BLOGTALK RADIO: Adoption Focus – Being Open to the Possibility of International Adoption
You can read the transcript below or listen to this broadcast by clicking here.
Jennifer J: Hi, and welcome to adoption focus. My name is Jennifer Jaworski, and I am a social worker with Adoption Associates of Michigan. This is Adoption Associates Premiere Talk Radio Blog Show. Adoption Associates was founded in 1990, and we specialize in both domestic and international adoption. We provide pregnancy and adoption services throughout all of Michigan with offices located in Jenison, Lansing, Farmington Hills, and Saginaw. Anywhere in Michigan, you can find a connection to Adoption Associates. Adoption Associates brings knowledge, support, and understanding in adoption. Adoption is not only our specialty, but it is our passion. One of Adoption Associates commitments is to this weekly radio show to help educate and support adoptive families, birth families, and the adoption community at large.
So we are really glad that you’re listening in today, and in support of our adoption focus podcast. If you’d like to call in during the show with questions or comments, we would love to hear from you at 347-850-1100. Again 347-850-1100. And I have so been looking forward to today’s show. We are piggy-backing, or kind of building off of last week’s show where we heard from Chris Dickens talking with us about the China adoption program. And today, we are fortunate that we have Tim and Maryanne with us to talk about being open to the possibility of a China adoption. So I want to welcome them to the show. Maryanne, Tim, are you with us?
Maryanne: Yes we are.
Maryanne: Thanks for having us.
Jennifer J: Good morning. Thank you for being on today’s podcast. We’re excited to hear from you. I know that over the past couple weeks I’ve gotten to know a little bit more about your family, and your adoption story, and I think it’s just such a great fun loving and touching story. So let’s just go ahead and get started. And it you could start us off by telling us about your family.
Maryanne: Oh, okay. Well, besides Tim and I, there’s three children. Matthew is about 21, Emily is 16. She does turn 16 this weekend. And Joseph is 13. Matthew is our biological child. He’s our B. I always say I have two A’s and two B’s, or two A’s and one B. Emily was our first adoption through Adoption Associates, and then Joe was our waiting child. The way we got Emily on my 40th birthday, because I, just the way things were happening, we assumed Matthew was going to be an only child. He was already five or six at the time. And on my 40th birthday, Tim says, “What do you think of about adoption? Let’s have a baby.” I said, “What every woman wants to hear on their 40th birthday. Let’s have a baby.”
And so and I didn’t know … My concept of what adoption was was pretty outdated. So I said, “Okay. Let’s check it out.” And so we family … We had heard that another family had used Adoption Associates, so I called them, we went to the meetings. Emily’s process was pretty easy. She was born in February of 2001, and we brought her home in January 2002. And she was the standard match. So they send us the referral picture, and they said, “Do you want her?” And we said, “Oh, sure.” So that was a pretty easy decision. So we had had a really positive experience with it, the trip was good, and then in my mind, I thought we were pretty well complete. We had Matthew, we had Emily, we had two children. Everything was going pretty good, and then in about … Let’s see.
She came home in January of ’02, and about September of fall of 2003, somehow the Holy Spirit was working through Matthew, and he stands up and he says at a family dinner, “Let me tell you about my brother Shane.” We don’t know to this day why he named him Shane, but so it wasn’t even on my radar to get another child. I was perfectly content. I had given away the highchair and everything. But little did I know, Tim was already looking on a website for other children.
Jennifer J: Well, that’s what I … Sure and that’s what I wanted to focus on today. Obviously, you mentioned that you have a biological child and then two adoptions. So let’s focus today on Joe’s adoption because I think that that will speak to a lot of people. And I’m going to kind of rewind just a minute. You began touching on that there, but will you share how you decided to move forward with adding a third child to your family? And I think you both kind of have a piece in here it sounds like. Tim had something going on, and then you maybe were a whole different playing field. But let’s talk about this for a minute.
Maryanne: Yeah. So when Matthew was saying, “Let me tell you about my brother Shane,” which was already planting the seed in late of ’03, and then Joe’s picture shows up on the waiting child’s list in February on ’04. And so Tim finds him on the website, and he says, “Do you think we can give this child a home?” And I said, “Honey, I’m busy. I’m working full-time. Your blood sugar must be up. Go get something to eat.” I said, “We can’t … ” You know, I said, “I don’t think I can do this again. This was not on my radar at all.” Then occasionally Matthew would say something about his brother Shane, but then I said, “Well, Tim … ” And most people assume it was me that was looking for another child. In both cases, it was Tim. And so since he hit the nail on the head with getting Emily home, I thought well maybe I should actually listen to him. Occasionally, you have to listen to the other. At least to your husband.
Jennifer J: Right. And in the end, his blood sugar was just fine.
Maryanne: It was. It was just fine. Just fine.
Jennifer J: So Tim, can you talk about that? I’m so sorry to interrupt you.
Maryanne: Oh, no. That’s fine.
Jennifer J: I wanted to hear from Tim a little bit about how he was looking on the agency website, and what was going on with him during this time that you had no idea that all of this was potentially coming at you.
Tim: Well, one of the things when we went to get Emily in China is you saw all these children that we there and needed a home. So that’s always kind of in the back of your mind. There’s all these other great kids over there that are available. And Maryanne was one of four kids. I’ve got two brothers, so three kids didn’t seem like that much of a stretch. So I said, “Well, this might be a good opportunity. A little brother or sister for Emily and for Matthew.” So I kind of floated the idea, didn’t sit well at first, but … You see that little sweet little face on the internet page, this little child, and you just had a few issues. So we thought, “We can get him to some good doctors. There’s some great doctors that at U of M, and there are hospitals in the area. We can give this kid a good life.”
Jennifer J: And he needed a family.
Maryanne: Right. Yeah. Yeah. And so what I agreed to do was I put Joe’s picture on my bulletin board at work, and I looked at it and said, “Well okay. Well, let me pray, think about this.” And then I called the agency, and I talked to Chris, and I said, “Now we don’t know for sure, but I said don’t send his file back.” And then I said, “Nobody else can get him, right?” And that’s when I knew he was going to be ours.
Jennifer J: Because even though you hadn’t quite admitted it to yourself or even your husband, there you were in conversation with the agency about no one else can get this referral at this point because we want him.
Maryanne: Exactly. Exactly.
Maryanne: We were going to move … We were going to do what we had to do to get that little guy home.
Jennifer J: Aww. And even though his name wasn’t Shane, as your oldest kind of … just kind of pulled that out of thin air.
Maryanne: Thin air. Well, where that came from we don’t know.
Jennifer J: He still completed your family in a very beautiful way.
Maryanne: Yeah. He completes us.
Jennifer J: So let’s talk about your initial reservations. What were your initial reservations as you were making this decision and moving forward?
Maryanne: Well, I think of course the health issues. You’re always worried what it might be. We took the paperwork to the doctor. As it turned out, the doctor that we talked to in the practice had a grandchild that was internationally adopted, which we didn’t even know at the time. And he explained to us … Because I guess we haven’t mentioned what Joe’s special need is. Joe has Microtia, which is a deformed ear. Basically he’s missing the outside of his ear, the cartilage.
Jennifer J: Okay.
Maryanne: And so when we were looking at all this, we figured, “Okay. He’s going to be hearing impaired. We can handle this.” I mean, you have to be honest with yourself and say, “How much can I handle?” And we figured a hearing impairment was okay. And so there’s always that consideration.
Jennifer J: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Maryanne: How is he going to fit into the family? And once again, Matthew took care of that. When Chris was here doing the home study, she took Matthew aside and said, “You know, this little boy might have some issues until your parents can get everything taken care of.” And he was like eight or nine at the time. He stood up, put his hands on his hips, looked at her straight in the eye and said, “You adults are just making too much fuss about what may be wrong with him. He’s going to be my brother, and I’m going to love him.” Chris shut the book and said … Chris said shut the book and said, “Okay. We’re good to go.” So we knew he was going to fit into the … It wouldn’t be any issues with that. Tim has a financial story, because whenever you’re doing international adoptions, you always worry about the finances. And the good Lord took care of that one. You want to take that one, Tim?
Jennifer J: Right. That was one of your initial concerns, Tim was with financial considerations, right?
Tim: Yeah. Somehow it worked that something about my pay, and they had to make an adjustment. So I ended up getting this lump sum of money from my employer at the time. So the money came through for us to start the adoption process. It wasn’t the whole thing, but it was enough to get us started on the journey.
Jennifer J: Wow.
Jennifer J: So you unexpectedly received this call from you HR department that there had been an error in your pay, and you had money coming.
Jennifer J: Pretty amazing.
Tim: That was a blessing. Yes.
Maryanne: Yeah, that was a blessing. I remember Tim called me at work [inaudible 00:12:58] are you ready? Sit down. Yeah. But like, “Oh, okay.” Because you do start [inaudible 00:13:07] internet the adoption process, and you don’t know how all those things are going to work out. I mean, you have to just take a leap of faith and just keep going, because you’ll learn as you go. Things do work out. You can’t just sit down, and check boxes, and think it’s all going to all this, and this, and this. Nothing in life actually works out like that.
Tim: [crosstalk 00:13:35] do have to be flexible, yeah.
Jennifer J: That’s a really good point. Flexibility. And I think that you guys were chatting off air with me about some of the other initial reservations that you had. Maybe not feeling as knowledgeable as you would like to have about the culture and customs, and traveling, and can you talk about that a little bit?
Maryanne: Yeah. I’m not a big traveler. So that was always a thing for me. It’s like, “Okay. I’m comfortable in my little world.” But you put those fears aside when there’s a child on the other end. You look for what you can do for this child, not for yourself. Now Tim didn’t mind the traveling. He looked at it as an adventure. And of course, with going to get Joe, we had two children at home, so it’s like … And we went away from them for two weeks. So that was an adjustment. We had to get used to the fact that they would all be … We would be separated from them, and how they would react. I can’t remember. I think it was Emily. By the time we got a phone call that said she’s only eating mandarin oranges or something. She was having a little protest or something.
Tim: Yup. [crosstalk 00:15:03] girl.
Maryanne: Yeah. But yeah. And it’s different, but it’s a good thing. I pushed myself way out of my comfort zone. And Nancy told us this at the beginning when we started the international adoption, she says, “Your world will open up.” I mean, you’re more aware of not the whole world thinks like you, not the whole world lives like you. There was some … In Joe’s province, the poverty … That that’s still, those pictures are still burned into my mind. And you realize not everybody has it as good as we do. And that also gives you an understanding of why these children are put up for adoption. Sometimes, in this country, we would have a hard time understanding how someone could do that, but when you see the culture, and the living conditions, you have a better understanding of how these things, why these things are happening.
Jennifer J: And I think that you guys felt this responsibility, then in a sense to say, “Well, we are able to provide for another child, and we want to do this. So let’s yeah.” I think that’s a really good point. Your experience there opened your eyes to what the need is.
Maryanne: Yeah, exactly. You see all these children, and they’re beautiful children. They’re just waiting for a family. And we have so much in this country. And it’s just like, “Okay, why if we have the ability, let’s do this.” Even if it means giving up two trips to Disney or whatever. It’s a small price to pay. You’re giving a child a life.
Jennifer J: Absolutely. I want to shift the attention for just a moment to the topic of special needs adoption. When we say special needs, some people go, “Whoa, whoa, whoa.” It sounds scary, the word can be a little intimidating, but Joe was a waiting child, which means he did have some unique needs, and wasn’t necessarily considered completely healthy. I want to hear from you about your perspective on that, how you came to the decision to be open to this, and then what that looked like for you.
Maryanne: Yeah. And that is scary because … And one thing we always told people is what we consider special needs in this country might not match what they do. So things that we can take care of medically here easily, might be considered special needs. I mean, we took the … A minute ago where you mentioned maybe that we took the medical file to the doctor, and he looked at it, and he told us medically … Which is fascinating in itself because when the ear is developed, the kidneys and the heart are developed at the same time. And so he said there might be a kidney or a heart problem. There isn’t been.
But he said … So they were very honest with what it was. I think the best advice I got was from our friends David and Mary, because I remember talking to her and she said, “David always says just follow your heart.” She said, “Whatever happens, you’ll be able to deal with. If your heart tells you to go get this baby, go get him.” So that was always our focus. It felt like the right thing to do. We weren’t always aware. And Tim, you want to mention when we got him, the morning we got him what the stain?
Tim: Oh. You know all the pictures that you receive through the web, and you just assume certain distortions in the pictures, or just that’s coming to the lab a bad quality picture. Well, we had known about Joe’s Microtia in his ear, but we didn’t realize he had a cafe au lait stain on his face [crosstalk 00:19:25] skull, which is like a coffee stain if you will for part of his face. That’s something that has faded over time, but when we got there it’s like, “Oh. We weren’t expecting this.”
Tim: When we got him, he was crying, and runny nose and all of that. It’s like, “Okay. This is the point where you’re a parent. You got to buck up. This is what we committed to.”
Jennifer J: Right.
Tim: You take a leap of faith saying, “Okay. Logically I know the ear thing will work out. If he’s deaf, then we have to do sign language and all that. So you’re prepared for that, and then this other little thing just kind of creeps up on you. It’s like, “Oh. That’s really what that was in the picture.” We didn’t know about that. Some things are unknown, and their medicine’s a little different that Western medicine. So people have gone for … Get kids with heart problems. They don’t really have a heart problem when a doctor on the state side evaluates them.
Jennifer J: Right.
Jennifer J: Right.
Tim: Totally blessed with incredible doctors at U of M Hospital and locally too that have diagnosed Joe, and treated him, and there’s just amazing things they can do for kids now.
Jennifer J: Would you mind sharing a little bit … Would you mind sharing a little bit about how Joe is doing, and what has transpired with his hearing and his ear?
Tim: Well, Joe has had two different hearing aids. One is put behind the ear, so his ear that is formed. He just has a hearing aid just like all the older people you see around. And he also received probably when he was three or four, a Bone Anchored Hearing Aid on his malformed side. So then he’s able to hear in stereo just like we can with his aids.
Jennifer J: Okay.
Maryanne: And with is aids, he is in normal hearing range. So it shows that … Yeah.
Tim: And the school district also works with us to make the IEPs basically where they help, “These are his deficits, this is what he needs help with.” So if he needed a FM radio system to go with his hearing aid, we could get that type of equipment. Whatever he needs. And he’s doing fine now. It’s a regular classroom, doesn’t need his FM system anymore, and he can hear what’s going on, and keep up with everything. [crosstalk 00:22:15]
Maryanne: On the honor roll. He’s on the honor roll, he’s turned into a wood worker, he’s building things, he’s active, he’s social.
Jennifer J: And what grade is he in?
Maryanne: He’s in seventh grade now. He’s in seventh grade.
Jennifer J: Wow.
Maryanne: So, yeah. I mean, sometimes I … I actually forget. I’ll actually forget, and the other two kids will have to say, “Mom, remember he can’t always hear you or something.” Or, “He’s not looking,” or something. So it’s like, “Oh, yeah. That’s right. He’s hearing impaired. I forgot.”
Jennifer J: Well, I think that’s important that you mention that because you were telling me about off air how you have never used his disability, or let him use his disability as an excuse, right?
Maryanne: No, he’s expected to pull his weight around the house and everything else. He’s expected to do good in school, he’s expected to behave. I mean, it’s never an excuse that … One of my cute, little stories about Joe is that several summers ago, I was giving directions, we’ll call it giving directions, to all three children. And I said, “And now go do what I said and use the brain the good Lord put between your two ears.” And Joe raises his hand, I don’t know why he felt he had to raise his hand, but he says, “Mom. I’ve only got one ear. Do I still have to do it?” And I said, “Okay. You’re off the hook. But you other two, go do what I said.”
Jennifer J: But you didn’t really let him off the hook.
Maryanne: Yeah. And he’s like, “Okay. I’m going to use this.” But no, he’s expected to do everything else. He participates in everything at school. You’re going to get good grades, you’re going to behave. And we’re in a small school, a private school, and the kids have all accepted him from the beginning. So that hasn’t exactly been a challenge or anything.
Jennifer J: Great. What are some-
Tim: That he and his sister are just two years apart, so there’s always been that little sibling back and forth. And then she always wanted to do what she was doing, so he pushed himself to do it.
Jennifer J: Right. Right.
Maryanne: Yeah, for a while, they wore the same size and everybody thought they were twins until [crosstalk 00:24:49] both growing … Yeah. Because then it’s like, “No, no.” Because Emily is kind of on the short side, so yeah.
Jennifer J: What are some of the unexpected blessings that have come from Joe’s adoption?
Maryanne: Wow. There had been so many. I mean, him himself. He’s had several surgeries, of course, for the BAHA, and various other things. And he’s just shown us the strength and the fortitude to get through it all. I think one of the big … Emily and Matthew have grown in their compassion and understanding way beyond their years. They’ve got each other’s back, they look out for Joe, they look out for each other. A couple of stories that I tell, the BAHA spot was infected or something. We had to go to U of M. And this happened like five years ago or something. And it was in a nasty … It looked nasty. And Emily is sitting on my lap, and she just sneaks off, looks behind, and I’m turning green in the corner because it’s so nasty looking. And she just looks over and says, “Mom, dad, I got this. I’ll take care of this when we get home. I can clean this up.”
I mean, she’s like 11 years old at the time. And then when Joe was little, and he knew he had to go to the hospital, he would get upset. And I know more than once he’d say, “I want Emily. I want Emily.” And so Emily would get in the van, and she would hold his hand all the way to Ann Arbor. And that would calm him down. One of the great things from both adoptions, we see both travel groups several times a year. Well, Joe’s travel group we see once a year, but the other ones we see several times a year.
So that’s been a blessing that that circle of friends has come to be … The kids get to see other families that look like them since I’m Chinese, but my parents aren’t. They’ve grown up together. I mean, we’ve been together now … We just had Emily’s 15 year [inaudible 00:27:11]. We’ve been together for 15 years. They’ve grown up together. So it’s not unusual for them. We’ve met some amazing people. Like Tim mentioned the doctors, the school district that we work in with the special ed program, is just … Here in Eaton County is just wonderful. We took Joe to Sparrow Pediatric Program for speech, and they were just amazing. Kim at Sparrow was just amazing, and just did great things. And like we said, your world does open up.
Jennifer J: Sure it does. It sure does. Tim, did you have anything else you would like to add into that particular topic?
Tim: Oh, I think maybe with the kids, they bring their own talents that aren’t necessarily your talents to life. Joe’s very mechanically minded. He used to make all sorts of little contraptions with wood and play sets, and now he’s branched into regular woodworking. And he likes going out and playing ball, and doing these physical activities. So the kids are all different in their own skillset. Emily’s more musical, Joe’s more hands on, he figures out how things work. And maybe part of that was the deafness before. You don’t have all those distractions, you focus on what’s going on around you in that way.
Jennifer J: That’s a great point.
Maryanne: Yeah. A great LEGO maker. Yeah.
Tim: Yes. Right now his thing is Rubik’s Cubes and making those work in like a few minutes. Its just amazing to me.
Maryanne: We don’t know how he does that. It’s like he sets record time. He has like six of them here all in different shapes, and he can just get them all like boom, boom, boom, boom. So and you know, we tell people it’s just the outside of the ear. People sometimes think if that there’s something … There’s other issues. “Nope. Everything’s fine. He’s doing fine.”
Jennifer J: So as we’re approaching the end of the show, I did want to see if you could share words of wisdom, advice to others, someone who maybe is where you were many years ago thinking that your husband needed his blood sugar checked and couldn’t possibly imagine yourself doing this, could you speak to those people? Or tell us what your thoughts are.
Maryanne: I think if someone is thinking about it, they should research it. There might be challenges along the way, but like we said, follow your heart. You’ll never go wrong if you follow your heart. The joys far outweigh any challenges. We’re not going to say it wasn’t without its bad days. I mean, there were some pretty rough days, and I don’t think we mentioned that Joe was a breath holder. But you research it, you talk to doctors, you connect with other people, you’re not in this situation alone. You reach out to other people. So talk to your doctors. And we always say the waiting children have a medical special need, but their bigger need is they need to find their forever family.
Those medical needs can be taken care of. Those emotional needs, you can work on those, but they need to find their family. That’s the bigger need here in this whole picture, to find that family. So if you’re thinking about it, if you’ve got an inkling about it, it’s probably something you should really … Someone up there is trying to give you the push. And like we said, this wasn’t on my radar at all. But as we tell the kids, we’d do it again in a heartbeat. Look beyond your own little corner of the world, and look and see what’s out there.
Jennifer J: And the message that I am hearing from you guys today is encouraging others to be open to the possibility of an international adoption.
Jennifer J: Yeah. I so appreciate you being here today, and the piece of advice that stuck with you to follow your heart is kind of a theme that we hear often. There is this force through our friends, through our faith, and through our families to follow our heart, and I think that you’ve spoken to that today. So Tim and Maryanne, we very much appreciate you opening up and talking about your story.
Maryanne: Well you’re welcome. Thank you for asking us.
Jennifer J: Completely my pleasure to have you today, and I know that our listeners hopefully will hear your message. And if you are listening to today’s show and are interested in connected with Adoption Associates, you can call us at 800-677-2367, or you can connect with us through Facebook, or on the web at adoptionassociates.net. We thank you for your support of Adoption Focus Radio, and remember that we are live every Tuesday at 11. We hope that you will join us for future topics to come. Also a reminder for those of you in the Tri-City area that two weeks from today, March 14th, we have a wonderful evening planned entitled Explore Adoption to come and learn more about domestic and international adoption through Adoption Associates. That is at 6:30 p.m. at the Grace A. Dow library in Midland. So give us a call for more information on that, or any other adoption needs that you have. Again, Tim and Maryanne, we appreciate you sharing with us today. And for now, this is Jennifer on Adoption Focus. I hope you all have a great day. Bye bye.
Maryanne: Bye bye.