The thread of adoption is woven through my family like a tapestry. It began with my grandfather, who spent 14 years in the foster care system, and my grandmother, who was adopted after her parents could no longer care for her.
It continued with my uncle, who lost both parents in a car accident and was raised by family members, and my aunt, who placed her baby for adoption when she was a young adult. More recently, my youngest brother spent eight years in a Bulgarian orphanage before my parents brought him home to the United States.
From an early age, I knew that adoption would be a part of my life. I took a semester off from my college studies to work in an orphanage in Jamaica, where I taught preschool, folded mounds of laundry and saw babies left at the front gate by parents who had long since run out of resources.
I met Mike Berry and fell in love in 1998, during my sophomore year of college. We spent hours talking and dreaming about our future together. Then came the day when I said, "I want to adopt our children." The look on Mike's face was confusion and surprise. It had never occurred to me that the person I loved wouldn't understand how important this was to me.
Everyone in the Berry household — immediate and extended — came into the family the old-fashioned way — biologically. Adoption and foster care were foreign concepts. So when I brought up the idea of adoption, Mike was perplexed.
If we did one thing right in those early years it was to listen. Mike listened as I shared my heart. When Mike explained his perspective, I listened with openness, too. Despite our differences, we did get married.
"Over the next few years," Mike says, "the Lord brought friends into my life who had walked the road of adoption, and my eyes slowly opened. In April 2002, my heart changed. That's when I first held our adopted baby girl in my arms and I knew that, because of her, I would never be the same."
During the first years of our marriage, my mother gave me some good advice: "This isn't an issue to argue about. God will change Mike's heart, or possibly even yours." She was right. In the end, I didn't win a battle against my husband; instead, we became a team.
So, what can a couple do when one spouse feels passionate about adoption and the other spouse doesn't? Here is what we did:
No matter how strong your marriage is, your spouse is not a mind reader! When it came to adoption, I needed to help Mike see where my passion came from. It wasn't about arguing — or winning — my case. At the same time, Mike let me know that his hesitation came largely from a lack of understanding.
Listening is the partner to talking. When Mike and I committed to talk and listen without barriers, we learned that our desires to help hurting families and children were quite similar.
Pray alone and together.
If you have a passion for anything, especially adoption, place it before the Lord, asking Him to guide your path as well as your desires. Pray this alone and together. Again, this is not the time to convince your spouse that you are right, but a time to seek the Lord's guidance (James 1:5).
Seek the wisdom of others.
Find someone who is already on the adoption journey. Ask a ton of questions and then listen with an open heart. Those who have gone before you can help you and your spouse make the right choice for your family (Proverbs 15:22).
A lot has changed since that first awkward conversation about adoption. With the support of the adoptive families in our hometown, we welcomed our first daughter. Two years later, we became foster parents. Over the last 16 years, we have had 23 children in our home and have advocated for family preservation in our community.
Foster care and adoption are not for everyone, but loving others is. Mike and I challenge you to lay aside your own plans and ask the Lord to guide you in loving others well. We haven't regretted this journey for one moment — and you won't either.Mike and Kristin Berry are the proud parents of eight children, as well as passionate advocates for kids in need of families. Mike is author of Confessions of an Adoptive Parent: Hope and Help from the Trenches of Foster Care and Adoption.
Focus on the Family’s Wait No More program prepares hearts and homes for kids in foster care – whether for a season or a lifetime. Everyone who feels called to foster, adopt or support a foster/adoptive family can get involved through our nationwide events and resources. Every day, we help kids in foster care experience the love of family, no matter how long they’ve waited. Learn more at WaitNoMore.org.