Thoughts from an Adoptive Dad

I know that so many women have the hurdle of “convincing” hubby that adopting is the right move for their family. And even if the husband agrees, I know that many of those wives also wonder, deep down, if their husband is truly going to love their adoptive child as their own. Let’s face it, 99% of the adoptive paperwork, fundraising efforts, travel arrangements, etc. are usually completed by the adoptive mom. That’s just the way it goes. It’s not that the adoptive fathers don’t care, it’s just that the adoptive moms usually take on the majority of the weight during the paper pregnancy. For this reason, many of the mamas seem to have a closer emotional pull towards their adoptive child than the dad does. When Kai was still in China, I never questioned my husband’s love for him, but (if truth be told) I always felt that my love for Kai was stronger. Now that Kai is home with us, I no longer feel that way. I know without a doubt that my husband loves Kai just as much as I do.

This past week our family was visited by our social worker to simultaneously update our homestudy for son #2 (Lok) and conduct our 6 month post-placement visit for son #1 (Kai). One part of our homestudy update required my husband and I to both write 1 page updates sharing how our lives have changed since the adoption of our first son. I just now opened my Mac Book to find my husband’s update pop up on my screen. I didn’t ask him, but I have to share this. I love it.

In January of 2015, my wife Alexcis and I traveled to Guangzhou, China to finally meet our son, and to bring him home.  Our time had finally come, and life as we knew it would be different forever.  The time in China was a mix of wonder and awe, mixed with a lot of challenges. Kai is a very fun and sweet boy.  He has the funnest little personality, and is an extremely affectionate child.  His personality, however was marred by the fact that his life prior to our arrival in China was not permanent, and he would be taken from all he knew and cherished.

Kai has experienced a lot of grieving after coming into our family.  It was tough for all of us to deal with, but we were well prepared for what was in store.  There was a language barrier that didn’t help the situation out in any sense, instead made things worse.  Communicating basic needs was tough for him, and expressing emotions was a far greater challenge.  Getting our point across to him also proved quite difficult. There were night terrors, screaming tantrums, and even physical attacks against us.  We were trained adequately on all of these things, but there is nothing like experiencing these things first hand. As time would pass, however, the communication became more clear, and the grieving episodes slowly decreased. There was much hardship at times, but also many moments of joy.  Our lives have been altered in more ways than one.

We know that Kai has been placed in our home and into our care for a reason.  We work hard to provide him with everything he will ever need.  He means the world to us, and  we have been so blessed to have him in our lives.  There is more work than before, but it is not work done in vain.  I know that it is a tough job, but I feel so much satisfaction in the work that we put into him, because we know that it is all done out of love. I truly enjoy being Kai’s father.  I love taking him to places, playing with him, sharing wisdom with him, and soaking in all the love he showers us with.  There has indeed been much work, but we have been compensated ten times over with all the joys he has brought us.  My life since Kai has transformed me in ways I had never imagined.

Isn’t that beautiful?! Ladies out there who are wondering if your husband’s love towards your adoptive child will be real, it will be. Ladies who have husbands who aren’t yet ready to move forward with adoption, pray and wait patiently. It took time before my husband was sure that we should grow our family through adoption too! The beauty of adoption and the way that it transforms lives is so massively impactful. I thank God every day for giving my husband and me the blessing of parenting our amazing little boy and loving him just as if he had been born to us.

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Day 15: Waiting for the Call

Oh, this one’s gonna be controversial! In relation to adoption, I often hear Christians say, things along the lines of: oh, we’d love to adopt, but we’re just waiting for the call! Now they don’t mean “the call” as in they’re waiting for a social worker to call them and tell them that they’ve been matched. They’re referring to receiving a call from God to adopt. Here’s my controversial statement… you don’t need to wait for the call!

There are plenty of verses in holy Scripture that refer to caring for orphans and the fatherless. The most well known among these verses is probably James 1:27, which reads, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” That is all the call you need! But it is also not a verse that those in the adoption community can shove down other Christians’ throats in an effort to make them adopt.

If you feel you’re interested in adopting, have a heart for orphans, and wish to grow your family through adoption, then adopt! You do not need to wait for the heavens to part and a booming voice from heaven to shout: Here is your call, it is now time to adopt. God speaks to his people through the Scripture and often uses others to minister to us and encourage us along. You’d be surprised at the amount of adoptive families who started their journeys after reading some crazy adoptive mama’s advocating on social media… or after reading an awesome blog post! (Wink, wink.)

Again, I am not saying that all Christians are mandated to adopt or should be guilt-tripped into adoption, because that is truly not my belief. It takes a whole lot of desire and determination to complete an adoption! But if you believe that you have the desire and determination to adopt, then move forward in faith.

As with any major life decision a Christian makes, you should consider adoption with prayer and godly counsel. But as long as you don’t encounter glaring roadblocks, you’re in the clear. Adopting is not violating God’s word. True, it’s a major life decision, but I bet that there are plenty of things that you didn’t wait to receive the call for. Buying a house? Taking a new job? Having biological kids? These are excellent things to pray about and seek godly counsel on, but chances are, most people don’t say that they’re waiting for the call on any of these things. They consider the options, pray, and move forward in Christian liberty.

Day 14: Adoption Movie Night

As I mentioned in an earlier post in this series, there was one primary reason why we chose international adoption, Stuck. Stuck is a documentary that follows 3 families adopting from 3 different countries: Haiti, Vietnam, and Ethiopia. I stumbled upon this documentary by sheer accident (aka God’s providence) and it has impacted our lives more than any film ever has. It was what moved us from our pursuit of domestic infant private adoption to the crazy rough and tumble journey of international adoption. We knew that our child was somewhere out there just waiting for us!

Back in 2013 the Both Ends Burning organization took Stuck on a bus tour to several cities across the country. They came to San Diego and I served as a volunteer encouraging people to attend the showing (and I think I worked the merchandise booth for a bit too). My husband and I made our families to come along so they could understand a bit more about the journey that we were about to embark on. It was an emotional eye opener for everyone!

I could go on and on about this film, but I’d rather you see it for yourself! Here’s my plan, let’s have Stuck movie night! This  Saturday, May 16th, is National Step Forward for Orphans Day, so let’s set aside Saturday night to watch Stuck together! There are a few ways that you can watch:

  1. Netflix! Yes, it’s on Netflix, just type in Stuck (I think it’s the second choice that pops up);
  2. Click here http://buy.stuckdocumentary.com and download the film, it costs $9.99 and it is soooo worth every penny! (This is actually how I watched it the first time around) or
  3. Pop in your DVD and watch it again for the millionth time (like I’ll be doing).

Plan a date night-in with your husband and cuddle on the couch with some tissues. Invite a girlfriend over to watch it with you. Drive to your parents house and watch it with them. Just WATCH IT! I guarantee that you’ll like it. So, once you’ve decided to join in on this little movie night (because you know you need to!), let me know in a comment below or on social media. I truly hope you watch the film, it is so powerful and highlights its tagline so well, every child deserves a family. 

Here’s the teaser again in case you missed it earlier. Now, go run and pen in Stuck on your calendar for this Saturday night! #StepForward2015

Day 13: Where Orphans Live

Two days after being united with our son we had the opportunity to visit the social welfare institute (orphanage) where he spent the first 22 months of his life. He was over 4 years old by the time we adopted him and had spent 2+ years  living with a foster family; which we were very grateful for. So while we knew that he likely didn’t have many memories of living in the orphanage, visiting the orphanage was strongly encouraged by our agency and by my China mentor moms.

I have to be honest, I knew that it would be beneficial for Kai to have photos of his orphanage for later on in life, but I was deeply dreading the visit. I had seen YouTube clips and documentaries showing what life in the orphanage was like and I didn’t even want to imagine Kai there. But, my feelings aside, we signed up for the visit and went. It was about as emotion packed as I assumed it would be. I filmed a lot and have been debating whether or not to share it with the world. I am crying during most of the filming, I couldn’t pull myself together despite the myriad of nannies who must have thought that I was crazy.

The visit left me unbelievably heart broken and emotionally drained. When we got back to the hotel room later that night, I wrote and posted this to Instagram: “I will never forget today. Visiting the place where Kai spent his first 22 months of life was hard. Let me start by saying that there is no doubt in my mind that the nannies here care for these children. Every single nanny that we saw knew Kai’s (full Chinese) name, and there were dozens. The ladies in that lower photo were only a small amount of them; these were the ones who assisted in Kai’s classroom. I was so overcome with emotion when I saw them in action with the other kids and Kai that I burst into tears and walked around the room seeking out each one to thank and hold by the hands. These women looked after my Kai when I was thousands of mile away worrying and praying for him; I owe them everything. We gave Kai a giant bag of candies and he passed them out to every child we saw (until it ran out). They ALL called him by name when thanking him. Out popular boy! But guys, there were so many that it broke my heart over and over again. 5 tiny babies sunbathing in one crib, 10 little boys with Down Syndrome holding a rope led by a teacher. Countless baby babies playing in the nursery, a dozen toddlers wadding on the pavement. Is there something you can do? Can you give up a bit of comfort to do something miraculous? If I was a soapboxes before, this upped the ante X100. These babies NEED and DESERVE families. Is your baby here? #wehavekai but what about you?! It takes work, and stamina, and yes MONEY, but these are real live children, not statistics. We are blue collar workers, we own a 2 bedroom townhome, not a mansion. God used us, you can be used too.” (@leftylex)

CD1ECE05-6EED-4DC0-BF1F-4BBD702744DCI still stand by those words and that call to action. Friends, I’ve never attempted to sugarcoat adoption. It’s hard. Somedays you’ll wonder if you’re strong enough for the challenge, before, during, and after your child is placed with you. I know that I have! But, it is absolutely more than worth it. Holding my son in my arms after all of the mountains of paperwork and money it took to get him here only makes it sweeter. Looking back at these photos I’m reminded of the goodness of the Lord and his incredible faithfulness. Perhaps these photos and this mama’s recollection of her son’s first home is tugging at your heartstrings. And I pray that it does. Perhaps that subtle tugging will turn into something larger and you just might find yourself, someday, visiting the place where your orphan first lived.

Day 12: Gotcha Day

Today marks exactly 4 months since my son’s Gotcha Day. What’s a Gotcha Day? It’s the day we got Kai, the day we became a forever family!

This was the moment. The exact moment. Words can’t describe it, so I’ll let the photos do the talking.

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And then we were a family. All that we had worked so hard for had finally come to fruition. He was real. He was in our arms. He was ours. It was magic. And that, dear friends, is what Gotcha Day is.

Day 11: Being a Conspicuous Family

In our little family of three, we don’t look alike. My husband is Spanish and Caucasian, I’m (mostly) Mexican, and our son is Chinese. We’re all tan and have dark hair and eyes, but our features are very different. Obviously. However, we also have many similarities; Kai and I have beauty marks on the same spot on our necks. And Kai and Ryan have matching marks on their… I’ll leave that one to the imagination! Kai likes when I point out the fact that he has brown skin like Mama and short, dark hair like Baba.

For Kai’s sake, I’m glad that we do have these similarities, but I also love our differences! I love Kai’s monolid, Asian eyes. I could stare at them for hours… and I have! They are so different from my very large, round eyes. But they are beautiful. Our noses are different too. I have a very prominent nose ridge, and Kai’s is more subtle. But, it is the the best nose in the world to munch and kiss on. And we do share another common trait, giant lips! Oh, how they are perfect for yummy kisses. His face, as a whole, is entirely different from ours and 100% perfection! I adore the differences so much more than I ever thought I would.

When we initially settled on international adoption, being a conspicuous family was something that I was a bit worried about. I remember thinking that everyone will know that we are an adoptive family all of the time. And now I think everyone knows that we are an adoptive family all of the time… YES!!! I love spreading the message of adoption and I love talking about international adoption whenever I’m able to. And, in all honesty, there have been only a small handful of times when people looked inquisitively when I said that Kai was my son. It could be the fact that we live in San Diego, which is extraordinarily culturally diverse, but I like to think that most people simply do not care. A family is a family, and a family with a common ethnic heritage is no “better” than our family, just different. I love differences.  I love that love, not DNA makes a family. I love being a conspicuous family.

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Day 10: Being Paper Pregnant

Today is Mother’s Day, my first official Mother’s Day. Only when people wished me a “Happy first Mother’s Day” today, I didn’t quite agree with their statement. I was a mom last year. I was Kai’s mom last year, only he was still in China. I felt every bit as connected to him last year, only knowing him through photos, as I feel to him today. I am his mama now, I was his mama then.

I guess it’s a bit confusing for people to understand that my connection to Kai, my being his mother, began far before he was ever placed in my arms. I knew that Kai was my son from the moment I saw his little video. My heart loved him just as much when he was in China as it does now. I obviously know him more now and am able to fall in love with little things that he says to me and all of the hugs and kisses that he gives me, but I truly loved him just as much before I met him.

The term paper pregnant gets used a lot in the adoption community to describe someone who is just that, pregnant with paperwork. Some people use the term from the moment they click “send” on their agency applications and others don’t use it until they have been matched with a child. I’m more of the mindset of using it as soon as your little heart feels paper pregnant and I felt paper pregnant from the second I saw Kai’s face, 17 months before I ever held him.

Last year on Mother’s Day, my sister was a few weeks away from giving birth to my niece. She had a big belly and no one would have ever disputed that (even though she was still pregnant) she was already a mother. I felt the same way! I was already Kai’s mother, I just wasn’t “due” yet.

I love being able to physically celebrate Mother’s Day with Kai this year, but I’m also missing someone, our second son, Lok! I’m Lok’s mama too! I’m a mama of two. I have one sweet boy who is sitting on my lap at this very moment (making it rather difficult to type), and the other who waits for us in China. They are equally my boys and they both have their mama’s heart! So for today, I celebrate my first technical Mother’s Day and look forward to the next where I’ll hold two precious boys in my arms!

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Day 9: My Favorite Mama

“A child born to another woman call me mom. The depth of the tragedy and the magnitude of the privilege are not lost on me.” -Judy Landers

My son frequently tells me that I’m his favorite mama. During his first few weeks home, he would tell me that he was going to go back to Guangzhou to be with his other mama (usually when he was mad at me). However, during the last month or so, he’ll say “I love my mama. This is my favorite mama.”

Initially, I thought it was the sweetest thing, until my mama brain really dissected that last sentence. This is my favorite mama. How awful for a 4 year old to have known more than one mama. I am his “favorite”, but I wasn’t his first. There was his biological mom (his belly mama), then (according to his recollection) two other foster moms. I am mama #4. Three other women were responsible for my child making his way to me. I am grateful to them and for them.

Adoption is rooted in loss, let that never be forgotten. But isn’t it beautiful to know that the Lord provides redemption through adoption. Each of those three other mamas were predestined to care for my son during times when my own heart ached for him. I pray that each of those mamas somehow knows that his fourth and final mama loves him more than she loves herself and that she is grateful for their actions every single day.

Day 8: Aging Out

Kids in the US “age out of the system” at 18. Could you imagine turning 18 and having to play adult without the love and support of a family behind you? I’m 31 and I feel that I’ve needed my mom more than ever over the past 2 years! You always needs parents and a family no matter how old you are. However, 18 is not the universal “age out” age. In China, 14 is the unfortunate number that children (children, not even legal adults) age out. So on the 14th birthday of a Chinese orphan, he or she is no longer eligible for adoption. This is not the case in the US; so long as a family out their wants you to join it, you can be adopted at age 102!

Could you imagine being 14 and knowing that you will never know the love of a family? Could you imagine being 13 and just watching those months tick on by? It breaks my heart! When we traveled to China for Kai’s adoption there were two 13 year olds (in our group of 20 families) who adopted 13 year olds. I cried so hard! It was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen in my life. I made my husband promise me that we would be one of those families adopting a 13 year old sometime in the future.

To adopt a 13 year old is no easy feat. 13 year olds acquire language more slowly, they can fully process what an international adoption is and the finality of it all (they even have a say in the matter, if they don’t want to be adopted, they don’t have to be!) , and… they are teenagers! The dreaded t-word. But! They are in need of families too. They have (likely) been waiting for years on end for their forever families to find them. Just this week I saw that Preliminary Approval of Adoption was given for a 13 year old on one of the Facebook Advocacy groups that I’m a part of. I was elated! One less orphan, one more cherished son!

So, if you’re interested in adoption but are thinking to yourself “my kids are grown, I don’t want to head to the starting line all over again”, the good news is you don’t have to! Adopt a 13 year old. Allow them to experience all of the magic of middle and high school as a part of your loving family before sending them away for college. They’ll come back once their degree is done just like your bio kids did (wink, wink). Oh, if you fall in this category (and even if you don’t), plead consider the older or aging out child.