Tuesday, June 14, 2011

A Biological Child's Perspective on Adoption: Rachel

We wanted to share some of the stories of adoption from the point of view of the children, both biological and adopted. It has been fascinating and faith-building to hear them tell their own stories of life from their perspective. The fourth in this series is from our precious Rachel, who is a junior in college and an wonderful young woman.

Rachel's Story:
...the potential to redeem and restore broken lives...
I thought a lot about how I wanted to start this blog post. Should I begin with the first time my parents brought up the idea of adoption? Should I begin with when I first met Kristina and Pasha, the first of four adoptions? Or should I go further back, and begin with life before the adoptions? I could write a book on this experience, on adoption and how it has affected my life, and my family's life, but what I really want to emphasize is that adoption has not only dramatically changed me, but has come to define my life and my view of the world around me. As many of you surely know, melding individuals who previously knew nothing of each other into the most intimate of relationships - a family - is a weighty venture that has the potential to redeem and restore broken lives, for both those who are adopted and the family into which they are adopted.

I had one very specific request...
Rachel (center) enjoys a tea party with her
Daddy and two sisters.
I have a very vivid memory of my parents sitting me and my two sisters, Emma and Julia, down at our round kitchen table, and calmly asking us what we thought of bringing two children from Russia into our family and our lives. I must have been around eight, and while the talk of this far away land of Russia and potential new friends and siblings was exciting, I had one very specific request: I did NOT want a sibling older than me. As the middle child, I felt very protective of my spot in the order, and didn't want to deal with yet another older sibling (as much as I loved Emma, I often suffered from the common bossy older sibling syndrome when we were young). After I had told my parents this sole request, I jumped headfirst into the exciting yet unknown idea of adoption. I remember putting a world map up on my wall, looking at the different countries and focusing especially on Russia. That simple kitchen-table talk stretched the comfortable boundaries of my world to include the unknown and exciting world stretched out on my wall.

"Rachel, Mommy wants to talk to you."
For almost two years I waited for my new siblings. I imagined what they would look like, what their names would be, whether they would speak English, what kinds of movies and games they liked. Finally, one year after that kitchen table conversation we got a call from my mom who was in Russia with a friend, Susan Hillis, visiting orphanages and had just met two orphans who just might be our siblings - a brother and sister named Kristina and Pasha. My dad talked excitedly on the phone with her as my sisters and I stood by, and then he looked at me and said, "Rachel, mommy wants to talk to you." I stepped up and nervously took the phone in my hands as my mom said from millions of miles away "Rachel, I know you didn't want an older sibling, but Kristina is two weeks older than you. Would you be willing to set that aside and welcome her into the family?" When I think back on that moment, I just want to laugh at how futile our plans for our lives stand in the face of God's awesome vision for us. Kristina was older than me by TWO WEEKS, shattering my plans but in the end giving me a best friend with whom I have shared homework and friends, experiences and fights, emotions and secrets. I am so thankful that God wasn't limited by my narrow vision and fears.
Rachel (center) embraces Kristina as we pose in the orphanage
for our first photo as a family of 7.

Kristina embraces Rachel at the beach
The adoptions have shaped my life completely
Rachel (in red shirt) welcoming Andrei and Sergei
home at the Atlanta airport.
Two years later we adopted Andrei and Sergei (as many of you might already know from reading my other siblings' accounts, we met Andrei and Sergei the same day we met Kristina and Pasha, and prayed for them every day for two years until God pretty much said "enough already, why don't you adopt them?" And we did.). As I said before, the adoptions have changed and shaped my life completely. When I meet new people I talk about adoption; when I wrote my college application essays I wrote about adoption; when I picked my major I thought about adoption; when I show friends family photos I talk about adoption. I say all this to show that adoption doesn't just change those who are brought into your family - it changes you to the core. It expands you, challenges you, and fills you up until it overflows into every area of your life.

God bridged the gap between each of my family members
All 7 children, Rachel on the right,
hugging Andrei.
People ask me a lot of questions about my family. Do you feel more loved than your adopted siblings? Who are you closest with? Did you feel neglected by your parents? I can honestly say that my family is one unified unit, not separated into the "biologicals" and the "adopted"; I can also say that I NEVER once felt neglected by my parents, or that the adoptions caused them to not care as much about me. When I respond this way I almost always get a surprised look at the least, a doubtful "Really?" at the most. At first I was both shocked and offended at people's disbelief, but then I thought it over. Maybe the human heart is not infinite, and from an outsider's perspective, stretching it to not only accept but incorporate 4 strangers into your family seems almost impossible to do fully. But what I know for certain is that God's love is infinite, his heart is universal, and his vision is endless. God bridged the gap between each of my family members, connecting us with threads of supernatural love that cannot be broken and that pulled and shaped us into a wholly unconventional and wholly beautiful family. Yes it's hard, and there were bumps and bruises on all sides, from having to share my friends with Kristina to getting used to having smelly, loud boys in the house (who were also handsome and wonderful of course). And yes my family doesn't look like many peoples'. But thank God that he is strong enough to heal the broken parts in all of us, and to not be constricted by terms like "normal families". I love my family, and I love God for bringing it together in such a powerful and beautiful way.