• Trent Hess

Talking About Adoption: Man-to-Man!

Today I’m writing specifically to husbands.

Here’s the issue. Since we began our first adoption process almost three years ago, and especially since we brought Ruth home from China 18 months ago, we’ve had conversations with a lot of people about adoption. Emily has many more of these conversations than me, just because she’s out in the public with the kids much more than me. People like to ask about adoption, tell us stories about people that they know who have adopted and ask about Ruth. These are conversations that we love to have with people as it gives us a chance to talk about our adoption story and explain how much joy Ruth has brought to our family.

But in these conversations Emily has had something come up over, and over again. A recurring theme. The thing she has heard from many women is that they would love to adopt, but their husbands just don’t have any interest in doing so.

This makes us sad for the children that are missing out on having a family, and for the families that are missing out on the experience of adoption. I think I can understand where many of these men are coming from, so I want to address them here.

With Ruth on her 3rd Birthday at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia

I don’t think most men are just being selfish when they don’t want to discuss adoption with their wife. I think many men in this circumstance are trying to protect their wife and family. Let’s be honest, adoption is a huge risk and the potential negative ramifications to our existing families is big. This is where I was at for quite a while. Emily and I did foster care for a period of time before we adopted, and it was hard. I mean really, really, REALLY hard. One of the children we fostered had a lot of trauma that she had experienced, which caused her to act in challenging ways. This was no fault of her own, and we had great compassion for her, but nonetheless it was very hard and put a strain on our family, especially our other children.

After our foster care experience, I was pretty well set on NOT adopting, just because I felt the risk of adopting a child who might negatively impact our family was too great. One of my primary roles as a husband and father is to protect my family, and I couldn’t run this risk no matter what my wife’s emotions might say.

Then there is the money. We all know that adoption is very expensive, and many men know that they don’t make the kind of money needed to pay for an adoption, and don’t want to burden their family with loans to cover the costs. They don’t want the stress of trying to figure out how to come up with tens of thousands of dollars for an adoption.

These are valid concerns, and should absolutely be given serious consideration in the adoption discussion. However, this means that there first must be a discussion! It seems that many of the times Emily has this talk with women, their husbands aren’t even open to discussing the idea of adoption with their wives, and this isn’t right. Here are my words of wisdom for men on this issue.

1.) Talk about it! If your wife tells you that she’s thinking about adoption, don’t say that you aren’t interested and shut down the conversation right out of the gate.

I’m not telling you that you must be interested, or that you have to pretend to be interested. I’m just telling you that you should at least ask her some questions to understand where she’s coming from and what she’s feeling.

The conversation can look like this:

Wife: “Have you ever thought about adoption? Maybe it’s something that we could do…..”

Husband: “To be honest, I haven’t thought about adoption, but what made you think about this?”

An initial conversation can certainly include practical questions and discussion about finances, challenges that can come with adoptive children, etc. By having a conversation, you don’t need to be committing to anything, but at least talking with your wife about the issue.

2.) Pray about it! Be willing to pray about this, both on your own and with your wife. To be honest, I personally resisted this. Why would I resist praying? Because I had a fear that if we started praying about adoption, we would eventually adopt. Almost like it was a foregone conclusion once we prayed about it. Of course, this shouldn’t be how we think. As Christians, we should never be afraid to pray about something. If you pray about your family and adoption for a few days and don’t feel any differently about it, that’s fine, you can tell your wife that.

3.) Money – I honestly think that for most men (probably women too for that matter) the biggest initial stumbling block in thinking about adoption is the money. After all, who has $10’s of thousands of dollars sitting around waiting to be spent? Even thinking about this is a source of stress for many people and is a mountain that most of us have no idea how we would climb. I completely understand this, but here are thoughts from my own personal experience.

God provides. I know this sounds trite, but we’ve found it to be true in our adoption experience.

Our friends, family and church family have been supportive and generous and when the money is needed, it seems like it shows up. We’ll get donations from random people – friends we haven’t seen in a long time, or someone from our church – and generally these seem to come right about the time we need to write another check to the adoption agency. In addition, there are grants and low (or no) interest loans available from a variety of organizations. In the end, if this is something God is leading you to, he will provide.

Don’t get me wrong, the finances are a big sacrifice. We’re now in our second adoption, which means it’s another 2 years of being extra frugal, scrimping, and saving as much as possible.

In the end we’ll get through it, and in the long-run we won’t miss the stuff that we didn’t spend money on, but we’ll be forever grateful for the child we brought into our family.

4.) What if it ends up being too hard? – This is the risk that I talked about earlier. It’s legitimate. Adoption isn’t always clean and beautiful and wonderful. There can be a lot of challenges that come along with an adoption, either emotional, medical, or otherwise. Once again, you should be honest about this and discuss this. Just remember that if you do pursue adoption, you can be honest about what you are able to handle, and about what’s best for your family or your situation. While adopting a teenager or a child with serious medical needs is a wonderful thing to do, you can admit that you aren’t cut out for it or that it wouldn’t be possible with your current family situation, and that’s OK.

BUT, I would encourage you to stretch yourself at least a little bit. With God’s help, we can all handle more than we think we can.

When we adopted our daughter from China we didn’t understand how intensive her speech therapy needs would be after her cleft palate surgery, or that she would need this therapy for many years. We also didn’t fully understand about her blood condition and the ongoing care that it would require. If we had known all of this, I wonder sometimes if it would have affected my decision in whether or not to say “Yes” to her when we were matched. But of course now that she is adopted her medical care is simply part of our family routines, and the thought of saying “No” to her over these needs is appalling to me.

So men, if your wife is interested in adoption; listen to her. This doesn’t mean that you have to adopt, or that you should adopt…. but don’t rule it out.

This is an opportunity to be the kind of man who doesn’t shy away from doing hard things to follow God and lead your family. In the long run, I don’t think you’ll regret it.

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