Bethany’s post-adoption counseling services to other adoptive parents. Post-adoption counseling was a tremendous help to our family. Without help from our Bethany counselor, I’m not sure we would have been ready to adopt again. We have high hopes for Joshua and Andrew to follow Jesus and use their many gifts and talents to contribute to society. Adoption is hard: there are difficulties, but there are also joys. We take one day at a time. God is faithful, and there is help available. You just have to ask for it.
- Prepare for adoption by reading books, especially The Connected Child by Karyn Purvis.
- Start early with post-adoption counseling. Don’t wait for a crisis to occur.
- Seek out other adoptive parents—either formally or informally. You can learn a lot from their experience.
- Accept help when it’s offered.
- Depend on God—daily!
The wonderful cultural gifts that can accompany transracial adoption
By Sara Blomeling-DeRoo, Adoptive Mom and Bethany Project Open Arms Advocate
My husband, Doug, and I first set out to adopt from the Philippines. With the development of our dossier, we began to learn all we could about the culture(s) of the people by listening to music, attempting to learn the Tagalog language, and reading voraciously about the country. But in the late 1980s, the Filipino program closed abruptly, and we found ourselves transferring into the adoption program in South Korea, which was generally more stable at that time.
With the adoption of our first daughter in 1989, we began a lifelong journey of incorporating Korean culture into our family life in Michigan. South Korean dance, food, music, history, and language created a rich experience of Asian culture that I (of Dutch descent) found to be new and exciting. We developed friendships with other couples who had also adopted transracially, as well as with Korean people in our community who were supportive of our adoption.
We adopted five more times—all domestically and each child was of African American descent. Again, these children brought the gifts of their culture into our family. We tried the best we could to engage with the local African American community via cultural celebrations, church attendance, community events, and finally, the best gift of all: friendship. Eventually many aspects of my primarily Euro-American life came to evolve into something far more diverse.
Over time, we moved to a diverse core-city neighborhood and began attending a cross-cultural church. Our transracial family culture gradually but steadily incorporated the gifts that not only our children brought “to the table,” but the gifts our surrounding community brought as well. Yes, there was new food, music, art, and the like, but our commitment went deeper.
We learned to stand against social injustice in a way that impacted not only our family, but our neighbors. We became part of the leadership of a grassroots group, the Alliance for Cultural and Ethnic Harmony, took part in the Institute for Racial Healing, and volunteered in local drop-in recreation programs.
The various cultures that our children brought into our lives we saw as wonderful gifts. Our children opened our eyes to the beauty of our diverse world, and we felt a little like outside observers who were blessed to gain entry into the birthcultures of our children. We have been invited into homes where Kwanzaa was being celebrated, as libations were made for ancestors of the African homeland. We have seen our Korean daughter bow low in deep reverence for a Korean grandmother and given the traditional gift of money to celebrate the New Year, Asian style. Our children have been blessed to have mentors who reflected the heritage of their birth.
People on the street often remark that it may be difficult to adopt transracially. Truth be told, it definitely brings an aspect of “special need” to the adoption table, and that must be acknowledged. You cannot adopt a child of a different race and pretend that “love is blind” and the “world is a rainbow” of sunshine and lollipops.
Children who are adopted transracially face the daily scrutiny of the general public. Strangers on the street struggle to understand how they “fit” and try to make sense of their adoption, which frankly is none of their concern.
It has been said that transracial adoptees wear their adoption “like a flag,” and this is true. What should be a personal part of their story becomes almost automatically public, and that was not something they asked for. Adoption lore is full of examples of a range of awkward to rude comments, almost always made in a public place, in front of the adopted child. Parents need to be prepared and to prepare their children, to the extent that they can, to navigate these situations. It is most certainly a responsibility of the adopting parents to integrate that child’s culture of origin into the family, with the full knowledge that the family, for generations to come, will now be Korean/Dutch, or Ethiopian/Irish, or Filipino/Hispanic. The possibilities are wonderfully endless.
However, enormous privilege comes with responsibility. It will likely become apparent to the adopting family shortly after the adoption that racism in America did not die with the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1968. Families will need to understand that—along with the beautiful diversity now in their family—they or their children will likely experience discrimination based upon the child’s heritage and the now mixed-racial heritage of the family. It is a problem that no one family can fix. However, it is important to note that it is everyone’s issue to address, not just families who have adopted transracially.
My life has been incredibly enriched by the birthcultures of our children. I have traveled to places I might never have traveled. I have worshipped with people and in denominations that I may not have otherwise done. Today, I cannot imagine my life without the friendships I have formed because of the cultural gifts my children brought with them into our home.
I cannot wait to someday meet our sons and daughters-in-law and grandchildren whose ethnic diversities will also enrich our lives and extend even further the gifts of our children.
Practical Tips for Transracial Adoption
- When, and even before (if possible) your child arrives, make sure your home reflects the heritage of his/her origin. Begin in the child’s world. Books, dolls, toys, and art should reflect your child’s heritage. It’s also advantageous to depict other races. Show that you value diversity of all kinds. My Korean-born daughter had Hispanic, Asian, African American, and Caucasian dolls. There are wonderful children’s books about adoption that depict children in families of mixed racial heritage.
- If possible, find a support group for families who have adopted transracially. If there isn’t one in your community, consider starting one. This was a key component when my children were smaller to help them understand that other families had children who did not necessarily look like mom or dad.
- Strongly consider attending a culture camp in the summer. There are many culture camps throughout the U.S. Consider making a culture camp a family vacation destination. My children were privileged to attend a local culture camp, which was a day camp. Another year, our family traveled to a wonderful Korean Culture Camp in Colorado for a family vacation, and it was one of our best vacations ever.
- Intentionally make friends with people or other families who reflect your child’s racial heritage. Hire babysitters who may reflect your child’s heritage. Explore the school district your child will attend. Will your child be the only minority in his/her class? Consider a mentor for your child as he or she reaches adolescence.
- Listen to adults who have been transracially adopted. Most adoption conferences will include this topic in their training. What was helpful for them? What was unhelpful?
- Finally, relax. Do the best you can, and enjoy the amazing joys of diversity.
This link is for an inspiring video about Rev. John Piper, pastor and author, whose struggle with diversity issues finally brought him to the point of adoption: http://www.vimeo.com/28323716
Preparing young children for a diverse world
By Mandy Meisenheimer, Adoptive Mom
I took my son shopping at the fabric store one afternoon, and he kept lagging behind me. At one point, I turned the corner of an aisle, and I could hear him shuffling along, taking his time to catch up. A moment later, an elderly woman was leading him around the corner.
She looked up at me and said to him, “No, where is your mommy?”
It took me a second to catch up to her logic, but I brought her into the new millennium when I let her know that I am my son’s mommy. Sometimes I forget that we don’t look like mother and son to strangers.
We talk about our beautiful skin a lot in our family. We stretch out our arms and admire the rainbow that we see in our four different tones: peach, tan, brown, dark brown. The words “black” and “white” never really seemed helpful in the first four years of our transracial family. We chose not to sing “Jesus Loves the Little Children” because we wanted our children to see the broad spectrum of skin colors without division.
Our son has always designated people by the color of shirt they are wearing. He came up with this himself.
“That green guy hit me.”
“That pink girl is really funny.”
“Can I go play with that blue boy?”
One day he said something to me about a black girl, and I turned around to see who he was talking about. She was African American, so I thought, For the first time, my son is describing skin color. But then I realized that the girl was wearing a black shirt.
I knew that the shirt-color phase would end. I knew that the peach, brown, and dark brown phase would end. I knew that eventually our son would be exposed to color categories like “white,” “black,” “Hispanic,” and “Asian,” so we began discussing these terms this year. We didn’t want our son to be caught unprepared when kids in his class at school use these and other words. We knew that one day he would hear the question, “Why is your mommy white?” We wanted our son to feel as ready as he could possibly be to cope with that kind of curiosity.
We raise our kids in an environment where adoption and diversity are as natural as the changing seasons. But we live in a world and culture that sees us as a hodge-podge family. How do we best prepare our little ones for that inevitable confrontation, where being colorblind is not advantageous?
Here are some practical ideas for incorporating diversity into your daily life.
1. Diversify your environment.
- If you attend a church or gathering every week and you notice that all of the dolls and action figures are peach colored…
- If the books your child brings home from the library only depict Caucasian characters…
- If your child’s grandparent collects toys and books that reflect an all-Caucasian cast of characters…
… then you need to encourage your caregivers, teachers, librarians, and family members to diversify. This is not only necessary for the development of your child, but it is vital to the development of anychild. We self-segregate through our toys without even noticing. Every little girl and boy should have dolls and toys that depict many races. If more parents purchased a rainbow of toys, there would be more diversity on the stores’ shelves.
2. Diversify your friends.
- If everyone writing on your Facebook wall, in your cell phone directory, or on your emergency contact list is the same color…
- If your child is the minority in your neighborhood, church, and school…
- If you can go an entire day without seeing anyone of another ethnic group…
…then it’s time to make new friends. It can be intimidating, challenging, scary, and overwhelming to step out of our safe, familiar places and reach out to a different community. But consider how terrifying it will be for your son or daughter when s/he encounters diversity in life. She will feel familiar with one set of people, but will she spend the rest of her life afraid of everyone who looks like her?
Again, this is an important lesson for all of our children, not just those of different ethnic groups. When we teach understanding and respect to children, we are creating a safer place for future generations.
3. Talk about it.
- If your child can’t find his birthplace on a map…
- If your child is “so sweet that she doesn’t even see color”…
- If you or your family members talk about not noticing any differences among the children or grandchildren…
…then it’s time to talk about it. Ask each family member to lay his or her arms on the table. Grab the crayons. Who matches whom?
One day a man came up to us in a restaurant and expressed his admiration for our family and how we’ve adopted children. We thanked him for his encouragement, and he walked away. I asked my son, “How do you think he knew you were adopted?”
Our son thought about it.
“Maybe because you don’t have a big tummy. He knew we weren’t in there.”
I seized that opportunity to start the conversation. That day, all four of us laid our arms on the table, and we saw four different colors. And my son realized for the first time that all four of us don’t “match.”
And it was beautiful.
The following websites are provided to give your family potential resources for multicultural products. This list should not be construed as an endorsement by Bethany Christian Services of any products or services.
Heritage & Culture Camps
www.teachervision.fen.com/diversity/teacher-resources/33631.html Diversity-related teaching materials; good for parents too
Check out the international doll collection
A variety of dolls for boys and girls; ethnic dolls and dolls with disabilities
A family of six brought together by God
By Josh Mulder, Adoptive Dad
I’ve heard other adoptive parents say, “We walk by faith,” which certainly describes our adoption journey. It often felt like we were taking two steps forward in faith and hope and one step back in disappointment and fear. Looking back, we know that God’s hand was guiding each step. When you start listening to God, you will be amazed by where He might lead you.
I am a farm boy from rural Minnesota whose travel experience prior to our adoptions amounted to attending college in northwest Iowa. When my wife and I married, we didn’t talk a lot about what our future would be like. I figured that kids would come along at some point when it fit into our plans. Adoption certainly wasn’t on our radar. If you had told us then that we would eventually have four children (two adopted from Ethiopia), we probably would have laughed or been a bit freaked out!
After three miscarriages in two years, it’s a blessing to now say, “We can see God’s hand in all of it.” He wanted us to have four children; He wanted us to have two biological children and then to adopt Garrett and Josie. It’s really as simple as that. I think we needed to experience the loss of three pregnancies to appreciate the gift of adoption. God wanted us to experience children through birthand through adoption. Adoption has been such a blessing to us that I wish every family could experience both.
My wife introduced the idea of adoption after our second miscarriage. Initially I had a hard time processing the idea. I remember worrying that it would feel like the four of us—our two biological children, plus Susanne and me—and the “adopted child.”
We live in a predominantly white community, so I had reservations about being an interracial family. Prior to adopting our children from Ethiopia, I had heard other parents of interracial families say that they didn’t see different skin colors when they looked at their kids. I thought that was probably just the appropriate thing to say, but I never believed it until I personally experienced it.
As I resisted the idea and justified my reasons for not adopting, my wife prayed…and God worked in my heart. One day I watched a video of a family’s adoption story on Bethany’s website. As I sat mesmerized by the video, I was overcome with a sense of peace about adoption. It seemed to make so much sense. This was the first of many miracles to follow.
When I look at our four children now, I don’t see biological or adopted; I don’t see black or white; I see our children. They all make me laugh; they all need discipline; they all need love; and they allreturn love. They are all our kids, and they are way more alike than they are different.
In a perfect world, everyone would see it that way. But I realize that my job as a parent is to be realistic and know that I will have to help my children deal with the racism that they will likely encounter as they interact with broader society. My hope is that as our children grow up, they won’t be ashamed of or constantly feel “noticed” because of their skin color. I hope that everyone will be able to see what we see—two beautiful children who have blessed our lives every day since the day we met them.
Falling in love with an adopted child is a surreal experience. I loved Garrett the instant we met in the orphanage. I remember praying that he would not be afraid of us and that even at his young age, he would learn to love us. When Garrett looked at me for the first time, my heart melted.
The first six months of his life had been filled with tragedy and sickness, but the smile on his face seemed to say that none of that mattered. We became a family in that instant. I remember calling my mom the night after we met him and saying, “He is perfect, and I love him so much.” Nothing else mattered at that point. It was all about Garrett, his beautiful smile, and his love for a family he had just met.
Meeting our daughter, Josie, was a different experience. We traveled to Ethiopia twice—once for a court appearance and later to pick her up at our embassy appointment. Meeting her, holding her, and then having to leave her behind—without knowing when we would be able to return—was extremely difficult. I think we went with guarded hearts to protect ourselves from the agony of having to say goodbye.
Our love story with Josie was more of a process than an event. Each adoption experience is unique—there is no right or wrong emotion or feeling. Josie had spent more time in an orphanage than Garrett. Just as we had guarded hearts when we met her for the first time, she seemed to have guarded her heart too. Little by little, the bonding process moves forward: her trust in us increases with each day.
People sometimes comment that we are special people for adopting. What we try to explain is that we are the ones who have been blessed. Our children did not choose to be adopted. Their first choice, like any other child, would have been to stay with their biological parents. They have both experienced great loss for our gain, which is difficult for me to comprehend and even talk about.
Despite the differences in their stories, Garrett’s and Josie’s lives share a common theme: their birthparents made the extremely selfless decision to relinquish their rights for the benefit of their children. What an unimaginable decision to have to make! Could I ever relinquish my child? At what point would I admit that the circumstances were grave enough to make that decision? To me, making that sacrificial decision best reflects how much God loves us. He gave His son so that we might live. These parents gave up their rights so that their children could experience new life.
Undoubtedly, there will be challenges we will have to work through with Garrett and Josie. Finding the best way to explain adoption to them without their feeling “less” than our biological children weighs heavily on my heart. I pray daily that their hearts will be open to our love and that their minds will be able to understand the wonder of adoption. I want them to know that God placed them in our family for a reason. He chose them to be born in Ethiopia and to move halfway around the world to a small town in Minnesota to fulfill His plan for their lives. He has formed our family in such an amazing way, and I know there will be many more miracles to come.
The more love the better
By Andy McCleaf, Adoptive Dad
My wife, Sabrina, and I got married in 1996. About eight years later, we wondered why she had never gotten pregnant, so we went to a gynecologist and found out it was impossible for us to conceive naturally. Undaunted, we went down the uncertain road of IVF procedures. Anyone who has been down this road knows how emotional the trip can be—with extremely happy highs and tearful lows, not to mention the agony of giving your wife shots a few times a day.
Feeling frustrated amid our third IVF attempt, we attended a local adoption information meeting. Sabrina felt we were meant to adopt; I wasn’t so sure. Call me crazy, but as we left that meeting, I saw a rainbow in my rearview mirror. That was my sign, and so our adoption journey began.
We researched adoption programs and agencies and chose Bethany. We went to meetings, paid the fees, got our physicals, and completed the paperwork. We were ready to start our family!
Probably the best advice we got along this journey was not to paint the new baby’s room just yet. It was a year later when we got our first call that some birthparents wanted to meet us.
Sabrina and I were nervous before our first meeting, but it left us more worried than excited. One of the birthparents had some emotional disorders that we knew could emerge as their son got older. With no training about or prior exposure to these disorders, we reluctantly decided this was not the adoption for us. We wondered, Was this part of God’s plan or did we just sabotage it? We had waited so long!
Our First Adoption
A month later, we received another phone call from Bethany. A quiet, pretty young lady who was expecting a child wanted to meet us. The meeting went smoothly with the help of our adoption specialist. We really liked the expectant mom but felt like we had botched the interview.
A few days later, we received a second phone call saying that the expectant mom wanted to meet us again. That meeting went fine, and we laughed and cried together. Her reason for getting together was to establish ground rules for an open adoption.
The expectant mom wanted us to send her photos frequently. She was a sweet, Christian young lady, and she needed to be sure that she was making the right decision. If all it took to realize our dream was to e-mail some pictures, it was an easy decision for us.
Some people ask us why we said yes to an open adoption. We say, “Why not?” Try to put yourself in the shoes of the birthmother. To say this is a “life-altering” decision is an understatement. As I see it, adoption is an act of love and selflessness for these women. They love their children more than they love themselves. That’s what great mothers do. If we were to ruin that equation by being selfish as adoptive parents, what message would that send to our kids?
Have I told you how wonderful our two daughters are? We adopted our second child through open adoption in 2010 from another special young lady. All that waiting. All those tears. It all was worth it. What a wonderful plan God had for us. Our daughters are awesome! Each day we tell them how much we love them and thank God for His gifts.
The More Love the Better
Our journey continues to evolve. We feel like we expanded our family twofold, and the girls are the benefactors. Can you imagine growing up with four grandmothers? What could be better to a child at Christmas?
Our relationship with each birthfamily is unique. One family calls and visits more often. The other e-mails and sends gifts in the mail. But when they send gifts, both families send packages for both girls! These families have embraced us as parents. They do not intrude. They do not preach to us about how to raise our kids. They are simply happy to be included in the process.
Both birthgrandmothers are wonderful ladies, and we feel blessed to have them in our lives too. They love our children so much. One of the grandmothers caught us off guard when she said, “You are like family to us now.” Wow! The more love the better!
When our daughters receive gifts and cards in the mail, we try to explain who they are from. We save and date the cards to show them at a later time. We tell them that the ladies who sent them love them very much.
We will explain open adoption to our daughters at the right time. To us it is not a moment but an ongoing conversation. We will answer our daughters’ questions as they come up and at a level they understand.
My wife and I do not view the girls’ adoptions as dark or dramatic events. Adoption is more about how God put our family together. We actually have a “Family” cheer we do at the dinner table! We make it a point to speak openly to friends about adoption in front of the girls, so when the subject comes up, the girls will not be unfamiliar with it.
We are not sure what the future will hold. It comes on so fast and can change in many ways. We hope to stay in touch with our daughters’ birthfamilies. We want to share birthdays and milestones with them. My personal hope is that, as they get older, our girls will know and be close to their birthmoms. The more love the better!
We will always be indebted to our two birthmothers for entrusting their children to us. We thank God for our wonderful journey, and we will be sure that our daughters know that He brought us alltogether.
By Nicole Johnson, Adoptive Mother
Our new baby girl was ready to be rocked to sleep. Not two minutes after I began to rock her, one of her older brothers came in and set up shop on the floor to draw some pictures. Following right behind, her oldest brother brought in some pillows and got comfy on the floor with his book. I sat and rocked our daughter and listened to her work on her pacifier while her eyes grew heavier by the moment.
I had been praying for her to be accepted like this by her brothers and hoped it would soon grow into the kind of love every big brother should have for his little sister. I laid my head back, closed my eyes, and reveled in God’s limitless love.
The story of our miracle really began one early morning several years ago…. The setting for this drama was my bathroom. God and I were the characters. The plot involved me, a 30-year-old, happily married woman blessed with two beautiful, healthy sons. I had lost three babies to miscarriage and, after several months of trying to conceive without success, continued to ache for another child.
What I was certain would turn out to be a happy ending left me reeling with disappointment when my pregnancy test result was negative. I was certain I was pregnant and considered the test a mere formality. I sat on the bathroom floor crying and yelling at the “man in charge.” I had had enough. I no longer wanted to be under His will and His timing. My patience was gone, and I told Him so.
Little did I know that my experience was all part of God’s beautiful plan. I simply had to be fully stripped of control before He could work on my heart and get it set for the journey of a lifetime.
Initially, I was uncomfortable with the idea of adoption. My fear of the unknown convinced me that it would not be long before we would conceive another child. As the months passed, this assurance slowly dwindled, and I allowed myself to spend more time contemplating adoption.
I remember the first time I broached the subject with my husband, Joe. “Would you ever consider adoption?” I asked. When he cautiously answered yes, I felt my own unease with the idea surface again. We both decided to commit the question to prayer and ask God to be crystal clear with us if adoption was His will for us.
During the next several months something extraordinary happened. The pain and frustration of not conceiving began to dissipate. As even more time passed, we began to accept the idea of adoption with more excitement, continuing to pray that God would be clear with us. It was during Advent in 2009 that He did just that.
Joe and I love to watch movies, but never did I suspect that we would receive our confirmation about adoption through this simple pleasure. We had rented a movie written by Christian author Max Lucado. The movie was about a man who had been adopted. During the first few minutes of the movie, you learn about his immense love for his adoptive father. The man spends the rest of the movie piecing together his past. When the movie was over, Joe looked at me suspiciously and asked if I had known what the story was about. I sat there just as surprised as he was.
It wasn’t until we saw the additional information after the movie that we realized God was really trying to tell us something. Steven Curtis Chapman was one of the actors in the movie. He and his wife talked about their foundation, Show Hope, which was named after one of their adopted daughters. This foundation was established to help families afford adoption. “If God has put this on your heart,” Steven said, “we invite you to consider being a part of this miracle.”
“If God has put this on your heart”—it was as if he were speaking directly to us! That perfectly described what we had been feeling. God had put adoption on our hearts. He planted the seed and was depending on us to water that seed. Then the final message of the movie flashed before us:
“Right now there are children all over the world in desperate need of a loving home. Please consider how you can be involved in the miracle of adoption.”
My husband and I looked at each other in stunned silence. We had received our personal invitation. God had certainly answered our prayer to be direct. Our new understanding of His will for our lives brought us both great excitement.
After attending an information meeting with Bethany in New Hampshire, we were certain that this was the agency we would use. Having a foundation in faith was of utmost importance to us. (We soon discovered that Bethany was also the agency that the Chapmans used to adopt two of their three daughters from China.)
After a few months, we became a “waiting family.” We spent 15 long months waiting and praying for the health of the baby’s birthparents and for the health of our baby to be.
On September 21, 2010, we received the call we had been waiting for. Our adoption specialist asked if she could show our profile to a birthmother the following day. “There is a baby girl who was born in July,” she said, “and her birthmother is not able to care for her. I need your permission to show your profile to her because this baby girl was born with Down syndrome.”
My heart plummeted, yet I found myself saying, “Yes, show our profile,” as if I was not in control of my words. I then quickly told her that Joe wasn’t even home, and I needed to speak to him before I answered. She told me to e-mail her by the next morning to tell her our decision. Great, I thought.That gives us about 12 hours to make this monumental, life-altering decision.
That night Joe and I discussed the matter, and he finally said, “This adoption hasn’t been in our hands from the beginning. We need to leave it in God’s hands.”
Joe’s trust in our Lord was a gift to me. I was flooded with peace and agreed that we needed to say yes.
Years before we ever considered adoption, we had agreed that if we were ever to be blessed with a daughter, we would name her Mary in honor of Jesus’ Blessed Mother. Our prayer during the adoption process was that we would be given a girl to fulfill that desire. After deciding to go ahead and show our profile, I jokingly said, “If the baby’s name is Mary, we will know she is meant for our family.”
The next day we learned that a member of the birthmother’s family wanted to adopt the baby. We took this as God’s answer and spent the night struggling with feeling both disappointed and shamefully relieved.
The following afternoon, Joe called saying that he had just received an e-mail from our adoption specialist telling us that the birthmother did not want her family member to adopt her baby, and she wanted to meet with us as soon as possible. “And the baby’s name,” she wrote, “is Mary-Rose.”
Two days later, we met Mary-Rose and her birthmother. Just seven days after that meeting, Mary-Rose moved in with our family. It was not without fear that we accepted God’s will for us to raise a child with special needs. It was with courage from Him and the knowledge that He would be by our side every step of the way.
That happy ending I so longed for is playing out more beautifully than I ever could have dreamed. Our daughter serves her namesake well, as her smile causes the coldest of hearts to bloom into the most beautiful flower. It is easy to forget that she has any disability because from the moment we met her, she has shown us only her great strength, determination, and seemingly limitless joy. Her brothers, Joe, and I are honored to share our hearts and lives with Mary-Rose.