“I’m a brother.”
I remember my oldest son telling me this, despite the fact that he was an only child. He was insistent.
I heard him. My son is named after my grandpa — who had had 10 siblings after all! My son reminds me so much of my grandpa. Like my grandpa, he is great with kids. “He is meant to be a brother,” I thought.
Time went on and things changed, as they often do. Would we have another child I wondered? Would we possibly adopt? Adoption was something my husband and I talked about even before we got married.
Then a good friend of ours announced they were bringing home a beautiful little girl from China. I tentatively asked my friend if I could ask her some questions about their adoption process. “Yes, of course! Glad to help!” she offered.
In our discussion, I was thrilled to learn that we might be eligible to be adoptive parents. She also answered some questions about how her older kids felt about gaining a new sibling.
In the weeks that followed, my husband and I talked more about adopting. We decided that if we were going to grow our family at this point in our lives, adoption would be the best way.
The next day we contacted two different adoption agencies. We knew we were open to quite a few special needs, and after talking to our agency and finding out that more boys than girls needed families, we decided we would adopt a “brother”. Our biological son was just about to turn 7.
Even though we were open to any age, we could not adopt out of birth order, according to our social worker. In thinking about it, we decided to look for a child who might be around five years of age.
Then one day, there he was. Just a one year old. Our son. His photo online looked a little like our older son’s baby picture. So I clicked on his picture, there was a video! In it he looked right into the camera and it felt like he was staring into my soul. I had never felt so excited and yet nervous at the same time.
His listing stated he had six special needs – some that sounded fairly serious. We requested his file, and had it reviewed by a doctor. We prayed for him. A week later we got an update, and in a second video we saw him take take some of his first steps.
His updated file said that “he loves hugs.” Our oldest son is a big hugger.. and that bit of information was it. We decided to take a leap of faith and submitted Letter of Intent (LOI) that day.
After our biological son’s seventh birthday, we decided to share with our him and our extended family that we were going to adopt. We showed them a video we had made from the updated videos we were sent.
“Is that me?” he said.
“No, he is a little boy in China,” I replied. “He needs a family. We are hoping to help him find a family, and we are praying it will be our family.”
We were at the very beginning of the road. We didn’t even have a home study. But we had faith.
Our son wandered up to me after we left and nervously said, “So there’s a little kid and he’s gonna be my brother?”
I knelt down and said, “Yes.”
As the months went by our oldest son asked more and more about the little boy he had seen in the video. Sometimes shyly asking if he was still coming home. As we passed each milestone in our process, his assuredness and confidence grew.
He also had a very special friend who had a younger adopted brother and was adopted herself who gave him lots of good advice. Our biological son was clearly becoming more prepared for his role; because he started asking me to teach him how to do things, like make snacks — lol.
After almost a year of preparing and waiting, we got travel approval. My husband traveled to Fujian, China to meet our new son. On Oct 9th. the little boy from far away became our treasured son and younger brother. He arrived to my husband asleep and awoke to be welcomed into a new family.
He recognized my husband as Baba right away, his foster mom had prepared him the best she could, it was evident. Later that day we Facetimed for the first time, and when our new son saw our oldest, he called out to him: “Ge Ge”, which means older brother. Over the next few days, the boys would play trucks and peek a boo over the computer.
We could barely sleep the night before we were to take the bus to Chicago to meet them at O’Hare International. During the two weeks they were in China, I had been giving special notes and small gift bags to my older son, so that he could feel like he was part of the journey as well. The last day’s gift bag had a “best bro” t-shirt to match his little brother. He wore it on the last day of the journey, beaming with pride.
Our new son had such a long journey home, and we knew he was probably unsure of what would happen next. But we also knew that he too was bravely taking his own a leap of faith, and that he had opened his heart to us on the very first day.
When we saw him at the airport, he took my older son’s hand, and off they went to play in the arrival area. On the way home our younger son put his head on his brother’s shoulder and fell asleep peacefully. I sat there in tears and in awe.
Our oldest, Henry, had quite honestly been the center of our world, so we were hopeful but a little unsure of how he would adjust to having a much younger brother. He was used to having our full attention, and at the beginning, our new little guy, Jakobe, needed and deserved all of it.
One thing we didn’t know when we took our leap of faith was whether or not his medical needs were resolved or if they even still existed by the time he came home. It appeared we had a physically healthy, very active two-year-old on our hands, which was – and is – an amazing blessing.
However, the extent of his trauma quite honestly blindsided us. He had already lost his birth family and foster family. Would he see us as his family too? Everyone asked how our boys were doing and how we were all adjusting. Short answer: Henry was doing the best in his new role out of all of us. He was prepared to give our youngest the time, attention and love he needs over and over. He always chooses love (okay, except that one time over the iPad).
He was right, he was a brother all along.
He had lots of love to give and our youngest son had been waiting so very long to receive it. Over the months that followed our sons really bonded and became the best of friends and brothers. When Henry goes to school I am quite certain Jakobe counts the minutes until we pick him up. At our oldest son’s school conference his teacher mentioned that when a friend is sad or upset he was always very patient and kind. I told her why.
Sometimes I see people ask adoptive parents, “How could you do this to your biological children, adopt a sibling that might have special needs, medical or behavioral in nature?” But given our experience, my response is, “How could you not? Perhaps it is just what both children need — to be a sibling.” It was what both our boys needed, I’m sure of it.
The best part for me now is to see Jakobe at preschool and seeing him helping younger kids, too. He is thriving as the oldest in his class. I see him gently pat other children on the back if they are having a hard time. I see him having learned to share his toys with other children. His teacher says it’s probably because his brother gives so freely that Jakobe trusts other children and is good at sharing.
To be honest, it certainly wasn’t that way from the start. But the credit really goes to both of them, especially our youngest. He has made the biggest leap, I mean who could be so brave to trust and be so giving when they have lost everything and had to restart yet again?
Jakobe is truly amazing and seeing his personality emerge has been breathtakingly beautiful. He is such a generous child, despite the fact that he came from a hard place, it is his true nature to care for and give to others. He is such a special soul and has certainly given and taught all of us so much and we are forever grateful.
One of the things our sweet boys like to do is sing together. Our oldest heard a song on the radio the other day and he said, “If I were to dedicate a song to my brother this would be it.” The song is called A Better Place by Rachel Platten. The words go something like this: “I’ll tell the world, I’ll sing a song. It’s a better place since you came along.”
It is indeed a better place since our youngest came along.
Siblings, change your world and make it better. Take the leap.
When I see our beautiful boys running and playing, I just want to tell others: run towards it with all you’ve got.
– guest post by Deborah