November is National Adoption Month, a path many families have taken on the journey to parenthood. Here are some of the details of that adventure for three local moms: Brittany Wise, Joyell Brown, and Bonnie Riley.
Describe your family to us.
Brittany: We are a military family of 5, we have 3 young children who are 5, 2, and 1 year old.
Joyell: We are a typical crazy family of 5 with children, Cooper (8), Lave (7), and Grace (6).
Bonnie: Our family is my husband and I, our biological sons 14 & 10 and our daughter 4, who is an international adoption from Uganda.
What prompted you to begin the journey to adopt?
Brittany: I have always felt a calling to adopt. After marriage my husband and I knew we wanted to start our family through adoption.
Joyell: We were prompted to foster/adopt because of fertility issues. After 7 years, two fertility doctors, multiple treatments and surgery, we had no luck conceiving, not even once! So we laid our burden at God’s feet and said, if Your will is not for us to have children, at least we could provide a safe, loving home for children who needed one, even if that was temporary.
Bonnie: We started the adoption process after both our boys asked this question, “If we wanted more babies and couldn’t get one and they (Uganda) has lots of babies without home, why don’t we get one from there?” We lost 2 pregnancies halfway through. They each asked independently, so we started praying.
What path did you take (domestic, international, foster to adopt, etc.)and why?
Brittany: We chose to adopt from Ethiopia because there was such a great need.
Joyell: We chose to become foster parents. Having worked in non-profits that dealt with child abuse and neglect, I felt a burden on my heart to help children here in my own state that needed help. We thought in passing about adopting this way, but we were more concerned about fostering and being where God needed us to be when He needed us to be there. We chose birth to 4 months for our foster care certification. We felt like if we ever had the opportunity to adopt, we wanted to start with a younger child. But we prayed about it, put it in God’s hands and believed He would lead us.
Bonnie: We did an international independent adoption. Less expensive but more stress and paperwork.
What was the most challenging part of your adoption efforts?
Brittany: Waiting and the uncertainty that came with the wait was the hardest part by far.
Joyell: The most challenging part of our adoption was waiting! We had no notice when we received a call for our son, Cooper, at 11 a.m. “Do you want a baby,” they asked? We said a quick prayer and came home from our respective jobs and borrowed a car seat from a friend! Once we took him, there was a two-week period when we were not sure we would get to keep him forever, although once they placed him in my arms, I knew he was mine! But waiting for the birth father to come forward and take a DNA test, waiting for the courts to do their due diligence (18 months), and finally being granted this child legally and changing his name — I honestly felt like I held my breath for 18 months!
Bonnie: Doing it our selves was the hardest part. Everything they tell you not to do — like wire money to Africa, send copies of all your personal paperwork overseas — is exactly what you have to do. You have to faith that it will all work out and that they will do what they say.
What was one of the greatest moments of your adoption efforts?
Brittany: Receiving the phone call that we could finally go get our son.
Joyell: There are lots of great moments, but the most significant was when Cooper’s adoption was finalized at 18 months. I knew he was ours the moment they put him in my arms, but there was always this fear in the back of my head that someone could take him away. Once the gavel went down, he was ours forever legally.
Bonnie: Meeting her!! The social worker walked across the yard with this tiny girl tucked in her arm. And then coming home. I flew home by myself after a month in country to an airport full of family and friends. It was wonderful.
What is the greatest misunderstanding about adoption that you would love to set right?
Brittany: That you will never love the child like you would love your “own.” We heard this a lot during the process. After three children, two biological and one adopted, we can testify that there is no difference in the love we have for our children. They are all our own.
Joyell: I’ve had lots of people say they are so lucky to have you, like we rescued them or we are somehow altruistic. We are the lucky ones! We were just open — we had open hearts and were open to God’s will. He worked it out perfectly and we are blessed beyond measure with our three!
Bonnie: Adoption is hard and full of pain and loss and grief. It’s not always the best option and she is not lucky to have us. She cried for six months everyday when she woke up because she woke up scared. We have hateful looks and comments made to us often. She will be hurt and confused when she discovers how she came to be an orphan. It’s not for the faint of heart or ones that think it will be fun.
What do you want to tell those who are considering growing their family through adoption?
Brittany: It is not an easy process but it is worth every hurdle.
Joyell: Do it! You will never be sorry! If you’re wondering if you can love that child as much as one from your own flesh, you can! In fact, after getting our oldest, Cooper, I became pregnant and I wondered if I could love the baby I was carrying as much as I did Cooper. Cooper is our first born, an amazing gift.
Bonnie: For those considering, it can be wonderful but it’s hard. It’s also amazingly rewarding. Do your research and be ready to wait and have faith that God will do the best thing.
How has your adoption journey changed you for the better?
Brittany: It has allowed us to see God’s love in a new way, knowing that he loves us no matter where we came from, where we’ve been, who our birth parents are … we are all His children. The same as our son is ours.
Joyell: Adoption radically changed our life and our perspective on life! God took that longing and desire and filled it up with Cooper. That need to be a mother, to give that love to someone else is real! But God did it in His time and His perfect way. I appreciate each of my children more because of the struggles we went through, and honestly, I wouldn’t change a thing! The pain we endured is nothing compared to the joy we have now and will always have. Also, our journey allowed us to walk alongside others and pray with them as they see their families built through adoption. That was a HUGE blessing we never could have imagined!
Bonnie: Our lives are much bigger, crazier and blessed because of Liddy. We meet people we would never get to. We see the world different now. She is silly and sassy and has changed how we see God’s love for us.