‘The child that’s going to change our lives forever’ -- An adoptive family's first-person perspective

In November 2001, John and Susie Kaufman and their son, Luke, welcomed the family’s newest member, Harrison, into their lives through adoption. Now, after 10 years, the Mt. Vernon, Texas, family shares their long-term perspectives on how their lives were changed forever by the miracle of adoption.

Susie

When we adopted Harrison we were so ready for another child to love. We had Luke, our 8-year-old, but we were still lacking something in our family.

I remember the first time I saw him in the hospital nursery: He had a cap pulled down over his hair and was completely wrapped up to his chin with a blanket. He was awake and I stared at him, thinking, ‘Is this the child that is going to change our lives forever?”

And after three days of holding him while we were in the hospital, I knew the answer to that question. Yes, he did change me completely. I knew we would love Harrison but I was totally unprepared for the amount of happiness and fulfillment he would add to our lives.

He was so much fun to watch as he would crawl down the hall with a bucket on his head, or when he went through his climbing stage as he opened the dryer door and climbed up to the top where he threw out handfuls of laundry soap, squealing in delight. I went and got the camera immediately. I truly enjoyed every stage in his life, and look forward to our next adventure. Harrison has made us complete.

Luke

Being only 8 years old when this whole process began, I really didn’t understand the responsibility of adoption. All I knew was I wanted a little brother and when that fateful day came and we officially got Harrison, I was blissfully unaware of how this bundle of joy would completely rock my world!

Through these last 10 years, I have grown closer to Harrison than I ever thought possible. I have been able to watch and help him through every stage in his life. Yes, we have had our personality conflicts, but I wouldn’t trade any moment we’ve had together for anything.

See, adoption didn’t just change Harrison’s life, but it also changed mine. There is no way I can put the feelings I have toward my brother into words. As I start a new chapter in my life – going to college – I will miss him immensely.

So this is for you Harrison: “Even though I may be far off, I want you to know I love and care for you more then you’ll ever know. And in times of trouble, don’t look toward man for help; instead look toward the heavens and toward your God.”

Susie

Our journey to adoption really began 20 years ago in Florida. I was told it was too dangerous for me to have children because of my juvenile diabetes. The specialist suggested that we adopt if we wanted to have a family.

After two years of being on an adoption waiting list, we finally were told we would receive twin toddlers. The girls were 18 months old. Their father had died shortly after their birth, and their mother was diagnosed with a terminal disease and was given six months to live.

The mother agonized over her children and ultimately decided to place them up for adoption. The mother chose us to be the new parents of her twins. We were so excited and began preparing their room and our lives for our new family. Everything was ready – the room, the clothes, the toys – and our hearts.

As we made our final preparations to receive these two beautiful children, we received a call that floored us: The adoption was not going to happen. A relative, who previously had decided against taking the children, changed her mind. Heartbroken, we decided that maybe this was God telling us to try and conceive a baby.

We tried and became pregnant immediately. After a few weeks, we were told that I was pregnant with twins; this was definitely what God intended for us. After several more weeks, I lost one of the babies. We thought, ‘How could this be? We have a team of high-risk specialists caring for us.’

After the shock finally subsided, again we were hit with life-changing news: Our baby would have Down syndrome. Our team of doctors recommended that I terminate the pregnancy since it was already pulling on my kidneys and eyes. Devastated again, we began praying and reading everything we could on Downs.

Through prayer, we decided that we would be terrific parents for a child with Down syndrome, so we continued the pregnancy. I was hospitalized six different times during the pregnancy; the final hospitalization lasted 41 days. During my last hospital stay, the doctors decided the baby needed to be delivered early – six weeks early.

We were proud parents of a baby boy. He weighed 6 pounds, 15 ounces and was immediately placed in the neonatal ward at the hospital. He remained there for one month. He was a healthy normal child – no Down syndrome. God had given us a miracle.

Six years later, we went down the road again. We prayed for a long time and chose Buckner for our adoption. We went through two years of screening and waiting, but finally a young woman chose us as the adoptive family. At the time, we lived at Booker, Texas, eight hours from Dallas. We traveled to Buckner and met the birthmother. She liked us. So for the next few months, we prepared our hearts and our house for our new baby.

On Nov. 8, 2001, we received a call that she was in labor. We made the trip and arrived after he had been delivered. For the next three days, we held our new baby. Sunday afternoon came and we went back to the hotel to pack and prepare for the transfer. When we got back to the hospital, we found out she had left with the child.

She had changed her mind. We were devastated. We made the trip home with broken hearts. My arms were sore from holding him for three days and now they were empty. We prayed and told God we wanted His will for us. If this was not the child He had for us we would wait for His perfect will. Three weeks later, the birthmother called and said she was now ready to place her baby. She had tried her best to keep him. We again drove the eight-hour drive, scared to death, but totally trusting God. But this time we came home with Harrison. He was ours.

John

As I think back to 12 years ago and analyze the adoption process, I had many questions about the open adoption process and, as we went through the support meeting, we finally understood the rationale behind an open adoption.

I can say without a doubt that an open adoption is the only way to go. As Susie said, we experienced a wide range of feelings from great joy to total despair. Each of our experiences has brought us closer as family and through our experiences, we have developed a deeper understanding for the adoption process.

We have learned to love Harrison’s birthmother and understand and appreciate the sacrifices she made in placing Harrison for adoption. We also have learned to respect her desires to be a part of Harrison’s life or not to be a part of his life – we’ve learned not to judge but to love.

There have been times where we didn’t hear from Stephanie for years and there were other times when we heard from her weekly. There was even a time when she lived with us.

Each moment helped us grow as a person and a family. Our adoption experience has made us champions for the open adoption process and every opportunity I have, I’m eager to tell our story about how a child can change everyone around you. Harrison is a shy, loving individual who loves school and wants to please. He has taught me patience and understanding but, most of all, he has taught me to have a deeper compassion for our fellow human beings – and he doesn’t even realize it. Luke said it best when he said that adopting Harrison didn’t just change Harrison’s life, but all of our lives. What a blessing he is.

Susie

This year marks the 10th anniversary of Harrison’s adoption. Has the adoption process changed our lives? Most definitely. We have so much faith in God’s will now that it is unbelievable.

Every time we try to help God or give Him our ideas for ways to fix problems, He gently reminds us that His way is the best way. We should just be patient and watch His perfect will unfold. Have we had some difficult times? Yes, we have.

Would we change any of these experiences we went through? Definitely not. We have grown stronger, become more compassionate and understanding, and matured into a better family because of one small child and the circumstances surrounding his journey to becoming a Kaufman.

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