November is National Adoption Month, a month dedicated to bringing awareness to the importance of adoption and foster care. So many children in the U.S. and abroad don’t have the privilege of having loving parents, but so many parents and families have the capability to adopt them.
One of my favorite adoption stories is that of Christian music artist Steven Curtis Chapman and his wife, Mary Beth. Beginning in 2000, they adopted three baby girls from China. Today, they are the founders of Show Hope—a nonprofit organization that helps couples through the adoption process with financial assistance, education and pre- and post-adoption support.
I sat down and chatted with Steven, Mary Beth and their daughter, Emily, on my podcast to hear their incredible story. We talked about how Emily convinced her parents to adopt, we talked about the reservations Mary Beth had, and we talked about a common fear I hear from parents in my practice: Will I love my adopted child like I love my biological child?
I encourage you to listen to the full episode here, but here is a part of our conversation:
Dr. Meg: What prompted you to adopt?
Mary Beth: In 1997, our oldest daughter, Emily, and I took a trip to Haiti with Compassion International. It changed both of our lives, and our 11-year-old Emily basically said, “We have room at our table. We need to consider opening up our home to a child who does not have a mother or father.
We told her that it was a great idea for her when she grew up and had her own family one day. But with great persistence…she wrote us letters and asked us to pray. She wrote contracts with her brothers and had them sign as witnesses and wrote us a letter that said we may be living in disobedience to God if we don’t consider this. It was a full-court press.
I think secretly Steven was praying that our family might enlarge through the miracle of adoption and quite frankly, I was fearful. I was fearful of my own heart, my own capacity to love and all of that so what I did commit to doing was pray.
Emily, can you tell us what it was like having this burned on your heart to bring more children into the family?
Emily: After the trip to Haiti, as an 11-year-old, I had met a lot of children my same age that were navigating life without a mother or father in the picture. So my head started spinning, thinking, What would that be like to have to navigate life and live life without the support systems I take for granted?
There was something that was burning in my heart and I knew I needed to continue to pray and advocate how I knew to do at 11 years old. So that was writing letters and convincing my parents I would help and the boys would help. That’s where the contracts came in because I had to convince them that we would all pitch in.
I think there’s part of that childlike faith in that moment that I was really convinced of something and nothing was going stop me, not even a mom and a dad who thought this is crazy.
Mary Beth, what were your fears and how did you get over them?
Mary Beth: Quite honestly, I just didn’t believe in myself. I have a lot of fear in how I parent anyways, and so I was thinking, If I bring a child into our family, I want to be fully there, fully mom. I was really fearful of how I would attach to that child and how that child would attach to me…I was really scared I wasn’t going to be able to do it 1,000% percent fully there.
I’ve had a lot of patients express to me that they are afraid they wouldn’t love their adopted child like their biological child. Was that a fear for you and how did you work through that?
Mary Beth: I really got a sense as I was praying that God was asking me to trust him and to take steps…In our early days of adoption, I used to say it’s almost like when you walk up to a Walmart and those electronic doors fly open as soon as you stand on that mat. That’s how visible God was making the path for us toward adoption.
I kept trusting God and thought, If God is asking me to trust him with my story of adoption then I’m going to trust him with my parenting as well, and I’m going to trust that that love’s going to be there, and it’s going to show up at the right time.
Did God come through?
Mary Beth: Oh yes… They put Shaoey [short for Shaohannah] in my arms and she had a blanket that I had sent to her but everything else was pretty ragtag and spoke loudly that she did not have a family. At that moment, she became a Chapman and everything that was ours became hers.