What does your family look like right now?
My family consists of my husband Derek, who is a high school math teacher, Viola who is 6, Gideon who will be 5 in December and Charlotte who is 4 months old. As for me, I stay at home, I am an ambassador for Noonday Collection and a Mary Kay consultant.
What brought you to international adoption?
Derek and I had been trying to get pregnant for a little under a year. Even though I know that is not a long time compared to how long many couples try, I knew that I was ready to be a mom and didn’t want to wait. We had discussed fertility treatments for less than 10 minutes and came to the conclusion that our time, energy and money would be better spent pursuing children who otherwise might not have a forever family. We looked into domestic adoption and as we were about to sign on with an agency, Derek and I both felt like we weren’t making the right decision.
I remember being very confused, as I thought adoption was what God wanted from us and then we were feeling like it wasn’t. Long story short, we researched local adoption agencies that work internationally. Within 18 hours of talking with the agency we chose, we were provided our first two referrals from Uganda. Fast forward about 10 months, we had lost three referrals and finally had a travel date to go to Uganda to meet Viola and Gideon.
At what age did you meet your little ones?
When we met Viola, she was 4 years old. She was a terrified little girl who had not seen a lot of white people before in her life. We were supposed to take her that day, but because she was so scared of us, clinging to the pole in the middle of her hut, we decided it would be a better idea to come back and visit a few more times before actually taking her with us. We did not want her to be traumatized from her coming with us. That was one of the best decisions we ever made. After visiting a couple times, we went again, but this time we knew we were going to bring her with us. We got to her home, she was given a bath and a new dress, and her grandmother leaned down and whispered something in her ear. She then quietly walked over to me and let me hold her hand. The Lord was so present that day, she came with us with no fight or tears.
Gideon was 2 ½ when we met him. He was a quiet yet cuddly boy from the beginning. He came with us right away, with no fuss. We took him to eat, where he had his first bite of meat. He ate his lunch and most of Derek’s lunch, too.
How did you foster attachment with them?
Making sure adopted children build attachment can be challenging, but is so important. While in country, we all slept in the same bed, held them when they wanted to be held, bathed them, fed them, met all of their needs. It did not take them long to understand that we were going to be there for them. Derek and I feel very blessed by how quickly they attached to us.
What was it like jumping into motherhood with two children?
There were many challenges that came with jumping into motherhood with two children. Most of the challenges came with Derek and I as a couple and as parents. Generally, when people become parents, they start with a newborn(s) and have time to ease into their parenting techniques. So there were times when we might have disagreed on how to deal with a certain behavior, but didn’t have ample time to discuss the issue and how we wanted to handle it. When you start with an infant, you ease into different behaviors such as touching things you aren’t supposed to, putting things into your mouth, etc. With toddlers, who don’t know a lot of English, it was very challenging learning and adapting to proper discipline techniques that Derek and I both agreed on.
What types of training or books were helpful for you?
Derek and I took a class on attachment in children who have been through some sort of trauma. I credit this course for providing the resources we needed to properly attach to the children.
How can a friend of someone who is adopting be helpful? What was most encouraging or helpful for you?
I think everyone is different in what they need and what is helpful when going through a stressful time. There is a lot of waiting and paperwork and more waiting, and then some more waiting after that. It can be a very stressful time for people going through this process. Our hearts were aching for our children and the waiting is terribly unpleasant. I always appreciated the friends who let me talk their ears off about my worry and stress.
How do you plan to preserve birth culture?
I am always on the lookout for Africa-related activities, books, food, etc. A year ago, my dad and stepmom’s church hosted a Uganda Children’s choir for a meal and a performance. We took Viola and Gideon and they ate a meal with the Ugandan children, who got a kick out the words that Viola and Gideon still remembered vs. the words they completely forgotten. I could tell that they really cherished that event. My dad occasionally makes some Ugandan staples for meals when we visit. But most importantly, we talk about Uganda whenever the kids want to. We watch videos from when we were staying in Uganda and we are constantly telling them about the love that their biological family has for them. Some day we would love to be able to take them back to see where they were born.
How do you navigate being a transracial family?
We definitely get looks, most being looks that say Aw, what a sweet family or Those are some cute kids, but occasionally we get looks that are a little more curious in nature. In the two years we have been home, I have probably had about 15 people come up to me and give me hair care tips. There are definitely days where it is very obvious that this clueless, white mama is trying to care for my beautiful black daughter’s hair. I will say that the blog Chocolate Hair, Vanilla Care has revolutionized my life and has taught me how to care for the kid’s hair.
What brought you to domestic adoption?
Derek and I were taking the classes necessary to get our foster license. While in the class, we were approached by someone at church about a birth mom that they knew. This woman had chosen adoption for a baby the year before and had just found out she was pregnant again. She had made the brave decision to choose adoption for this baby, too. After some careful consideration, we decided that this baby was going to be a Kimball. The birth mom allowed me to be at all the appointments starting at 20 weeks and then graciously gave my mother and I the opportunity to be in the delivery room.
How has adding to your family domestically been different from international adoption?
Our situation with the domestic adoption was pretty rare. We did everything privately with one lawyer, so there wasn’t much paperwork compared to if you were to use an agency. The biggest difference was the relationship I was able to build with Charlotte’s birth mother. I was never able to foster a relationship with Viola and Gideon’s mothers and I really value the time I was able to spend with Charlotte’s biological mother.
How did Gideon + Viola adjust to adding a little one?
They did great! There were and still are some bumps in the road where Gideon feels left out or Viola feels like she can appropriately meet all of Charlotte’s needs on her own. But they truly love Charlotte and she lights up around them as well.
The Bible is very clear about how God feels about adoption. It’s not just something to skim over. God literally calls us to care for the widow and orphan. Because of this, Derek and I are committed to always being open for what God has planned for our family. We are finishing our foster license because we want to be available if there are vulnerable children that God has intended for our family. Our faith is the reason we do what we do and our faith is the reason our family looks the way it does.
What do you want others to know about adoption?
Adoption is scary, full of waiting, full of unknown, costly, and trying. Adoption is absolutely, 100% worth every stress, worry, and penny. Adoption is a beautiful way to build or add on to a family.
Everyone has a different story and perspective on adoption, and this is Kristen’s. Kristen’s guest post is part of National Adoption Month. Earlier this week, my friend January, who was adopted as a toddler from the Philippines, shared her perspective of being an adult adoptee. Later this week, my friend Zach will be sharing his experience of being domestically adopted and his journey to meet his birth parents. You can read my friend Kaia’s post about adoption through foster care here. For words from an adoption family therapist, check out Rachel’s moving guest post. This week, I’ll be closing up National Adoption Month with a giveaway of Mary Ostyn’s “Forever Mom” (multiple copies!) and Sara Hagerty’s “Every Bitter Thing is Sweet.”