We’re Adopting (a Human Child) Again!

Family Shot Trees Cover 03I am excited to announce my family is in the process of adopting another child. We have met all the criteria, jumped through all the legal hoops, and are now available to match with a birthmom.

We had a great experience with the adoption of our first child, Elijah. He is a wonderful little boy who can’t wait to be an older brother.

Our adoption agency is the Independent Adoption Center (IAC), the same agency we used last time. IAC facilitates open adoptions in which we meet and have ongoing contact with our child’s birthparents. Our relationship with Elijah’s birthfamily has been a wonderful blessing. Because of open adoption, Elijah has answers to questions most adopted children ask about their family of origin. More importantly, he is in relationship with his birthfamily, who love him dearly — and the more people who can love a kid, the better.

Last time many people asked how they could help us. In anticipation of similar questions, I have three specific opportunities for folks.

First, please pray for us, our future child, and that child’s birthfamily. Ask God to grant us all patience and wisdom. The average waiting time with our agency is fourteen months, and usually longer for a family that has children, like ours. I know you’re thinking, “But last time you didn’t wait long at all.” Let me stop you there. I cannot emphasize enough how unusual it was for us to wait only five weeks to adopt Elijah. That adoption was so out of the ordinary, the agency still speaks about it three years later. Another quick adoption is possible, but not probable. While I know many are excited for us, it isn’t helpful for us to be reminded how short our wait was last time. We need to prepare for a longer wait, while remaining open to surprises. We ask for your encouragement, reminding us adopting a second child will happen and God has the right child in mind for us. I learned a wonderful blessing in adopting Elijah. When we began the process last time, I thought I wanted to adopt any child. In becoming Elijah’s father, I realize now I didn’t want just any child, I wanted Elijah. I love him uniquely. This unique love we share is a gift from Jesus. I know that a similar gift of unique love between us and our next child awaits. We don’t know how long our wait will be, but we are confident God will bring about the right child who will help make us a new family.

Second, if you know anyone who has an unplanned pregnancy and is wondering if they are ready to parent, please give them our contact information and we will put them in communication with our agency. The IAC offers great counseling for birthmothers, birthfathers, and all members of birthfamilies, free of charge. Our e-mail is tylerandcarey(at)gmail.com. We have a toll-free number: 1.800.299.0337. We created an I Heart Adoption profile with our agency where birthparents can learn more about us. We also set up a Facebook profile. Please go to our profiles with the agency and on Facebook and like the pages. These steps help us get the word out.

Third, adoption is expensive, even with agencies being required to be nonprofit organizations in California and many other states. Whereas health insurance helps cover the costs of pregnancy, birth, and even infertility, there is no equivalent insurance system for adoption. While we have saved so that we are able to afford it, many families either accrue significant debt to pursue their dream of adopting a child, or opt out because the costs are too great. The fact is many kids need an adoptive family and the massive up front costs of adoption dissuade several potential parents from opening their homes. Some parents have been able to use crowdfunding to help cover their costs. Some have applied for grants from foundations, but those foundations need donations from others to have grants to award. If you would have considered giving us money to help with our adoption, please help another family achieve their dream of adoption by making a donation to one of the grant organizations, like HelpUsAdopt.org.

Carey, Elijah, and I are grateful to be on this journey again. God has blessed our families through adoption for several generations. Thank you for your prayers and support.

Making Room for the Unborn, for the Other

I recently attended a fundraising banquet for a pregnancy care center. I found the banquet’s presentations to be in parts inspiring, challenging, and off-putting. It highlighted for me my attraction to and difficulties with the pro-life movement. Ultimately, this is an issue I continue to struggle to find a home in, for reasons I’ll detail below. I won’t name the organization or the speaker, but I will share what they discussed as well as my reaction to it. Some of my objections to the presentations has to do with the pro-life movement in general and this organization in particular. I sat at a table with a couple of pro-life ob/gyns, one being my wife. We had a lengthy conversation about the evening afterward.

It was encouraging to see a room full of a couple hundred people gathered to support a pregnancy center focused on giving pregnant women options so they might receive good healthcare and carry the life of the child growing inside them to term. People spoke with conviction. The organization clearly wore their Christian faith on their sleeve and I do find it inspiring to watch people live out their moral and spiritual beliefs. They challenged me to do the same. The tone during the dinner and first few speakers was very inviting. Maybe the speakers used a bit too much insider language, but they expressed sincerity. I shouldn’t be surprised the talks came across as preaching to the choir, since this was a fundraising banquet. These sorts of events aren’t meant to convert outsiders, but to rally insiders and mobilize folks who already agree with the group.

A member of  the center gave a presentation for the night’s main fundraising goal: a mobile services vehicle the organization can drive to specific locations to offer pregnancy screening, ultrasounds, and general counseling. Currently the center has only a stationary bricks and mortar facility. By bringing a facility to where women who have unintended pregnancies are likely to congregate, the organization hopes to increase their client load.

Both the main speaker and the organization quoted many statistics about the numbers and effects of abortion, but offered no statistics of the center’s own work. The speaker said there had been 50 million abortions in the forty years since Roe v. Wade and then said pregnancy care centers had saved “countless” lives. I think of giving donations to organizations like an investment and just as I research a fund or company I invest in, I also research organizations I support financially. I want to see statistics. There are plenty of pro-life organizations and I want to know my money is making a difference. They need to answer questions like: How many women do they currently see every week? How many ultrasounds do they perform? How many adoption referrals were placed last year? What is the average age of women they see? What are the ethnic and socio-economic breakdowns of women seeking their services? How many more women do they anticipate they will be able to see by going mobile?

The night’s main speaker was an activist within the pro-life movement who used to work for an organization that performs abortions. This speaker has written articles and a book and she has told her story on television shows. It was her speech in particular that gave me the most discomfort. She told her story of how she became involved with the abortion provider and why she eventually left. This is a strong, moving story. Throughout her talk, however, she fell into the trap I see so often in the pro-life side. Namely, she emphasized protecting the unborn without ever really showing compassion toward the pregnant women and their partners who consider abortion an option. With so many abortions in the US, I believe she was right to emphasize saving the lives of the unborn. We must care for the parents in these situations as well.

The speaker argued that apathy on the side people who consider themselves pro-life, especially in the Church, is the main reason abortion continues in our country. She said if the Church unified and said, “Stop,” abortion would end in the US. In this argument, she only addressed the supply side of abortion. She made no mention of the demand side — why do women feel compelled to seek out an abortion? How can the Church help these women and their partners either parent or support them to place for adoption? For the whole evening, there was little mention of adoption at all. The only actions this speaker could persuade us toward were praying at abortion clinics, voting for pro-life candidates, donating money to the pregnancy care center, and pastors speaking about abortion from the pulpit. If the Church is not ready to welcome unwed pregnant women, if the Church is not ready to adopt these children, if the Church is not ready to financially assist these families through and after pregnancy, we have no witness.

The speaker stated in order to participate in abortions as she did, one must dehumanize the unborn. This is an important point and we should not diminish it. The problem came, however, as the speaker then dehumanized those who work in abortion clinics. Granted, she was including her former self as she described what happens in an abortion and asked with disdain, “What kind of person would participate in that?” She made it sound, however, as if the pro-choice side was corrupt, only chasing money. One of the ob/gyns I was with said in his training at a very liberal medical center, the family planning doctors were some of the most compassionate people he knew. He said they were excellent doctors who could make twice as much in private practice, but they chose to work among low-income families. I think it is fair to question the content of these doctors’ compassion, but their motivation was to help women in crisis. We do not win over people on the other side of the argument by treating them as less than human. How we speak to our opponents shows our character. How we speak about our opponents when they are not with us also shows our character. I sadly hear a demeaning, self-righteous tone in the pro-life side. This tone is present in the pro-choice side too, but if we are calling out the human worth of all people, including the unborn, we must commit ourselves to see the human worth of our opponents as well.

I also have difficulty finding a home in the pro-life movement because so much of it is anti-contraception. I understand the Roman Catholic arguments against contraception, but I don’t ascribe to them. There is also a large anti-contraception push within pro-life folks who are not Catholic. The center holding the event only offers abstinence counseling and education as its forms of pregnancy prevention. While from a virtue and character standpoint, I applaud a chastity education (abstinence and monogamy), I also acknowledge room for harm-reduction methods in the medical field. People have pre-marital sex. Some who have been given abstinence-only instruction have pre-marital sex. Physicians and nurses have to take human behavior into account. The main speaker scoffed at birth control, quoting misleading statistics about pregnancy rates with contraception. She failed to mention the majority of pregnancies while someone is on contraception come from user error (e.g., not taking the pills as prescribed) and forms of birth control that reduce the possibility of user variability (e.g., intrauterine devices) are far more successful. The speaker mentioned she grew up in a “good Christian home” and still had an unplanned pregnancy. A pastor who spoke from the podium mentioned his daughter had an unplanned pregnancy out of wedlock. Presumably both these women were taught abstinence and yet they still became pregnant. The evening’s speakers were ready to dismiss contraceptives as ineffective because some women who use them still get pregnant, but they were unwilling to dismiss abstinence-only education even though some women who were given the education still get pregnant. It is frustratingly inconsistent. I believe we need a robust mix of both if we want to prevent unplanned pregnancies.

The self-righteous tone, the dehumanizing of the pro-choice side, and the misleading information, particularly about contraception, all left a bad taste in my mouth. Some of these problems are unique to this specific center, yet I also find some of these problems in the larger pro-life movement.  If the truth is on the pro-life side, we should present it without spin. If we are committed to the dignity of all human beings, we must treat our opponents with love and dignity. If we are serious about valuing all lives, we must emphasize care for mothers and fathers and advocate for adoption.

For a helpful alternative to the preaching to the choir I heard on Friday night, I recommend listening to this episode of On Being in which Christian ethicist and pro-life advocate David Gushee has a dialogue with former Catholics for Choice president Frances Kissling. In it they answer thoughtful questions, such as: What is it in your own position that gives you trouble? What is it in the position of the other that you’re attracted to?

My Interview on Parenting Reimagined

My friend Sherry Walling interviewed me recently for her podcast, Parenting Reimagined. She wanted to know about my experiences as an adoptive parent and as an at-home dad,  as well as how the experience of parenting is shaping me and my faith. Sherry asks thought-provoking questions and edits really well to make me come across coherent and articulate. You can listen to the interview at the show’s site. The interview is titled, “Grace, redemption…. and Snot.” I’m honored to be a part of this endeavor. I really enjoyed Sherry’s first interview with her mother.

A New Career and a Weekend of New Experiences

The past weekend marked several firsts in Elijah’s life. We traveled as a family to the San Joaquin Valley, to the place where I grew up so that we could see my side of the family. What better season to expose Elijah to the Valley, but the summer? Fortunately we visited during an especially mild few days so he did not experience the oppressive heat and dust often found there from June through September. We also took the opportunity to travel to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. It was Elijah’s first time in the mountains, first trip to a National Park, and first time seeing the Giant Sequoias. Carey and I want Elijah to know and love these trees, which John Muir called, “the noblest of a noble race.” Elijah did not express awe that I think Muir would find sufficient, but we have time to foster that sense of wonder — the kid can only see a few feet. As a family we hiked down to the General Sherman Tree to show Elijah the largest living thing in the world and then we trekked along the Congress Trail where we saw a black bear cub.

Once we descended the mountain, we took Elijah swimming for the first time of his life. He seemed fairly ambivalent about the water. The kid’s skin is so fair — he burned once from an hour in the shade of a tree — we made sure very little of his skin was exposed.

We came home on Saturday because a colleague had given us tickets to Sunday’s interleague game between the Athletics and Giants. This was Elijah’s first Major League game and we decided to take BART, so it also marked Elijah’s first trip on public transportation. I tried to help him appreciate going to a game so young since I did not attend my first game until I was in the second grade. Many people around us were excited that it was his first baseball game. It was a great event — an A’s win after a solid pitching dual and a walk-off home run by rookie catcher Derek Norris.

This past week also brought a significant change in my professional life. On June 20, I resigned as pastor of mission and evangelism at South Bay Community Church. Once Carey and I adopted Elijah, we quickly realized that we wanted one of us to be at home with him. After prayer and conversations with wise counsel, we decided that I would be the at-home parent for the next season. How long of a season, we are not sure. We are excited for this next period and I am thankful that I have the opportunity to be at home with my son. This is not a career I had spent much time considering before Elijah came into our lives. The church was gracious to us. So many men at South Bay expressed that they were at home with their kids and said it was the some of the most meaningful times of their lives. I cannot wait to taste some of that same goodness.