My husband and I have been together for over seven years, though we’ve been married less than a year. We dated for a very long time before getting engaged, and then had a long engagement as well. I think some part of our extended families didn’t fully believe that we were going to get married until we were leaving the courthouse, because the same day we said our vows we started hearing that infamous question for the first time in our relationship.
Now, I’ve always wanted kids. I come from a big family, and I’ve always loved taking care of my little cousins and younger siblings. I used to want at least three, but over the years I’ve decided that two would be more fitting. My husband on the other hand, never spent much time around kids, he wasn’t sure he wanted any when we first met! He spent time with some of my youngest cousins though, and they won him over.
Parents, cousins, aunties….they suddenly wanted to know when my husband and I were planning on getting pregnant, when they hadn’t even bothered to ask us if we wanted kids during out engagement. We of course had discussed children before we even got engaged, and knew exactly where we stood on the matter, so we didn’t think that our answer would garner such a polarized response, but boy howdy were we wrong!
For context, I come from a very complex, blended family. My birth mother hasn’t been in the picture since I was maybe 12 or 13, and during the time when my parents were going through a custody and divorce battle, my younger brother and I were fostered by the woman I am proud to call my mom. She had been a family friend for most of my childhood, and when it came out that my birth mother was abusive, the court allowed us to stay with her while they sorted everything out between my parents. Even after my dad got custody and we went back to him, my mom was a huge part of my life, making time to help me with school projects, taking me with her own children on vacations, even helping me go dress shopping and teaching me to do my hair.
She was adopted, and it was very important to her that my brother and I have someone we could turn to as a mother figure, so even though no one asked her to, she took on that role in our lives. I have an older sister, an older brother, and a younger brother through her. Maybe not legally, or by blood, but those three children of hers grew up with my brother and I, and they’re family in all the ways that matter. They’ve been there for me every time I need them, we’ve shared laughs and tears, and stupid jokes, and secrets. In my early twenties my dad remarried, and I got another brother.
One of my aunts has fostered for as long as I can remember, and her third oldest was adopted. My family raised me to believe that a child who was in need of love and a home is just as much your child as one who grew inside of you, once you take up the responsibility to provide for them, love them, guide them, and take them into your lives.
When I told my husband that I want to adopt, he agreed instantly. He knew how much it meant to me to give the same love and opportunities to a child that I had received in my life. I told him that I felt like this was God’s plan for me, that I had a unique experience which made me called to do this. We agreed that we would wait a few years for him to get established in his career, and then we would start the process.
Some of our family was thrilled to learn that we are planning on adopting. My mom was moved to tears to learn she’d inspired me in such a way. My dad and my father-in-law both just kind of nodded and said that was a fair decision. My cousins were quick to warn us that adoption is a costly and time consuming process. One aunt from my husbands side couldn’t stop talking about how the child won’t look like us. There were the invasive questions of “Will you tell them,” and “We’ll you’re going to get a baby, right? So they don’t know you aren’t their real parents?” The words “real parents” flew like bullets aimed straight at my heart. It felt like more than just a critique of our decision to adopt, but like commentary on my own upbringing, my mom’s upbringing, my siblings and cousins.
I tried to remind myself that they were curious, concerned, didn’t understand, and probably had a lot of misconceptions. My husband and I had researched the adoption process, talked to my aunt, and one of my cousins who was lucky enough to have finalized her own adoption and to have welcomed home her new daughter last year. Then I figured out the problem. My new mother-in-law felt like this was a personal attack on her. She thought I was depriving her of grandchildren. She’d heard all of the dramatized TV representations of families with adoptive children, where the child learns the parents lied to them, decides they hate their family, and run away from home to find their “real parents.” She told me about how if I did this, if I stole her son’s right and ability to father his won children that who ever we brought into our home wouldn’t love us, wouldn’t be grateful, and wouldn’t respect us. I realized, she wasn’t seeing this as us having a child, she saw it as helping out a stranger.
I understand her fear and concern. Her only experience with adoption has been through media. Her own daughter doesn’t want children, and so she feels like her son and I are her only chance to have grandkids. She’s bought into the idea that adoption is somehow less, that it’s a last resort for folks who can’t conceive or carry to term. When I tried to explain to her my own upbringing, my background and why this isn’t a last resort for me, but a first choice, she was hurt that I wasn’t accepting her advice. I didn’t mean to, but I only made the situation even more difficult. She jumped to point out that mine wasn’t a normal situation, and that my real dad had been there my entire life, so it wasn’t like I had even needed my mom to step in, because I wasn’t an orphan. She told me to let his be someone else’s cross to bear. That I didn’t need to willingly take on this challenge.
And that was it. She thought adoption was a greater challenge than biological children, instead of seeing it for what it is, a different kind of challenge.
Over the following months the topic became one that was avoided. Family stopped asking us about it, even those who were supportive and excited, because they didn’t want to start arguments. When friends who hadn’t heard asked, someone would be quick to jump in and supply the answer for us that we had decided to wait a few years, and it was left at that. My husband confided in me that his mother had asked on several occasions for him to “talk to me” about this, which we both knew meant she expected him to talk me out of the decision we had made together.
It was hard. The strong opposition had me questioning my decision. I asked my husband to be honest and open with me about if he would prefer to have children who are biologically ours. He didn’t even hesitate when he told me no. He assured me that he wanted this as much as me, or else he wouldn’t have agreed in the first place. He said that if we left it be long enough his mom would think we’d changed our minds, and that then she’ll meet her grandchild, and it won’t matter.
It’s still hard. But I’ve accepted my husband’s guidance on the matter. After all, she’s his mom, he knows her better than I do. And as long as we stand together, I know we can overcome any challenges we face, and I honestly believe this is part of God’s plan for us. I’ve always wanted to make a difference, and I believe that if I can make a difference in even just one person’s life, I’ll have succeeded. I just need to have faith, and patience.