Why Adopting First Worked Best For Us
It was our first date, and perhaps I was a tad bit over ambitious. Both of us, barely twenty, sat across from each other at the restaurant table nervously trying to impress the other with stories of how cool we thought we were in high school. I liked this guy. A lot. He was everything I had been praying for. Don’t mess this up, I kept saying to myself. And then it happened. Without even thinking I said it and then embraced myself for rejection.
“When I get older I am going to adopt from Haiti,” I told him as I reached across the table for more bread. “Preferably twice actually. So if we are going to keep dating I just need you to know that.”
My date went silent. Dumbfounded I’m sure. My cheeks burned red. Stupid me. What had I just done? Was that really a necessary first date thing to say?
“Um, okay,” he said only half believing me.
I quickly changed the subject and the date when on. I guess it went well because two summers later the same guy proposed to me in Haiti and then the following summer we were married.
As newly weds Hunter and I often dreamt about what our futures may look like. Normally our dreams included jobs we loved, a farmhouse with a wrap about porch (think The Notebook), and beautiful children. Four to be exact. With our growing love for Haiti, we both felt called to adoption. But in our dreams, that step always came last- after steady jobs, after the wrap around porch, and after biological children.
Life would take us on another path, however. As most of you know, we ended up moving to Haiti long before our dream careers had the chance to develop and before we ever had enough saved up for a house. And shortly after we became parents to two older children (Nalandson and Dalencia) through adoption long before I would become pregnant with our youngest son.
Choosing to adopt before having biological children was never what Hunter and I intended. Following the example of other families who had adopted, adopting first seemed unconventional. Still, it is what we chose to do and we were blessed for it. Although I do not wish to propose that this is the best way to go about adoption, I would like to share three reasons why this model worked best for our family. Adoption comes in all shapes and sizes and what fits best varies by family and child. But in our case, with our children, adopting first was the best choice. Here’s why:
Adopting first meant our adoptive children had our undivided attention. No matter what their age or background, children entering a new family for the first time need special love and a special attention. All children need love, but children who have been adopted need love of a special kind. They need love that is patient when they don’t know how to love back; love that is unconditional when they doubt your commitment to them; love that is strong enough to handle their hurt and backlash; and love that is wise enough to walk through their questions of identity and belonging. Bringing our two oldest children into our home without the distraction of other children, we were able to focus solely on their needs. We could focus on them and their individual ways of bonding with us as their new parents without having to share our time with other children in the home. I know there are positives of having biological children in the house prior to adoption. Having siblings there to model how to be a part of the family would be just one example. But in our case, especially with two older children who grew up in an orphanage and floated around from one home to another for years, adopting first gave us the allowance to give them the loving attention both of them so desperately needed.
Adopting first set us free from the fear of comparison. I hesitate even saying this because I don’t want it to be true. Nevertheless it is. We, as parents, compare. It’s just in our nature. We compare ourselves to other parents. Our kids to other kids. Even amongst our own children we compare their abilities, their mannerisms, and their roles in our families. If we aren’t careful, though, comparing can become a dangerous habit that can lead to much dissatisfaction. And it was the temptation of comparison that made me so hesitant to have biological children after adoption. I was scared of having a baby and feeling a different kind of bond with them than I did with my adoptive children. I was scared my oldest children would compare themselves to a child of my own flesh and blood, that they might feel less than. I was scared I would begin to compare the ease of raising a child without abandonment issues with a biological child who didn’t. For a few years I had even decided I would never have biological children in attempts to avoid such comparisons. Finally, though, we did decide to have a biological child. By that time both Nalandson and Dalencia had been a part of our family for years and were mature enough and confident enough with their identity to welcome a sibling into the world, especially one that did not look like them. And Hunter and I were also mature enough parents to finally let go of our fear and cope with whatever comparisons might be ahead.
Adopting first allowed our adoptive children to be big siblings to our biological child. The day my youngest son Jake entered the world was one of the most joyous days I have ever experienced. Joyous not only because I had survived natural childbirth in a third world country or that I had met my new son who I, myself, had made, but because my adoptive children became big siblings. Watching them meet their new brother for the first time with such pride and excitement melted my heart as a mother. They took to their responsibilities as big brother and big sister like naturals. Sure, Jake’s birth brought up a lot of questions. Nalandson and Dalencia all of a sudden longed for us to have the ability to reminisce about their birth stories. They wanted their baby pictures that don’t exist. They wanted to know what their first words were, which is something we will never know. Then one day, I caught Nalandson sitting by Jake’s swing, starring at him intensely as he slept. “Mom,” he whispered. “I know people say he looks like you, but I think he looks like me”. I smiled, amazed that he could see past their obvious physical differences. Kneeling beside him I held his hand and joined him in the starring. “I think you are right,” I said. “He looks just like you, especially when he sleeps.”
I love all my children, fully and equally. Saying our family prayers before bedtime, we always thank God for putting us together. We all are different, but somehow we all fit together.
Adoption is beautiful. Giving birth is beautiful. And both can create beautiful families no matter what their order. But for me, I am so thankful God paved the way for us to adopt first.
If you are an adoptive parent, I’d love to hear from you. In what order did you adopt and how has that been a blessing/challenge to you family? What advice do you have for future families interested in adoption?