Friday, November 10, 2006

The Cost of Love

Yesterday, as we were working on our tiling project, we discovered a serious problem under the house as we were looking for what we thought was a minor leak. A shower/tub drain had been leaking for years, from the look of it, and had caused a lot of damage. I was quite depressed, seeing only dollar signs that we didn't have to repair it. Any unexpected cost this year could really hamper our ability to complete our adoption, we feel like we are on a precarious ledge hoping a strong wind doesn't kick up. Thankfully our friend Pete came over and took a look at it, and he is going to be able to make the repair much more easily than we expected. It still won't be cheap, but it won't be the kind of massive repair we initially thought it would be.

I was visiting with a couple of our neighbors today and the subject of our little home improvement project came up. One of them obviously thinks we are a bit off our rocker to adopt again, and pointed out how expensive it is going to be to adopt and raise another child. "Are you still going to adopt another one?" I was asked.

Sometimes I have to try very hard not to lash out at what I know are not necessarily meant to be rude comments. But I can't help but think that if I were pregnant instead of adopting, no one would dare make those kinds of comments. I get tired of being asked "How much did your kids cost?" as if there is any price tag in the world that could be put on them that would ever equal their worth to me. People ask this knowing darned well it is expensive, but it is almost as if they want to gloat at times, or roll their eyes because they don't get it.

I get frustrated at justifying over and over and over again why we are not adopting from the US. I get angry at the implication that a child from the US is somehow more deserving of a loving home than a child from another country. I know this works well for some, and recently I have had the wonderful privilege of being around a little guy and his sister who were adopted from the system here who I think are fantastic kids with great adoptive parents. It fell into place for them, and I couldn't be happier for all of them. But it has never clicked for us, and even when we made efforts to explore it all signs seemed to point us away from it. Before finding Kyrgyzstan, I made no less than 30 calls to various Social Workers around the US with kids available, and I received exactly 1 return phone call. I inquired about a 17 year old African-American young man, a Hispanic sibling group of 3, an Asian boy of 12, and many, many others. Doors were inexplicably slammed in our faces. Now, I have my own theory about this that those who are not spiritually minded might not agree with, but I think it is because our children live elsewhere, that God has a plan that we are not always privy to for reasons we may not ever understand.

Quite honestly, I would have a houseful of kids if we could. I love parenting, I love kids in general, there are even some that hold keys to my heart that are not my own kids. Maybe we are adopting from overseas because we can. I am not talking about financially because it has definitely taken it's toll on us in that regard. We drive around in minivans with 85,000 miles (our "new" van) and 175,000 miles on them. We simply can not go out and buy a new car. We don't take extravagant vacations, we have seen our moms in California only 4 or 5 times in 10 years. We rarely eat out. We don't go to the movies. My husband works extremely long hours doing work most people would never imagine doing, detailing cars...in the heat, in the cold, in the wind. Don't get me wrong, we are not poverty stricken by any means, but we live tightly.

What I mean by saying we adopt internationally because we can is that maybe emotionally others can't. We all have a calling in this life, God speaks to all of us if we listen. I have seen myself adopting overseas ever since I was 14 years old and saw "Who Are the DeBolt's and Where Did They Get 19 Kids?" on TV. I remember watching it mainly because "the Fonze", Henry Winkler, was the host, but once I saw it something inside of me whispered "You could do that...". years later when the media captured what was going on inside the Romanian orphanages I heard that same voice whispering "Keep an open mind, you could do this...". When we realized that we were infertile we immediately decided we would not waste money in infertility testing or treatments. It just wasn't important to us to have little Mini-Me's running around. What was important was that we have the chance to parent at all. I've always half-jokingly stated that we were improving our family's gene pool by adopting. But what held us back from adopting internationally was the cost...the huge, overwhelming cost. Rich people adopted from overseas, not people like us. I recall looking at a photolisting online for the first time, being such a rookie at all of this, and seeing literally hundreds of faces of children who needed parents. Although not even serious at the time, it was odd to think that if we made a decision to move forward, any one of those kids might end up being my child. It made it tangible. Real faces, real opportunities. But then again was the cost...oh man, that was a hard one to swallow. Finally, Dominick came home one afternoon and looked at me and said "I've been thinking, plenty of people buy a new Pickup and pay as much for it as it would cost us to adopt. I think a child is worth more than a Pickup, don't you?", and that was all it took to move our thinking forward from a place where it was impossible to a place where we would see how we could make it happen.

But I do have one question to ask, why do people who get a new car every few years never get asked about the cost and if they afford it? In today's America it is not only accepted, but almost expected that you will have a new car every few years. What we are doing is not really any different when compared to the cost of a new automobile. Except our investment will never end up in a junkyard spewing oil, our investment can wrap it's arms around us and hold us tightly, our investment can giggle and smile and bring joy to all those around them, our investment could change the world...for I feel that not just my children but any child is capable of changing the world.

So as I proudly wear my Walmart wardrobe and have my Big Night Out at Taco Bell rather than Outback or Applebee's, I won't be having any regrets about the Cost of Love. It's all relative, pun intended.

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