Throughout November, we will have a series of guest bloggers contributing to "Every Child" in honor of National Adoption Month. Today's blog was written by Catherine Behrendt, adoptive mother and TV talk show host.
In our home, we pray for the two courageous birthmothers who gave life to our beautiful children. Carly and Christopher, now 14 and 13, were born in South Korea, and we brought them home as babies in two separate adoptions.
I always knew I wanted at least one adopted child. My husband, Kurt, and I were married for 11 years before we were ready to start a family, and by then he was on board with adoption too.
Several months after beginning the process, our adoption specialist, Ginny, showed us a picture of a baby girl named Hee Jung Sun and began telling us what they knew about her. She was a newborn, had received medical checkups, and . . . Ginny stopped, stunned. The baby’s records unexpectedly indicated she had Hepatitis B. We were advised to talk about this news, and if we felt this was not a good placement, they’d move on.
Even as we researched Hepatitis B, we realized if I had given birth to a child with Hepatitis (or whatever), we would love her just the same. This was a child we felt had been born “for us,” that we were meant to be a family. So we called and said we wanted to move ahead. Ginny shared she had just received word from the orphanage that there was a mistake in the transfer of information, and that our baby did not have Hepatitis B. We felt we had been tested—and we passed.
Adopted babies from South Korea could be escorted to the United States, but when the time came we wanted to make the trip ourselves to soak up as much about our baby’s culture as we could, so one day we could answer some of her inevitable questions. I will never forget the pure joy of meeting our daughter, who we named Carly, when her foster family placed her in my arms. She was—and still is—the most beautiful little girl I have ever seen.
As time passed, I decided genetics and giving birth were probably overrated, so we decided to adopt again and give Carly a sibling. Along came Ho Jin Kim when Carly was 15 months old. This time Kurt travelled to South Korea alone and returned with this happy baby boy we named Christopher—or Tiff, as we call him for short.
The experts warn adoptive parents there may be challenges. We got questions, like how would we bridge the language barrier when the kids started speaking Korean. (Yes, we were asked that!) And I had to explain that they came "from another momma's tummy," which grossed Tiff right out! And I think kids at school noticed Carly and Tiff didn't look like us before they did. But they are well-adjusted “adopted kids.” Carly calls Tiff “her brother from another mother.” Carly is now 14, a natural leader, brilliant, artistic . . . and very bossy. Tiff is 13, and also very bright. He’s a gifted athlete, charming as all get-out, and funny. He can diffuse a difficult situation with one silly look. These kids are the joy of my life.
This brings me back to the two birthmothers for whom we pray. There are moments when I look at these magnificent children, delighting in the joy they have brought into our family, and I feel for those two women who will never know them. My prayers and my gratitude will never be sufficient in letting them know how loving and generous their decisions were and the immeasurable impact they have made on my life. I could not love my children any more than if I had given birth to them.
Catherine Behrendt is a Grand Rapids, Michigan, television executive and TV talk show host. She serves on the National Board of Directors for Bethany Christian Services. After sharing their story with local television viewers, Catherine and her family have become recognized advocates for adoption and are often asked to encourage other families in their adoption journey.