I have five children — three by biological birth and two by adoption from Haiti. When my husband and I began the process of adoption, we expected that it would change our lives, but the scope of the transformation was something we never anticipated.
Adopting internationally has enriched me as a human being just as much as it enriched me as a parent. Let me count the ways…
1. Exposure to the truth of the world
When I traveled to Haiti, I was struck anew with the reality of the heartache that was previously only an image on a television screen. Now, it was right in front of my face and I couldn’t turn away. This does something to a person, something internal and lasting.
Even though I would soon fly home to America and settle back into my old ways, the impact of seeing firsthand how another country lives and the plight these people are in will stay with me forever. I will never forget how it feels to live without modern conveniences. I can’t forget the dark eyes of all those children on the streets or how the women held their heads so proud and tall.
2. New friends and new stories
Our particular adoption experience included several trips to Haiti and exposure to many different adults and children. I fell in love with 20 or 30 children. I got to love on them and speak kindly to them. I laughed and played games with them. I was able to have conversations with Haitian adults on a deep level.
The opportunity to meet and really connect with people from another culture is invaluable to my own experience as a human being. All around the world, we are connected whether we realize it or not. And to come in contact with that is good for the soul. When you hear the story of someone else’s life, you realize we all have so much in common. When you choose to adopt, you connect with new people in deep ways.
3. A new view of materialism
A trip to another country really puts things into perspective. I was surprised to realize firsthand the value of relationship over the acquisition of things. I believe our Western affluence blinds us to the truth of what it means to be human. We are able to live on very little; that is the truth. Once you fall in love with a country like Haiti and come back home, you realize how unimportant all the fluff really is. Suddenly, all these silly, materialistic things don’t hold as much weight as they did before. They are put everything in proper perspective in your mind. It’s like you’re unattached, unhinged, and completely free from all those chains.
4. To see past culture or skin color and into the eyes of another human being
There is interconnectedness that resides in the world apart from appearances or cultural barriers. Connecting with people from another country blurs those barriers. I, personally, was completely blind to the face that I was a different color than the Haitian people by the time I went home. None of that matters because we are all precious and beautiful.
5. Understanding what empathy really means
Bringing a child into your home (or in our case, loving a child for years prior to bringing them into your home), changes the way your brain thinks. All of the sudden, you have to think through what it might feel like to be someone you never imagined being. My children have gone through things I can never experience, but if I’m going to be a good mother, I have to empathize with them. I have to get up close with a level of experience that I can’t even fathom. This is empathy at its finest. This is the tough stuff of life that really changes who you are.
6. The ability to think outside the box
An experience like this changed me. I will never be the same again. Should you choose to adopt, you will be seasoned by the time it’s all over. Nothing will deter you. Although you might be a bit jaded, you’ll grab life by the teeth — you’ll believe in miracles and you’ll be open to all sorts of newness. Things like boundaries or restrictions won’t bother you at all.
7. A real understanding of charity
Most of us give in a way that doesn’t really hurt. We choose a nice, flowery charity and feel good about our meager donation. We put some money in the offering plate at Christmas. And while these things are good, once you’ve seen the real needs of an orphan child, you are changed. When treading the streets of poverty, you get new ideas about how to spend your money. You have a new understanding of what will work and what won’t in terms of giving.
8. Confidence in new situations
For me, the only way to conquer my fear was to place myself in the very situation I was afraid of. A person can change insecurity by doing something about it! No matter what you’re afraid of, no matter the lack of confidence coursing through your veins, the road to adoption will suck it out of you, parade it around in front of your face, and defeat it. Of course, as with any challenge, you choose how long and how hard you toil before being victorious. Ultimately, confidence will replace fear.
9. Patience and new faith
After almost four years of the adoption process, I can now say I’ve mastered the art of patience. I don’t like it any more than I did before, but now I have good coping mechanisms for dealing with the wait. I’m less likely to hyperventilate and much more likely to keep the faith and forge on with life in the present.
10. A forced healing from the disease of perfection
Perfectionism is connected to a desire for control. Those of us who love controlling our environment are doomed to miss out on so much life! The adoption process has given me a new vision for what is enjoyable in life and it has nothing to do with perfection. Beautiful isn’t what’s perfect; it’s what’s real and right in front of my face! Adoption forced me to let go of idealism and embrace the present moment.
This is obvious. When you adopt from another country, you get to travel and see the world. This is exhilarating, no matter where you go! All of the world is an open canvas full of creativity, life, art, and adventure!
12. Becoming a parent in a whole new way
Lastly, and most dear to my heart, is motherhood. I’ve had the opportunity to experience being a mom in so many ways. Falling in love with an adopted child is like taking the uncharted path through the wilderness. I feel like Lewis and Clark!
Life is wrought with challenge but also with miracles I never would’ve seen otherwise. My heart has the chance to widen and embrace, and it surprises me with how eagerly it does so. Being a parent is beautiful no matter how you do it. Being an adoptive parent is painstakingly fulfilling. I don’t even want to think of what my life might be without it.
What about you? Have you ever thought about adoption? What are the things that keep you from jumping in? Those challenges are the very things that will make you a better person in the end. Consider international adoption.
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