When we began dating in college, I was barely 19 years old, and you were nearly 21. While dating, we spent a lot of time holding hands and dreaming about what our life might look like together. We talked about where we would live, what our careers might be, how many children to have, and what hopes we had for our family.
Although we had always talked adopting in future, I remember the shock we felt when God asked us bring a new child into our family through adoption. Ryan, you quietly listened while I described my encounter with the Lord, never doubting or questioning my experience. You suggested that we pray, knowing that God would continue to lead us.
After making the decision to follow Him, you stood strong, calm, and resolved while my heart pounded and my knees trembled. I remember the initial grief I felt, choosing adoption and walking away from worldly desires I had been chasing. You provided me with hope as we dreamt together, wondering what God had in store for our family. With you at my side, I knew we could do anything.
During our first adoption process, you worked all day and spent your evenings reading adoption books and watching online modules. While sarcasm and snarky remarks can be your weapon of choice, you minimally used those tactics (necessary for comic relief) and completed all requirements with a (mostly) happy heart! You would regularly come home to a pile of papers waiting for your review and signature, and you celebrated each one, knowing we were one step closer to our new son or daughter.
Remember when you had to write your autobiography? Oh my, you were such a good sport! We would sit side-by-side with our laptops, pecking away at the keys and sharing memories of our family histories. You came home early for home study meetings, met me downtown for fingerprints, and celebrated each paperwork milestone with its own special acronym. Me: “Babe, we are DTC!!!” Ryan: “That’s awesome!! I am so excited! Remind me, what is DTC?”
We looked at countless pictures of waiting children together. That was hard for both of us. Tears fell often, as we looked into the vacant eyes of so many children. I remember our first fight about adoption. I wanted to host a fundraiser. You were vehemently against it. You felt like we had made the decision to adopt, and no one was obligated to help us. I argued that it was an opportunity for people to be involved in orphan care, maybe for the first time in their lives.
We began brainstorming, trying to find a compromise. The Spirit led us to a perfect solution. We knew that as part of your benefit package at work, your employer would provide us with $5,000 once our child’s adoption was finalized. We decided to host a puzzle fundraiser in hopes of raising $5,000 and then paying forward your employer’s benefit to another adoptive family. You could’ve said absolutely no fundraising. You could’ve said yes to my desire to hold a fundraiser. Instead, because of your hesitation, not only did our friends, family members, and coworkers help bring our son home, but we also had the chance to help another family raise money for their adoption. We should compromise more often (wink)!
This next one is hard to write. In May 2013, officials in China decided to change their computer system for processing adoptions. We were more than 60 days into our LOA wait, and most of my friends who shared the same LID had already received theirs and were preparing to travel. By the time late July came, and we still had not received LOA, as our family’s case had not correctly transferred to the new database.
Our social worker gave us news that she could not predict when the issue would be resolved. My mind began to spin out of control, as I imagined weeks and months and years of fighting to bring our son home. From the words of my personal blog post, “After hanging up the phone with our social worker, I collapsed to the floor and cried harder than I have cried in my adult life. It was a pure miracle that Ryan was home when it happened, as he is never home that time of day. I am convinced that God placed him there, knowing that I would need him to hold me. I sobbed and sobbed the most horrible, hyperventilating cry of my life. All I could think was of Tucker being stuck in an orphanage for the next 3 years because our files didn’t transfer from an old computer system to a new computer system.” Ryan, you held me. You were a solid rock as I cried out to God. As all the pain and heartache poured out from me, your strength remained a firm foundation to stand on.
A heart-wrenching experience took place during our second adoption process, and once again, I found myself collapsed in your arms, weeping until I could not cry anymore. I even remember waking up crying at 5 o’ clock in the morning, and just like the time before, you held me and remained strong while I fell apart.
Traveling to China together on two separate occasions to bring our sons home will remain in my heart forever. Watching movies and snuggling with you – I would do that on a plane, in a car, or on a train. So, the 12-16 hour flights didn’t bother me one single bit. I love being on an adventure with you. Climbing the Great Wall, riding in a rickshaw, eating dumplings, drinking cold Sprites, and getting drenched in Hong Kong – I loved every minute of it.
Despite your extreme jet lag and need to compensate by eating six meals a day, I wouldn’t want to travel with anyone else. Truly, I was joking when I said Noah and I would go without you next time! To see you become a father for the third and fourth time was such a gift. You stepped up to the plate every minute of every day in China, selflessly serving in whatever way helped our family most.
Coming home and establishing a new normal is hard work. Experiencing jet lag (again), trying to meet everyone’s needs, going back to work, having challenges with attachment, coping with sleep deprivation, and becoming a new family unit – it is all tough stuff. Re-entry is no joke. Still, you were a solid rock of strength, grace, patience, understanding, and love. We love to joke and say, “Whose idea was it to have all these kids?” Yet, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Everywhere I go with the boys, people say, “Looks like you’ve got your hands full.” And I can’t help but reply, “They are filled with the only things that matter in this world” or “They are the best thing this world has to offer.” Because of you, Ryan, we have built a life that we never dreamed of. So many husbands say no to adoption, but not you. You said, “Let’s pray” and then ultimately, “Yes.” Thank you!
This month’s theme for No Hands But Ours is It Takes a Village. Adoptive moms need people to support them and cheer them on through this process. You are my best friend, my rock, my encourager, and my defender. The love of my life.
As you well know, the journey to bring our kids home and then create a new life together is hard but so very, very good. Growing closer to the Lord with you while raising our four beautiful boys together has made every bitter moment sweet. Ryan, you are the most essential part of my village. I cannot thank you enough for the daily sacrifices you make for the sake of our family. This beautiful, challenging, extraordinary life we live is possible because of you and your willingness to say “Yes” to God. I’ll love you forever.