This post originally ran on RichmondMom.com in late 2008, but the story hasn’t changed, nor has the need for those with a heart for adoption to act.
My parents had always talked about adopting. Their desire sprung from their belief in the call to love all of God’s children, especially the forgotten. We were already a big family: with an 8, 6, and 5 year old my parents certainly didn’t need more activity! But the dream of adopting persisted. Even though they pursued international adoption, obstacles blocked their way for years, both financial and logistical. Just as they were about to give up, a strange twist of events: my parents received an unexpected inheritance check that covered the cost of international adoption and a call from an orphanage in Korea—they had just picked up an abandoned toddler and we were a match for placement. On that day, our family was “expecting”; instead of an ultrasound we had a grainy photo from a Korean orphanage.
His delivery took place in the JFK airport one spring evening in April. I shivered with excitement at the airport gate, surrounded by the sights and sounds of people and change. My little brother and I pressed our toes, our bellies, our palms and our noses against the cold glass window, peering out into the night sky, straining to be the first to herald the appearance of the plane that carried our new baby brother.
At long last, the plane lights, and then the mechanical stork appeared. We squealed with joy, and waited those last agonizing moments for the hanger door to open and the babies to be paraded in; we were not the only family adding to our number that night. In they came, held in the arms of Korean women caretakers that hardly seemed bigger than the children themselves. As babies transformed from orphans to sons and daughters, tears and laughter and gut-level joy filled the air. On April 24, 1984, our family tree grafted on a new branch, in the form of a round-faced, brown-eyed Korean baby boy named Stevie.
The next few days were not unlike a newborn baby coming home from the hospital. He ate, he slept, and he clung to our mom. But some things were different. He spoke words in Korean…Oma, Apba.He looked shocked. Like a frightened and wounded animal, he would sometimes fold over on himself and even bite. He was terrified of water.
Becoming an adoptive family changed our family tree. Gardeners graft trees together, particularly fruit trees, to create new fruit and to strengthen the roots of the existing tree. The roots of one tree nourish the bud of another, creating something new in the process. To be an adoptive family is to be the roots for a tender bud. But the original tree must be cut in order to allow the new bud to join. Adding to our family wasn’t easy. Money was tight. Dynamics changed and created strain. Faith was tested. But like only family can, we came together, learning to practice grace with one another in the midst of hardship.
More than twenty years later, after a good meal with family, Stevie gets up from his seat and makes a silent pilgrimage around the table. Stopping in front of each place, he reaches down for a bear hug. Maybe that comes from deep within, from the places in him that remember being cold, and hungry, and alone. I don’t think of my family as an adoptive family. I think of my family as one tree. Two very different branches grafted together, creating something entirely unique, beautiful in its own way–scars, roots and all.
Since 1993, the number of international adoptions in the U.S. has jumped 300 percent, from just over 7,000 to 21,616 in 2003. For more information on adoption, please visit www.adoption.com.
**Update: Please check out the Christian Alliance for Orphans for stats, resources and information on adoption.