Adopting Jude: From Absolutely Not To Let’s Do This!

Adopting Jude: From Absolutely Not To Let’s Do This!

Imagine with me. It’s 10:00 at night. You’ve just tucked in your kids, number 4, a 7 month old, is lying peacefully in the crib next to your bed. Not quite ready for sleep, you decide to scroll through Facebook for a few minutes. The first thing you see after logging on is a post from your wife that reads something like this…

fbjudeCall me crazy, but I panicked. WHAT THE WHAT!?!?!? My wife wants to what? And this would happen, when? Who? How? Excuse me!? 
We had discussed adoption plenty of times. It was something that we were both intent on doing. It was part of the Johnson Family Plan. Our future plan. Distant future plan. Doug’s plan was to one day decide that it was time, do what we needed to do, sign up for a child, and see what happened. Doug’s plan was not for it to come out of the blue, when our youngest was so… well, young, and to find out about it on Facebook. (Hold the hate comments folks. In Abby’s defense, she wanted to see if it was even a possibility before getting all worked up and calling me about it.)

As life often does, it came out of the blue.

I grabbed  a glass of cool water and took a few deep breaths. Based on their comments, it seemed that our Facebook peeps thought my response was funny. Truth is, I was basically having a tiny panic attack. I mean, my mood was good, but my heart and mind were racing. I had no personal experience with adoption. None of my close friends or family had entered the adoption world. The closest I had was my dad adopting me. I couldn’t think of anyone experienced to bounce my concerns off of. I gave myself a few minutes, then I called Abby…

She was laughing when she answered the phone. Obviously, she was just waiting for my call with the 5,000 questions.

Are you crazy? 
Whose baby is this?
How did this even come up?
You know we have a 7 month old, right?
What does your mom think?
This isn’t the plan!!

Abby took me back to the beginning. Her best friend, Kris, knew a gal in a crisis situation who needed a family to adopt her baby. A baby who was coming SOON! (1 month, to be more specific.) Kris knew the birth mother well. She interprets her church service for the deaf. Jude’s birth mother just happens to be deaf. The birth mother, let’s call her Diana, knew about Abby and our family through Kris. She thought very highly of Abby and was very comfortable with the idea of us adopting her baby. Again, I started with the questions…

Why doesn’t she have this lined up yet?
She had a plan, but it fell through. 
It just did.

Abby shared more about Diana’s situation with me. She already had 3 kids, but was separated from her husband. While they were separated, Diana began seeing another man who treated her well at first. Unfortunately, Diana hadn’t been treated well by a man for a long time, if ever. Unfortuantely, it didn’t take long for her to realize that he had a pretty bad drinking habit. When she called him out on that, things turned violent. On multiple occasions, he assaulted her, and then one of her kids. I don’t want to say too much, but thankfully, this guy is going to prison for his actions.

Thankfully, Diana got out and was safe, but she soon discovered that she was pregnant. To her credit, she never considered abortion. At the same time, she also wanted to get as much distance between her baby and the violent bio father as possible. Safety was a concern along with several other issues. I instantly felt for Diana and her family. I wanted things to work out for them, but I wasn’t convinced that we were the people to step up. Abby assured me we would talk about it when she got home, but I knew she was 100% ready to say yes. I however needed time to get over the initial shock of the whole situation. We wrapped up our conversation and I tried to get some sleep.

When I woke up the next morning, the first thought in my mind was there is no way we can do this. It’s just too hard. If our kids were older, and if Abby wasn’t traveling so much, then absolutely, yes. But right now seems too crazy. I texted Abby to let her know that I was strongly leaning toward saying no. I was open to talking about it, but I had my doubts. Abby pretty much took that as me saying no all together. Our whole conversation was via text, and that was our first mistake. The whole thing was a frustrated miscommunication. She was pretty disappointed, and I didn’t know how to get over my fears. Needless to say, I was feeling overwhelmed. I should have waited till she got home to discuss things in person.

Once we came to an understanding of where the other was coming from, we agreed to see if any other families would step up first. Kris told us there were a couple other families interested, but not for sure. None of these families ended up working out for various reasons. Out of respect for Diana I won’t list the stupid questions they asked, but it was pretty evident that they were not interested in any baby who wasn’t the right color, gender, or who we could absolutely guarantee would be 100% healthy. There are no guarantees in parenting, bio parenting or adoption.

Now that every other option had pretty much fallen through, I had a decision to make. Abby was already in love with this baby, but would honor whatever decision I made. She knew I wasn’t taking it lightly, and that my primary concern was putting our family first. I wrote down a list of concerns and showed them to Abby. I wanted a visual of everything I was thinking so we could navigate where my head and heart were..

Here are a few things from that list:

If I say yes

· Do we have enough energy in the tank to get through another year with a newborn?
· Will we ever have any personal time together?
· Will I be able to bond with the new kid?
· Will I hold him to a different standard? school/behavior/church/dating…
· If he hurts one of our kids, I may not forgive him.
· How the heck am I supposed to go to Mass alone with all these rowdy kids? GOOD LORD!!
· How long will I have to wait to try for more children naturally?
· Poor Grace with all these boys.

If I say no

· Will Abby or anyone else see me as less of a man or father?
· Will this come back and be held over my head if another adoption opportunity comes up or I want more kids in a year or two?
· If I find out that his life turns out badly, I will feel absolutely terrible.
· I might always wonder, “What if?”
· What if an opportunity like this doesn’t happen for us again?

Abby and I discussed my concerns one by one. She took them as seriously as I did. We spent time in prayer and went to our parents for advice. Time was an issue so I couldn’t spend to much time figuring it out. We agreed to start some of the adoption paperwork just in case I said yes. Within days, we had our home study and lined up attorneys for us and Diana. So the ball was rolling, just very, very slowly.

I pretty much spent the couple of days thinking about nothing but this adoption. I was softening a little bit, but still scared of the unknown. By the time we had our home study I was about 50/50. The fun thing about a home study is that it allows you to brag on your family. You get to talk about how happy you are and what makes you click. It was actually a rather fun experience.

I guess it was a couple of days later when I finally came to a decision. After the home study, talking to other adoptive families, prayer, talking to friends and family, a couple beers, and a ton of reassurance from Abby, I decided that my answer was yes.

There are several reasons why I agreed to adopt, but ultimately it came down to one thing. Every time I looked five, ten, thirty years down the road, I couldn’t see my life without this child. In my heart and in my head I had already made him part of our family. In my mind’s eye, I saw him playing in the yard with our other boys. I could imagine his high school graduation and fixing his tie before his wedding. There were visions of my dad teaching him to shoot a gun and ride a horse. At this point, there was no way I could say no. How could I remove him from my heart when he already had such a firm grip on it? For Abby, it was instant, but for me it took some time. I needed to be reminded of how awesome our little family is. That our children love each other and we all take care of each other. Like Abby says, we are open to all life. That includes the lives that God injects into our lives out of the clear blue sky. Sometimes you have to forget the script, allow yourself to be uncomfortable, and ride the wave.

juNow that we knew we were adding this new baby to our family, the next step was waiting on him to arrive…



  1. I love the black outs of the screen names from facebook! It’s small things like that make me love your blog.You have a great sense of humor.

  2. Wonderful!
    Don’t know how I missed it the 1st time…but glad Abby reposted the link…& even more glad to enjoy it.
    love+prayers for ya’ll, & the ones yet to come & join the coolest family.

  3. Beautiful story, thank you for sharing. It was very brave to be so open and honest about your story, including your reaction to it :). When families are in the public eye, people tend to think they are “perfect”. It is so refreshing that both you and Abbie show how real and beautiful a family you are! You are a gifted writer and I really could picture the whole process for you as I read through your story. I am sure your new addition is going to love reading this when he gets older. Praise to you for answering God’s call even when it was scary!

  4. Congratulations Doug, you have the gift of writing and parenting! You’ve got a very wonderful family life. The children are the future, and they make you and Abby always young.

  5. (I come via Conversion Diary. Hi!)
    I have a personal anecdote about your note about no guarantees in parenthood — I’m that example! My mother had a perfectly ordinary pregnancy with me until she passed out during labor and had a one-minute emergency c-section. I spent two weeks in the NICU with an emergency baptism at three days old and have had some lingering issues at almost thirty . . . even though everything pointed to a “normal” baby. (My younger brother was, and is, fine. He was almost dull as a baby, just smiled and napped and ate. No one warned me I’d have to wait years to have him talk and play with me.) Obviously all parents should take care of their babies before birth, but sometimes things happen which no one could predict, even with the best of care. (My mom is a nurse!)
    Anyway, congratulations on another baby. I’ve read Abby’s book multiple times and am in awe of y’all. Say hi to Chuy’s if you have the chance to eat there, I love it. And get some Whataburger for me because I miss it so much.

  6. Carolyn Frasier

    Because of your post, I framed a thank you when I shared it with our birth mom. It was something I’ve always wanted to say, but shyness overwhelmed me. Our son is now 21. Thanks for the life example and for sharing your love.

  7. Congratulations! My wife and I have discussed something similar down the road as a “future thing” so I cannot imagine it coming out of the blue like that.

    If those other people you mention (the ones who didn’t want this little guy) consider themselves pro-life, that saddens me. Having a baby, and I only have one now with another on the way, basically guarantees heartbreak because it is not a matter of if our children suffer at some point or they get sick some time, but when.

    In short, good on you guys for this.

  8. This is beautiful! Thank you for being so honest! We adopted our 10th child from Russia, and though I knew we were being called, I literally was having panic attacks till the last moment, but he was already our son in our hearts. Never have had even the tiniest regret, and he’s just one of our kids — not “the adopted child.” I can’t believe God managed to put us together from opposite parts f the world! I think if more people stepped out of their comfort zone, even if they are partiallly panicked, they would find such JOY in the new life brought into their family!!! Prayers for your precious family!

    • I have a soft spot for children adopted from Russia. One of my favorite students when I was teaching was from Russia. He was one of those kids you hear about that was 4 cribs back against the wall. He received very little human contact or affection before he was adopted. As a result he had a lot of mental and physical developmental issues. Even with all his challenges, he was by far my favorite. We shared a love for Sci-fi movies and I got a kick his little fantasy world that he lived in. He eventually graduated and is living in the Florida Keys with his parents. He fishes with his dad and works at a produce market. Great life if you ask me.
      Thanks for your comment. I think people should see those panic attacks as reason to really work it out and figure out what’s best. Don’t let them force you to turn away or take the easy road. I have no regrets either. Our kids and family embraced him without a second thought.

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