Saturday, December 28, 2013

One Year Later: What I Have Learned Through Adopting Our Son

This December marks three years since we began the international adoption process.  One year ago today, we met our son, Tyson, for the very first time. 

My thoughts about adoption have evolved in these three years. When we made the decision to start the journey, I was fired up with emotion and fervor.  EVERYONE should adopt! RAH! RAH! RAH! I would get a little frustrated with those that told me, "Oh, I could never do what you're doing."  I couldn't understand why anyone would hesitate to bring a child without a family into their home. 

And then we actually started the adoption process. 

For two years, it was as if we were on a roller-coaster ride. A really old, unstable roller coaster where the track is falling apart, the seat belts don't buckle, and the brakes have stopped working.   

It was hard; emotionally tolling on our family, our resources, and our relationships.  

Over the course of the two years it took to complete our adoption from the DRC, I learned a lot in general about adoption.  

Don't assume everyone you work with has integrity. I learned the hard way that there are not as many adoption agencies truly advocating for the best interest of the child as I had imagined.  If you are considering adoption but not sure where to start, head over here.  

The international adoption process isn't for everyone. Not every family has the emotional resources or time to invest in a child that comes from trauma and brokenness. Some parents are fighting to keep their current home situation functioning and healthy. Adding another piece to the already volatile dynamic could cause the family to implode. 

The entire family needs to be on the same page. When the process gets hard and frustrating (and it will), both the husband and wife need to be able to look at one another and know that they made the decision to commit to adoption together.  It is crucial that married couples both be invested fully in the decision to adopt.  

Adoption is an option for the orphan, but it is not the only answer.  Providing in-country hope, resources, and families for orphans who will never be able to be adopted must become a priority for American Churches.  

It is vital to have a group of people surrounding you who get it and completely understand what it means to love a child you have never met. I'm so grateful for the other families that were walking through the process at the same time. We encouraged each other, calmed one another down, and just offered any bit of support we could. We celebrated like we had won the lottery when someone received a new picture of their child. I haven't even met most of them in person, but I feel like I lived a lifetime with them. 

One year ago today, we held our son Tyson Henry Word for the very first time.  In just that one day, I learned a few things about adoption. 

Adoption is birthed from loss. It is possible to experience pure joy and deep heartache at the very same moment.  Holding our baby boy for the first time was one of the sweetest moments of my life. It was also one of the most emotional. As I cuddled Tyson and he clung to my shirt, I was reminded of how this baby had come to end up in our arms at all.  We had traveled across the world because this little one had already faced broken relationships and loss. The gravity of that knowledge laid heavy on our hearts. 

I learned what it feels like to take a child from the arms of a foster mama who loved him deeply. Actually, I purposely did not take Tyson from her arms. As a foster mom myself, I knew I couldn't. Brian held him first and I just hugged her tight. There were not enough words to share my gratitude with her. 

Spending our first few weeks together in Tyson's birth country was invaluable. Our hearts are forever connected the DRC, a country with a bruised past and a volatile present.  Though at times it struggles with instability, it is also a country of beautiful people who hope for a better future. We love our son's heritage and hope to return one day to the DRC with him. 

In the past year since bringing Tyson home, I've learned even more about adoption. 

The bonding time is critical.  Only Brian or I held Tyson for the first few months.  Those in our community were so gracious and understanding with this request.  This time was precious to us and so valuable to our family as he adjusted to his new surroundings. 

I have learned not to take my days for granted with him.  There were months of his life that I missed, so I refuse to waste a minute wishing for what comes next.  I have lost too much of his past already. 

Every single piece of paperwork, every roadblock, every single piece of red tape that was on the path to our son was worth it. Every single one.  And I would do it all over again in a heartbeat. 

I've learned that through these past three years, international or domestic adoption is not for everyone. But, without question, it is for our family.  Through sharing our story, I hope that it speaks to others out there who are considering the journey. 

Adoption has turned my life upside down and wrung me inside out. It has stretched and refined my thinking, challenged my worldview, and convicted me of what is truly important in this life.  

It is the hardest and the best thing I have ever done. Adoption has changed my life for the better.   

Happy One Year Gotcha Day, Tyson Henry Word.  You have brightened our world with your infectious smile and dimples for days. We love you dearly and cannot imagine our world without you in it. 


  1. What a amazing write up Leslie. Both of you are so blessed with the beautiful children God sent your way. With that said, your children are tremendously blessed as well...they could not have asked for better parents. Being a parent (and foster parent) myself I know the struggles it brings. No one can understand until they have been through it...but in the end all the struggles are worth it because of the greater rewards. Every time I see ya'll I can't help but smile...beautiful family, inside and out. Thank you for spreading God's word through adoption...we are all adopted by God. Lots of love from our family to yours. The Millar family

  2. Oh how your words seem to be exactly what is on my heart and mind since we started our own adoption journey and bringing our daughter home from China in Sep.
    God bless your family!!!

  3. My mother shared the same sentiment that it was difficult knowing her greatest joy came from another woman's greatest loss and source of pain. Staying open to hearing the criticisms and recognizing the corruption within is absolutely necessary in order for any change in the international adoption system to occur, and I agree that more in-country work needs to happen so that families who want to be able to raise their children but lack some resources, are aided instead of separated.

    p.s. please think about the phrase "gotcha day."

    1. yes, and this couple knew that more resources for the mother would have prevented this harmful separation of a child from her and the fact that he lost his mother and that GOD sanctioned this evil? Incredible what people will justify in God's name. Leave him out of this!

  4. This describes the process perfectly. It is amazing how a moment you waited for so long can be so filled with conflicting emotions. Congratulations on your first year together!

  5. Wow Leslie! This is beautiful! So thankful you were able to hug Tyson's foster Mom.

  6. I'm doing a small research project on why white people adopt African babies. Can you say more about why you chose international adoption? Do you think international adoption echoes in any way the history of white, Christian colonization of Africa?