I have entered that anticipated stage in life where friends from all corners are having kids and starting families. It’s an exciting time for couples and a joy to think that each day brings about new little miracles and lives to nurture, love and raise. Chris and I would love to start a family some day as well, but as I think about children my heart is drawn to those precious souls without the luxury of parents or a loving home.
I am touched by families that choose to open their hearts and their homes to orphaned children from all over the world. It takes a compassionate, loving, and courageous heart to take on the role of a parent, brother or sister to an adopted child and why it’s important to share such incredible stories of life with one another.
Just like pregnancy and birth, no two adoption stories are the same. I’ve asked Shay Shull from MixandMatchMama.com to share her personal experience and story about adopting sweet Ashby from China, so that we all may get a glimpse into a beautiful journey of adoption.
* How did you and your husband first decide on adopting Ashby?
Back in November 2010, we were at church one Sunday morning on Orphan Sunday. The entire service was dedicated to sharing about orphans around the world, educating us about how many there are and how we can help. By the end of the sermon, I was so convicted that I was supposed to adopt one of these children that I could just feel it in my bones. Well, I told Andrew the good news as soon as the service ended and he looked at me like I was crazy. We had a two year old and an 11 month old at the time and he thought I’d gone mad. He felt for these orphans too, but who were we to adopt one?
Well, this prompted a year long discussion in our house about adoption. I felt extremely called, but he didn’t, so we both agreed to pray about it. We knew that God would change one of our hearts, right? Well, one night, I needed an onion from the grocery store, so we pulled up and I hopped out to get it. Five minutes later when I got back in the car, Andrew looked at me and said we were supposed to adopt. Apparently, in that short amount of time, he had seen a father walk out of the grocery store with his three kids and the youngest one was getting scolded and put her head down so discouraged. This made Andrew think…how many kids are there that are discouraged for really big reasons? How many have no hope? No love? No family? Nothing. And in that moment, he his heart was changed and we moved forward with adopting.
* I love following you and your adorable family on Instagram. How did your kids react to having a new sister? What tips or advice would you offer couples that already have kids.
We made sure our kids were a part of this in every way possible. First, we really tried to educate them about orphans in this world. We wanted them to understand the big picture…there are millions of children in the world without parents living in orphanages. This is a big problem that we feel God is calling us to be a part of. We wanted them to see the whole picture.
After that, we started talking about our new daughter all the time. This was an 18 month process and we discussed and included her in all of it. Every time we would do something, we would say, “won’t it be special when Ashby is here with us too?”. We brought her into our family’s dialogue. Eighteen months is a long time to wait for a new sister, so by the time we met her, our kids were so pumped and excited. She already felt a part of the family because we had talked about her so much. If at all possible, I strongly encourage the entire family traveling to pick up the new child. My kids learned so much (and appreciated so much!) by visiting her orphanage and seeing the other children there. Our three weeks in China really bonded us as a family and made a huge impact on how my kids view adoption and orphans.
We are outnumbered! Andrew and I try really hard to work as a team and divide and conquer when necessary. We decided it was easy and more enjoyable if I get the three kids ready in the morning and then he gets them ready for bed at night. At first, we both helped with both things but then neither parent ever got any downtime. So now, I get up a few minutes early and get everyone dressed, ready and out the door for school and then at night, he gets them all bathed, into pajamas and into bed (then I go in and say prayers, get hugs and kiss them goodnight). We both feel like this type of teamwork keeps everyone happy.
I work from home which has amazing benefits but some drawbacks too. I have found that the key for me is working really early in the morning. I wake up at 4:20 AM each and every day (even the weekends!) because it gives me a solid two hours of uninterrupted work time. At that time of day, my friends and family are all sleeping, so no one is calling or texting me, social media is quiet, so I’m not even tempted to look and get distracted and my house is nice and peaceful, so I can drink my coffee and really focus on my work. Then, when it’s time to wake the kids up for the day, I feel so good about myself because I’ve already accomplished so much and it’s only 6:30 in the morning!
* Anything you wish you would have known prior to beginning the adoption process?
Oh goodness! There is a lot. On the practical side, I wish I would have been better organized. I was somewhat organized, but I could have been a lot better. There are so many documents, forms, classes and paperwork that it got overwhelming really quickly. I wish I would have started really organized from the beginning. I also wish I would have known that it would take a long time to find the right match. I mean, I knew this but I really wish my heart had been prepared for the wait. The wait can be very long (we waited 13 months for a match and then another 5 months to get her) and that can be very discouraging. I wish I would have emotionally been better prepared for this.
* I have always been open to adoption, but have heard that it can get expensive and take a while to get through. I would love to hear what would inspire couples to think about it as an option. What was your experience like?
Our experience was such a blessing! Yes, it took a long time (18 months) and since we did an international adoption, it was expensive…but oh my goodness, when I look at my sweet daughter’s face and think about not having her, I can’t imagine it. Ashby is such a joy. She has this huge personality, she showers us with love and loves to receive love too. I feel like God created her to be mine. Yes, it was a challenging, long, frustrating, time consuming, costly, tedious process but I would do it again for her in a heartbeat. She is my daughter and the love I feel for her is identical to the love I feel for my biological kids.
* How has adding a new child into the family impacted your lives? Friends, family and others around you?
We were the first people in our family to adopt and honestly, I think it’s changed everyone’s opinions on the process. I think everyone had the same doubts and reservations (will we love her the same? will she feel like ours?), but she has been embraced and loved just like the bio kids. We now have other family members talking about adoption too. I think they’ve been able to see through our adoption that though it’s not easy, it’s so worth it.
* What would you tell couples who are interested in adoption?
A friend of mine told me years and years ago that if you’re thinking about it, it’s probably for you. As an adoptive mom herself, she knew firsthand that when God places something like this on your heart, it’s usually a sign to move forward. I would start by reaching out to other people you might know who have adopted… hear their stories and meet their kids. I would read great books on adoption like Mary Ostyn’s Forever Mom and really pray about what kind of adoption would best suit your family (international/domestic/boy/girl/special need/age). There are a lot of decisions to be made, so I would take your time and prepare as much as you can.
That being said, if it’s on your heart, it really could be meant to be… and when you start thinking about perhaps your child is out there waiting on you, it’s very hard to not do it.
* For anyone struggling to get pregnant, what would you say about adoption as an alternative?
It took us two years to get pregnant and honestly, it was the worst time in my life. People told me then that I could adopt and yes, I knew that was a possibility… but it’s hard to hear when you desperately want to be pregnant. On this side of things, I can assure you that you will love an adopted child as much as a biological child and that you are no less a mom for adopting, and I can admit that it’s very hard to hear that when you really want to be pregnant.
My heart breaks for women trying to conceive. I personally know the pain and heartbreak and it’s nothing short of devastating. I would encourage these women to be open to adoption. Pray about adoption. Really try and consider adoption. The joy and love that has come from adopting this precious girl can’t even be put into words. It’s an honor to be her mom.
* I think it’s important to know what to expect up front. What questions should a couple ask themselves prior to adopting?
There are many things you should ask yourself! First, the basics (gender/race/nationality/domestic vs international/age/special needs). Secondly, there is the financial aspect. How much can we spend on adoption? What resources can we use for assistance? Should we foster to adopt instead?
Finally, I think you really just need to pray about how God can fill your heart and your home with a child that is in need. I’m a big believer in God moving in your heart to make room for the perfect little addition. God knows what we need, what we can handle and what is right for us.
Thank you Shay for being so open and honest about your adoption journey!