(Family Magazine May 2012 4th Issue)
Kathy and Kenny Wada, married nearly 23 years now, started their marriage expecting to have children first through pregnancy and then later perhaps to consider adoption. But God had other plans for them. They first adopted two daughters from China, and then had two girls through pregnancy. Now with four girls, each year the family celebrates “Chosen Days”. “For the older two, these are the days we received them in China,” explains Kathy. “For the younger two, these are the days we found out I was pregnant. They are like mini-birthdays for the girls.”\
Presence Ministry interviewed Kathy as she candidly shares her story of how God led them through the journey of adoption and pregnancy.
Presence Ministry (PM): Kathy, let’s start off by telling us the ages of your daughters.
Kathy Wada (KW): Our oldest is Jessica, 16 years old, born in Shangrao, Jiangxi, China. Her Chosen day (the day God chose to bring her into our family at 7.5 months) is April 23, 1996. Noelle, 14, was born in Yangjiang, Guangdong, China. Her Chosen day is Nov 18, 1998, the day we received her at 11 months old on our trip with Jessica to China. Hailey, 11, was born in Baldwin Park, California. Her Chosen day is Oct 18, 1999, the day God chose to let us know she was in our family. We actually had started the process to adopt a third time when I found out I was pregnant with Hailey! Faith, 8 years old, was born in Fullerton, California. Her Chosen day is April 17, 2003.
PM: How did your family come to a decision about adopting?
KW: We had friends who had adopted a year or so before us, and we had always been open to adoption. We thought that we would adopt after having kids through pregnancy. We tried to get pregnant for a couple of years, but nothing happened. So, we decided to pursue adoption instead of infertility testing. We attended a presentation about the situation in China where millions of healthy girls were being abandoned because of the country’s one-child-policy. That moved our hearts incredibly, so we then pursued adoption from China.
PM: How did your extended family feel about adoption?
KW: They were hesitant at first because adoptions in many cultures are more secretive. However, we had no intention of being secretive. Once the girls were here, all the family immediately fell in love with them.
PM: What are some of the difficulties your family faced in the adoption process?
KW: Overall, it was a costly process, and it took a long time. For our first daughter, it was about two years from the first application to the time that she was in our arms. For our second daughter, it was about 18 months because we knew what we were doing with the paperwork. There were many steps, such as two or three applications, a home study conducted by a social worker, medical reports, financial reports, police reports, fingerprinting by the state, and more. The agency wanted to make sure that we were not criminals, that we were financially stable, and had a strong marriage. There were also follow up visits with a social worker after returning home. After that, we finalized the adoption with the CA State courts and completed their citizenship process with INS.
PM: What are some of the blessings you saw in the process?
KW: My husband and I both were able to fully affirm that we wanted to become parents. The adoption process gave us time to refine the reasons that we were becoming parents without any of the physical or emotional challenges that accompany pregnancy. We were able to change the life of two orphans in China, and they were able to bless ours!
PM: Was there any difference in preparing to be a parent through adoption and through pregnancy?
KW: With adoption, each phase in the process requires an intentional and deliberate commitment to becoming a parent. With each set of papers that gets completed, the parents-to-be have to intentionally affirm their desire to become parent and say, “Yes, I want to become a parent.” Then they follow through with that task which moves them closer to their goal of becoming ‘mommy and daddy’. If there isn’t that intentional step, there is no movement. For parents going through their first adoption, there are sometimes feelings of ambivalence about it all; thus the process can be prolonged. Our adoption of our first daughter took a little more than two years from start to finish, which, at the time, was a long process. I didn’t always return paperwork immediately, and sometimes it would sit on my desk for a couple of weeks. Taking two weeks for each of the multiple steps can add months to entire process. For our second daughter, it was only 17 months from the initial application to the day she was in our arms. The faster process was because I took care of the paperwork immediately.
These deliberate steps to become a parent are very different from the process of becoming a parent through pregnancy. With pregnancy, parents do not have to constantly affirm they want to become parents; they already ARE parents, and the process continues through to labor and delivery. Once they are pregnant, they shift to acceptance and preparation mode, but they don’t have to decide every three to four weeks or so if they really want to become parents. For pregnant moms, especially after the first trimester, there are concrete, physical reminders that the baby is on the way. This doesn’t happen for parents in the process of adoption, yet they still plug along by faith that they will someday become parents.
PM: What was it like when Jessica and Noelle first came into your home?
KW: Since the girls were rather young when we received them, the adjustment when we came home was rather minimal and extremely typical of parenting a first child and a second child. In other words, with our oldest, we tended to think every sniffle was a major event and typical baby events such as spitting up or leaky diapers tended to change the entire tone of the day. Events such as going to the grocery store or to the mall required planning, packing, and preparation that we had never even imagined! With our second daughter, trying to adjust to the needs of an infant while juggling the needs of a 3-year-old was quite challenging but not unique. I don’t think we experienced anything in terms of adjustments specific to adopting a child, except that we were jetlagged both times upon our return from China.
PM: How has the experience been for you as a mother of children who came through pregnancy and adoption?
KW: Sometimes people assumed that we were so happy to become pregnant, as if our lives would finally now be complete to have our “own” child. Since biology and ‘bloodlines’ were never things that we highly valued, having a child through pregnancy was simply not critical to our feeling like complete people. This was a difficult concept for some people to grasp.
Instead, when I found out I was pregnant, I had mixed feelings in that I had already separated my desire to be a mom from a desire to become pregnant. I really did not have any desire to become pregnant, and so finding out that God was going to grow our family in a way other than adoption was a little unsettling for me.
However, now that we have both children via adoption and pregnancy, I am very thankful for the way God has grown our family because we can boldly and convincingly speak to the truth that there is absolutely NO difference in the love we have for our daughters who came through adoption and the two who came through pregnancy.
PM: We hear about concerns of adoptive parents bonding with their children. What has been your experience with that?
KW: One of the main concerns on the hearts of parents pursuing adoption is about bonding. They wonder whether they will be able to ‘bond’ with a child who isn’t ‘theirs’, and they worry that they will not be able to fully love a child who didn’t come through pregnancy. However, I’ve realized that the reason why parents love their children is simply because they ARE their parents. Healthy parents don’t love their children because of their shared DNA or because they came out from the mom’s uterus. Most parents don’t adopt children, so they assume that the overwhelming love they feel for their children is because the baby is “theirs” via biology. However, the overwhelming love is not there because of genetics; rather it stems from the profound reality that this child is ‘theirs’ to care for and raise.
I count it a privilege to be able to educate people about adoption and to assure adoptive parents that parental love surpasses biology and genetics. All my girls are treated basically the same with the same parenting philosophy. Any differences between the way we treat them is due to their different personalities. We don’t treat them differently based on whether or not they came from my uterus!
Another relatively minor issue that came up before the pregnancies was when people would ask if I felt sad that my girls wouldn’t look like me in terms of ‘having my eyes’ or having my nose’. However, I now realize that so much of what makes children resemble their parents has very little to do with actual physical features. Instead it has much more to do with their mannerisms and character. In other words, kids look like their parents because they wrinkle their noses or laugh in the same way that their dad does, or girls look like their moms because they stand the same way or walk the same way. Most of the resemblance comes not so much from the purely physical similarities as from inner characteristics and mannerisms which develop by living lives together.
PM: Has adoption been a positive or negative experience for you and your husband?
KW: Adoption has always been a positive thing for both of us. We were both very open to adopting. Once I understood the difference between ‘being pregnant’ and ‘being a mom’, it was easy to make the decision to adopt. I realized that I wanted to be a mom; it didn’t matter if I got pregnant to do that. That was a very important realization for me. I assumed that the only way to become a mom was to become pregnant. After I realized that I could become a mom without getting pregnant, everything fell into place.
PM: What is the secret to raising two children who were adopted and two biological children?
KW: I haven’t found a ‘secret’ to it all, but a guiding principle in our family is that the process (pregnancy or adoption) that God used to bring each child into the family does not matter much at all. What really matters is that God brought each child into our family, and they are here to stay!
PM: What would you say to couples who are considering adoption?
KW: My advice would be to first separate the desire to become pregnant from the desire to become a parent. I had always assumed that the only way to become a parent was through pregnancy, so the fact that I wasn’t getting pregnant was a great source of sadness and heartache. However, once I realized that the ache in my heart was not because I wanted to become pregnant but rather because I really, really wanted to become a mommy, it was a “no-brainer” not to pursue adoption.
Second, understand that your love for your children doesn’t stem from a love of your genes or your biology. We don’t love our children because they share our genes; we love them because we are their parents!
Here’s my most important principle: I can tell you that there is no difference in the way that I love my daughters who came through adoption vs. the daughters who came through pregnancy. I don’t love my daughters because they are genetically related to me or because they came from my belly. I love my daughters because I am their mom! I love them because I am blessed to be their mom, not because we share DNA!