It will extract a price from your children – I am asked often how adoption affects my “own” kids. I would be lying if I told you that it didn’t affect my biological children. I know that our decision to take in four extra children, means that we don’t travel as much, we have less money, we have more laundry and mess. It means that both parents work full-time and mom doesn’t get to go on the field trips and see every awards assembly. It’s rolling up in an old Suburban and being part of a family that is stared at in public. It also means that you can’t join every team or club, and your socks will probably never match. Adopting special needs siblings says that mom and dad have spent all their PTO for doctor visits and hospital stays. It means knowing how to set up your sister’s feeding tube and changing the diaper of your 5 year old brother.
It has cost my biological children their innocence as they have seen the pictures of dying children in their brother’s orphanage and watched their mother cry as she related what she saw and heard. They have watched a parade of foster children stream through our home and cried when each child left. My children have opened their hearts and loved each foster as a brother or a sister. They have touched the scars that their brother bears from the medical neglect and see the trauma in his tears. They will never be blind to the realities of orphans in our world and sometimes I fear the knowledge was learned too early. But, maybe this cost was good. Maybe our children need to understand the hardships and pain in life in order to appreciate the beauty. Maybe compassion cannot be taught as a Sunday School lesson, but instead must be lived out everyday. Yes, adoption has cost our children their naivety, their time and their hearts, because they have chosen to love their brothers and sisters despite the cost.
It cost me my innocence -I walked into that orphanage and thought I could absolutely handle anything I saw. In my naivety, I thought that foster care and working in the ICU had prepared me for almost anything. I had touched death, I had held grieving families, I had cared for babies with stories of horrible abuse…, but I had never walked into such darkness. And my experience was unlike many others for I was granted access to the back, and it is something that profoundly changed me to the core. In many ways, I wish I wasn’t given such privilege for this was at a great cost. And yes, it gave me greater insight into what my son had lived, but it also is something I will never forget or get over. I left the orphanage that day shattered and I will never live another day without thoughts of the children I left behind. Children left to die, tossed away and forgotten.
It extracted a price from my marriage. Our marriage has seen some of the toughest and saddest moments. One moment stands out in my heart. We had picked up Israel from the orphanage and he was now our son. By the time we reached the hotel, he was drenched in urine and fear-laced sweat. Israel’s teeth were brown, his breath was rot, and his eyes were wild. He started screaming non-stop in the hotel room, and after the longest hour of my life, he finally fell into an exhausted sleep. It was 2 am and Darren was sleeping, so I went into the bathroom and sat on the floor, and I wept. And in a moment of sheer terror and panic, I began planning how I could get out of this. All I could see was a broken, smelly, shrieking child and I was terrified of this decision. My husband walked into the bathroom at 2am, scooped me off the floor and began praying over me. He pressed Jesus deeply into the center of my fears and whispered in my ear. I don’t even remember what he said, I just know that I felt a profound peace at that moment. Darren was pressing Jesus and himself into the gap of my fears. In my absolute most selfish moment, my husband stood in the gap.
Adoption has revealed my deepest weaknesses and most ugly self to my spouse. It exposes me in ways that I would never have been able to share had we not walked this path. It has forced me to drop my mask of performance and perfection, and share my wounded and weak self. And in spite of our weaknesses and wounded selves, we both know that we love each other as a choice everyday. Darren and I have experienced moments together that cut to our core. We have wept together as we stroked the hands of our dying foster daughter lying in a hospital bed. Our hearts have been broken as we packed the belongings and transitioned home two siblings who had lived with us for over a year. We have wept tears of joy as we adopted each of our children. We have cried out in joy as God showed up in the final moments in situations that were hopeless. Adoption has exposed every crack and crevice in our marriage, and this has allowed us to see Jesus more clearly because of it. Adoption cost me the marriage that I thought I would have, and I consider it worth the price.
To ask cost, is to weigh value. When we think about cost, we are actually thinking about value. I think that when you attach a name and a face to an adoption, price becomes irrelevant, and value is immeasurable. We were desperately afraid of the financial burden of Israel’s adoption, and I will tell you that the money spent is not the real cost. And I think if you have read this far and you are thinking about adoption, maybe the better question is, “Can I afford not to do this?” Because the reality is that what we will lose by adopting is nothing compared to what these children will gain. And the cost that adoption has exacted from our family is something we would willingly pay again. So when you ask, “What did your adoptions cost?” I will tell you, it cost us everything. It cost us sleep, time, money, tears, and career. But looking at our family, I realize that it would have been far more costly to walk away.
Luke 14:27-28 “And whosoever does not bear his cross, and come after Me, cannot be My disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, sits not down first, and COUNTS THE COST, whether he have sufficient to finish it?”