Sunday, November 17, 2013

What If It Changes Everything?

November is National Adoption Month, and I asked Amy Sprengel, the adoptive mama of our sweet Grace, who joined her forever family this spring, to share some of her perspective. It gave me shivers and brought tears to my eyes as I read it, and I can't wait to share this with you. ~Hannah


I remember wondering about adoption. I had a tiny little speck of my heart that wouldn't rest but I quieted it as best I could with questions like:

What if it costs more than we expect?
What if the child we adopt has more needs than we expect?
What if the needs she has are more than we can handle?
What if the needs she has are more than we can afford?
What if our older biological children resent the attention, the cost, the time it takes to invest in a new daughter or a new son?
What if people in our family treat him or her differently?
What if my husband resents me for bringing this up again?
What if it changes everything?

One day, it could be quieted no longer. One day I wasn't the only one who had unrest over the idea that we had more love and life to give. One day the cost of adoption didn't seem like a good enough reason to deny a child a family. One day the fear of “what if” turned into hope:

What if  we chose to have faith that we will be able to afford it?
What if the child we adopt has more needs than we expect and we can provide for those needs?
What if we have faith and believe there's nothing we can't handle?
What if living out our faith with our older children teaches them compassion and empathy and selflessness, and creates a love in their lives that they would never know otherwise?
What if people in our family realize the miracle of adoption because we live it out?
What if my husband grows in ways he wouldn't otherwise? What if we all do?
What if this changes everything?

As it turns out in the month it became a “what if” of hope our daughter was born in northwestern China, on the other side of the world from us. She was sick, she was alone, and it is of no coincidence to me that it was exactly the time the thought, the hope, the dream of adoption became impossible to ignore. We didn't know she needed us to come for her, but I believe it was meant to be and we were ready at just the right time.

The endless paperwork, the overwhelming weeks that turned into months of education and fees and notarizing and authenticating and waiting. Lots and lots of waiting. As I look back now it seems like another lifetime because I now have the result of all of the work living in my house, running across my floor, hugging and kissing me so tight it nearly causes me to catch my breath every time. How is it that all I had to do was paperwork, fact finding, fees, and forms? Sure there are other things like fingerprinting and background checks but in light of her worth as our daughter? It seems like such a good deal. She absolutely without question was meant to be ours.

piles of adoption paperwork in the foreground. Grace in the background.

What about the “what ifs”? Well, the costs were covered a variety of ways. The hows don't matter, really, but the point is – if it's something you decide to do there are many ways to afford adoption. You just have to find them. If cost is the only thing holding people back from adoption, my advice would be go for it. The miracle of adoption isn't found in where the money comes from – the miracle come when someone chooses to add to their family no matter the cost. Everything costs something.

There were more “special needs” than we knew of ahead of time, but we knew enough. We knew about the big stuff, and the unexpected needs are manageable and often times unnoticeable. Our insurance covered Grace the moment we received custody of her on gotcha day, and our expenses for her medical bills have been less than I expected as well. Cardiac evaluations and open-heart surgery, pulmonary and GI procedures and tests, orthopedic evaluations and tests, ENT procedures, and general pediatric exams – all within the six months we've been home. It's been a lot, but it was doable and I'm thankful we had the privilege of being her parents through all of it.

We have settled as a family of 5. Our older kids have always been healthy, no special needs, so we are learning a lot as a family and it has been a good experience all around. I wouldn't trade it for anything. Emotionally, Grace is doing far better than I expected. It's obvious to us that she was fiercely loved and well cared for at New Day. She  is very loving and affectionate, and easily receives love in return.

As far as our older kids weathering a new sibling, I couldn't be happier with how they have blossomed. They are attentive and caring and give Grace more love and attention than she can sometimes handle. Adoption has actually bonded us more as a family, and I feared it would have the opposite affect. It has not always been easy, in fact there have been many challenges – but few things that are “worth it” are without challenge. Grace is well loved by our families and friends and we have an extensive support group. We are very blessed at the outpouring of love our family has known as we have journeyed to China and back for Grace. My husband, who I worried would resent the cost, has grown in this space outside our comfort zone, and I have too. We've grown and grown closer in ways I don't believe we would have, if we had not experienced the miracle of adoption.

What if it changes everything?

It did. It absolutely changed everything. We didn't just survive the changes, we thrived.

We've grown, we've lived our faith out loud, we've loved more deeply, we crossed the globe together and had the adventure of our lives.

As I look back and remember all of it I'm overwhelmed with thankfulness that  we didn't let the “what if's” of fear speak over the “what if's” of hope. I'm so glad we didn't miss out on the chance of loving someone deeply whom we've never met and making her our daughter. It still blows my mind all that knowing her has added to our life and to our family.

Grace changes everything – and we are better together.