But still, our family is grateful that we are pregnant! Just last July 2011, I had exploratory surgery. The doctor was checking to see why we hadn't been able to conceive again. My daughter, Iliana, was four years old. The doctor wasn't sure if the problem was with me or my husband. He had used the word "secondary infertility" with us. Meaning, we've been able to have one child, but could not conceive another. Those words were hard to hear.
Already, I had started identifying with Hannah in scripture. We have one beautiful daughter (so in that way I am not like her) and I thought having a second child would come easily. It didn't. There were nights when I cried and cried and pleaded with God to give us another child. My husband, daughter and I prayed together, too. Iliana ofted asked us, "Why is God taking such a long time?" She had no doubt that he'd answer. We had no doubt that he'd answer, either. Iliana would have a sibling whether biologically or through adoption. After a while, we gave up hope of conceiving and decided that we would adopt a baby--something I've always desired to do.
But we were scared. Horror stories about adoption abound. We were scared because we didn't know if we could handle a child with severe physical or behavioral problems although we wish were the kind of people that possessed such capabilities. Yet these are the very children who need parents the most. And we were hesitant to wait too long because our daughter was getting older day by day and we desperately wanted her to enjoy her sibling, to not be so far apart that they lived different lives. We felt pressure and we felt rushed. Moreover, we wondered about finances. We are still paying off undergraduate student loans, so we'd be limited in adoption options (or so we thought).
Not long after we started seriously contemplating adoption and before I found out I was pregnant, I received a copy of Jennifer Grant's book, Love You More: The Divine Suprise of Adopting My Daughter. It was a Godsend.
While skillfully weaving together her adoption story (from the perspective of an adoptive parent with three biological children), Jennifer also takes a tender, yet realistic look at adoption.
This book has so many insights and is so well-written that it has been hard to select what I want to highlight. But I'll give it a try.
In chapter five, Jennifer says something stunning about those contemplating adoption, something that I've never heard:
"...I hope they come to adoption because they want to grow their families, not because they want to save the world. If your desire is to save the world, adoption is quite possibly one of the least effective ways to do it."
She goes on to say that there are more efficient ways to help the world's poor than adoption:
"Seventy percent of the world's poor are women and their children. Empower them with microloans, education, a farm animal, or job training and you will see whole communities rise from poverty....To make the world a better place invest in charitable organizations that equip women in resource poor settings to succeed."
I had never heard it put quite like that. Part of the reason I've wanted to adopt is because I feel that adoption is a way of fulfilling God's command to care for the orphan. And I want to obey the Lord. I often think about the children in the world, including those in my local community, who don't have mommies and daddies, or healthy mommies and daddies, or parents who can holistically provide for them. And my heart aches. So I frequently ask myself, "What is my role? What would God have me do?"
After reading Grant's work, I am reminded that there are many good ways to care for orphans and to help children flourish. That's not to say that she lets me off of the hook; she only says that adoption might be the least efficient way to help these children.
But then what about adopting children with a variety of special needs including physical limitations and behavioral/mental problems or those who have HIV? There are so many and these are the children least likely to be adopted.
Through storied observation, Grant reflects on the lives and personalities of those who adopt special needs children-- without idealizing such parents. No, these people aren't saints, there are very hard days, but the best have systems of support and realize that they are making a commitment for the long haul. For the most part, they truly take joy in their children instead of seeing them as burdens.
Honestly, I don't know if we are cut out to adopt a child with severe special needs. I have some friends who adopted children with special needs. It has been difficult and will be a life long commitment. I think God has a special place in heaven for them, a great reward, and I am sure they'd say that they've depended on the love of God to love their children well, even when they've had to call the police to get a child under control because of mental illness and behavioral problems.
So why do I further appreciate this book?
First, Jennifer Grant considers the moral and legal dilemmas surrounding adoption and even how the problem of evil plays into this whole situation. Not all adoption agencies are upstanding. Some children are kidnapped in order to be sold into adoption. Adoption has a dark side because sometimes neither biological nor adoptive parents have any idea that they're being exploited--along with the children.
Secondly, it is a well-written and informative book because it interweaves Jennifer's family's personal slice of life story of adopting Mia (the joy, the pain of waiting, the pain of other people's comments) with global considerations and practical advice for those interested in adoption. In reading this book, one truly gets the big picture, not just Grant's story. Being the good journalist that she is, she has done her research.
So whether you just want to learn about adoption or are considering adoption, I highly recommend Love You More: The Divine Suprise of Adopting My Daughter by Jennifer Grant. Moreover, if you know of those hoping to adopt, I highly recommend passing this book along to them. It is quite a gift.
While we are not going to adopt right now (I am about to deliver our second child), it is something we'll continue to consider. But also, I'll keep in mind the insights I gathered from Jennifer about helping the world's poor and/or orphaned children. No, that's not right. I won't just keep in mind these insights, but translate my knowledge into action.
I received this book from Thomas Nelson to review (and I am glad I did!).