Happily ever after

Happily ever after
By Kim Cook and Barb Elder
It seems that every cause under the sun has a month or day dedicated to its awareness. Did you know that November is National Peanut Butter Lovers’ Month or that November 15 is National Clean Out Your Refrigerator Day? Don’t get me wrong. I love peanut butter as much as the next person, and I am all in favor of cleaning out the fridge (hopefully more than once a year). But at some point these celebrations become absurd. Certainly November also plays host to some significant and serious awareness campaigns such as National Diabetes Month and Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month. But for this cover story, I would like to pay tribute to a cause that is near and dear to my heart. For me November will always primarily stand for National Adoption Month.

My husband, Jason, and I have been on the road toward adoption for what seems like a lifetime. Although many celebrities are doing it, adoption is still a mysterious process to the outsider, fraught with media misinformation. As we began this journey we wondered, “Can we afford adoption?” “If we want to adopt a US baby, won’t we be waiting forever?” “If we do adopt domestically, will the birth parents show up years later and demand the child back?” The answers to these questions were not what we expected.

As we became more comfortable with our decision to adopt, I encountered another surprise. Everyone I met seemed to have a story of some friend or cousin whose adoption had gone terribly wrong. I’m sure they all meant well by telling me their horror stories, probably wanting to prepare me for what might lie ahead. But I began to wonder if this process was really going to require my heart to go through a blender. In response, we went in search of people who had actually been through the adoption process. While I know that adoption includes a fair share of risks, I have never spoken with an adoptive parent who had a nightmare story to tell (and trust me, I’ve spoken to a lot of them). This has given me great comfort as we await the end to our adoption story.

So for this Nation Adoption Month I asked one of those adoptive parents who has given me hope to share her adoption story with the rest of you. Kim Cook is a Midtowner, and she and her husband have adopted both domestically and internationally. But wait, before I say too much, let me have her tell you her story in her own words.

I vividly remember the first time I ever heard the word orphan. It was 1985 and I was nine years old. The We Are the World Campaign was directing national attention to the famine that was taking place in Africa. Those of you who are children of the 80’s probably remember hearing Michael Jackson, Lionel Richie, and others sing as photos showcasing the famine’s devastation were shared through our television sets. I remember learning about the number of children who were orphaned by the famine and begging my parents to adopt. Though my parents never gave in to my pleas for an adopted brother or sister, a seed was planted in my heart. I knew that when I grew up my family would include adopted children.

My husband, Nathan, and I married in 2001. When we were ready to add children to our family we began researching adoption. Nathan and I are Christians and strive to follow the words of the Bible with our lives. In the Scriptures there is a very clear mandate for followers of Christ to care for orphans. We knew nothing about the adoption process when we began, but through research, talking to friends, and prayer we both felt a desire to adopt a bi-racial little boy and a little girl from Thailand.

The adoption of our son Caleb came first. We connected with Life Choices, a local agency, and started working through the adoption process with them. Caleb’s adoption process was unusually quick. We had our orientation with Life Choices in mid-January and turned all of our paperwork into them at the end of March. In mid-May Life Choices called to let us know a bi-racial little boy had been born two days earlier. His birth mom made a choice to place him for adoption and chose us to be his parents. We were thrilled but also a little overwhelmed. Most people have nine months to prepare for their first child. We had two weeks. Thanks to the labor and gifts of many friends we actually had everything that new parents need on the day that we brought him home. I immediately fell in love with this little one and continue to look at him daily in amazement. I can’t believe that I get to be his parent!

Our second adoption happened a little differently. Through a series of events Nathan and I felt like we should begin the process of researching a Thai adoption. Caleb’s adoption had happened very easily, but the thought of an international adoption completely overwhelmed me. We began researching organizations and connected with Holt International. It seemed impossible to work through the mounds of paperwork and to somehow come up with the money needed for a Thai adoption. Once again, Nathan and I relied on our faith in God to guide us through this process. After two years, tons of paperwork, and the miraculous provision of all of the money we needed, we traveled to Thailand and brought our daughter Grace home in February 2009. She was sixteen-months-old when she arrived home, and our adjustment was much different than with Caleb. It took a couple of months for her to get comfortable with all of the members of our family and even a little longer before she seemed to feel at home. Our precious girl just turned three-years-old. She has adjusted beautifully and is thriving. She loves to make up stories about the things she did in Thailand and still reminds us every time we have rice how much she loves it.

I am currently seven months pregnant with our third child. People often tell me “now you are having your own child.” This offends me because it creates the impression that adoption is a lesser alternative to having biological children. I don’t believe this is true. Families are created in different ways and we have had the privilege of adding children to our family through both adoption and biological means. I cannot imagine my life without Caleb and Grace. They are completely my own and such a gift to raise. Adoption has been one of the greatest gifts of my life. I think back to the childhood dream that began when I was nine. I feel like I am living the life of my dreams, and I am incredibly thankful.

Barb Elder is editor of the LampLighter. For more information about adoption, to ask questions, or make comments you may contact Barb at bstocklas@hotmail.com or Kim at kimberlysimmonscook@gmail.com.

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