Our story really started 15 years ago. David and I were engaged and starting our future. We discussed all of the normal things that engaged couples do. Where were we going to live? What was our future going to look like? Were we planning on having children? This was the hardest one to answer when most people asked. Our plan was not to have our own children. We did not have the desire to. We were both working and living at a private Christian high school and felt that our lives were full enough.
Fast forward eight years. In 2010, we left the high school to move to Texas to be closer to my family. We bought a little house near the lake. I started my accounting business, and David became the head of the water and wastewater utilities in our neighborhood. Our lives became stable, quiet and predictable. This made us start to think about our previous thoughts of adopting a child.
In April of 2015, we went to our first adoption meeting. We came away hopeful and excited to start the journey. From the very beginning, we knew that we wanted an older child, even though there were a lot of people in our lives who tried to convince us to consider getting a younger child. They believed that it would be easier for us, that we could have more time to train them, that an older child would be too hard to deal with.
None of these objections changed our minds. We knew without a shadow of a doubt that we were being called to help an older child who was running the risk of aging out of the system and that our history of working with high school children gave us special skills to deal with the issues that would inevitably arise. So we chose ACH as our adoption agency and started our classes and licensing process.
On Dec. 10, 2015, we were licensed for a matched adoption. We had this belief that since we wanted an older kid that we would be matched right away. It wasn’t until March 2016 that we were matched with our first child. He decided before meeting us that he wanted to age out of the system. I was crushed. After that, my biggest fear was that we were never going to find a child that liked us and wanted us. But what really helped was all of the support and encouragement that we received from the people at ACH as well as the families that we met in the classes.
As the year progressed, we were nearly matched with a few others. Finally, in August 2016, we were matched with another child. September we spent pouring through the case files. And in October, we finally were able to meet the child—a 14-year-old girl! We were delighted, but now that it was becoming a reality, we were terrified, and she was terrified. But after a month and a half of visits, our official placement started right before Thanksgiving 2016.
Those first six months flew by. It was a flurry of holidays, doctor visits and traveling. Everything was new and awesome.
Then on June 19, 2017, she officially became ours. The adoption proceedings were beautiful and filled with loved ones, and our daughter practically glowed!
But we also knew we’d face some challenges. We always knew that by adopting an older child, her biological family would be a part of our lives. After a lot of research on both sides of the issue, we eventually came to the decision that we wanted the benefits of a relationship with the biological family. We visited her brothers in person, and she started phone contact with her mother. I have to admit that even though I intellectually believed this was in her best interest, emotionally I was not ready. I was scared of the unknown and the stories of children being kidnapped, and it hurt to hear her call someone else Mom. After some work on my part, I was able to put these fears and emotions behind me. Later that summer, we were able to meet her “Other Mom” in person.
Since then, we have received criticism from others for our decision to have a relationship with our daughter’s biological family, especially her biological Mom. Despite the condemnation, we moved forward because we believed it was truly in our daughter’s best interest. So far, I believe we were right. There have been so many positive things that have come out of the interaction.
Her “Other Mom” is pleased with the adoption. She is a source of insight into our daughter’s personality and history that we would not have had otherwise. She helps give motherly advice to our daughter when it is hard for me to do so. Our daughter has been able to heal some of her brokenness and make peace with her past in a way that she hadn't been able to be do with years of therapy. She has been able to see her baby pictures, clothes, toys and other things that connect her to her roots. These were things that on our own we could never have provided for her. We also did an Ancestry DNA test for her birthday, so she could know historically which cultures she comes from.
I know that I have written this with a very rosy and positive spin. So you may be questioning if we have had any problems or challenges. The answer is yes. Learning to live with another person is always hard. She still has traumatic things to face, and we are still brand new to parenting. One thing that I have found is that our problems are normal. A lot of the issues that we face are the same issues that our friends face with their biological teenagers. I have also found that those that adopt young children, even infants, are not immune to these same challenges as their children grow.
Parenting is just as hard whether you adopt a younger or older child or have kids of your own. What really helps us is our faith, reaching out to friends and family for support, and realizing that we are not alone. One thing that I have been asked a few times by multiple people is that if we knew at the beginning of our journey what we know now, would we still do it? Would we still have gone through with the adoption? The answer is yes! Those moments when you see your child truly smile and succeed at things that they never thought possible for themselves make it all worth it.