Yesterday we remembered the anniversary of Roe vs Wade. I was asked to speak at our local March for Life about adoption; below is my talk. Please keep those who attended the March at our nation’s capital in your prayers. They are in the midst of a large blizzard and many are stuck on the roads for going on 12 hours.
I feel very blessed to be able to speak with all of you about adoption and believe it is a fitting topic to reflect on this morning as we gather to march for life.
My husband Ryan and I began our adoption adventures in 2010 when we started the process for infant adoption through Catholic Social Services. This program focuses on open adoption, matching birth parents and adopting parents living within Montana. We were chosen by a young teenaged couple who lived right here in Bozeman. We met with them several times and had them for dinner at our home. As our relationship grew, so did my respect and admiration for these teenagers. They had difficult upbringings but they were choosing life for their daughter, and they were making an adoption plan because they believed that was what was best for her. Their selflessness was humbling.
About a month after being matched with this couple and their baby, we discovered I was pregnant. This came as quite a shock since we were coming up on 5 years of infertility. We were not able to proceed with the adoption, which was very upsetting at the time, but in retrospect, I can see Providence at work very clearly.
About 9 months later our son Ben was born. Ben plays an important role in our story because he taught me what it meant to be a mother, and for Ryan, a father. I knew unconditional love, I certainly loved my husband unconditionally, but it seemed to take on a whole new dimension when holding my son in my arms. God knew I needed to experience the sweetness and innocence of my son to prepare me for what he had in mind for me and Ryan.
When Ben was about 6 months old, I learned about an organization called Reece’s Rainbow. Reece’s Rainbow advocates for children around the world who have special needs and need to be adopted. When I saw the photos of these children, I quickly looked past their daunting diagnoses and saw that they really were just children, sweet and innocent, and I had an affection for them just as I did my own son. I became concerned because I could tell God was going to ask something of us that I didn’t really want- to adopt a child with special needs. I had one, pretty emotional and candid evening with God where I questioned everything about this, including the part about bringing it up to my husband! But by the morning I was pretty convinced that we were supposed to adopt a child with Down Syndrome. It was probably one of the more shocking things I’ve brought up to Ryan, but being the wonderful husband that he is, he said he would pray about it. Somehow I managed not to nag him too much, and after a couple months Ryan was on board and we began the process to adopt a child from Ukraine.
Just 6 months later we were in Ukraine for an appointment to receive the referral of a 15 month old boy named Serosha. And just as with our first attempt at adopting, we did conceive during this adoption process so we were 2 for 2. Sadly we miscarried just two days before meeting Serosha. But we were able to continue with his adoption, and Serosha became our son Paul Sergiy in October 2012.
While in Ukraine, we were able to visit Paul a couple times a day. Nothing can really prepare you for what you experience in an orphanage. And while all orphanage life is bad, kids with special needs have it even worse. Paul was in what is called a laying room, and it is just as it sounds. Children are confined in cribs all day long. They have no toys, no one talks to them or plays with them. As a result of the neglect they endure they develop stims such as rocking back and forth, shaking or hitting their heads, or scratching their skin to the point that it bleeds. They also quickly learn that no one responds to their cries, so even though you are in a room with a dozen children under 5 years old, it is completely quiet. Children have bed sores and parasites, are routinely sedated for convenience and are rarely bathed. They are fed a blend of broth and potato and because the caregivers wish to hurry through meals, the tips of the nipples on the bottles are cut off so the children are forced to gulp down their food quickly otherwise they would choke, since they are fed while laying on their backs. They end up either aspirating their food, or vomiting it back up.
Paul experienced all of this. When we met him, he had given up on life. Every time we visited him, he would either stare into the distance or fall asleep from being sedated by the caregivers. It was only after 3 weeks of twice daily visits did Paul finally smile and laugh, and it happened to be just after the court declared that we were his parents. Someone suggested that his Guardian Angel whispered to him that he was no longer alone and I think they’re right.
When he came home to Bozeman, he weighed 15 lbs at 15 months old. He was hospitalized for dehydration and pneumonia. He endured 6 months of Tuberculosis treatment, and received open heart surgery. And now, 3 years later, he is strong and healthy, learning and overcoming challenges everyday, and has the sweetest sense of humor. He is a wild playmate to his brothers, an adoring son to his father and a mischief-maker for his mother- just about perfect for a 4 year old boy.
So perfect, in fact, we decided in late 2014 to adopt from Ukraine again and bring home another child with special needs. We did all of our adoption paperwork within a month, submitted it to the Ukrainian officials, and then…found out we were pregnant (that would be 3 for 3). Due to our previous miscarriage and the requirement to travel to Ukraine for adoption, we decided to cancel our plans for now. We had our son Alexander this past June, and hopefully once life settles down we’ll get to adopt again.
I want to encourage all of you to be open to adoption, especially for children who are harder to place- those with special needs or difficult pasts. I know the objections that might run through your mind.
You never know what kind of problems the child will have. We’ll never get to retire. It isn’t fair to our other children. We already have our hands full. And maybe the biggest one: We can’t afford it.
Just yesterday I happened to receive this quote in an e-mail: Never let a problem to be solved become more important than a person to be loved.
With adoption, there are problems that need solving, not the least of which is financial. I have witnessed, time and time again, those problems be solved in very practical ways, and in miraculous ways. So please don’t let them stop you from considering opening your home to a child who needs a family.
To close I’d like to offer you three little pieces of advice when considering adoption:
The first is
Learn about the practical challenges
It is necessary to consider the possible financial impact and the potential challenges to marriage and family life, and to do so with honesty and candor. Explore possible solutions, like the adoption tax credit to help cover costs or the possibility of a mother’s helper to be an extra set of hands once in a while. There are lots of creative solutions once you start looking.
Second, Learn about the plight of the orphan
Not only do we need to consider the changes to our lives, we must also learn more about the plight of the children who wait. We need to view, as fully as possible, both sides because they temper one another. The preservation of a healthy and holy family life is important, but the stakes for an orphaned child are dire and must receive due consideration.
And last but not least…Pray
By being vigilant in our prayer we can grow in the virtue of prudence, giving proper weight to the practical concerns we have, while receiving the grace that inspires us in generous self-sacrifice.
We are the pro-life community. We are the ones who value every life. When a woman chooses life for her child, even if she cannot raise that child herself, we are the ones charged with stepping forward and ensuring that that child receives the unconditional love of a family. So I want to encourage all of you here, be open to adoption! And be mindful that when we ask the question “Can we adopt?” millions of children are waiting to hear our answer.