I volunteered to interview another adoptive parent, and I had the good fortune to meet Ms. 20Stuff who happened to have a friend who ran an orphanage in China…and the rest is history! She has an amazing family, that is sure to grow even larger!
1) Could you please let the readers know your underlying reasons for wanting to adopt, and why you specifically chose China.
We weren’t actually planning to adopt and didn’t have either any noble or heartbreaking reasons for wanting to adopting. We had been students preparing for a future of teaching at a university level and were “too busy” for kids. But a lifelong friend of my parents who runs an orphanage in Taiwan knew we were nearing our forties and still childless, and he persuaded us that we should apply for adoption. We did not know at the time that this small, private, government-approved orphanage only accepts about one in every thirty applications, or we would probably have been far more intimidated about starting the process! But we did start, somewhat reluctantly, and we stated in our application that we would take a child “with problems.” Apparently that willingness pushed us fairly high on the list, because only six months later and just two weeks after we’d moved to a different state for my husband to start his doctoral program, we received word about a five-week-old baby girl who was missing her left ear. We agreed to adopt her, then eagerly awaited photos! And less than six months later, just two days after Christmas (2007), we were in Taiwan and our precious little Pumpkin was in our arms.
We knew right away that we wanted a sibling for Pumpkin. I wanted a sister for her, but our orphanage director urged us to consider a boy, and I am so thankful he did. Two years later we were able to adopt ten-month-old Slick from this same orphanage, and he has been such a joy to us.
The first four or five months were not at all joyful to us, though — we were completely unprepared for Pumpkin’s over-the-top jealousy of Slick or for his waking up and crying once every two hours throughout the night. Crazy daughter during the day, crazy son during the night! It was a miserable time, and I felt that we had ruined our family by trying to have two children.
Just the same, in August of 2010, about five months after Slick came home, I happened to see two referral photos of Sunshine, a six-year-old girl with Cerebral Palsy in China, on another adoptive mom’s blog, along with Sunshine’s story and a plea for someone to come forward and become this child’s family. I couldn’t help myself! I loved her and wanted to be her mother. I prayed for three months, and then at the end of October, my husband very unexpectedly said, “You know, our home study is going to expire — we should look at some agencies if we want to adopt again.” I told him about Sunshine, and we began her adoption the next day.
Then in August of 2011, our agency told us about Joy, a chronically ill 13-year-old girl about to “age out” of China’s orphan care system in just four weeks. I said I would advocate for her online and did so on our blog and Facebook, but no one came forward for her, so I asked if we could adopt her. Mr. 20Stuff then conducted a Hague-convention adoption in just three weeks! Oh. My. Word. Adoption of a special needs international child usually takes about a year, but through God’s mercy, the intervention of everyone from our adoption agencies to government offices on both sides of the water, and my husband’s heroic efforts, that adoption was completed in three weeks. I am still amazed! And did I mentioned that God provided every last dollar needed for Joy’s adoption? Even the airfare and hotel costs — everything came in within three days.
Mr.20Stuff flew to China without knowing whether he was bringing home one daughter or two, but within just a few days, we rejoiced to learn that we would be bringing home two daughters, Sunshine and Joy. But within four days, Joy had become very angry about the adoption (imagine your child at 14 being taken away from everything she had ever known and sent to live with strangers from a different race and language far away from her own country). She raged and grieved and dug in for what was clearly going to be years and years of anger. I have no doubt even now that she was fully prepared to hate us for years. But I could see that she responded well and immediately to a particular type of personality in the women we knew at church, school, and elsewhere, and I saw that she was very intelligent and could be relaxed and happy and even sweet-spirited. As our home life fell apart around her misery, I began to imagine a “second chance” for her, a home with a mom who had that particular personality type that was so able to connect with Joy. Through one of our blog readers, God provided a second family for her after seven months in our home. She is now doing very well in her new home, and our younger three children are relaxing and returning to their “real” selves in her absence.
That’s our adoption story in a nutshell. 🙂 We do hope to adopt one or maybe two more, another boy and maybe a girl, but for now we are recovering from Joy’s time in our home and are content with just three children.
2) How did you feel in that airport as you were waiting for your husband to get off the plane from China?
I felt quite apprehensive, because at that point I was well aware that Joy was bitterly unhappy about her adoption, and I wondered what on earth we were doing to our family. Still, I was convinced that this adoption was God’s will — He had shown us in multiple ways — and I still believe that. Joy’s second family could not have adopted her when she was in China and “aging out,” but they could adopt her once she arrived and had received citizenship and so forth. They are very, very clearly the right family for her. Of that I have no doubt at all. She has been in her new family for five or six months, now, and is happy and learning to be loved.
3) Your children are amazed at the microwave and watch it go ’round and ’round. What other American “inventions” have they found fascinating?
Yes, that was such a funny thing. Both Joy and Sunshine would stand and watch the microwave table turn. And it was through the microwave that we began to get a sense for Sunshine’s enthusiastic response to life. One day as I was setting the dining room table, I heard our little Sunshine shouting as she stood by the microwave, “Mommy! Mommy! Hot dog — BOOM!” She didn’t know how else to tell me that the hot dog had exploded in the microwave.
I think what has most amazed Sunshine has been the water park at the zoo. I have never seen a more grateful child in my life. She was utterly thrilled and thanked us over and over again for taking her.
4) You mentioned in your blog that while shopping, buying additional clothes was beyond your financial [capability] at the time. I think one thing readers may not realize, unless they have adopted themselves, that there is an enormous financial cost to adoption before you even start the financial cost of raising these kiddos who, in your case, have disabilities. Could you expand generally on this?
Yes, good grief! The “start up” costs for bringing in an older child are every bit as expensive as bringing in an infant: bed, bedding, dresser, clothing, shoes, books, toys, backpacks, etc., etc., etc.. In Joy and Sunshine’s first seven months with us, we spent about $10,000 in out-of-pocket medical expenses. Each girl had nearly two dozen medical appointments a piece, which included specialists of various kinds and a surgery for each of them. We were living on a single income, just my salary as a full-time lecturer at a university while my husband worked on his doctoral program (he’s in the dissertation phase), and we hadn’t done any fund-raising for the after-adoption expenses (very few families do), so it has been a tough year financially. Yes, adoptive families do struggle with the after-adoption expenses.
5) What things have you done with your family that have been the most fun and least stressful?
Our children have especially enjoyed activities that we do together: taking walks, craft-time, going to the library, and so forth. This summer after Joy left, we were able to take Pumpkin, Slick, and Sunshine to the zoo and the water park on two occasions and this fall to a children’s museum, and they were thrilled with everything. They do have some physical, emotional, and behavioral challenges: cerebral palsy, severe astigmatism, hearing loss, Fetal Alcohol Effects, low muscle tone, poor articulation of speech, anxious attachment, sensory integration issues, etc., so time away from home can be challenging for them and for us. We are also unemployed right now while Mr. 20Stuff is working on his dissertation and I am staying home with our son, so family entertainment that requires admission fees or so forth can be a stretch for us. But God has provided for us, and we enjoy taking the kids places that delight and stimulate them.
Thank you, 5kidswithdisabilities, for interviewing us here at 20Stuff! We have not ever told our full story here on this blog, so it was fun to attempt to “write it in a nutshell.”
Thank you Ms. 20Stuff! It was nice to “meet” your amazing family! If anyone would like to get to know them more, the link to their blog is http://20stuff.blogspot.com
To read more interviews of other adoption bloggers, go to http://www.productionnotreproduction.com/2012/11/adoption-blogger-interview-project.html