The Greatest Gift
An adopted child won’t have her mother’s green eyes or her father’s aquiline nose—but she’ll have their hearts; the gift is a two-way exchange.
A baby can be made deliberately, with steady and abiding love and a momentary euphoria, or accidentally, with euphoria as the only excuse. But it is impossible to adopt someone else’s baby thoughtlessly, on a whim, or for temporary pleasure’s sake. Adoption means you’ve planned and saved, filled out paperwork, and opened a place in your home and heart. Through a nervous yet exciting journey, you’ve chosen, at your own risk, without blood or ego, to enter a lifelong relationship.
Struck by the generosity that act requires, we spoke with four couples who decided to make someone else’s child their own. One couple adopted three times fifty years ago; two couples adopted second children from China (one in the 1990s, one just last year); and the fourth couple crossed the finish line here at home. We asked what gave them the courage to take that leap, give the ultimate gift of self and provide a life filled with love and hope to a child they’d never met—without guarantee, warranty, or the possibility of return.
As it turns out, they all felt like they were the ones who’d opened a beribboned Christmas-morning package and received the perfect present.
When Steve and Mindy Heitkamp decided they were ready to start a family, it took them eighteen months to get pregnant, and then Mindy had to take medication and basically sit in a chair for four and a half months. Even with every precaution, she went into premature labor twice and nearly lost their daughter.
Two years later, they gamely tried again—not because they were opposed to adoption, but because, on Steve’s salary as a United Methodist minister and what Mindy was making as a substitute teacher, they weren’t sure they could afford it. So they went the biological route again, hoping to add another child to their family, to the point of taking fertility drugs. That, too, was unsuccessful. “I was just kind of exhausted with it all,” Mindy says, “and we decided God was leading us to adopt, and that was just fine.”
They saved money and did research, and they found Holt International, one of the forerunners of international adoption. But every country had its own specific, exacting criteria: Russia, for example—this was the nineties—required you to “go there, meet your child, come home, be home for months, then go back and—hopefully—get your child the second time,” Mindy says. “Yeah, no. With all the heartache already, I just couldn’t do it.”
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