What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story, email me.
My name is Jenni Stearns. I am a 26 year old wife to my husband, Mark. I love Jesus and try to live like him. I live in Beaverton, Oregon but my heart is now and forever in Nicaragua, and I'm fond of all things Spanish. I 'm in the process of starting a non profit called Hope By Design that helps Nicaraguan women overcome poverty. I love to travel (especially to Nicaragua to visit my sweet girls), knit and crochet, repurpose old items, work out sporadically, and drive around listening to Spanish music in my 1973 VW bus we named Gus. What I want you to know is that when I'm asked how many kids we have, I never know exactly how to answer. We have two small boys at home with us now who are biologically ours, we're in the process of adopting three sisters from Nicaragua, and we lost a little girl two years ago when our adoption fell apart. In my heart I have 6 children, but in my home I only have two. I blog about my life, our adoption, Hope By Design and random other events at www.thestearnsweeklynews.blogspot.com.
Before we married we knew that adoption would be a part of our family tapestry. We didn't know the specifics, but we knew that when time was right we'd start the process. In October of 2007 my husband and I started to feel like the time was finally right. He was finishing a tour in Iraq, I was in Central America with our 1 year old son and after much prayer and consideration we decided we would start the adoption process upon our return home. We knew we wanted to adopt a latino child because I am fluent in Spanish, we both have a heart for Hispanic people and we love and appreciate their culture. I was adamantly against a domestic infant adoption but due to the upcoming closing of Guatemala, my husband asked me to pray about adopting domestically. Within a week I knew in my heart that this was the path we should take. I remember very clearly discussing this with Mark and him saying, "OK, well, we need to start praying for our birth mom because in the States she plays a huge role in the process of adoption." That day we faithfully began praying, and that week our daughter's birth mom conceived.
We were open to any child of any background with any mental, physical or emotional problems at any age younger than our son. When we were matched and heard about our birth mom we were ecstatic. She was 14 and had been in and out of the foster care system. While no adoption is a sure thing, it sounded like the situation was more stable than we ever could have hoped. She'd been ordered to take parenting classes if she wanted to parent and the deadline had passed without her compliance, so it looked as though the adoption would be fairly quick after the baby was born. We picked a name for our daughter. We prayed for her and her birth mom daily. We told our family and close friends about what coming. Our birth mom asked us to be a part of the birth plan and were anxiously awaiting the call to head to the hospital.
Instead we got a call that the birth mom had changed her mind and wanted to parent, so she ran away.
What I want you to know is that we mourned the loss of our daughter. I mourned as I had never mourned before. I didn't matter that our DNA wasn't the same. She was our child. We had prayed for her since before her conception.
Then in the midst of the mourning I found out I was pregnant. It didn't ease my sadness, it intensified it.
What I want you to know is that while people were trying to be helpful, they said hurtful things. Things like, "Oh, God just had a better plan. Can't you see? Now you don't need to adopt. You're pregnant." Or, "Aren't you glad you're having your own child?" and the worst, "Well, it was probably for the best. You never know what you are getting with adoption."
What I want you to know is that she was my own child. The child I had prayed over for months and years. The child I ached over, the child I cried over and a child I wanted. Being pregnant didn't in any way lessen my sense of loss. One child simply cannot replace another.
People were uncomfortable around us and didn't know what to say. What was there to say? She wasn't ever technically ours.
What I want you to know is that I didn't need anyone to say anything to try and make me feel better. I just needed a hand to hold, a shoulder to cry on. Someone to recognize how deeply this loss affected me, and not just skim over it because I was pregnant. Someone who would acknowledge how much a part of our life she was and how much we missed her, even though we had never met her. Even though we will never meet her.
I also want you to know that we have found joy again. Joy in our oldest son, and joy in our younger son who was born 8 months after the adoption fell through. We have forgiven the birth mom for the pain she's caused, and we realize that she was in a lot of pain, too. We still pray for our daughter daily. We don't know where she is or who she is with, but we will always love her. And I want you to know that we've continued on with adoption. We are currently waiting for our three daughters from Nicaragua to come home.
But mostly, what I want you to know is that blood doesn't make a family, love does. Adoption is never an accident. There are seemingly thousands of documents to be prepared, signed, notarized and filed. There are home visits, parenting classes, doctor visits, and psychologist visits to schedule. There are thousands of dollars that are spent in preparation for bringing your child home. These children; although not our blood, are wanted, loved and immediately a part of our family as soon as we hear about them. I want you to know that our love for our adopted children is just as strong as our love for our biological children, and a loss in adoption doesn't hurt any less simply because there isn't a blood connection.
Thank you for allowing me to share my story. Thank you for meaning well even if you hurt my feelings. I can now see beyond the words to the purity in the intent behind them. I want you to know that I forgive any hurtful comments that were made.
What do you want me to know?