“I have lived in the shadow of loss – the kind of loss that can paralyze you forever. I died—without leaving my body… But I came back, and now it’s your turn.
I have learned to remember my past—without living in it. I am strong, electric, and alive, because I chose to dance, to laugh, to love, and to live again.
I have learned that you can’t re-create the life you once had—you have to reinvent a life for yourself. And that reinvention is a gift, not a curse.
Let’s live like our lives depend on it.”
– Christina Rasmussen
This Advent, as Jenna and I remember the children we lost and dare dream of the Child to come, we are excited to announce that our own manger may one day be full. We have started the adoption process! Like Mary, we feel like singing. The road has been long, but God has got us this far, and we’re not stopping now. We are on our way to our future child, and we are filled with hope. Finally, after so many years, it’s not a question of if we’ll have a child; it’s only a matter of when.
That doesn’t mean, of course, that our grief is over.
Grief is a lifelong journey that, despite the old adages, does not come to an end with time or acceptance. Our grief—for our sons Ezra and Leo, born still in April, and for the four other children we lost to miscarriage—is part of the cord that ties us to them. It is memory. It is life shared with them. In his book Lament for a Son, Yale philosopher Nicholas Wolterstorff reflects on the death of his own son, writing, “If he was worth loving, he is worth grieving over. Grief is existential testimony to the worth of the one loved… Every lament is a love-song.”
We do not move on. We take them with us.
Not a day goes by when we do not think of them, talk with them, pray for them, play with them, miss them, love them; not a week without shedding a tear; not a laugh or smile or moment of awe that isn’t for them. They made us parents. They saved Jenna’s life. And now we hope to give them a brother or sister.
After three years of infertility, miscarriages, and stillbirth, Jenna and I know now, even more profoundly than before, that we are called to be parents. We have journeyed to hell and back to find our children. We have fought for them. Jenna has stuck herself with needles, downed handfuls of pills, endured surgery, literally bled and so nearly died, for the chance to have a child. Far from burying us, this journey has made us fall even more in love with the child we have yet to meet, and we cannot wait to share that love with them.
For years, we thought we knew what this child would look like. From the beginning of our relationship, we joked about how sorry we were that our children would be cursed with such radioactively pale skin. When we asked guests at our wedding to write a one-word prayer to bless our marriage, several read, “Red-headed babies.” (We are confident that at least one of these came from my mother.) I guess everyone made the same assumption about our future children as we did.
And perhaps one day that will be the case. We have not ruled out the dream of having that radioactively pale and redheaded child someday.
But for now—after consulting with doctors, after countless hours of conversation, and after lots of prayer—we believe we are called to seek our child a different way.
Our hope is to adopt a newborn baby through an adoption agency here in the United States. We enter this process with great care. Having experienced our own child loss and coming from a birth family ourselves, we have some small sense of the pain an expectant mother will face when making the choice—the most difficult choice of her life—to place her child for adoption. We also know that that choice will be framed by forces constricting her freedom—be they personal or systemic (including economic and racial injustices that have put Jenna and me in the privileged position of being able to adopt).
That’s why we will be working with an agency that empowers expectant mothers and specializes in open adoptions, meaning we hope to maintain a relationship with our child’s birth mother and family. Our agency was founded by a woman who was adopted as a child and experienced the pain of a closed adoption. Her agency was the first to do open adoptions on the East Coast.
Empowerment means expectant mothers are provided resources (time, counseling, information access, food stamp and housing assistance, medical care, etc.) to explore all their options without pressure. It also means GED and college scholarships for their future. And it means they choose their child’s adoptive family.
An open adoption means our child will know the love of their first mother (another term for birth mothers) and the love of their adoptive parents.
We do not know this birth mother yet. We are still in the very beginning stages of the adoption process, which admittedly may be a long and challenging journey. But, as a very first step, we have sent off our application, and we will now begin the home study process. It’ll take about four months of classes, home studies, reference checks, loan agreements, and other legal processes before we can assemble our profile and be potentially matched with an expectant mother (a process that on average takes an additional 12 to 18 months).
Looking back, we now see that much of our lives has been leading to this moment.
We learned, for example, that of the 155 families that our adoption agency is currently working with, only 30 families are willing to even consider adopting a child of a different race. This is consistent with national trends, which render African American boys the least likely to be adopted by white parents. But an interracial family is precisely what Jenna and I already have, and is precisely the kind of family we’d love. My sister and I grew up going to schools that were predominantly African American (sometimes we were the only white kids in the class). She’s married to one of the most wonderful men I know. He’s African American, and their children—our child’s future cousins—are biracial. Through marriage, our family also includes an Asian American man (who himself was adopted) and an immigrant from Turkey.
I still remember pacing in the living room, at the age of 8 or so, thinking about the girl I was going to marry (we were friends, and I assumed that’s why you married someone); she was black. I remember thinking about the challenges we would face as an interracial couple (weird for an 8-year-old, but true), and deciding that it would be worth it, and that we would face down racism and hate together. Well, I didn’t end up marrying that girl (I was in first grade, after all!). But for several years now, I’ve been an uncle to two biracial children, and one day, I may be a father to a child of another race. And I can promise you: Jenna and I will fight to elevate the consciousness of those around us, to oppose white supremacy and bigotry, to deepen our own awareness of white privilege, to belong to an interracial community, and to share with our child the heritage, heroism, culture, and collective experiences of their people.
That’s the beauty of adoption. Done with intentionality, adoption doesn’t narrow our worlds; it expands them. It brings two families together, the birth family and the adoptive family. It opens up histories and cultures. It instills empathy for grief and loss (which will always be a part of the adoptive world). It inspires the fight against systemic forces of injustice, even while being complicit with them.
It even brings us closer to God—the same God who is about to enter the world this Christmas, be adopted by Joseph, and challenge the world’s divisions with a gospel of love. The same God who suffers with us, who marches through hell for us, that we might have life, and have it abundantly. The same God who adopts us into the body of Christ, who declares us God’s children, and creates in us one big, extended family.
We are so excited to meet the child who will be added to that great family, and to our family. We will be sharing a series of reflections over time that delve into the complexities of our history, the adoptive process, transracial adoption, etc. But for now, let us end with this: please, celebrate with us! Pray for us. Continue to ask us about Ezra and Leo. But please, do not tell us what good people we are. This is not charity. This is our family. We’re not the good ones. The most amazing love in this story is that of our future child’s birth parent(s). It is a love we intend to share with our child every chance we get.
We anticipate that the adoption process will cost somewhere around $40,000. Though our adoption agency is a nonprofit organization, these costs go to pay for the legal expenses, the counseling that the agency provides for the birth mother and her family, some of the birth mother’s medical bills and living expenses, etc.
If you would like to help us offset some of the costs, you can support our adoption journey here –
10 thoughts on “An Advent Announcement: We’re Adopting!”
Patrick & Jenna, thank you for sharing your love for life, God and each other. I have followed your journey through your blog & now know what compassion really looks like. It looks like…YOU. You’ve helped me find words to say to my longtime friend whose grandson was stillborn on her birthday. My prayers continue for you and your new family. I have adopted you both! I’m a proud Momma. I love you.
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Thank you, Rochelle! I am so grateful that our story has touched you so deeply and that it enabled you to find the words to say to your friend when she needed them most. I am thrilled to have found another Momma to take us under her wing!
God bless you on this continued journey! You are a gift and inspiration and there will be much rejoicing when you bring your child(ren) home.
Wow! All along, I knew you would be great parents by the way you have walked through this painful, yet blessed, journey. I love this presentation and your honesty. Advent is the season of waiting and not knowing the day or hour. It is the perfect time to begin this new chapter of your journeys. I so look forward to the updates. Some little kid in the womb out there, or yet to be created, will be so blessed to become a part of your amazing family. There is a lot to celebrate!
What a perfect start of Advent, thank you for sharing so much of yourself with us. All my heart from Houston, and a commitment to carry you through.
I was adopted in 1965–the process was tad bit different back then! But aside from the stories of my parents, one day I discovered the documents from then. I realize all the hoops they had to jump through. They seriously went out of their way to get me! You and Jenna and your child–with our loving Lord in the midst it–will be interwoven with blessing.
I am so happy that you are making an adoption plan. 27 years ago we made an adoption plan. On Christmas Eve 27 years ago, our adoption facilitator met with us to show pictures of our soon to be adopted son. It was the best thing that ever happened. You are making a great decision. God bless you. It will all work out. I can’t wait to meet your child or children.
I have been praying for you to adopt Thank you Lord for answering our prayers. My grandson married my beautiful new granddaughter Rashelle (African American )this summer. Our family is so thankful to have her family and ours blended together. I would be honored to be Grandma Sue You will be amazing parents ! God Bless
This is exciting news! Given our own story, you can be assured that we’ll be praying for you both throughout the process that now lies before you.
See you when we visit Rich and Janet for the holidays,
Tim (and Jill and Julia Anne)