Sunday, July 1, 2018

Birth Family Connections

A couple of weeks ago, we hired a searcher to locate our children's birth families in Ethiopia. This weekend, we received photos and updates, and I am sharing the following with our children's blessings.

The boys' birth family. Missing in the photo is an older sister who is married, and another older sister who lives in the States.

The girls' birth father holding the photos we sent him.
Let me tell you about my view on adoption at the age of 25, when we first entered into the process:

I just wanted to be a mom. 

I get asked often about our adoption story, and I'm always happy to share it, but the truth is pretty uncomplicated.

Before we got married, Nate and I had discussed adoption and agreed that we wanted to adopt at least one child some day. After an early miscarriage and a devastating visit to a fertility clinic, we had a few options, but adoption was the only one that guaranteed the gift of parenthood.

We jumped right into the adoption world, prayerfully narrowing down our options as we researched possibilities. One thing we were certain of: we wanted to adopt internationally.

I can't tell you how many times we've been questioned, even challenged, on this decision. It always surprised me that anyone would suggest we should have to justify why we did not choose to adopt here in the States. But, for the curious, we had two specific reasons:

1. Nate's sister was adopted from the Philippines when his family lived there in the 80s, and the adoption had a lasting impact on his life, having visited the orphanage on many occasions.

2. We were young and inexperienced, and we had read of several adoption horror stories in the U.S. where a child was sent back to the biological family. In that way, international adoption seemed more guaranteed. (Feel free to laugh. :) Now, with many more years behind us and a much broader understanding of the adoption community, I know how flawed that logic was!)

But our decision to adopt from Ethiopia boils down to one truth: God led us there. 

It wasn't until I held our sons in my arms in 2005 that I even had the capacity to consider how their birth parents must have suffered and grieved to come to a place in their lives when they could do nothing but relinquish their children to someone else's care. 

The weight of that decision anchored itself in my soul the very moment I became a mother, and I grieved over the realization that the blessing of parenthood came to us at the expense of broken hearts. 

In 2010, when we returned to Ethiopia to adopt our daughters, we had the absolute privilege of meeting our sons' birth family, as well as our daughters' birth father and uncle. What a gift that was! But as the years have slipped by, Nate and I have felt a growing burden for those families. We share the love of our children, and in that sense, we are all one family.

It is difficult for some to understand our hearts on this matter. We have received many gentle suggestions that the best thing for our children would be that we not pursue a connection with their birth families. That perhaps such a connection would be confusing to them or bring on a burden of guilt for them. Our hope is that it simply brings peace and comfort to everyone. The kids were thrilled to see the photos of their birth families, to see whose eyes and mouths and noses and smiles they share, to receive answers to many of their questions. 

And the expressions on the faces of the birth parents is all I needed to see to know that taking this step was absolutely the right thing to do. There is joy there. Relief. Peace. Hope. I am only sorry it took so long for us to pursue this connection. 

Years ago, a couple of months before we met our daughters, a fellow adoptive mother sent me this photo she had snapped of the girls with their birth father at their foster care center in Ethiopia. He is praying over the girls, and I imagine he is committing them into the hands of the Lord. It is an image I have carried in my heart for the past eight years as I have also held his family up in prayer.  

It was such a joy to receive photos of their father's smile upon receiving word that the girls were doing well. Our searcher told us that as soon as their birth father was told the news about the girls, he went immediately into his room and praised God. We have a precious video clip of his prayer, and though we can't understand a word, it is clear he is praising the Lord for hearing his prayers. 

I am deeply thankful tonight, and also pensive. We have long planned to visit Ethiopia with our children in 2020, God willing, and this feels like the first step as we open the door of connection with both birth families. 

As the weeks roll by this year, change seems to be upon our family, and I find myself often thinking about this verse:

See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. -Isaiah 43:19

I cannot wait to see how the rest of this story unfolds.