One family decides to start over when their birth children left the nest.
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Starting Over When the Nest Empties
The Decision to Adopt
Howard and I married shortly after we graduated from high school. Our son, Forrest, was born to us within 2 years of our marriage. Five years later our daughter Toni was born. My husband and I were each married to our best friend. We had a young son and an infant daughter. We felt our lives were complete and we were living our dream!
It seems that before any time had passed, Forrest was starting school. Then before we knew it, he was preparing to graduate from high school and Toni was following close behind. We began joking with the children about how we were going to enjoy our time together after they moved on. As we joked, we knew that we really would enjoy our empty-nest years since we had somehow managed to raise our children and remain friends.
However, while we talked about our plans for our future, I began to feel that even though I was looking forward to some time devoted to myself and my husband, I was also going to miss having a child in our home. I came to realize something about myself: I truly, with all my being, enjoy being a mother. I told Howard how I felt and he totally agreed. We could and would enjoy our solitary time together, but we would enjoy our time together more with another little one holding our hand as we continued our walk through life. As we talked, the dream of another child grew. Our teen children got in on the discussion and told us that they would totally support us in our decision to adopt. With our children’s blessing, we began researching adoption.
|Why Adopt from China|
For entirely personal reasons, we decided to pursue international adoption, with our country of choice being China. I have been asked many times “Why China?” There is no logical reason for our choice. We knew little or nothing of China when we began our journey. I just believed that there was a little girl there who was destined to be our child. My heart led me to China. It’s as simple that.
| Explaining International Adoption to Our Community|
Bringing a child of a different nationality into our community caused us some concern. We live in a small, almost exclusively Caucasian, rural community. Adoption is rare in our area, and international adoption was totally unheard of! How would others react to our new child? Would she be accepted or would she always feel that she was an outsider? We had to face the realities of what we might encounter when she came home. As we explored the various scenarios concerning others’ reactions, we knew that protecting our child was our top priority.
Early on in the process, we realized that many of our friends truly didn’t understand the need that drove us to adopt a child. We started a yahoo group and invited friends to join and follow along as we journeyed onward to our Halli. That group has been so good for our family and for our community! As people read our postings while we waited for Halli and as we traveled to bring her home, they began to feel as if they were active participants in our journey. Our friends eagerly awaited our referral announcement. When we announced the referral of our precious 9-month-old baby girl, everyone wanted to see photos. Friends who worked in various businesses in our small community requested photos, so they could show off “our baby.”
The community followed along by email as we embarked on our big adventure to bring our baby home. As our friends read the accounts of our trip, they began to realize that adoption isn’t necessarily the “easy way” to bring a child into a family. They read our accounts of how utterly exhausted we were after the long plane flights. They read our accounts of how this precious child mourned the loss of her caregivers. They cheered as Halli began to open up to her new family. By the time Halli came home, she was a full-fledged member of the community. We were so thankful to discover that our fears about her acceptance were totally unfounded.
| Halli’s Adjustment Once Home|
Halli’s adjustment when she came home wasn’t an easy one. She came to us with what seemed to be the cares of the world on her shoulders. She didn’t want to be in a crowd, and she became totally terrified if anyone tried to get too close to her. The community’s way of reacting to Halli’s fears has been overwhelming to me. We have friends who worked for over a year to gain Halli’s acceptance. I thought they would all just give up and ignore her. They didn’t. Halli was special to them, and they wanted to make sure she knew how special she was. They came and talked with her, always respecting that she required a certain distance be kept. Our friends rejoiced as Halli began to open up and accept their love and attention.
We had been so focused on our community’s reaction to Halli, that we had failed to make plans about how to handle things if Halli didn’t react well to the community. I went into the adoption knowing that I would need to keep Halli at home and with minimum stress for a few weeks. But, those weeks turned into months, the months turned into over a year that Halli’s personality required special handling. Her personality blossomed when we stayed at home and kept to a routine. She would fall apart if this pattern was disrupted. When I did take Halli out, I could count on her sleeping fitfully and needing a major amount of my time and attention for several days.
We had to restirct significantly our family life to accomodate her needs and the one who paid the greatest price for this was her big sister Toni. Because Halli could take going out in crowds, I missed many of Toni’s school activities as I stayed home and cared for Halli. Toni basically lost her mother’s attention for her entire junior year in high school. This was very hard for her and for me.
Toni loved her little sister dearly, but her dream of having a happy, outgoing little sister to follow her around during her last years of school wasn’t realized. Toni would have loved to have Halli at her school functions. She so wanted Halli to like her friends and wanted her friends to like Halli. Halli worshiped Toni, but she just couldn’t relax enough to enjoy Toni’s friends. I worried that this situatin would cause resentment, but although Toni was sad that she didn’t have the picture-perfect final years of school she had dreamed of, she realized Halli’s emotional need was real. She loved her little sister through those tough times. I think the need to be so protective of Halli has strengthened the love the two sisters now share.
As Halli slowly adjusted to her new life, we began discussing the need for a little sister. We didn’t want Halli to grow up as the only child in our home. We felt it was important that she have a sibling who shared her birth culture and her distinctive dark-haired, brown-eyed looks in her blonde-haired, blue-eyed family. We began the process to bring a little sister home. Our Natalie came home when Halli turned 3. Toni graduated high school in a matter of weeks after Natalie arrived.
We quickly realized that adopting Natalie was the best gift we could ever give Halli. Natalie came home with a smile and an eagerness to experience everything life has to offer. Obviously, the girls are exact opposites in personality. They are also perfect for one another! Natalie leads Halli headlong into mischief, and Halli makes sure they do everything with caution.
|Integrating our First and Second Family|
Forrest had already left home and begun college when Halli came into our lives. Her quiet little personality required that her big brother work a little harder to gain her trust. He made the effort to come home more often than he normally would to ensure that she formed a bond with him. His efforts have paid off quite well. Both Halli and Natalie cheer when I announce that Forrest and his wife or Toni will be coming home. Our older children have always been comfortable getting down on their smaller siblings’ level to play. Halli and Natalie don’t think of them as their grown siblings. To the girls, my older children are simply “the kids.” The older children have firmly planted themselves into the girls’ lives. As a mother, some of my most cherished memories are of my big kids blowing bubbles with the girls, having tea parties and enjoying childhood once again as their sisters lead them around by their heartstrings.
We’re now in the process of bringing home our 3rd adopted daughter. Our friends are once again questioning if we really know what we’re getting ourselves into. As our friends quietly question our sanity in their minds, I reach down for a little girl’s trusting hand and thank the Lord for the privilege of having a little hand to hold as I journey on.
--Kim and Howard
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