Article  Marriage and Family  Adoption

The sacrifice in adoption that I didn’t plan for

Counting the cost for our children

A little over two years ago, my husband and I decided it was finally time to start the adoption process. We had always thought we would wait until our 4-year-old started kindergarten to start any adoption talks, but knowing the amount of time adoption typically takes, we decided we were safe to go ahead and start the process. 

Adoption has always been a part of our plan. But much of “our plan” had already been uprooted through unexpected, though positive, job changes and the births of our three biological children. 

So, we started our adoption journey September 2017, sure of the fact that it would take at least a few years to complete. By September 2018, however, we were walking into an Indian orphanage to meet our son for the first time and bring him home.

Over the year leading up to traveling to India, we filled out mounds of paperwork, sat through conferences, and read books; we were fingerprinted, had multiple background checks, saved and spent a ton of money, and prayed endless prayers. Our agency did a wonderful job of walking us through every step of the process and educating us on the realities of adoption including, but not limited to, trauma and attachment. I felt confident in the strategies I had learned to help facilitate attachment with our son. Was there sacrifice involved? Of course. All of it, though hard, was still expected.

The surprise sacrifice 

There was, however, sacrifice that did surprise me. Every time we added a new child to our family, we made sure to prepare the other sibling(s) as best we could. We talked and educated our three “big” kids. We talked about some hard things that may happen and how their new brother would need extra attention because we had to make up for lost time. 

Our youngest daughter loved her new brother from day one. Even throughout the entire first year home, she played with and loved on him. There were rarely any signs of outward frustration or jealousy. But I was missing what was going on in her heart.

Within six months of our son being home, we started noticing some behaviors in our daughter that were quickly gaining intensity. She was lying frequently. As time went on, the lies increased and actions followed. She cut her hair. She blamed her older sister for things she had done. She constantly complained of a tummy ache and began dreading school. She began having trouble sleeping and became incredibly clingy to me. My husband and I had been talking with our case worker and even had her start seeing the school counselor on a weekly basis. Then, something happened that I would have never expected. 

Adoption is often referred to as a beautiful tragedy, and it is—for all involved. The tragedy of it is man-made, but the beauty of it is fully from God.

Our daughter was with family for the weekend and getting some much needed one-on-one attention. The second day, we received a phone call that she had taken an unknown amount of aspirin and was headed to the local ER. We had talked about safety with medicine, and I had never been concerned about her taking any without supervision.

Once at the hospital, she had a few X-rays, blood drawn several times, and an IV. We were eventually transported by ambulance to the closest children’s hospital. By the time we got there, she was doing better, and we were able to go home later that night.

This event terrified me and was the final straw. I immediately got in touch with our case worker and made an appointment to start Theraplay—a type of child and family therapy—with our agency’s trauma-informed family therapist. This was the best thing we could have done for our daughter. Over the next several months, we saw our therapist weekly as she helped our daughter unravel all the big feelings she had been keeping inside. She also equipped us with ways we could help our daughter work through her anger and jealousy in the day to day. 

I struggled greatly during this time. I had prepared myself for the sacrifices I knew I would have to make personally, maritally, and even professionally as I had transitioned to being a stay-at-home mom after 12 years of working outside the home. I had even prepared for the sacrifice my biological kids would have to make initially. But I had no idea that I would have to watch my sweet little girl struggle for months with questions of her worth and why God would allow her heart to hurt so badly.

I prayed frequently for guidance and healing, and worked hard to give all four of my kids what they needed. The sacrifice she was making on behalf of her brother having a home didn’t seem fair. It wasn’t fair that she was carrying the brunt of the hurt for something I had chosen.

A beautiful tragedy 

But God worked something beautiful amid the pain and struggle. He saved my sweet girl. He revealed himself to her and opened her eyes to her need for him. Through all the trials, struggles, and sacrifice, God was working. 

Adoption is often referred to as a beautiful tragedy, and it is—for all involved. The tragedy of it is man-made, but the beauty of it is fully from God. He used our adoption story to not only change the life of our precious baby boy, but he also used it to transform the life of our precious baby girl. 

I knew God would use my sacrifice to change my heart and draw me closer to him, but I had not been willing to let him do that with our children. Thank goodness he is the one in control, though. We still go to counseling once a month and have to work to give each of our kids what they need, but it is good work—work worth doing.

Would I do it again? Would I subject not only myself but my family to sacrifice in order to do that which the Lord has called us to? My answer is a cautious “yes”—a yes that will include “counting the cost” carefully and being more vigilant to care rightly for the ones he has entrusted to us. But it is also a joyful yes, knowing that I can trust in the Lord who sees, who is sovereign over all, and who deals with us kindly and lovingly. 

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