Local Faces of Adoption
For Natalie Burger of Platte City, adoption wasn’t as much to fulfill a desire to be a mother, but more to help out a child in need.
“We had two empty bedrooms in our house, and we heard of a situation in which a child needed a home. For us, it was more that we felt compelled to give a child a home rather than to find a child for our home,” Burger says.
Both of Burger’s children were adopted at what is considered an older age—one was 4 and one was 9, breaking the stereotype that most domestic adoptions happen at birth.
“One of my children needed adoption because the mother was too young to raise a child, and the other because the provider of the family passed away and the family had to make some changes in order to survive,” Burger says.
Burger also doesn’t believe the stereotype that most adoptions are because of a poor situation at home.
“There is a sense of shame that is tied to adoption. Everyone assumes the child came from an unsafe home and was the product of an unfit parent. However, there is no greater love for a mother than to give her only child to another woman to raise because she realizes that she can't do the job well—even in the short-term,” Burger says.
When thinking about adoption, Burger offers advice about how to choose.
“One unique thing about adoption is you get to pick your child. However difficult it would be, you always can say ‘no.’ So before you adopt, you consider what situations you could handle in your home,” Burger says. “Agencies and facilitators have such lists, and they can screen out situations that would not fit in your family,” she says.
Georgia Harris, Liberty, struggled with infertility for five years, so adoption became the only option for her and her husband to have a family.
“The heartbreak of doing fertility treatments looked promising, but always wound up failing. The fertility meds were hard on my body and emotions,” Harris says. “Hubby was willing to adopt first, but I was not ready to give up my dream of being a biological mom.”
Harris and her husband decided to go the international route, choosing to adopt a boy from Guatemala.
“International seemed more of a sure thing. We were fearful of having a birth-mom in the U.S. change her mind. We didn't think we could handle going through that trauma,” Harris says. “We decided on a Guatemala adoption due to the short travel distance and some familiarity with Spanish, plus the children potentially came home younger than a year old, unlike China or Russia.”
Despite the years of infertility, treatments and the uncertainty of an international adoption, Harris is pleased with the end result.
“The best thing about adoption is that John's mom chose to give him life and do the most unselfish thing in giving him to us since she couldn't properly care for him,” she says. “The best thing is that we were barren and now have a son to love, raise and enjoy. We have someone to carry my husband's family name into the future.”
Ronna Sparks-Woodward knew early in her marriage that she wouldn’t be able to conceive, so adoption was always in her mind. Sparks-Woodward, who lives in Kansas City, has adopted two boys, ages 3 ½ and 7 months old. Ironically, her two boys are also biological cousins.
“We have open adoptions, which we never thought in a million years that we would be okay with,” Sparks-Woodward says. “But I wouldn't change it for anything now, because it's like we get to share the excitement of every little thing twice as much.”
Even though both boys have open adoptions, the mothers have different expectations.
“While our birth mothers are sisters, they both have different wants from us. Isaiah's birth mother just wants a brief update and a picture or two every six months or so. Jonah's birth mother wants us to share more,” Sparks-Woodward says. “And while I was worried at first, it's actually brought me a lot of joy sharing his development with her.”
Adoptions can come with many insecurities and worries about the future.
“There's always the fear that something will happen before the court officially makes you a family. In Missouri, the child has to be in your custody for at least six months before the court will make you a forever family, and even in the most secure situations, there's still fear that something will happen,” Sparks-Woodward shares.
As they considered adoption, the Woodwards didn’t encounter a momentous event that convinced them the time was right.
“We did put it off, thinking that I might get pregnant or that we didn't have the money or that it wasn't the right time, and like with everything else, we just knew it was the right time and option for us,” Sparks-Woodward says. “We'd always talked about it, and we just sort of looked at each other and said that it was time, and it was.”
While there are many worries about adoption, there are many positives as well.
“There's just such a sense of awe waking up every day to this life with these boys, knowing that we were given the most amazing gift not only from God but from two women who thought enough of us to trust us with these amazing boys,” Sparks-Woodward says.
Jennifer Higgins is a freelance writer, mother and teacher from Kearney.