My husband and I always knew we wanted to adopt. We affirmed this desire when we saw the need through our worldwide travels with the Navy. When we were on active duty, we visited Ugandan orphanages. Our hearts were opened to the kids we met, and we knew we wanted to grow our family through adoption.
Since then, we have adopted four children from Africa: Henry, 6; Teddy, 4; Joseph 4; and Rose, 2. Joseph and Rose are the most recent additions to our family. They came home from Uganda this past October and we are currently in the beautiful and messy stage of adapting to one another and becoming a family of six.
With this latest adoption, moving from two to four children has made our lives so much fuller, both literally and figuratively. My hands are full of the daily things, like water bottles, loveys, toys and little wiggly hands. And my heart is fuller with the laughter, love and joy that they bring to our lives. Our lives are so much fuller, in fact, that I’d like to share more information for anyone who may be considering international adoption:
How Our Lives Are Fuller after Four International Adoptions
We had a long wait before we were able to bring Joseph and Rose home. The upside of this was that we had time to prepare Henry and Teddy to be big brothers. Our lives were made fuller by spending time with other families who had younger siblings. We wanted them to see good examples of how older siblings treat their younger ones. And the extra time paid off – they are awesome big brothers and love helping out.
Learning to love each other
Naturally, our lives were made fuller by the additional children to love in our house. I think this is the easiest part about adopting children – learning how to love and adore each other. Children are naturally full of love, and it’s what that they want most. The challenge is discerning how they want to be loved. Do they want one-on-one time with Dad? A big hug? A special note in their lunch? Paying attention to the uniqueness of each child is a lifelong responsibility yet it is an honor. Especially with our adopted children it is likely that no one has sought to specifically meet their physical, emotional and spiritual needs. In our house, we have seen that even after just a week, Rose knew how to comfort her brother by patting his back and saying “its okay” after a minor tumble. She had been cared for so she knew how to care for others.
Adapting to each other’s cultures
There are both challenges and awesome moments in taking the time to learn each other’s cultures. We have been fortunate that all of our children were familiar with the English language when they came home. But it’s the things that you don’t think about – the things that you can’t prepare for – that take some extra adjusting and time. When Joseph first came home, he thought that when the mail carrier started his motor that he was there to steal our car. We are helping him adjust to what different noises are, and to know that he is safe. There are also the fun adjustments. Seeing them experience new things like big TVs alongside the highway (billboards) and sliced hot dog buns (who sliced them?!?) are so much fun. Joseph thinks that every pond we go by is an oasis in the desert. Mommy look, water!
Finding time to fit it all in
Our days are fuller with meals, daily schedules and school. It is a constant race, yet we wouldn’t have it any other way. Sometimes our lives are too full to clean up the messes that we make and it’s a sprint to just get everyone to bed at night. We go to bed really, really tired. But it’s a good tired. We’ll eventually find our pace and it’s a good challenge to have our family in one place. And we feel fortunate that our community has supported us in ways we can never repay. Not everyone is called to adopt, yet everyone can support adoption. Cook a meal, mow the grass, watch the dog, or send a nice note. The Cincinnati Children’s International Adoption Center was a big part of our support team as we brought our children home.
Traveling and doctors’ appointments
The best part about traveling to doctors’ appointments is that spending time away makes home feel more like home. We work with the International Adoption Center at Cincinnati Children’s, which is a 12-hour drive from our house. When we first adopted Henry, we realized that we knew nothing about his health history. So we tapped into their expertise, and continue to, with each adoption because they specialize in looking for unique diseases years before they present.
They are familiar with the diseases that are typical in other countries, and know how to screen for and treat them. They caught Joseph’s sickle cell disease and we are currently working on a plan of care for him. We come home from these doctors’ visits feeling satisfied, knowing that it was time well spent away from home.
International adoption is not simple. It’s not straight forward, but at the end of the process is a magnificent reward. Our lives are fuller because of the additional four lives in our home. And maybe, just maybe, in the future we’ll have room for more.