ConceiveOnline: You were already mom to three young children when you decided to adopt your daughter Mia from Guatemala. What led you to make this decision, which pushed you "to uncomfortable places," as you write?
Jennifer Grant: Before we had children, my husband and I often talked about adopting a child. I always felt drawn to having a big family, and both of us love children. We also have worked overseas and have been aware of the staggering number of orphaned children around the world. He still goes to India a few times a year for business and when he sees street children, he thinks of his own children at home living in comfort in the suburbs, with so many opportunities ahead of them. The contrast between the lives our own children lead and those of more than 100 million orphans around the globe is, really, obscene. So, for us, the combination of wanting a large family – and truly enjoying the sort of controlled chaos of big families – and knowing that there are many vulnerable children around the world who need families affected our decision to adopt.
ConceiveOnline: One element of your story that makes yours different is your discussion of spirituality and the role it played in your and your husband's lives and this decision. You say that adopting wasn't your idea, that you were "merely responding to a tap on the shoulder from God." Do you think that helped you maintain a sense of "this is meant to be" even when the path was rocky to add Mia to your family? What about your faith helped (or didn't help, perhaps surprisingly) you during this experience?
Jennifer Grant: In the book, when I refer to that “tap on the shoulder from God,” I’m poking fun at myself a bit. That is, I do believe that I have the children I was destined to have and I do believe that God shaped our family, but at that point in the book, I was referring to an immature, overly naïve notion I had. That is, I somehow thought that because I was responding to a divine “nudge,” everything would go smoothly and I wouldn’t encounter any challenges. That, of course, wasn’t the case.
I did experienced a sense of peace at times during the adoption process, but I also wrestled with periods of worry and doubt and as the wait for Mia to come home dragged on, I often felt very alone and unmoored. I think doubt is an element of faith – sometimes I had a sense of calm and at other times I was anxious about her well-being and other issues. I like the poet Rilke’s advice: “Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart. And try to love the questions themselves.” Adopting Mia was a time when I had to live in more uncertainty, with less control, and “in the questions” for long periods of time. And I had to choose to trust that God was in control of the situation.
ConceiveOnline: What surprised you about adopting Mia, or the adoption process in general?
Jennifer Grant: I continue to be surprised at how some people seem to avoid asking the direct questions they have about adoption or our family’s story in particular. Some people behave as though it’s in bad taste to ask even perfectly appropriate questions. At the same time, I’m still surprised by some of the almost comically blunt and inappropriate questions strangers ask me once in a while. Questions such as, on seeing my four children together and noticing that the youngest one is a different race than the others, “Did something happen to your husband so you couldn’t have more of your own?” Or “Does she have a different father than they do?” I hope Love You More will demystify the adoption process and what it’s like to be a transracial family. I tried to answer all of those sticky questions!
ConceiveOnline: What advice do you have for others considering it or going through it?
Jennifer Grant: My advice is that prospective adoptive parents deal very honestly with their own feelings about their desire to have children. If a person comes to adoption after infertility, I hope she will acknowledge to herself and to close friends that she has experienced a loss. She isn’t becoming a mother the way she might have always imagined it. However, the good news is, if she mourns that loss and then does research, gives careful thought to, and then makes the decision to adopt, she has incredible joy ahead of her. In Love You More, I tell the story of my best friend’s terribly painful – physically and emotionally - journey through infertility. Now, however, she is mother to three daughters from China and, as I say in the book, her family is absolutely not second best. They have one of the happiest, most vital homes I’ve ever known. Regardless of how they come to you, children are a wonderful gift. And I like being able to tell other women that although I have three by birth and one by adoption, there’s no difference in the love or bond we feel. Obviously, I can’t tell her what it was like to give birth to her, but I can tell her what it was like to adopt her. And that’s a pretty great story to tell.
Visit the Love You More: The Divine Surprise of Adopting My Daughter Facebook page and watch this trailer with pictures of Grant and her family.
Tell us what you think of Love You More! Are you considering international adoption? What are your reasons, concerns, and questions?