11/17/2015

4 Things I Want You to Know About International Adoption

Kristen and her husband Derek are an Iowa family that continues to open their hearts and home to children.

Not only have they adopted internationally and domestically, they're also in the process of finishing their foster care license!
National Adoption Month
Here's Kristen in her own words...

I met my husband Derek on a college ministry Spring break trip.

We dated for five months, got engaged and then got married on our 14-month anniversary.

After being married for just under a year, we decided that it was time to start a family.

We tried getting pregnant for about eight or nine months, but I found that it was causing me more stress than joy, and I did not want that for myself or for our marriage.

Both of us knew right away that the answer for us was not going to be spending money on fertility treatments; the next option was adoption.

We looked into domestic adoption, foster care and international adoption.

All avenues are terrific and God honoring, but in the end we decided on international adoption.

“Around the world, there are an estimated 153 million orphans who have lost one parent. There are 17,900,000 orphans who have lost both parents and are living in orphanages or on the streets and lack the care and attention required for healthy development. These children are at risk for disease, malnutrition, and death.” (More statistics can be found here.)

We could not ignore some of the facts we were reading:

“…international adoption has declined significantly over the past several years, with just 7,092 adoptions in 2013, down from 8,668 in 2010, 9,319 in 2011 and 11,058 in 2010.” 

During the next 7-months we received and lost our first 3 referrals, then got our third referral, Viola.

We began the necessary preparation to become a family of three, and then a few short weeks before we were scheduled to head to Uganda, our caseworker asked if we would be willing to add another child onto our case.

Our little man, Gideon, was just two at the time and we were thrilled.

After spending 73 days in Uganda, working night and day to get our children cleared to come home with us, we landed in Cedar Rapids on November 2, 2012, with Viola Ann Kimball (age 4) AND Gideon George Kimball (age 2).

Fast forward another year and a half: We were so in love with our family of four and thought it was complete for the time being.

It seems God had another plan for us.

We were approached by a family friend who knew of a single mom working at Burger King who was looking for someone to adopt her baby.

After thinking and praying about it for a few weeks and actually saying, “No,” a couple times, we said, "Yes."
National Adoption Month
I was fortunate to be at every appointment starting at 20-weeks, including a very special appointment in July of 2014 where I had the honor to watch the birth of our daughter, Charlotte Abigail Kimball.

This is our story of how adoption has formed our family, but what I have learned is that everyone’s adoption journey is different and everyone’s adoption journey is beautiful.

Here are four things I want you to know about International Adoption:
National Adoption Month
1. Bonding doesn’t happen over night.

A lot of people ask about the first time we saw our kids.

What were you feeling? Did you instantly fall in love with them? Were they excited to see you? Did it feel like the missing puzzle piece was found?

The truth of the matter is that meeting the kids was an amazing day I will never forget it.

But, if I told you that I felt instantly bonded with them or even instantly in love with them, it would be dishonest.

As we drove down a bumpy, red dirt road in Uganda, we parked the car and began walking towards Viola’s home.

As soon my feet hit the dirt, I was full of so many different emotions but mostly I was excited.

I had dreamt about this moment for my whole life; the first time I would lay eyes on my child.

Unfortunately, my dreams were not a reality.

Our sweet girl was so terrified of us that she would not come out of the stick hut to see us.

The translator tried to get her to come out, but she had a tight grip on one of the hut’s support sticks and was not moving an inch.

After about 30 minutes, I tried entering the hut.

However, anytime I got close to her, she would yell and fight.

Of course my heart was broken, but I saw utter fear in her eyes and my heart hurt so badly for her.

Derek and I quickly decided that we were not going to take Viola with us that day.

We saw her at court a couple days later and then visited her village two more times.

On the third visit, we were very nervous.

This was the trip where we had to bring her with us.

We prayed so much for her little heart.

Her elderly grandmother had been preparing her as well.

So on that day, we watched her grandmother give her a bath, put her in a new dress and whisper in her ear.

That is when Viola turned around walked up to me and allowed me to hold her hand.

We later found out that her grandmother whispered to her that Derek and I were going to take care of her and buy her rice and cookies.

The next few days were rough, to say the least.

She was not very fond of me and would hit, kick, spit and bite to make sure I knew to stay away from her.

Almost three years later and you would never know that scared, violent child was the same person as our sweet Viola today.

She is such a caring friend who looks out for the people she loves and is thriving in our home.

Although I never had a moment where I instantly felt bonded with her, we have had such a journey getting to know each other and that journey is far from over.

2. Their culture is important

We never want our kids to forget about Uganda.

They had two and four years in that beautiful country, with beautiful people and Derek and I believe that to not talk about their experiences would be a huge mistake.

You will often find us all laying around in front of the TV, watching videos and looking at pictures of their friends, families and experiences in Uganda.

My dad has even spent many precious moments with them in his kitchen, making Chapatti, a Ugandan staple.

3. Just because they were put up for adoption, doesn’t mean they were not loved and wanted.

There is no truer statement than this when it comes to the biological families involved in our story.

Viola’s grandmother loved her more than words can express and did not want to see her go.

However, she was 87 years old and knew she would not be around much longer.

She was fearful for what would happen to Viola after she passed away and wanted so much more for her granddaughter.

We were able to say goodbye to her grandmother one last time before flying to the states and she could not stop smiling.

Viola did not want to go back to her grandmother that day, but that just made grandma laugh and smile bigger.

She kept saying, “I’m so happy, thank you.” 

Gideon lived with his maternal grandparents who were also caring for 11 other orphaned children.

Gideon was the youngest and was having some health issues.

His grandparents could not afford to feed all the mouths in their home, and just like Viola’s grandmother; they, too, wanted a better life for their grandkids.

The love that the whole household had for Gideon was obvious, and you could tell that the older kids would miss him.

I’m so thankful for all of the pictures and videos we have of him with his family and although he doesn’t remember them well, he enjoys talking about them.

4. I am a lot stronger than I ever thought I was.

I am an anxious person.

I have struggled with anxiety for many years and in the past it has even been debilitating and meant midnight trips to the ER.

August 19th, the night before our plane was set to leave the states, I was sitting in my living room with my husband and two of my best friends.

I remember getting this overwhelming feeling that I was absolutely not getting on the plane to Uganda the next morning.

But one of my friends looked at me and said so simply, “Yes, you will. You don’t have a choice. It is not about you anymore, it’s about your kids."

The next morning I got on the plane (maybe a little weepy), and we took off from the Cedar Rapids airport for a “6-8 week” trip to Uganda.

Much to my surprise, we spent over 10-weeks surrounded by red dirt roads.

During that time I had to do things that I never thought I would have to do. I talked back to government officials and police officers when they were trying to take advantage of us and spent more than 24-hours at the Ugandan passport office.

I learned very early in the process that I had absolutely no control over ANYTHING.

The day I decided to give up all control and let the process work itself out was the most freeing day of my life.

There are so many hurdles to jump over while adopting, and if you try to run the show, you will fall flat on your face.
National Adoption Month
I will never forget the feeling of riding down the escalator and seeing our families holding signs and balloons and sporting the biggest grins and happiest tears.

I am not a crier, but boy did the tears flow that day.

I was full of pride and sobbed the words, “We did it,” as I hugged my dad for the first time in 73 days.

There are so many moments in my life today where I get anxious and feel like I want to quit, but all I have to say is “I lived in Africa for 73 long, challenging and stressful days, I can do anything.”
National Adoption Month
Are you interested in submitting a guest post for National Adoption Month? This Family's Journey is featuring your stories all month long! Contact me for more details.

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