Our little family isn't exactly traditional. Then again, maybe we are. Yesterday it was announced that Sandra Bullock adopted a beautiful 3-year-old little girl, Laila, who joins 5-year-old brother, Louis. I loved browsing the pictures online and smiling at how similar our families look. My son and daughter are the same ages as her children, and our family is also “...blended and diverse, nutty, and loving and understanding,” as Sandra says. But my favorite quote from one of the many articles written about the Bullock family was when she described what she feels a traditional family really looks like:
If a traditional home is one that is filled with lots of love and poop jokes, no sleep, schedule books filled with more kids' social events than adults' and lots of yelling over who touched who first ... then I have a very traditional family.
People adopt for various reasons. Some feel called to do something about the number of foster children living in the United States. Others have traveled to another country for service projects and come back with their hearts tugged toward helping dissolve the global orphan crisis. For others it's simply the way they always envisioned creating their families. For us, it was simple: we wanted children desperately and foster care and adoption was the only way that could happen.
My husband and I struggled with infertility for a couple years, suffering two miscarriages and months of invasive testing, before the devastating phone call came the week before Christmas 2007 informing us we are unable to have biological children. My dreams of motherhood seemed to be shattered in that moment, but after taking some time to process our grief we realized that our plans for children hadn't been stolen, they just looked a little different than we first expected.
What followed was a long, winding path to our children. We spent time as foster parents — bringing twin boys into our home, loving them with our whole hearts, and grieving deeply when they left. Then, in the fall of 2009, we started the paperwork to adopt internationally. There were bumps in the road, unexpected changes, and a lot of waiting, but in January 2011 our son, Mareto, was placed in our arms.
In that moment all of my dreams came true.
Shortly after Mareto's first birthday (and only about eight months after he came home), I turned to my husband one evening and softly said, "I want to adopt again. I want another child." He smiled and said, "Me too." And off we went on another journey of twists and turns that ultimately ended in a tiny room full of cribs in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. As I scooped my daughter, Arsema, out of her crib and into my arms, my heart swelled, and our family had a wonderful feeling of completion for the first time.
When we brought Arsema home in October 2012, our son fell in love as quickly as we did. He was just 2 years old, and when we put her to bed he sat in the hall with his face pressed up against the closed door crying for his baby. Their bond and relationship has remained strong ever since. Sure, they bicker like all siblings, but mostly they love and stand up for one another. Arsema acts as Mareto's miniature mommy, and Mareto is her giant real-life teddy bear to snuggle and laugh with.
When asked why we adopted, the answer is simple: We wanted a family. Ten years ago, when we first started trying to have children, I never could have imagined the direction that journey would take, or the way our family would come together. But today I look at the two beautiful children I've been blessed with and I am overcome with gratitude.
My home, my heart, and my cup runneth over.
Adoption has made family possible for each of us. It's meant my son and daughter have a mommy and a daddy to tuck them in at night, to kiss their boo-boos, to read them books, to snuggle on the couch, to laugh at their silly stories, and to encourage them in their hopes and dreams. It's meant that I get to be a mommy, and my husband gets to be a daddy.
I don't know why we went through the pain of infertility and miscarriages, but I can tell you that today I am grateful for that heartache. It led us to adoption and to the two children I know we were supposed to be with all along. I don't know why my children went through the loss and trauma they did in the first months of their lives. I wish I could take that pain away for them. But I can tell you that I am so grateful we get to be the ones to love them today and to walk with them through the hard things as well as the best moments life has for us.
Images Courtesy of Lauren Casper (4)