Can you believe May is almost over?! This week marks 21 months home with Steevenson. That may sound like a long time, but it still feels like my baby just got here! 🙂
Last week, our social worker sent an email to remind us that it’s time to schedule our two-year post adoption interview. We decided to meet at the end of June, so she can put the report together and get it to Haitian social services by the end of July. (They require that the report is in their office 30 days before the actual 24 month mark which, for us, is August 19th.)
If you follow me on Instagram, or we’re friends or family in person, you probably know that Kevin and I have been praying about the possibility of expanding our family through international adoption again. We’ve gone back and forth a LOT over the past several months (sometimes several times in the same day!) because, obviously, deciding to adopt again requires a lot of careful thought. Not only because of the emotional, physical, and financial impact it will undoubtedly have on our family, but also because my (81 and 82 year old) in-laws just moved in with us too. There is so much more to consider this time around.
I’ll keep you posted on whether or not we decide to proceed, but in the meantime, I thought it might be helpful to share a blog post about some interesting things I’ve read while researching articles about adopting a second child.
- “Adoption agencies will expect a family to have had at least two years to adjust to living together as a family before considering placing another child.”
Every family and adoption agency will likely have different opinions about that, but for us, and knowing where we’re at almost 24 months post-homecoming, I feel like that would be good advice when it comes to the length of time Steevenson, Kevin and I seemed to need. I should also mention that if we started another Haitian adoption process (which is what we feel most drawn to for many reasons), our second child wouldn’t join our family for another 3-4 years. But like I said, the three of us definitely needed a couple of years to adjust before we even started feeling a stirring to start praying about whether or not we could/should expand our family.
And again, that’s just what felt right for us. And obviously not every adoption agency expects a family to have had at least two years of adjustment because we know other couples who brought home their (first) internationally adopted kiddos around the same time we brought home Steevenson, and they’ve already completed a whole separate second adoption process. (One in China and one in India, in case you’re wondering.)
- “Adopting a second child changes everything. It adds another relationship to the dynamic of a family, and changes the relationship between the parents, and between each parent and the first child. It’s natural to be anxious about such changes, especially if your existing family is happy.“
I’m sure that one crosses most first-time parents’ mind- whether they’re adding to their family through adoption or biologically. In my researching, I read a lot of articles written by adoptive parents who thought it may not be as easy to bond with a second (internationally adopted) child. Others worried that the relationship they have with their first (internationally adopted) child might be upset by bringing in a second (internationally adopted) child.
I will admit, the second part of that last line is something that crosses my mind a lot. “Especially if your existing family is happy.” If you’ve followed along with our adoption journey since Steevenson first got home, you know that we had an very turbulent start together.
When we drove away from the orphanage on August 19th, 2016, Kevin and I *instantly* became parents to a four-and-a-half year old. A role that, all of a sudden and for the next several months, felt much more challenging than we could’ve ever imagined or planned for. Partly because we didn’t know what the heck we were doing and partly because we were scared to death, and our four and a half-year-old was too.
We didn’t recognize his reactions and behavior as fear at the time though because it didn’t ever seem like he was afraid. He seemed the opposite of afraid, actually, because his fear during the first six months home manifested as rage, aggression, rejection and defiance. It’s crystal clear now though that he was in protection mode and fear was *exactly* what he was dealing with…he just didn’t know how to deal with it. (And honestly, neither did we.) His relationships with the kids and nannies at Three Angels Children’s Relief were all he had in the whole world, and they were who he had eventually allowed himself to trust in after being brought there when he was (around) 18 months old.
It’s easy for us to get excited about what our internationally adopted kiddos will gain by joining our families, but it’s SO important to be mindful about what they will lose in the process too. And it’s not only their relationships they’re losing. They’re also losing their schedule (which feels like stability), and the ability to fully understand people or communicate with them because of the language barrier. Losing those three things alone (your relationships, your schedule and comprehension/communication) would make any child OR adult (adopted or not) feel afraid and overwhelmed. And for a kiddo with a history of early childhood trauma, well, it can make them feel like their whole world is, once again, out of control.
But back to that sentence that sticks out: “Especially if your existing family is happy“.
Today, the three of us are happy. We’re still working on some uncomfortable attachment issues, but we certainly can’t even imagine life without effervescent, compassionate, friendly, funny, bright, honest, snuggly Steevenson. The thought of “rocking the boat” scares the you-know-what out of me. Maybe because I’m still scarred (literally) by what happened post-homecoming the first time around, and maybe because I’ve never really felt an overwhelming desire to be a mom. (How’s that for vulnerability?) :-/ It’s true. I don’t know why (maybe it’s genetic?), but I’ve heard from lots of women who can relate, so I’m less hesitant to admit it out loud these days.
A new dimension of myself was revealed in adopting Steevenson though. One that *does* have the ability to do things I didn’t know I could do, and feel things I didn’t know I could feel. So although I feel unsure about depending on that dimension in a similar way again, I have learned, firsthand, that God doesn’t call the equipped when it comes to Callings and comfort zones. He equips the Called.
- “Adoption agencies will not want to do anything to undermine your existing child’s security and will generally only consider placing a second or subsequent child as the youngest child in the family. Research evidence shows that giving each child space is advisable and therefore a wider age gap (a minimum of two years, ideally more) between the children may be better.“
It makes sense that it would be important for us to carefully consider the age gap between two older, internationally adopted children because, like I touched on in the previous paragraph, (and know from personal experience and the experiences of others) older, internationally-adopted children typically have a range of insecurities when they join your family.
We’ve been working very hard and very intentionally to help Steevenson grow in security with us so that he truly believes in his preciousness and in his permanence in our family. Research says that “a larger age gap of 3-4 years or more, may make it easier for each of the children to feel that their place in the family is secure, and reduce any conflicts due to children being at similar developmental stages“. You’ll notice they used the word “may” because, obviously, it’s just a suggestion (probably based on research and experience), but not a hard and fast, one-size-fits-all kind of rule. I feel like the appropriate age gap (and even the order in which you decide to adopt your children, age-wise) really depends on the personalities of the children- both the one at home and the one coming into the home.
- “Be prepared for your older child to regress when another child joins your family. Second time adopters can be taken aback when a child who seemed very settled and ready for a younger sibling is suddenly demanding and challenging. Even the most careful preparation won’t necessarily reassure a child who, in the past, may have lived through chaotic and scary times. Earlier feelings of insecurity may surface unexpectedly for both child and parents. For this reason it is helpful to talk through with your adoption team the timing of a second application and the age and backgrounds of children that you can consider.“
In other words, if we adopted a second time, we would not only have to do our best to be prepared for the second child’s negative reaction to the transition into our family and home, we would also have to do our best to be prepared for Steevenson’s possible negative reaction to the transition. And how do you really prepare for those kinds of things, ya know? I feel like we’re equipped with more knowledge and experience than we were before we adopted Steevenson, but a second adoption would introduce uncharted territory that could (and probably would) lead to several more months of some new kind of turbulence.
Would it be worth it? I’m sure it would. But it doesn’t change the fact that turbulence is uncomfortable…for everyone.
I read another article that asked an important question about the motivation to adopt again. It read:
“In thinking about whether or not another adoption might be right for you, consider the following questions: Why are you planning to adopt again? Is it for you, for your child, or for both? There is a common myth that children have better adjustments with siblings, particularly siblings who are like them. While there have been numerous studies on adoption adjustment, the effect of family structure on adoption adjustment is not a common focus. One study (Brodzinsky and Brodzinsky, 1992) suggests that family structure has very little, if any, impact on child adjustment, a finding that is consistent with prior research. Ultimately, unless the primary motivation to adopt is the desire to parent another child, it might be worth reconsidering.”
Steevenson has expressed his desire to have “LOTS more kids in this house” pretty much since day one and almost every day ever since. 🙂 He’s a people-person and a true extrovert. Someone who gets their energy by being *with* other people…especially children. Unlike Kevin and I (who are introverts and need lots of alone time to re-charge after interacting with others), too much time without interaction leads to a “low battery” for Steevenson. I caught him in a smile-less trance daydreaming in the backseat of our truck on the way to town yesterday and when asked what he was thinking about he quietly answered, “Haiti“. He has never answered that question that way before. He usually just says, “I’m not thinking about anything” or “I don’t know” so you can imagine our surprise when that answer quietly popped out. I asked him, “what are you thinking about Haiti?” and still staring out the window he whispered, “I really want a brother and a sister“.
It was a very powerful moment, that felt very different from the other times he talked about siblings. As a matter of fact, it was so moving, Kevin immediately pulled over so we could all hold hands as we talked through some things with our (suddenly beaming!) little boy. By unexpectedly pulling over so that we could both turn around and look at and touch him, I think he probably felt seen & heard in a way that made him feel a little warm and fuzzy, and to see that smile spread across his face right then was so sweet because it made us feel so cherished by him too!
We’re careful not to make any promises about adopting another child before we feel loud-and-clear Called to do so though, because we would definitely want to make sure our motivation is stemming from the Right place. We do feel like the Lord will let us know when/if the time is right, but I will admit, not feeling a peace about it right now and knowing we’re not getting any younger does make us feel a little fidgety.
One other thing I read said this:
- “The secret to making the decision about whether to adopt again, my fellow parents, is to do what you did when you contemplated your first adoption: Take all of the notably significant factors into account, and decide in your heart whether or not to take the leap.“
Easier said than done for sure, but it’s really all you can do. And since I believe adoption is a Calling to go find your family, “leaping” is really listening. Listening to the One who is *actually* writing the Story and has such a powerful way with words!
If you were Called to your kiddos on a different continent, and it took two or more trips to find them, I’d love to hear from you in the comment section. How did you feel when you jumped back into the second international adoption process? And if you don’t feel like sharing your experience/thoughts publicly, you can always reach me at [email protected]