Editor’s Note: This is the next installment in our “Married and…” series where we will interview couples from all walks of life. It is our hope that you are encouraged by the stories of people who have similar journeys as you, who share the same dreams you have, who face the same obstacles you do, and who can remind you that your marriage isn’t the first one to experience the things you’re dealing with.
In and of itself, adoption is beautiful and hard, scary and exciting, and for many couples the decision comes from a place of pain. While some know right from the start of their marriage that they want to adopt, God uses time and circumstances to turn others’ hearts in that same direction.
Regardless of the journey, adopting a child can be extremely stressful and challenging, and it can cause a great deal of strain between a husband and a wife. How can a couple walk down the road towards adoption and come out stronger?
Carrie and Brandon Howard are currently in the early stages of their first adoption. Here is some of their story…
Tell us about your adoption journey.
Brandon and Carrie: We have a beautiful nephew, who happens to be adopted, and Brandon has some family members that were adopted, so it was something we each were interested in before we even met. However, the “adoption journey” was a plan we thought of as something we would take on down the road. By “down the road,” we figured we would have two or three biological children first, have tons of money in the bank, and have it all figured out, because that’s how life works… right?
We married in 2013. In 2014, Brandon was diagnosed with a condition that commonly causes infertility, and while we went through a procedure to correct it, in the months afterwards, both of us eventually came to grips with the fact that we may never have biological children.
We discussed in vitro briefly, but ended up feeling like adoption was the only clear choice for us. We see what a gift that adoption is from God. It’s also a tremendous gift from the birth parents. Once we decided to go for it, it felt like such a huge, overwhelming challenge, but each and every prayer or need that we’ve had through the process has been provided for right on time.
Adoption can be expensive. How did you prepare financially for it?
Brandon and Carrie: Before we knew we were going to adopt, we did the things we were “supposed” to do. We got out of credit card debt. We started saving for a house. Then, life threw us a curve ball, and our savings for a down payment became savings for an adoption.
And you’re right, not only can adoption be expensive, it is. However, we did quite a bit of research and found a Christian adoption agency that does a great job at minimizing costs. (If anyone reading this would like a reference, you can contact us for more info on them.)
Between our savings and employer benefits that pay out post-adoption, we had a little over half the cost accounted for when we started. We launched a fundraising site, swallowed our pride, and did quite a bit of self-promotion on social media. With the help of friends and family also promoting, we reached our goal of $10,000+ in less than 30 days. We never anticipated the type of response we received, much less reaching our goal. The outpouring of financial gifts, words, and support was humbling.
In our research, we also discovered endless grants and low/no interest loans out there from Christian organizations. Additionally, the federal government issues a sizable tax credit for adoption the year after it is finalized. The money is out there, but it does take some time to research and apply for, as well as some faith that God will provide when He calls you to do something.
Did you find that the adoption process caused marital stress?
Brandon and Carrie: Yes and no. The infertility issue caused much more stress than the adoption process to this point. We expected we would be pregnant within two years of getting married, so when it didn’t work out that way, there was a natural grieving process which affected us each a little differently. Carrie had an extended grieving process, and Brandon’s was delayed. We learned through the process that grieving the infertility was not only healthy but necessary to transition our hearts into the adoption process.
Additionally, Brandon had quite a few fears about finances and ever feeling truly “ready” to be dad. Fortunately, it never really caused division, just some hard conversations. There were times we didn’t have any answers.
We’re finally to the point that we understand no couple is ever completely ready to be parents. We’re excited to step into the unknown and transition to the parenthood phase of our lives. Learning how to grieve together has actually connected us in a more intimate way. Together, we have watched our adoption journey take shape, which has instilled in us a faith in God’s provision and removed our tendency to worry about what lies ahead.
We’re still relatively early in the process, in terms of waiting for a match, as we’ve only been in the pool of approved adoptive parents since October. Our nephew came after just three short months of waiting, but we’ve also talked to couples who waited a long time to be matched. We know others who were matched, only to have the adoption fall through. It’s tough for both of us to think about going through those trials, but we also feel everything that’s happened to this point has prepared us for what’s ahead.
In what ways did you see your marriage grow stronger as you enter the adoption process and as you wait for your child?
Brandon and Carrie: We found that, as tough as Carrie’s grief was, it actually helped Brandon get his focus off dollars and cents and on to being a more supportive husband. And then when Brandon was finally able to grieve, it brought us to a point of understanding each other in a deeper way. It was suddenly less about what we did or didn’t have in our bank account or home, and more about how we could better serve each other in a tough season.
Once we decided to adopt, it was as if God instantly replaced our sadness with expectation and joy. The application process has been tiring at times, but checking off each box feels like we’re climbing this mountain together and is building so much anticipation for what we’ll find at the top.
What words of encouragement would you give to other couples who are considering adopting a child?
Brandon and Carrie: Not every couple is called to adopt; however, we believe there are many out there who could and probably let fear or circumstances hold them back. Whether it’s your first child or not, if you pray about it together over time and feel a little tug at your heart, that’s probably an indication God is trying to tell you something.
We honestly had no idea how we could fully afford an adoption when we started. In fact, Brandon felt sorry for himself initially, thinking about all the major debt we were going to incur and have to put off owning a house for years. Not only has that proven to be false, we have had people from all phases of our lives, and even some we don’t know, give us thousands of dollars towards this effort.
God has certainly provided the grace for us in all facets of the process. No story is the same, but, if you step out in faith, God will open up avenues to provide. We have no doubt that your adoption journey will be an amazing gift to your lives, your family, and your marriage. It’s already been a catalyst for joy and growth in our lives, and yet, the story of our child has just begun.