Of all the things in my life that I have accomplished; work, a PhD, monetary assets, travel; my children are my proudest accomplishment. To add to this, I feel no different for my eldest birth son as I do for my two adopted children. This is often hard for people to understand. I will receive comments from others, like "It is so hard with my own child I don't know how you do it." I know they don't mean what they are saying so I don't take it personally. Yes, international adoption is not easy. The paperwork is hard, and it can be expensive and of course children who have been malnourished, neglected, and/or traumatized will have some level of need. But the stories that make the media, those of extreme cases of Reactive Attachment Disorder just are not representative of our personal experience. The behaviors that my adopted children have displayed are completely logical knowing what they experienced. Of course an abandoned child will be afraid to sleep alone, of course a previously malnourished child will scream their head of if somone touches his or her food, of course a child who has lived in a orphanage and had no control over his or her life will try to control everything that he can now that he has the chance. I expected these things and in most cases the behaviors have been less extreme then what I was prepared for.
What I see most often, about 98% of the time are happy, resilient children who are so grateful to experience a second chance at life. Seriously, my two youngest kids are thrilled by the simplest of things, thrilled simply to have a loving adult give them attention and love. And the transformation that I have seen in them is short of a miracle. My daughter who has been home for two years now has metamorphed from a tiny 24 pound child who looked like a 2 year old and spoke no English, to a average sized 6 year old who is attending full-day kindergarten and reading and writing and speaking fluent English. My youngest son who has only been with us for 4 months has gone from a quite and moody little guy to a talkative (even if it is jibberish), charismatic, energetic, and easygoing toddler. Despite what the news likes to show, any expert in the field of pediatrics will tell you that the vast majority of internationally adopted children thrive in their adoptive homes. So many people tell me how lucky my children are, how we saved them. Saved them from starvation, from illness, from a life on the streets or in a orphanage. Certainly we have given them a forever family and all that comes with that, love, attention, a home, nutrition, and education. But the truth is that I am the one who has benefited. My children and the process of adopting them and visiting their beautiful birth countries changed me. Changed me for the better, maybe even saved me. Through them I have learned to be more compassionate, more patient, more motivated to make the world a better place and not to take anything for granted. I truly cannot imagine my life without them.
The people who say that nothing good comes out of international adoption, well I feel sorry for them. Sorry that they do not see what I see. Sorry that they cannot step out of their little worlds to meet our children, to truly educate themselves about the complicated issues that they are so quick to make judgements on, to learn about the countries where my children come from, to experience the transformations that I have witnessed. It is their loss.