A tale of two New Hampshire families, and how they added to their families
It starts, of course, with a strong desire to start a family; to have a child and create a life together that until now had just been a ”someday” plan. Circumstances are different in every case, but the common factor is this – a potential parent or parents is ready to bring a child into his or her life and for whatever reason, it isn’t either physically possible to do so due to infertility or other medical or situational causes. Sometimes an individual or a couple simply chooses to adopt, feeling it’s the best way to create or add to their family. Whatever the reason, the need is mutual. There are parents in the making, just waiting for children to love, and children ready to be nurtured and cared for.
This is a tale of two New Hampshire families; one in Litchfield, with two children adopted internationally, and one in Exeter, with a daughter adopted domestically. While their backgrounds and experiences may differ, the end result is the same – much-loved youngsters and their parents who feel very fortunate to have their children.
For LeeAnn York, the decision to pursue adoption forced her to confront her feelings and beliefs on several issues. She had always believed she would be able to give birth, but after trying for some time naturally to conceive and then going through fertility treatments without success, it seemed conception would not be possible. She and her husband, John began discussing adoption, wondering if this might be God’s way to build their family.
At the time, the Yorks lived in Virginia. They learned an agency was hosting an informational meeting about international adoption nearby and decided to stop in to learn what they could.
“John and I talked about the different countries that were available through our agency and decided to pursue an adoption through China,” said York.
The couple filled out an application, participated in a home study and submitted their paperwork for an international adoption through the U. S. Department of Immigration. In the midst of this process, the Yorks moved to New Hampshire and had to go through the home study all over again.
“Through the move and some procrastination on my part, after two and half years we had all of our paperwork for our dossier to be sent to China,” said York. “It was a little challenging working with an agency out of state, but for the most part they worked with us to get our paperwork in order.”
Their paperwork was sent overseas in October 2001 and after what seemed like forever for the couple, they finally received a phone call in January 2003 that they had a little boy in China waiting for them. They had been expecting that it would be a girl, but had requested either a boy or a girl.
“We were very excited to see pictures of our little boy with such cute, chubby cheeks,” said York. “It was love at first sight. I could not wait to meet and hold him.”
Joshua was just a little over a year old when he joined the York family. Once LeeAnn held her son and got to know him, she said she wished she had not waited so long to adopt.
“I had feelings of inadequacies I personally battled with as a result of not being able to have a natural child of my own prior to moving forward with adoption,” said York. “Now, knowing the blessings on the other side, I wish I had not waited so long to pursue adoption.
However, she said she felt that God had a plan for their son to be with them and if it had gone any faster, they would not have had him in their lives.
Soon they decided to adopt a second child, and once again pursued adoption through the same agency that led them to Joshua. The Yorks felt that the agency supported them well in China and they trusted that they would do the same the second time around. This time, they were blessed with a beautiful daughter, also a little over a year old, who they named Kiley.
“My husband and I had a birthing process,” said York. “It was just very different in many ways and yet in some ways the same as a natural birth.”
Their children are now 10 and 8, and know that they are adopted from China. The Yorks say they endeavor to just work it into their lives. Sometimes they tell their kids the story about when they became a family with them and they enjoy hearing their stories.
Dani Vanderzanden of Exeter was not able to conceive and carry a child to term, and considered adoption. For her, the decision to adopt was an easy one. Her then husband was not amenable to the idea, and eventually the couple divorced. The desire to adopt stayed with her and she said it took a year or two to get up the courage to look into it.
“It wasn’t until a woman I was working with came into my office and she said if she didn’t have a life partner by the time she was 40, she was going to be artificially inseminated,” said Vanderzanden. “I said, “I have to get off the dime and just do this.””
That was in 2008. Initially, she considered an adoption through an agency dealing with children from Kazakhstan that worked with many single adults before she started the process to adopt domestically. A year and a half later, a baby girl was born in Tampa and Dani received the call that changed her life – her daughter was waiting for her. Although the adoption is technically a closed adoption, she did meet her daughter Jodi’s birth mom.
“It was wonderful to meet her birth mom. I was a little nervous, but she was wonderful; very kind, very warm,” said Vanderzanden.
Jodi had a few medical challenges early on, according to her mom, and there were two terrifying weeks spent at Mass General Hospital. Fortunately, things have gone well since.
For singles, the adoption process can seem daunting. Vanderzanden said that a lot of pieces were challenging, even with the support she had in place, but that it was just a very small piece of the puzzle.
“It’s easy to get bogged down in the details, but it’s all worth it,” she said. “This child couldn’t possibly be any more my child.”
Since the adoption, Vanderzanden became involved in a relationship and eventually the couple purchased a home and blended their families. Her life partner, Peter Thurston, has two teenage sons, Andrew, 18, and Michael, 15, who quickly adapted to the role of big brothers to their now two-year old little sister.
“It’s as if she’s always been a part of our family,” said Vanderzanden. “She is a little sponge, picking up a bit from all of us.”
Jodi is also the first grandchild for Vanderzanden’s parents as well.
“I understand how and when you grow your family is about as personal of a choice you can make,” said Vanderzanden. “I couldn’t be happier with the choice I made and how it worked out for my family.”
For those who are considering adoption, York encourages potential parents to do their homework on how they wish to pursue adoption, domestically or internationally and then, not to delay in moving forward.
“There are blessings to be experienced and life lessons to be learned that I would not trade for anything,” said York.
Pamme Boutselis is a MarCom consultant and a freelance writer. The mom of four grown kids, she now deals with the challenges of raising two insubordinate dachshunds. Follow her on Twitter @pammeb.