This is the second guest post in a three part series for National Adoption Month 2012. To read post #1 on open adoption, click here.
This morning I am thrilled to use my blogging space to give my readers a little peak into the life of a woman I've just recently gotten to know and love. I met Melanie though my church but didn't really get to know her until a year and a half ago when she and her husband Sherwyn began the process of international adoption. Actually, before John and I had told anyone about our interest in adopting, we bumped into them at an international adoption information seminar! So really, they knew about our decision to adopt pretty much from the very beginning. Melanie and her husband have gone through the adoption stages at roughly the same time we have, although they are not adopting from Russia so there are some differences. Nevertheless I have felt a special kinship with Melanie as both our journeys to motherhood have mirrored one another in so many ways.
I asked Melanie to let me interview her for this post because she has a very unique story! Not only is Melanie becoming an adoptive mother, but she herself was also adopted as an infant! As you will see, Melanie's journey has been very formative and I pray you will be blessed by her gentle and gracious story-telling as I have been. Welcome to Melanie's story.
So Melanie, let's start at the beginning! How did you and your husband decide to adopt?
Even before we were married, Sherwyn and I talked about adopting. It was definitely
something we wanted to do whether we had biological children or not. After trying to get pregnant
for a year, we decided to put our finances toward an adoption rather than fertility treatments.
This was actually a pretty easy decision for us. I’ve suffered pretty badly from migraine
headaches since college and I had finally gotten to the point where I wasn’t having headaches
weekly. Starting fertility treatments could totally throw my body off. I think my background
(more on that later), has always made me realize that I didn’t need to be pregnant in order to be a
mom. Don’t get me wrong – if God blesses us with a pregnancy I will be thrilled but I don’t long to
be pregnant. I realize this decision can be agonizing for many couples but this was not our
experience. Once we had made the decision to pursue adoption, we went to a few different
adoption informational meetings. At that point we were just looking for information.
|Sherwyn and Melanie|
Why did you choose international adoption? Why China?
Because of my family, I was very familiar with international adoption. All of my siblings are
adopted. My brother, Brad, was domestically adopted at the age of six weeks. My sister, Laura,
was adopted from India when she was five and my brother, Matt, was adopted from Bangladesh
when he was 14 months. I’m the oldest so I very much remember all of these adoption processes.
Obviously, the process has changed through the years but I was very excited to continue an
international family. For me, it seemed like a very natural choice.
We did look into domestic adoption but it was a little too close to home for me. Since domestic adoptions are more open now, I wasn’t sure if I was ready to have a relationship with my child’s biological mother. I wasn’t ready to write up a profile and wait for a birth mother to choose us. I wasn’t ready to risk a birth mother changing her mind. So international adoption it was!
Now how would we choose which country? The agency we decided to work with had very well established programs in both Ethiopia and China. The Ethiopian program had “healthy” children. The program in China had at least a five year wait for “healthy” children but they had a very active special needs program. We struggled with the decision between the two. On one day, I was sure we should go with the special needs China program, on the next day it felt like Ethiopia was the right choice. After much prayer and discussion with the agency, family, and others who had adopted, we decided on the China special needs program. Sherwyn works at a Chinese owned company. He actually went to China shortly after we made the decision and will have the opportunity to travel there more frequently. It’s amazing how God works through all of our circumstances.
Have you received a referral yet? When will you travel?
Yes, we received a referral on May 27! It was 10:37PM on Memorial Day. We knew the
Friday before that China would be releasing a new list of special needs kids. It was the first list
that was being released since we had received our log in date. They told us most people matched
the first time but not always. We knew the call would come later at night. Even though I didn’t
need to, I went into work that day just to have something to do. I was a ball of nervous energy!
The call came at 10:37PM! I’ll never forget it. Laura, from our agency, told us she had matched us
with a little girl who was 7 months. Her special need was a cleft palate. She immediately emailed
us the file. Tears of joy were rolling down my face as we looked at the file and the three pictures.
This was our daughter! She was thousands of miles away and we had only seen a picture but she was ours! We had 72 hours to accept the referral. Pretty much a no-brainer for us but we did have a
couple doctors look at her file. We accepted the referral and started more paperwork for
immigration and the waiting for our official letter of approval. We received our letter of approval
on August 20. Now we are waiting for travel approval which could come any day! We are hoping to
travel to China sometime in November and bring Elliana home!
|Melanie's precious baby girl! She is so beautiful, isn't she?|
Now you were adopted too, is that right? Can you tell us a little bit about your adoption?
Yes, I’m adopted too. I was adopted by my parents when I was six weeks. My parents had tried for
many years to get pregnant before they started the adoption process. Back then, all adoptions
were closed so they were placed on a list and when I was born they got the call. I was in foster
care for six weeks before I became their first daughter.
|Melanie as a sweet baby!|
Adoption at that time wasn’t all that common yet there were two other families from our church with adopted children. We would tell the other children at Sunday School that we were more special than them, because our mom and dad chose us – their parents were just stuck with them. From the very beginning I knew I was adopted – probably even before I knew what it really meant. Our family continued to grow with Brad, Laura, and Matt. Matt and Laura’s adoptions were both very difficult since this was the first time the agency was working in Bangladesh and India. I can remember countless hours my mom spent on the phone or at the agency fighting to get them home. My mom was tenacious. Looking back, she definitely impacted my wanting to adopt someday. Growing up, I didn’t have much interest in finding my birth family. I was a pretty blessed kid and was more concerned about how my searching for my birth mom would affect her life. She probably had a family now and I didn’t want to disrupt anything. I think this may be rather unusual – most other adoptees I know wanted to find their birth families – my brother, Brad included. He found his birth mom soon after he turned 18. This was huge for him!
When I was about 24, I decided that it would be nice to know some more information about
my birth family. My mom had recently passed away after a long battle with cancer. This changed
me and definitely affected my outlook on life. So I started the search process by calling the
agency. I still didn’t want to negatively affect my birth mom’s life so I wanted to know if she had
contacted the agency about me. And she had. This removed a lot of fears for me. If she was
looking for me, then I hopefully wouldn’t be adversely affecting her life. So I got her information
and we started writing letters back and forth. She was married and had a son and a daughter who
knew nothing about me. Right around my 25th birthday, we met at my dad’s house. It was pretty
surreal. I thought there would be this instant connection but there wasn’t. I don’t even think we
look much alike, although we do have similar personalities. After this visit we continued writing
letters since she still had not told her children. In summer 2006, I got a letter from her, saying
that she had told her children and that her family would like me to visit. So in October of 2006, I
got on a plane and spent the weekend at my birth mother’s house. What an experience! I met her
parents, her sisters and their families, her children, and many other family members. It was very
overwhelming. I have never felt so loved. They made my favorite foods, showered me with gifts,
showed me around town. It was incredible. I’ll never forget when my grandparents told me that
they had been praying for me since the day I was born. What a testament to God’s faithfulness to
all generations! They were so glad that I had come to visit. I truly felt like part of the family.
Since then, I’ve gotten married. My birth mom, grandparents, and aunts all came to the wedding. I
wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. My birth mom and her husband have visited us and Sherwyn
and I have been to visit them several times. Whenever I go, I really feel like I am visiting family.
I’m blessed to have two families who love me and pray for me. They are just as excited about
Elliana as my adopted family!
|With her birth family members!|
I am interested in the inter-play between your adoption as a baby and your new status as an adoptive mother. Has this experience caused you to reflect on your own adoption in a new way?
I think I appreciate all aspects of the adoption triad more – adoptive parents, birth
parents, and adoptee. I understand a little bit more what my adoptive parents had to go through to
get me – lots and lots of paperwork, lots of questions, medical exams, and lots and lots of waiting. I
also appreciate more the tremendous sacrifice my birth mom made to make an adoption plan for me.
Elliana’s birth mom made this same sacrifice – maybe for different reasons and in a different
country but a sacrifice. I will forever be grateful to both of them! I continue to stand in awe of
how God brings families together. My adoptive and biological families are both very special. I hope
that Elliana will have the same thoughts someday.
Do you think the fact that you were adopted will help you as you parent your adopted child? If so, how?
International and domestic adoption are both so very different, yet they are also similar. I
hope the fact that I am adopted will help me as I parent Elliana. Like my adoptive parents, I want
to instill in her that she is very special and God brought our family together. I want to celebrate
her culture. I want her to feel free to ask any questions as she gets older without fear and for her
to know that we will always support her no matter where the journey leads. I know the journey will
have its tough moments – it already has but I also know the God who brought us together!
If you could share one piece of advice with other adoptive parents, from the perspective of someone who was adopted, what would it be?
We adopted children can be complicated creatures. Sometimes we need to feel special
because we’re adopted. Other times we don’t want to be special because we want to be like every
other kid. Sometimes we want to talk about our adoption and our birth families. Other times we
don’t even want to think about them, much less talk about them. The trick is trying to figure it all
out. So just “be” with your adoptive children – sometimes silent, sometimes not. We just want to
know that you’ll love us no matter what! I can’t wait to be able to do this with Elliana!
Melanie thank you so much for sharing your unique story and helping to raise awareness about the wonderful gift of adoption!
After reading through this post I realized that I can't leave my readers in eternal suspense about Sherwyn and Melanie's journey, so I will be sure to update when they travel to bring their precious girl home. I, for one, cannot wait to meet her!
Thanks for reading!