I believe in the power of adoption to create and shape a family.
My husband and I were married in 1981. We both came from large families, and we both wanted children. For several years following our marriage, I tried to get pregnant. When that didn’t work, we turned to adoption. Another five years passed, during which time my sister and brothers seemed to spawn children at will. But finally we had a child – a beautiful, 9-month old baby boy, born in El Salvador. Five years later, we adopted a second beautiful boy – an 8-month old born in Guatemala.
Through adoption, we have created a family. My children are as close as two brothers could be. The 16-year-old schools his younger brother in the mysterious ways of teenagers. The 11-year-old defends his older brother’s passion for ballet to anyone who dares to make fun of “boy” dancers.
My children are also close to me. I can’t imagine any child who could understand me better than my 16-year-old son, who knows just what to say to lift my spirits; nor can I imagine any child who could push my buttons – while at the same time make me laugh – like my 11-year-old. But when I see my two sons with my mother, I know how special my family is.
My mother suffers from Alzheimer’s and is living out her life in a wheelchair in a nursing home. She is in a unit with people who can seem pretty scary to the uninitiated. My mother can seem pretty scary too. But my sons visit their grandmother without complaint, they hug her and talk to her, they play piano and sing songs for her, they brush her hair, and they tell her they love her. They brighten a moment for her, even though she doesn’t remember that moment for very long.
Despite her illness, my mother can be remarkably lucid and unsparingly insightful at times. She recently told me that I taught our family how to love. But I would say that my children taught me how to love. They showed me that a loving, caring family can be built in many ways, and that family does not depend on biology. I once overheard my children talking about their future families. My younger son, then 5 years old, asked his brother: “When you get married, are you going to adopt children or birth them?” My older son, then 10, thought for a moment before replying: “Adopt them.” The 5-year-old was satisfied and said “Me too. I don’t want my wife to go through all the pain of birthing.”
I am thankful everyday for these two remarkable children, who have enriched the lives of so many. I believe in the power of adoption to wipe away the agony of infertility, to open us up to new experiences, and to touch our hearts in unpredictable ways.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.