Jamie Ivey’s Testimony

You guys, I’m so excited to be talking about a topic that is near and dear to my heart. And I hope that when I am finished with this, it is also understandably near and dear to your heart as well. I want to give you a little bit of background on my story before I dive into my conversation today, just so you can see where I’m coming from. 

My husband Aaron and I, we’ve been married 21 years. And when we got married, we had no concept of adoption. We didn’t plan on adopting. We didn’t talk about adopting. We didn’t really know anyone that had adopted children into their family. But when we moved to Nashville, Tennessee, all of a sudden at our church, we were surrounded by people who were adopting children from China. 

And so, it was the first time that God opened our eyes to a problem. It was the first time God opened our eyes to adoption. It was the first time God even made it a reality to us that we could also adopt children to be a part of our family. In 2004, we had our first biological child, and later in that same year, we walked into an adoption agency with a seven-month-old in tow, and said, “We’re not really sure what we’re doing, but we know that we want to be a part of the solution.” 

And the adoption agency looked at us and said, “We have a really big need right now for parents who are willing to adopt black and biracial boys.” So, in 2005, we adopted our first son domestically. And then we thought, “Our family is complete. We are good. We have our two kids.” And God just kept stirring in our hearts. 

In 2007, we started an international adoption of our two children who were born in Haiti. In 2009, our daughter came home, and in 2010, our son came home. And we were finally complete as a family of six, 10 days after the earthquake devastated their home country of Haiti. We’re a complete family. All six of us are together. 

This is where the fun would begin. Four beautiful children, two loving parents. Except it was hard. Except it was really hard. And the reason it was so hard is because I didn’t understand something that I want to share with you today, is that every adoption, every adoption is built on top of loss. There is pain that needs to be addressed. 

There is always loss. There is always going to be a hole that exists inside of this child, no matter how much love is poured into them. I want to share my intention with you real quick before we move on so that you know where I’m going and where I’m coming from in this conversation.  

I believe wholeheartedly that adoption is beautiful. I believe that it is wonderful. I believe that it is a gift to so many children, including my three children, who would not have a family. But in the same breath, I also don’t think that everyone should adopt or that adoption is always the best choice. And I 100% believe that adoption is not the solution to abortion and should never be said as the solution to abortion. 

I think it is an option. I think it is an option. But when it is declared as a solution, we present an easy fix to the mom and the child that, frankly, does not exist. I read an article last August in the Texas Tribune, and full disclosure, Texas is my home state. There was a tweet from a U. S. representative from Houston, and he tweeted out, this was before the Supreme Court had revoked the constitutional right to abortion. He said this: “Less abortion, more adoption.” Why is that controversial? And I would say why is that controversial is tricky and nuanced. I’ve heard many pro-life arguments that adoption is the solution to abortion. 

And that’s where things personally get very, very tricky for me. As an adoptive mom, as a pro-life follower of Jesus from conception to natural death, and someone who also has experienced two unplanned pregnancies in college, I believe adoption is an option for mothers experiencing unplanned pregnancies, and it is not the solution. 

Based on research, women are having abortions, not just because they don’t desire to parent, but often because of financial reasons, lack of family support, lack of job support, educational reasons, lack of healthcare, lack of housing support. Those are some of the reasons. So, if those are the reasons that most women are having an abortion, adoption does not solve any of those problems for her. 

It solves none of those problems. Adoption provides a home for the child, but it doesn’t offer what a woman truly needs to keep herself from finding herself in this terrible situation again. I’m not here to talk about how to help women with resources. So many people are doing that so well, to help women with resources while they are pregnant. 

Those are desperately needed conversations. But here I am today to talk about why we need to stop saying that adoption is the solution for abortions in America. I cannot stress enough before we dive into this, I cannot stress enough that I believe in adoption. I told you; my family includes three children who joined our family through adoption. 

So, with all of my personal experience around adoption, I want to humbly come to you and share three things that I believe we as Christians and church leaders need to acknowledge and address when we talk about adoption. The first thing that we need to acknowledge and address is that adoption is not pain free or easy for anyone involved. 

Many people believe that if a woman will just carry her child for nine months to term and then hand them over to a new family or they end up in state protection system, that everyone will live happily ever after. So often, we present this narrative to all parties involved in adoption, the adopted parents, the first parents, and the child. 

Now, I am thrilled when every single mom chooses life for her baby. I can also hold the tension that choosing life doesn’t equal an easy or carefree life for her or for her child. When we create mantras and sayings and ideas that lead people to believe that we are doing everybody a great disservice. 

Adoption is always, with no exception, built on loss. No child ever shows up to a new home because everything was going well in their first home. Instead, they are placed for adoption because they cannot be taken care of for whatever reason that mom might find herself in. That loss goes deep into a person’s soul. 

Adoption is a choice for women to consider, but it doesn’t come without loss to them either, no matter their circumstances. When we paint adoption as a solution, without addressing the toll that it takes on all three parties, we are portraying a yellow brick road that frankly does not exist.  

I am so honored to be called mom by all four of my kids, and I am beyond grateful that three of them call me mom that did not grow in my womb. When we brought our children home from adoption, I was under the impression that my love could solve all of their problems if they were lonely. My love would make them feel accepted if they are scared, my love would make them feel calm if they are confused. 

My love would make them understand. If they are anxious, my love would bring them towards peace. If they feel unsafe, I will love them to safety. But what I discovered early on as a mom to children through adoption is that love does not solve all of those problems. Love is for sure needed. God knows how much we need love in our life. 

He sent his son Jesus to die for us because He loved us so much. He told us as believers, “When you love each other, people will know that you’re my followers.” Love is important, but it cannot solve all of our kids’ problems.  

There’s a vivid moment I remember years into parenting. Years ago, early in my parenting, when I was having one of those days where a ginormous pity party was happening at my house. I was all alone with all four kids. My husband was at work. It’d been one of those days. No one’s listening. Everyone’s crying. The meals never get fully cleaned up. Laundry’s everywhere. And on top of that, temper tantrums like crazy. Moms, you know what I mean. One of my kids was having temper tantrums that I know come from a deep place of wounding. 

I remember somehow, I was alone. Maybe my kids were napping. Maybe they were watching VeggieTales. I don’t know what it was, but I was alone, and I remember telling God, “This is too much. I was not prepared for this. This is too much. I’m hurting. I don’t know if I can do this. I feel alone parenting a child that’s endured so much trauma. I don’t know if I can do this.”  

And I vividly remember hearing God whisper to my heart, “Can you imagine how hard it must be for him? Can you imagine how hard it must be for him?” I stopped and I thought, in my moment of self-pity, I thought that this child was more resilient than they should be. I thought he was too young to understand the world that he’d been uprooted from. 

I was so wrong, and I was so humbled that day. If any part of my parenting journey was hard, it was a million times harder for that child who had lost everything as a baby, endured more disasters than anyone should, been transported thousands of miles from the only home he ever knew with strange people, strange food, and veggies on the TV that talked to him. 

This was hard for him. I am very grateful that my kids first moms chose life for them. But I do not want anyone to think that decision has made their lives carefree and easy because they were placed in a new home.  

The second thing I want us to remember is that we cannot elevate babies over women. We cannot elevate babies over women. The narrative that says that adoption is the solution to abortion tends to only focus on the baby. While we’re all here fighting for the lives of unborn children, and so much progress has been made, we will never end abortion until our focus turns to the woman deciding to choose abortion because they feel it is their only option. 

If women feel that abortion is their only option because of healthcare needs, family support needs, housing problems, education problems, food insecurity, then placing their child for adoption solves none of those problems. Her exact, her situation is exactly the same. Adoption has not solved any of the root problems that forced that woman into believing that adoption was her, that abortion was her only option. 

So often, in adoption scenarios, we celebrate a baby being born and entering a new family, but we neglect that an entire family is connected to that child. I remember when we were walking through our first adoption, which was a domestic adoption. At first, we were nervous about an open adoption and having connection to the first family. 

We bought into the lie that every Lifetime movie tells us is that one day you’ll be having the birthday party and there’s a knock on the door and someone’s coming back for their children. Yet the more I read and the more I listened to women who had walked in those shoes and placed their children for adoption, the more I knew I wanted to desire an open adoption. 

As we were in the process of that adoption, I told you I had a seven-month-old. I would look at that seven-month-old knowing that I had just birthed him less than a year later and thought, if I had to make that decision, if my two unplanned pregnancies in college would have led me to having to make that decision, what would I want? 

I would want to stay connected to that child because I am connected to that child. What I want us all to think about as we present adoption as a beautiful thing to women who are experiencing unplanned pregnancy is that they matter, too. Let’s not be so eager to get our hands on their baby that we forget about their lives. 

First families matter not only to all of us, but they deeply, deeply matter to the children. Everyone deserves to know where they came from. In our churches and in our conversations surrounding adoption, how we talk about women matters. If we genuinely believe that adoption is a beautiful option for women who find themselves in an unplanned pregnancy, then let’s make sure we have programs and language that show our care for the women. 

Conversations and programs surrounding adoption and pro-life initiatives should always center on the mother and the child and not just the child. Our pro-life theology shapes this for us. Every life matters. Every human is made in the image of God. We cannot forget that when we are having these conversations. 

The third thing I want to talk about today is the fact that I do not believe that everyone should adopt. I remember when we started our adoption process almost two decades ago, I felt very strongly that if you were a follower of Jesus, that you should adopt. You see, I read the statistics. Statistics that you might have heard as well about children in our own country and children orphaned around the world. 

As of right now, UNICEF estimates that there are 153 million orphaned children around the world. I heard the numbers from our foster care system in America, which right now says there are approximately 400,000 children currently in foster care with 112,000 of them waiting for a forever home. Those numbers and that great need that I saw, they moved my heart towards adoption. 

And then I thought that God should move everyone’s heart towards adoption. I want to tell you that these numbers, they have not stopped breaking my heart. They still break my heart. I also still believe that the church can and should be a part of this solution. But I no longer believe or say that every Christian should adopt, or that adoption is the only solution. 

For an orphan child, there are amazing organizations that are doing pro-life work globally in community development, in family preservation, and in socio economic development. We set people up for failure when we consider adoption the easy answer to all unplanned pregnancies in orphan children. Until our churches are ready to equip parents with trauma-informed care training, diversity and inclusion training, and set up care ministries to care for all members of the adoption triad that includes the adopted parents, the child, and the first parents, we cannot expect adoption to be the solution to anything. I’ll admit that when we brought our children home, we had zero training. 

In fact, it’s one of my greatest regrets. I think so much healing could have started sooner for us and our family had we been equipped. Churches have a unique opportunity to walk alongside those who are called to adopt in training, in support, and in care. What if our churches not only developed classes on the Bible and on theology, but they developed classes around trauma-informed care and racial and diversity inclusion? 

What if you invited adoptees to come and talk to potential adoptive parents? What if churches develop funds for women considering abortion to help raise that child until they were five years old? What if we dreamed up free daycare programs in your churches that might be sitting empty during the week? 

What if we develop mentor problems, mentor programs for women considering abortion and we would mentor them for the first two to three years of parenting? If you believe, as I believe, that the church can tackle these numbers of orphans and children in foster care, then let’s equip our people to do just that. 

There are so many ways for you to become involved in foster care and orphan care other than adoption. Not everyone is equipped to handle the unique challenges that come with foster and adoption care. But everyone is called to care.  

God may not be asking you to adopt, and that’s okay. But God is asking you to care about vulnerable children and vulnerable adults in your community, in our country, and around the world.  

What does that look like for you? It could mean volunteering at a women’s shelter, cooking meals once a week for a foster family, maybe babysitting for a foster family. 

What would it look like to designate funds from your monthly budget to organizations towards family preservation in your community and around the globe? Over the years, I have learned that these conversations can become complex and nuanced. Adoption is beautiful. But friends, it is not the solution to abortion in our country. 

As we continue the great work towards thinking, as we continue the great work towards making abortion unthinkable for a woman, let’s ensure that we help her out with many of those needs that cause her to think there is no other way. I want to encourage you as you carry on this great work to never ever forget the woman in crisis. 

Never to assume that adoption is the solution to abortion. And to find ways to equip those in your church and in your community to be the hands and feet of Christ.