Q: Tell us about your family.
A: I get the feeling that a lot of people think we’re kinda crazy. Adopting our fourth child in 2010 started a series of events in our lives that led to starting The Sparrow Fund to serve adoptive families, my husband quitting his finance career to live on support so that we could do nonprofit work in China while living stateside, and me putting my MA degree in counseling to professional use, becoming part of a team of therapists at the Attachment & Bonding Center of PA serving children and families in the foster and adoption communities exclusively and leading teams to Chinese orphanages to host staff trainings. It may sound crazy; but, it’s our family’s normal now.
Q: What led you to adopt from China?
A: We had talked about adoption from Day 1. When faced with infertility and four miscarriages, those early conversations became a bit less idealistic dreams and more realistic for how we were being called to grow our family.
Q: Which province is your child from?
A: Our daughter Lydia (now age 7 ½) came home at 13 months old from Baoji, Shaanxi province.
Q: What special needs are represented in your family?
A: Lydia had a small VSD that we thought would require open heart surgery due to its placement. But, a follow-up appointment revealed complete closure without any intervention. She was also diagnosed stateside as failure to thrive because of 4 documented months in her infancy of no growth at all. As she grew and thrived here, we (and everyone within 50 ft. of our daughter at any given time) became acutely aware of sensory related challenges she has as well. She’s sensory aversive to smells and sounds and pretty much seriously sensory seeking with everything else. One teacher once told me she needed Dramamine to teach her. Yup, that’s our girl.
We have additional special needs represented in our family including a child with a myriad of learning disabilities and anxiety and a daughter with scoliosis requiring a back brace for the next year or two. We are convinced that each Raudenbush would qualify as having “special needs” in one way or another.
Q: What is your favorite aspect of adoption? Hardest?
A: My favorite aspect of adoption is getting to experience God’s redemptive work so clearly, so tangibly that His hand is undeniable. Obviously, our most life-transforming experience was within our own family. But, we have had the joy of experiencing that work again and again as we have served and advocated for waiting children and have been able to see them placed in families and then again as we have walked alongside families to help them experience healing in broken places.
Perhaps one of my most remarkable experiences of redemptive work outside our own family was in leading an orphanage staff training and being able to use an ayi as a positive example of connection between a caregiver and a child in front of all her peers and superiors, knowing that she herself had grown up as an orphan there. I will never forget the expression on her face in that moment. My response to what I think is the hardest part could read similarly. The experience of redemptive work is necessitated by brokenness. The healing is sweet but the broken parts I am privy to personally and professionally often weigh on my heart.
Q: In one or two sentences, what are two tips applying to any part of the adoption process?
A: Tip #1: Read, research, respect “experts’ rules.” There’s a lot of great stuff out there. But, use wisdom with when to close the manuals and trust yourself. If what you are doing or want to do for your child makes you feel like a good mom and communicate that feeling to your child, it’s a good thing even if it doesn’t match “best practices” perfectly.
Tip #2: Don’t spend too much time trying to figure out if whatever challenging behavior you’re seeing in your child is adoption related, individual personality, or a result of simply a heart that wants to choose self over anything else. We are all so complex; all of that is intricately woven together making it incredibly difficult to untangle. And, there’s really no need to get distracted by the question. Our parenting strategies should be consistent regardless — compassionately nurturing while safely and strongly structuring.
Q: How has adoption grown, stretched, or changed you?
A: Becoming a wife revealed my own gaps like nothing had before. Becoming a mother revealed more gaps and that the gaps I knew about were deeper than I thought. Becoming a mother to a child with a hard start opened my eyes even further to my own weaknesses. But, those seasons of increased awareness have also brought the richest seasons of growth, the kind of growth that requires painful pruning but lots of fruit.
Q: Can you share a few of your favorite blog posts by others on NHBO? Some personal blog posts?
A: This letter to a struggling mom is one that continues to mean a lot to me.
This one from 2014 about the impact of Chinese ayis marks a significant moment for me when I became passionate about supporting these women.
Clicking through my own blog to find favorite posts is quite a journey, like I’m flipping through old photo albums I rediscovered after my mom put them in the corner of the attic.
This pretty recent post about my own process in hosting a child from China who needed a family and how God answered prayers is one I think I’ll go back to and reread when I need to preach to myself.
And, this letter to my daughter’s birthmother on the occasion of her 7th birthday was significant to me and continues to be. I process a lot of things through letter writing to both specific people and people I have never met.
Q: What is your favorite book? Quote? Verse?
A: Current favorite books: Gary Thomas’ Lifelong Love is so great. While it’s a marriage book, the messages are broad and widely applicable. Another resource that impacted me deeply as well as the way I come alongside others is Curt Thompson’s The Soul of Shame.
Favorite quote: Cheryl Nitz, the director of the Attachment & Bonding Center of PA, often shares with parents, “You are what your child needs.” When I felt the most unequipped and unable, those words assured me of my calling not to be the “ideal mom” but to be their mom. And, that made all the difference.
Favorite verse: I chose Isaiah 42:16 as a theme verse when we started our adoption process back in 2007. Now, nearly 10 years later, it remains my favorite.
Q: What is something most people don’t know about you?
A: Maybe that I’m writing this as I sit in the Guangzhou airport waiting for a delayed flight?
Q: Can you share a favorite “mom hack” that makes life easier for you?
A: Avoiding Pinterest and embracing imperfect (and surrounding myself with friends who remind my perfectionist, overthinking self of that).
Q: If you could share one parting thought with someone considering special needs adoption, what would it be?
A: Spend time wrestling with who God is and who you are. He may use compassion to stir your heart initially to adopt. But, ask Him for discernment between compassion and calling. If you sense that He’s given you a heart of compassion but has not called you to adopt, fight hard to advocate for those who need you. And, if you are called to adopt, then run the race hard, knowing that it will be hard but it will be good.