Today, I'm excited to share our 3rd adoption story - this time told by a dad. It's a story of two amazing people, Kevin and Sarah who flew all the way to China to bring home their little and utterly adorable 'lotus flower' named Julia.
- A few words about who you are, what you do, where you live and what you are passionate about.
We're Kevin and Sarah Brown from Nashville, TN. I'm a partner in a marketing agency by day and social entrepreneur on the side, and Sarah stays at home full-time after selling an online baby boutique that she ran for seven years. We're passionate adoption advocates, we love our lovely East Nashville neighborhood, and are National Park buffs.
- When, why and how did you decide on adoption?
After spending an irreplaceable eight years together married and years before that as best friends, in 2012 we finally started feeling ready. People always say 'You’re never ready for kids, just do it'. But we, for the longest time, were definitely un-ready and were soaking up every moment together as a party of two. In fact, there were many 'What if we just never had children?' conversations. Even once we knew it was time, oddly enough we still didn't feel that urge to get pregnant. For us, it was always more about the general concept of family and guiding a little soul as their own beautiful life story plays out.
About the same time, our worldview began to broaden and we started to develop a deeper appreciation for cultures other than our own. We became hungry to learn as much as we could about what else was out there. Then sitting at home in Nashville on random weekend nights watching films about refugees in Sierra Leone or the plight of young girls in China, our curiosity about the world turned to admiration and empathy for those with less.
Why adoption? We get this question a lot. Naturally. Adoption was already part of our lexicon, dating back to 2007 when we first tried to get pregnant. Although we were never faced with the decision, adoption was never off the table and was always in the back of our minds. Fast forward five years and we wish we could tell you about a “eureka!” moment where something clicked. Watching 'China’s Lost Girls' in 2012 was definitely a rallying point (where we learned of the heart-breaking situation of newborns there), but it’s still hard to pinpoint one single moment.
Our adoption journey started as a gradual development - a tiny little spark that worked its way into a blazing flame. Now, it’s hard to think about a time when we didn’t have this passion. And our conviction that adoption is how we will build our family covers us like a warm blanket.
We feel fortunate that adoption was a choice for us. For us, being parents is not synonymous with birthing children. Being parents means providing family, home, unconditional love, support, security, and spiritual guidance to our child. Our child just happens not to be made up of our DNA but of our hearts instead. There are so many children whose home is an orphanage and whose 'unconditional' ends at a very young age upon which the streets become their 'family'. There are an estimated 147 million orphans out there; roughly 2 million in China alone, and that number only represents the ones officially documented. Our hearts are filled with love enough to parent them all, and we count ourselves blessed that we are the parents of even just one. We might only be able to afford a few in our home, but we plan to keep plowing forward as long as we can.
- How did the process of adopting Julia feel? The paperwork, the resources you used, the timeline, the emotional rollercoaster, the wait, the uncertainty - everything and anything that can describe your journey.
We actually embraced and enjoyed the actual process. We tell people that it's your version of pregnancy, so soak it up. Sure, there's a lot of paperwork and it costs a lot of money, but it's a unique experience that you'll miss when it's gone.
One (of many!) crazy things about international adoption is that - by the time you start the process - your child is already out there. So the day we began our adventure in January 2013 and met with the adoption agency, we walked into the meeting knowing our daughter was already a few months old, falling asleep some 13 hours ahead in her birth country of China. It took more than 15 months to meet her, but we knew she was with us (and vice versa), every step of the way.
We stayed connected to her via the sun and moon every morning and night. As night would fall, we knew she was awaking to a new day. And when we'd start a new day, we'd pray she would sleep soundly that night.
- When did you start sharing your plans with your family and friends? How did they react?
We told them pretty quickly after starting paperwork and began blogging soon thereafter. However, once we received and accepted Julia's referral in early December, we decided to wait until Christmas to surprise friends and family. It was an amazing experience getting to share the news in unique ways.
Our family knew for some time that we wanted to adopt. For some, it took a while to understand why we didn't want biological children. But fast forward to the process itself once they learned more about the orphan crisis around the world, and not one of them questioned our intentions at that point.
- How did the day of meeting Julia for the first time feel? What happened?
It's surreal and almost hard to put into words. After months of looking at her picture, you're suddenly standing in a Civil Affairs office in China and your 22-month old kid comes in (carried by an orphanage nanny). It was excruciating because we had to wait 5-10 minutes on the paperwork to arrive before we could even go to meet her. So there she was, 15 feet away from us in the same room, looking across the room, and we couldn't go to her. Then, like that, they call your name, the nanny handed Julia to Sarah, and within an hour we were back in our hotel room (just the three of us). Meeting her was indescribable, and she was so brave.
- After Julia came home with you, was there an adjustment period or did you feel the connection with her right away? How was it for the rest of the family?
Even though there's a definite adjustment period with all adoption, Julia was a champ and for the most part internalized any of her grief. She was quiet at times and withheld eye contact from us for a couple of months, but there were lots of laughs and smiles from day one. We of course were connected with her immediately, and she accepted physical affection (even though we took it slow). It was about 6-9 months before she started to show physical affection back.
Like with most adoptions, they tell you to only allow the parents to hold the child for a while...which was extremely difficult on family. But they fell in love with her immediately too, and to this day have a special bond.
- How is life nowadays? (Has adopting been what you expected so far?)
It's amazing. We can't imagine life without her. We highly, highly recommend adoption (especially international). Our bond with Julia grows by the day, and you honestly forget quickly that your kid wasn't biological. We always say we don't think it's possible to love a being any more than we do.
- Do you have contact with the birth mother? Would you like to?
In China, you never do since all children are abandoned (because there's no legal way to give a child up for adoption).
- Are you planning on having more children in the future?
Yes! We actually just started adoption #2 from Uganda! If all goes well, Julia will have a younger sister within a couple of years.
- And any other aspects of your journey you’d like to share with us...
It really is an incredible experience and China is an amazing country. There are so many of these children who need forever families, so we really urge folks to consider adding to their family via adoption. Fundraising makes it extremely doable for folks who otherwise might not be able to front the money, and you meet so many amazing folks along the way.
Thank you, Kevin and Sarah for sharing your beautiful story! xo
P.S: Also, Katie's and Larissa's beautiful stories.
P.P.S: Plus, my thoughts on the series.
(All photos by/via Kevin)