By Sarah Gafford, in recognition of November as National Adoption Month
“What made you decide to adopt?” I have been asked this question hundreds of times. My answer is almost always the same, “why not?”
The seed of adoption was planted in my heart since…well, since forever. The funny thing is that it was growing in the heart of my husband at the same time.
I gave birth to our daughter 10 years ago, and this learning curve known as parenting began. By the time she was 1 year old, my husband and I knew we were ready to begin the adoption process. It is actually better described as a journey.
There are many paths to choose from, and we just happened to choose the one to Ethiopia. Sixteen months later, I was on the plane ride home with our son.
This is a journey that did not end the moment our plane touched down in St. Louis. It did not end when the adoption was finalized through the Illinois court system. It will not end on his 18th birthday, when he graduates college, or even when he starts his own family.
Just like parenthood for biological parents, it never ends. Traditional and adoptive families are one-and-the same, and incredibly different at the same time. We are just like traditional families, yet we are not.
We did our best to prepare ourselves for all of the challenges we may face while on our adoption journey. It is a complicated and often heart-wrenching journey. One must always remember that adoption always involves some type of loss and grief.
This grief can hit you when you least expect it, such as when my son asked if he could invite his Ethiopian mom to his fourth birthday. But that is only a part of the story.
We have been blessed with a boy who has more life in him than the rest of our family put together. We have been blessed by love that does not require genetics to grow. We have been blessed by bringing a new culture and history into our family. We have been blessed by becoming part of the greater adoption community, a community I wasn’t even aware existed before we joined.
Adoption is everywhere in our lives, from adult friends who were adopted, to other adoptees from Ethiopia, to families who have adopted domestically.
Adoption is not for everyone, I have no doubt about that fact. However, if you find you have the seed planted in your heart and you hear yourself asking “why not?,” maybe it’s time to stop and think. Maybe it’s time to say it out loud.
If you are willing to educate yourself, seek help when needed, and above all else, love unconditionally, then I assure you a child is out there waiting. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, in 2013 alone there were over 100,000 children in the United States waiting to be adopted. That only covers the United States!
There are open adoptions, closed adoptions, infant adoptions, foster care adoptions, international adoptions, special needs adoptions and etc., the paths are endless. You just have to take the first step.
Sarah Gafford is a school social worker who lives with her family in Collinsville.