• Emily Hess

Do Hard Things - National Adoption Month

All adoption starts with tremendous, deep loss. The loss of birth family. Possibly the loss of their first language. The loss of foster parents. The loss of people who look like them. Even children who are adopted directly from the hospital will experience some of these losses.


I don’t share this to scare you, but to add a dose of reality. I share a lot of pictures and videos of our joyful Ruthie. She is sunshine, laughter, fire, and spirit. Those are the loveliest, happiest moments. We are grateful that she is like this much of the time.


What I don’t often share are the hard moments. The days she is filled with anxiety because she knows Trent and I are going out for the evening. The moments she loses sight of me and panics, wondering if she’s been abandoned in the library. I would say Ruth has no conscious memory of her life in China (although she did recently tell us it rained when we were at the zoo in China – which was true – so who knows how much she remembers) but the fear of abandonment remains.


She was 25 months old when we adopted her but already she had lived in an orphanage, a group home, and a foster home. That’s a lot of change for a little one to have gone through without the steadying influence of forever parents.


She was blessed to live with the most amazing foster family for just over a year and I truly believe they saved her life. They had a vital role in who Ruthie is and how well she adjusted; we are grateful.


Ruth has experienced big heart losses in her life. And yet. God is so good. He takes something that, from the outside looking in, is ashes. A child abandoned. A child shuffled around. A child with multiple special needs. Ashes. He takes those ashes and redeems them into something beautiful. A child chosen. A child with a forever family. A child who is an integral part of a family. A child receiving medical care. Beauty.




Ruth is 3.5 years old (she’s nearly 4 and will loudly tell anyone who will listen). Between her China life and her US life, she has had two surgeries, one blood transfusion, seen specialists in Beijing, Hershey, Philadelphia and Lancaster, and had four different speech therapists. She will likely need more surgery and orthodontic work in her future and many more years of speech therapy.

Currently she has speech therapy three times a week, sees a specialist in Philadelphia every four months, a specialist in Lancaster every six months, and goes bi-monthly for height and weight checkups.


Parenting a child with special needs is one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done in my life. Some people will tell us Ruth is lucky or blessed to have been adopted into our family, but I tell you, we’re the lucky ones.


We get a front row seat to watch God perform miracles.

To watch her body grow and heal. To watch her language and vocabulary expand and become clear. To watch her excitement over learning about Jesus (or throw a monstrous fit like only a three-year-old can when we tell her she can’t go to church because she’s sick) . And most importantly, to watch her heart heal. Every time we leave her for Sunday School, Bible Study, and date nights, and come back for her, we are healing her heart. We are reminding her that she is forever. We are forever.


You know, in general I dislike when people try to use my emotions to get me to do something or agree with something that I may not instinctually do or agree with. So when I talk about adoption I want to be careful that I’m not just tugging at heart strings.


Adoption is hard. Adoption is worth it. You’ll have less time for yourself. More gray hair. Less money. More love. Yes, much more love.


I’ll leave you with this Theodore Roosevelt quote.


“Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.”
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