Over the years, I’ve seen the attitudes toward adoption, especially international adoption, change for the better. People are more open to it, more willing to consider a child of another race and another culture. Yet classic misconceptions still exist: Families formed through adoption are somehow second best, or parents who adopt a child from another culture or race are saints or that all children adopted internationally have emotional problems. I’ve always marveled at the persistence of these tired concepts, which are at such variance with the wondrous exhilaration of having your child placed in your arms for the first time. There is a reason that people who’ve adopted once often adopt again and again! And it’s why, after having our two beautiful biological children, Mathew and Sarah, my husband and I adopted our third child— our wonderful Marisa, from an orphanage in Colombia. As a woman who’s experienced both forms of motherhood, I can tell you that adoption is it’s own unique joy.
Adoption, in particular, helps us learn the truth that our children— however they come to us— are unique individuals. It is a magical journey that transforms individuals who come together and rejoice in making a family.
As an only child growing up in Clifton, New Jersey in a garden apartment complex filled with young families, I remember Rhoda, our next-door neighbor, telling my mother that she was planning to adopt a child. I cried and begged my mother to also adopt so I would have a brother or sister, but it was not to be.
Law school graduation led to my search for a happy part of the law. After meeting a neighbor who had recently adopted, and who experienced a great deal of frustration and lack of resources in international adoption, I decided to open an international adoption agency.
As the mother of two children, I did not initially intend to adopt a child. But as I watched children join their adoptive families and saw pictures daily of children who needed families, I started thinking of becoming an adoptive parent.
Our two children were 9 and 11 years old at the time we discussed adopting a child. Our son Matthew’s major concern was whether a baby would mean that we would no longer be able to travel. Our daughter Sarah was delighted with the idea of a younger sister. We soon began the adoption process.
In time, a one-inch square, black and white photo of a little girl arrived at the agency. She had been selected by the orphanage in Colombia to be our child. She had a short boyish haircut that we later found was a result of a bout of lice. She was nearly 3 years old with beautiful, huge green eyes and lips like a cupid’s bow. So began our journey to bring Marisa into our family and into our hearts.
Marisa’s adoption gives us a constant reminder of how special our family story is. Adoption has immensely enriched our family. We know that we are very fortunate to have found each other.
Our family is connected to other families who have adopted— other families that know what it’s like to explain to doctors about not having a complete medical history, or what it’s like to face family tree projects in school where there are so many empty branches. We all learned from each other and from our common experience.
When I talk with adoptive families, so many of them say with pride, “This child is just perfect for our family,” or
“This child makes our family feel complete.” We wonder how that happens so frequently. We also feel exactly the same way.