Our three year old has been going through the “why” stage for the past few months. You know that sweet, but annoyingly persistent stage of "why is the sky blue, why do dogs have fur, why is it called cinnamon, why, why, why?" And it doesn't seem to matter what the answer is, it’s always followed by another why until I just make up something so silly or exaggerated that he has to stop and think about it for a moment. You can’t get mad at him because it so evident that his “why” really means "That's interesting to me. Let's talk about that together. Tell me more, please?" I’m glad he wants to know more the world around him and he does seem to soak in the answers. Usually the conversation ends up with me saying “That’s just the way God planned it.”
Well, since there is nothing new to report about our adoption paperwork or our wait for a referral, this post will attempt to answer a few of our adoption "Whys". Mainly, I truly believe this was God’s plan for us all along.
Why a girl? Why adoption?
The first part is a no-brainer. When someone first learns of our adoption plans, they always say "Let me guess, you're adopting a girl!" But then, a few of them will ask us why we didn't just "go for a girl" since fertility has obviously not been a problem for us. Our oldest son was a honeymoon baby and he was only five when our 4th son was born. I prayed that our firstborn would be a son. Martin says I must have prayed a little too hard because we kept right on having boys. I never really got a chance to specifically pray for a girl because we didn't actually plan any of our other three pregnancies. By the time we found out we were expecting again, I figured it was a little too late to pray about the gender so we just asked for healthy. ;0)
Now, when our whole family is out together, for some reason complete strangers always want to ask us, "Where's the girl?", like we just left her at home or in the car or something. I have always just politely smiled or tried to say something witty, but then they feel compelled to follow-up with a "You poor thing" or a "Better you than me" comment. Let me just say for the record, my 4 boys are AWESOME. I love that they are so close in age because they are great friends. With an even number, 2 and 2, they each have a buddy. In fact, our two youngest are nick-named Pete and Repeat (which is not always a good thing because Pete has been known to get Repeat in a heap of trouble.) Oh it's a tremendous challenge at times, but I would not want it any other way. Still, truth be known, after giving birth to four boys in five years, I continued to long for another child, but only if I was guaranteed a little girl. Hmmm ... that’s where adoption comes into the picture.
This really wasn't the first time I thought about adoption. In the early nineties, when Martin and I first learned about the plight of baby girls being abandoned in China, we both expressed an interest in adopting a girl from China someday. Over our ten years of marriage we continued to discuss it ever so often but the timing was never right. For example, one afternoon when I was pregnant with our third son Nolan we attended the Circus in Nashville. There was a family sitting behind us with two beautiful girls adopted from China. While I was waiting for Preston and Garrett to ride an elephant, Martin was talking to that family and gathering information about the cost, agency, requirements, etc. He seemed really excited about the new tax breaks available for adoption. I remember thinking “let’s just get this child here first.” Then, even before Nolan's first birthday, we were surprised with little Liam. I can’t explain how I knew, but there was absolutely no doubt in my mind he would also be a boy.
It took us about three years after Liam was born to decide if we could really handle another child. When our friends came home with their baby girl from China in February 2007, it sparked our desire again. Once we realized that adoption was still something we both wanted to do, and had a “It’s now or never!” moment, we started looking at our options. We agreed that we wanted a healthy little girl, not a baby, but a child between the ages of two to three years old. We soon discovered that due to recent changes in China’s adoption laws we wouldn’t be eligible for the age we desired, mainly due to our age and number of biological children.
Why not Domestic?
I know there are tens of thousands of children in our country that need a loving family. But there are serious issues with domestic adoption in the United States, many of which I studied in law school. It is a long and scary process. The parents who are giving up the children wield a great deal of control over the outcome of the process, far beyond the point at which the adoption takes place. Many adoptions are “open” which means that the birth parents remain involved in the life of the child. That may work for many families, but I don’t think it would be good (too confusing) for our family. The scariest part is that it is not unheard of for birth parents to change their minds and courts have generally sided with these parents and returned children to them even after they have spent many years living with their families. Martin and I did not want to live under the cloud that we could possibly get a phone call one day that would result in our child being taken from us. We couldn’t put our boys through that either.
The other thing is that in the US prospective parents have to "sell" themselves to the birth mother. It’s like a huge competition with other prospective parents. If we don’t fit into a birth mother’s idea of a perfect family, whatever that may be, it could take years for someone to pick us. We thought about foster care, but didn’t think it would be fair to ask our kids already in the family to go through the uncertainty of adoption through the foster care system. International adoption comes with its own unique challenges, but it is a much better fit for our family.
When we started this adoption journey, Russia wasn’t even on my radar. After weeks of researching international adoption and various countries, I discovered many things about Russia that drew me toward it, including the mind-boggling number of orphaned children and the bleak future awaiting them.
There are so many children (over one million) in dire need of a family in Russia. After the fall of Soviet rule, the number of Russian orphans has grown sharply. Many Russian families are unable to provide for their children and leave them at baby hospitals or orphanages. Other children are placed in institutions because of parental neglect or criminal activity. I read one statistic that said, if not adopted, 9 out of 10 Russian orphans face a future of drug addiction, alcoholism, prostitution, prison, suicide.
I have read tons of blogs of other families who have already traveled to Russia and completed their adoptions and, through the descriptions of the care their child received, I realize that there are many, many very loving caregivers working in Russia’s orphanages doing the best they can with very little resources. Unfortunately, despite those caregivers’ best efforts, the orphan population too often suffers from the effects of poverty, injustice, indifference, brutality. They are never allowed the privilege of Russian citizenship, never able to attend institutions of higher learning, and forever shunned by the majority of the populace, most become prostitutes and or thieves, and most die very young. After much prayer and consideration, Martin and I both agreed that Russia was our choice. Thus, the Abraham Family Journey to Russia began.
When I think about all that, I can’t help but wonder how we can adopt just one?
Of course once we decided on Russia, the boys and I have become engrossed with all things Russian, including reading story books and books about Russian art & culture and its space program. We have studied the world map (did you know Russia has eleven time zones?) and even tried to learn to speak a little Russian. So imagine the dilemma when Martin and I were contacted by an agency in October and offered an invitation to travel to UKRAINE on December 15, 2007! Boy, did that throw us for a loop for about a day. Martin and I talked it over as a family and realized that the boys already had their hearts set on Russia … and so did we. So we politely declined the Ukraine appointment.
Our main WHY is because this is God’s plan for us and the reason he blessed us with four boys. Our daughter is waiting for us in Russia!