When naming our Zella Carrier, we were inspired by the story of "Zella Zack and Zodiac" which is a heartwarming story about a mama zebra who adopts a baby ostrich, creating an unlikely family. After he's all grown up, Zack returns the favor by saving Zella's baby from a lion. This touching story reminds us of the importance of family and celebrates the wonderful gift of adoption. We asked Wendy to share her inspiring story of adoption...
When little girls dream of being a Mommy, it doesn’t usually take the form of adoption, or include children that come from somewhere (or someone) else. And yet, for as long as I can remember, my vision of motherhood always included adopting. I can’t even trace the origin of that idea or inspiration in my life; we didn’t know any adoptive families, nor was adoption a very well known practice back then.
Nonetheless, throughout the years, I’d hop from country to country in my dreams of adoption, with each location likely reflecting what was currently happening in my life. (Case in point: when I married my Colombian husband, the location of ‘our future adoption’ jumped down to South America!)
But adoption didn’t happen quickly for us. Because we married young, we weren’t even old enough to be approved as adoptive parents for a few years! So we started our family traditionally, with the birth of our daughter in 2009. Seven and a half years later, we still have never conceived again. While infertility is a common precursor to families choosing to adopt, I firmly believe our experience of it is God’s way of confirming that childhood dream; that we’re meant to bring children into our family not just biologically, but through adoption as well. Unexplainable infertility has been for us a unique and heart-wrenching experience in it's own right, but we couldn’t shake the feeling that it was an uncontrollable, unplanned way of “saving a place” for future adopted children in our family.
Two years after our daughter’s birth, we finally sat down in an adoption agency’s office and began the initial process. Turns out, our timing was off, and life took us in a different direction with a loss of a job, a move out of town, and grad school; all of which inhibited adoption for that season. We had to ‘lay down the dream,’ and trust that it would come again at the right time.
Fast forward to 2014: 8 years into marriage, school completed, another move, a career secured and life settling down a little. Our first priority in this new season: starting the adoption journey all over again. This time, thank heavens, the timing was right. 18 months after our first meeting with the agency director, we found ourselves flying to Georgia to bring our son home. And 7 months after that, we stood in front of a judge promising to love, provide for, cherish and enjoy him for a lifetime.
It’s so easy to write all that now, in hindsight. What’s left out are the months, that turned into years, of waiting, the miles of paper trails, the tears cried alone and with those journeying with us, the seemingly insurmountable costs, or the 5 potential adoptions that fell through before the perfect boy for us was born. But isn’t that just like pregnancy, labor, and delivery of biological children?! All the pain, all the waiting, all the costly effort of birthing a child is quickly forgotten (or at least faded!) with the first glimpse, the first cry, or the first moment you hold them close to your chest. In an instant, forever bonded by a mother’s love. And you’d do it all over again.
Matthias is now 13 months old, and it’s fascinating to me to compare his first year to our daughter’s. With Ilianah, bonding was immediate; starting at conception really, and solidified minutes after birth. She’d heard my voice for 10 months already; she was familiar with my movements and breathing, she’d shared my very body. Breastfeeding came with challenges, but ultimately sustained her throughout that first year of life. Both my husband and I practiced skin to skin with her, but for the most part, bonding was not a premeditated effort. It came naturally and effortlessly.
For Matthias, on the other hand, bonding was of utmost importance to us, and we took it incredibly seriously. He didn’t hear my voice in the womb, and the voice he did get used to was not there to comfort him in those first 2 weeks of life before we were able to be with him. Feeding is also a strong bonding event, and since I could not nurse him, we restricted the bottle feeding duty to only myself or my husband, so that he knew we were the people who would comfort him and give him milk when he cried. Because I didn’t carry him in my womb, I did something I never even thought to do did with Ilianah: wear him! From day one, it’s been my greatest joy to hold him close with the help of a wrap or carrier. He feels my heartbeat, hears my voice, experiences my movements and is soothed with nearness while we go about life together.
Babywearing has been inexpressibly important in this first year, where bonding either happens or doesn’t; and the effects of either outcome are seen for the remaining lifetime of the child. I always say, “we’re making up for lost time together!” I truly believe the simple act of carrying him this way has allowed for the strong bond we now see and enjoy with him today, and will carry us through the lifelong journey of adoption that we’re really only just beginning.