Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Why Should I Pay For Your Kid?

Asking for money is awkward. There's no way around it. Yet, for a couple of months and for another week, that has been and will be my life. This post is a reflection on my thoughts so far about this process, what I've learned along the way, and my gratitude and humility for the outpouring of support.

Before we found ourselves in the middle of this fundraiser, I had mixed feelings about people who tried to raise money for adoptions. I'm going to be totally honest. Here were some of the thoughts I used to have, and maybe you've had the same: Why should I pay for them to have a kid? If they can't afford their adoption, why are they even doing it? If they can't even afford to get the kid, how are they going to afford to raise her? I know they live in a nice house and have good jobs, so why don't they have the money? I think those are all fair questions, and I'm going to try to address them in this post.

Only white pieces left to do!
For some people, adoption is a calling. This especially seems to be the case with international adoption. For example, the other night, I was having dinner with several other Chinese adoptive moms, and I was the only one there without biological children. Several families take to heart the Biblical calling to give homes to orphans, adopt others as God adopted us, etc. Of course, all of this is wonderful and should be celebrated, and I wish more families felt this calling.

But our story is a bit different. For us, adoption is the only way to grow our family. The "old-fashioned way" hasn't worked for us. Thousands of dollars spent on various fertility treatments didn't work for us. We'll never be able to pay our little deductible or copay like most people do and head home from the hospital with a brand new baby that looks like us. And that's okay. It's more than okay; we can't imagine life now without Jonas! But it's obviously completely unfair. We didn't choose our infertility, just like our son and daughter didn't choose to be orphans. We're all being brought together (thankfully) by situations that are out of our control. So adoption is a choice for us, only in the sense that we didn't want to remain childless. We also didn't feel like our family was complete with just Jonas, so we made the choice to pursue bringing him home a sister. The $30,000+ price tag is definitely not a choice!

Some folks looking from the outside in might be confused. Yes, we live in a wonderful neighborhood in a nice home. Yes, Zack has a good job and we live a comfortable lifestyle. Here are some things you may not know, and I share them here not to prove our need or defend our fundraising efforts, but to illuminate how the "inside story" might not always be known.
  • We only have one car; Zack bikes to work each day. 
  • For the few hours Jonas is at school each day, I work at our church's school to make some extra money. 
  • We have two mortgages on our house. The second one will be paid off within a year, because we threw some extra cash at it when we could, but it's still there for now.
  • All of Jonas's clothes and 95% of his toys are gifts, hand-me-downs, or consignment sale/Craigslist finds. 
  • I create a weekly meal plan and buy what's on sale, so eating out is a huge rarity for us. All three of us eat leftovers for lunch. 
  • Zack quit his traveling position at his previous company and took a nearly 50% overall pay cut to work locally and be able to come home each night when we adopted Jonas. 
  • This summer, right after we started the adoption process, both our water heater and air conditioner broke beyond repair (just our luck!). We paid for the new water heater, and we'll be paying off the air conditioner (interest-free) for the next year. We also recently had an expensive repair on our Jeep. I know, first-world problems, but still, $8000+ worth of problems!
  • Zack's former company provided a $10,000 adoption assistance benefit that was key to us affording our first adoption. This is why our fundraising goal is $10,000, as his current company provides absolutely zero adoption assistance. 
  • Oh, and I'm typing this blog post on an extremely slow laptop that's nearly ten years old, and it's our only computer!

While we try to spend and save wisely and don't carry any debt other than our house (and now that darn air conditioner!), we simply don't have $30,000 sitting in our savings account, ready to spend on an adoption. I don't think most people do. However, most people don't need that kind of money just sitting there ready to hand over in order to make their dreams of having kids a reality. To be honest, we also didn't expect our adoption process to move quite so quickly this time around. Even though we were excited to get a fast referral for our daughter, it definitely limited the number of months we were able to build up our savings. We literally just do not have the money required right now to bring our daughter home.

The only pieces left to "buy!"
It's hard to not feel guilty when you're living your life in the middle of fundraising. You end up constantly questioning your purchases. Should we really order pizza tonight for dinner? Is it "okay" to have a date night and go to the baseball game? Did I buy too many kids' clothes at the consignment sale? Is it a splurge to get ice cream with Jonas this afternoon? I've learned that we just have to live our lives. Yes, we definitely do without many of the "extras," but we don't say no to some simple pleasures every now and then.

Then there's what I call the "annoyance factor." I'm 100% positive that some (many?!) people are tired of my puzzle posts on Facebook. I hate being one of those people who keeps on posting about the same thing. But, every time I do a post, more donations come in. So it works! It's a delicate balance of trying to have a successful fundraiser without totally alienating everyone with constant badgering. If you need to block me until it's done, I understand!

One of my main concerns when I considered starting the fundraiser was feeling embarrassed...embarrassed to ask for financial help, embarrassed that we didn't have the funds ourselves, embarrassed that we needed others to make this adoption a reality. While I still struggle with this feeling, I'm working on feeling humility instead. It's humbling to say, "We need help." It's humbling to accept that help. It's humbling to witness the outpouring of love and support from family, friends, and even strangers. It's also very humbling to realize that people actually want to help and like being given the opportunity to do so! While I had researched and been warned about the possible negative comments and feelings that might come our way with doing an adoption fundraiser, we have only witnessed positivity and love.

Our family has been blown away by the generosity of people so far, and we feel so grateful for the support. We've had donations from some extremely giving family members. Childhood friends, high school acquaintances, college dormmates, graduate school peers, coworkers, former students of mine, parents' friends, members of our church, and fellow adoptive parents have all bought pieces of our puzzle. We've had people buy pieces in honor of their children or grandchildren; we've even had a few friends buy pieces for their dogs! There are some people who have donated twice, and there are a few families who have bought pieces in memory of children who passed before they were born. Donations have come from people of all ages, from a nine-year-old girl to a ninety-year-old man! They've also come from all over the country and world, from California, Texas, and Michigan all the way to Australia and New Zealand. How cool is it going to be to some day explain to our daughter how all of these people wanted to help bring her home?!

You've probably noticed that unlike most people who do adoption fundraisers, I haven't fully shared our daughter's picture yet. That's kind of been on purpose, even though I know showing it may have helped our cause. Yes, it might be easier to hand over $10 to help bring home a cute little Chinese girl whose picture you have admired. But what if you haven't seen her? What if you just know that there's an orphan out there who needs a home and a family out there who wants a daughter? Is helping to bring them together enough reason to help? You can call it my own little social experiment, but I think there's something really special about people donating to help our family without even having a picture of our girl to tug at their heartstrings.

One thing I worried about in the past when people I knew had fundraisers was the "pressure" to give and the judgmental thoughts people might be having about me if I didn't give or gave "too little." I can only speak for myself, but I honestly don't give much thought to who did or didn't give and/or how much people donate to our fundraiser. As an example, I hadn't even realized my own brother hadn't bought a puzzle piece until I received a notification of his contribution one day. I know that people have their own causes they support, reasons they can or can't or won't give, factors that affect how much they can donate, etc. I promise I'm not judging you! I'm just grateful if you're even reading this blog entry and learning more about adoption fundraising in general. And if you go and buy a puzzle piece right now, I promise I won't "read into it" and think that you only did so because you read this post. For all I know, you've been meaning to give all along, and this was just a reminder!

Each piece purchased reveals more of our girl's picture and name!
There is one week left in our fundraiser. We're nearly at our goal of $10,000. As of this moment, we are exactly $820 away. That blows my mind. In less than three months, people have rallied around a girl they have never met or even seen and given $9180 to help bring her home. In doing so, people have rallied around us as a family. We feel cared for, loved, and supported.

In darker days, I cringed when people would say that a pregnant woman was "blessed" with a child. "So I'm not blessed?!" I would think to myself. Now I see that we are indeed blessed, with 150+ individuals and families who have decided to become a "piece" of our family's story forever. I just never realized the blessings who were all around us, in the form of those who want to see our dreams fulfilled by helping to give a home to a little girl living on the other side of the world. To you blessings, all we can really say is thank you. Thank you thank you thank you. And we hope that it will put a smile on your face to see our daughter at home and happy in a few months, knowing that you played a part in bringing home our missing piece.

If you would like to "buy" one of the 82 remaining pieces in our puzzle fundraiser, please visit https://www.adopttogether.org/keys/. Thank you for helping to "Bring Home Our Missing Piece!"

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