China Adoption, 12 Years Later
This week we are continuing our storytelling journey with an interview with Sandy Ujfalusy. Sandy reflects on her family’s international adoption journey over the last twelve years, and shares how she has encountered grace and compassion along the way.
For readers who don’t you yet, can you start out with a “big picture’ sketch of your adoption journey?
Welcome to our party of five!!! Adoption has always been in my heart, even as a teenage girl. After marrying my sweet hubby, we began our parenting journey with a beautiful and sweet baby boy (leaving the hospital I felt helpless and less than prepared for this little bundle). He gave us the greatest joy! He also gave us a new role, mom and dad. Woah! A few years later our energetic and loving Caleb joined the craziness of our family. And, trust me, we are a bit crazy! The military moved us all over the country, ending in Colorado. We became fast friends with a couple and walked with them on the road to their adoption. The desire in my heart never changed, but through our friends journey we felt God’s calling that would eventually bring us to our daughter, Chloe.
Once we decided to adopt from China, we hit the ground running. We pushed every piece of paperwork and step as quickly as possible. And, anyone going through this knows there is paperwork!! About a year later, we traveled to China and after two weeks, we came home with our angel baby. Chloe was 11 months old when she was placed in our arms for the first time. I can’t describe the joy we felt, our hearts were overwhelmed. I cry every time I think about it! And then I blinked!! She turned 13 in December, so we are now in the joyous teen years…I use joyous with a bit of sarcasm! 😉 Chloe completed our family.
Most of the adoptive families in our community are young parents. You and Eric are 12 years into the adoption journey. What has changed in the world of adoption since you adopted Chloe?
When we adopted 12 years ago we knew a handful of friends who had adopted or were in the process. Fast forward to today and we are surrounded by a community of adoptive families…foreign and domestic. We have cherished friendships that will be lifelong “family” to us. Adoption seems to be more of a norm today. It binds us together in a special way. There are so many great resources, like Adopt a Love Story, that give hope and help to assist families who do not have the resources to adopt…making it a reality! YES!! There are support groups, blogs, and so many resources that help support this precious gift.
What words of love and wisdom would you share with yourself 12 years ago?
Give yourself grace. Don’t be afraid to share your fears, failures, and the realities of some of the struggles that surround adoption. Allow yourself to be honest. Trust me, others are feeling the same. Don’t compare your story to any other story, each one is so beautiful and unique. Parenting, whether you adopt, have biological children, or both, is a series of failures and successes. Love them through the hard and pray for strength in each new chapter of raising this gift from above. My babies are now big people/less-than-mature adults who think they are adults. Haha! Cherish your littles. Hold on to the mundane hard. Laugh every day! And, give me a call if you need me to hold your littles…I miss this so much! Reach out and allow others to help! I know you need a break! It’s not a bad thing!
How does your family celebrate Chloe’s biological family and culture?
To be honest, we have not really celebrated her biological family, but we do talk about them and always say how important they are to us. We have been to Chinese New Year celebrations. We love food, so of course we love to eat her traditional Chinese food. She’s from Szechuan, so it’s spicy for sure. So is she!! 😉 Our hope and dream is to take her back to China in the next few years so she can see where she is from and really experience her culture first hand. On her “Gotcha Day” every year we celebrate! When we were in China I bought a gift for each gotcha day until she is 18. I also have a gift for her wedding day!! She LOVES this day and her gifts! And, she loves to rub it in her brother’s faces since they don’t have a Gotcha day!! 😉
Can you talk about your heart for Chloe’s birth parents?
My heart truly aches for her birth parents. I know she can never meet them, so I grieve for them and for her. Every year on her birthday, I cry. There must be pain and loss in their hearts. I, of course, identify with her mom the most and always think of her. I wonder what she feels, if she’s hurting. Chloe is studying genetics at school right now in 7th grade. We talked about what genes were dominant from her birth mom and dad. I know she wonders, as I do, what features she has from her mom, does she have her dads eyes, lips? It’s a loss and I grieve for them and pray they would know that she is happy. These are the days that I feel less than adequate to answer her questions.
What kinds of conversations do you have with Chloe about adoption?
This could be a blog conversation all on its own!
Our goal from day one has been to talk openly and proudly about her adoption. I tell her all the time what an amazing story she has! It’s unlike any other! We want her to be proud of where she is from and that she was CHOSEN by God for us, He gave us the gift of her. I’ve tried to equip her for the questions from peers and adults, to be confident in who she is and her story. Now that she is older she is not ashamed to talk about her adoption. There are definite struggles now that she’s a teenager. As she tries to navigate and figure out her identity, we try to be honest and walk her through tough questions. I definitely fail to give her all the answers sometimes. I can’t shelter her from what kids (or adults for that matter) will say that hurt her, but we just encourage her and love her. We tell her to be honest and ask anything she wants, always, without fear of hurting us.
How would you sum up your heart for adoption in a paragraph or two?
Adoption has impacted me in a way I could have never imagined. It’s brought me joy, love, tears, pain, growth, and a completely humble spirit. It’s given me a greater understanding of my sweet God who loves me as I am and has adopted me as His own….which I am so undeserving of. I’ve had the gift of walking with dear friends as they adopt and each time my heart gives way to joy. It’s a part of my heart and life. Each story is a treasure.
I remember the day I thought I had this parenting thing down! Guess what?? I don’t, and never will. But, my three gifts have changed me. My heart has more compassion and love for the unloved. I cry at EVERY adoption story! Chloe, and my boys, continue to teach me more about who I am, and trust me, some days that’s not a good thing! But, I’ve grown, and know this journey will never end.
Before your adoption, what were your concerns and fears?
Through the process of adopting Chloe, I had many fears of the unknown. Can I give her what she needs to feel loved, accepted, and a forever part of our family. Am I capable of raising a daughter?!! Would I love her the same as my biological sons? Will I have the answers she needs, the love she requires?
What kinds of emotions do you experience now as an adoptive parent?
Wow, so many! Laughter is a big part of our home, so through our stumbles and failures as parents, we laugh…even through some very hard days! I have such a tender heart for adoption, each story reaches my heart. Adoption is beautiful, but not perfect. As we navigate each age there are awesome days and there are dark days. She hurts, I hurt. I love Chloe with every ounce of my heart. We struggle, she still has pain and questions. Some days I’m great at being her mom, other days are hard and I fail. Is this normal for a teenage mom and her daughter or is this because she’s adopted? Grace seeps in and we grow. I’m undeserving of her and some days wonder why God called me to be her mom. On my knees in prayer is where I find hope and healing for her and me.
Have you ever felt isolated in your adoption journey?
Thankfully, we have walked our adoption journey with an amazing support network that continues to grow. We have literally hit the jackpot! So thankful for the support in each step of our story. I’ve not only needed the support and honesty, but have loved being there for the more recent adoptive families. I’ve also had the gift of families who are ahead of us in this journey. Such love and encouragement. So thankful! Not sure how I’d survive without them walking along side of us.
On another note, during the days of hard, I felt alone. Thought I was the only one struggling. Reach out, you are not alone. I can guarantee it!
During the adoption process, did you reach out to other adoptive families and do you have adoptive families in your community?
I only knew a few families who had adopted or who were in the process of adopting when we started our process. Thankfully, one is my best friend. We cried over the journey together and encouraged each other. She started her adoption about a year before us and we ended up traveling to China a month apart. Our girls are still friends. We also gained a beautiful community with the families we traveled to China with. The family we became fast friends with in China live 30 minutes away. Chloe and their daughter were abandoned together. Not a mistake. God is in all the details! Chloe calls her a sister. Our family is not confined to our five, it has grown though our journey and friendships that are a part of us, our story, our family.
As I sit and think through our community of friends right now I actually laughed. The majority of our friends have adopted! We met many of these friends before adoption was even a topic of conversation. Again, God in the details of our life and our family!