Helping Families through the Adoption Process through Experience- We have five!
The road to adoption can be a long and bumpy one but with the right persistence and resources it can happen, We should know, we’ve adopted five times. The genesis of our family began with the birth of our first daughter on February 25, 1977. Our lives have been an unfolding of rich tales of struggles and triumphs of adoption ever since.
This was no “normal” birth of a child! You see, her birth-mother gave birth to our daughter in a cold, tiny clinic in Mexicali, Mexico. She was handed to my wife after “the clean-up” and thus began the story. Little did we know at that moment, or for years to come, that this particular “birth of a child” happening would be the beginning of what later would be known as Family By Design, Inc. The next 34 years have been quite an adventure to say the least!
Just imagine, if you will, the following scenario…
The cold clinic, the birth-mother, the adoptive parents, (one a Mexican citizen, one an American) baby born in Mexico, orphanages in Mexico filled with “children waiting”, Mexican law concerning Americans’ adopting, judges in Mexico, freezing cold weather, U.S. immigration, crossing the border, a Ford Pinto driving 1000 miles home to Oregon…all in the first 6 days of a child’s life!
The first six days were “aging” for us , the next 6 months were life-giving. Our home, with new life in it, brought the happiness that all parents experience. For the most part, everything we parents experience can all be boiled down to pure joy…even the sleepless nights, the first cold, colic, changing diapers, teething, and all the other demands …and our first was truly an easy baby, sleeping through the night at 3 months, etc.
Then along came our first son, a beautiful boy of Bahamian and American Indian heritage. He arrived from Pasco, Washington nine months after the birth of our daughter, and boy, did he ever arrive in a bundle of fury! By the time he arrived he had already been with three foster families. But now he could, from this moment on, have permanence, unconditional love, safety and security….at least from one of his new parents.
You see, it was never discussed, no one ever shared with us the difficulties ahead raising a child from an alcoholic parent. Fetal alcohol brings with it challenges far beyond normal child rearing! Add to this the inexperience, the fatigue, and the lack of knowledge of most young parents, and you have a possible formula for disaster!
The next six years turned out to be not all bad, but definitely not all good. Raising two children only six months apart was full of surprises. From the dad’s perspective they were good surprises. From the mother’s perspective…it was more than she could handle. So, behind the scenes there was a “mostly hidden” life of neglect and emotional abuse regarding the son that came to a boiling point in May, 1983.
Tired of her life as a mother of two, she took the easy way out…left at 4 A.M. with the easy child and left the “problem child” with the dad, and returned to San Diego. She left her son consumed with questions about why, crying himself to sleep wondering if he’d ever be with his mom…and sister…again. With both dad and son reeling from her impulsive decision to bail from actually “both” of her problems, she took her “angel” and ran away to begin a new life.
With us, father and son, desperate to be reunited with our entire family, we packed up the U-Haul and followed our loved ones to San Diego to no avail. We were forced to start our new life together with weekend visits from my daughter. The adjustment to this new life took its toll on everyone. The son rejected, the daughter torn from her father and brother, the father desperately trying to survive and provide what he could for his children. Life was bleak to say the least.
Then, within less than a year, there was finally some hope! I met an extraordinary woman who would eventually become my wife and step into the role of mother. You see, as a result of the neglect and abuse my son had received from his adoptive mom, I had obtained custody of my son, uncontested, to ensure his safety and security. This new woman, a blessing sent by God, stepped into the role of “mom” even before our marriage. She has been there for my son with incredible love and devotion for the last 28 years…never shirking her duties as his mom no matter what serious challenges laid ahead…and there were many! It took almost 6 years to stabilize this new family of three with weekend visits from my daughter. During this time of adjustment, the family grew stronger and stronger, and we finally got to the point where we could consider “adding” to the family. Oh yeah!
We started the joyous process of finding a baby, being present at his birth, taking him home and loving him for two months only to be told the birth mom had changed her mind. This devastating event took over a year in which to recover.
A year later the phone rang one Saturday morning. It was an attorney in a panic stating that he had a birthmother due in a month who needed to find a home for her mixed race baby. (He had heard that we were searching for an African-American child through an adoption agency /attorney network.) We met with him three hours later, met with the birth-mom and her toddler during that time, and decided we were open and ready for the possibility here. Much depended on whether the birthmother felt comfortable with our parenting style and attributes. Once she observed how her toddler took to these “strangers”, she was on board! Through unusual circumstances, she moved into our home with her two year old daughter and stayed with us until our son was born. My wife ended up being the birth coach and was handed our son the moment he arrived. My older son and I were out of the country in the Dominican Republic on a mission trip during the birth (This is another story in itself!)
This family of four was now a family of five! And what a family we became! Life was filled with adventure…grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, work, school, vacations, sports, beach days, surfing, and church…no abuse, no neglect! It was a wonderful, though not always smooth, life….and time to consider adding to the family when the youngest was seven years old.
With an international adoption, an interstate adoption, and a private adoption already experienced, why not try a county adoption? And that’s what happened. The word got out that we were looking, and someone in our social circles heard of a possibility and let us know about it. The only thing was…it was not one child needing a home but two sibling sisters! Older, four and five years old…and oh my, we did hesitate until we met them at a park. It was love at first sight. Even so, we prayed over this possible adoption, wanting to be in God’s will, not wanting to cause any damage to the girls or the family we had already created if this was not right for everyone involved. With a foster care license very current, these precious children were in our home within thirty days and within six months they were ours! We have never looked back!
Currently our children are 35, 34, 20, 18, and 17 years old, and we have a wonderful, “never a dull moment” kind of life! We have experienced the challenges of raising children born with fetal alcohol, drugs in their system, of mixed race, older children, emotional struggles due to past neglect and abuse, identity crises, feelings of jealousy, anger, rejection, fear, sadness, and unanswered questions about the past. But we have also experienced unconditional love, joy, humor, fun, security, and the blessings of a supportive extended family, holidays, vacations, private schooling, sports, friends for life, etc. And during it all, our children have always had a safe, loving, warm home to come to, no matter what!