Thursday, October 13, 2016

Parenting Outside of the Box

I’ve heard many people say the life they have now is not at all what they thought it would be when they were younger, you know, the time when they used to dream big dreams. When my husband, Jeremy, and I married 13 years ago, we were ready to take on the world, we envisioned many things for our lives, one being that we both desired to grow our family through adopting older children.

~The Sauder Family~

Life rolled along with careers and unexpected fertility issues. We endured the loss of a baby through miscarriage and learned what it meant to grieve something you never had the opportunity to fully know. God heard my cries in the night for children and often I begged him for twins. Almost a decade of infertility guided us back gently to our original desire- adopt older children. I would learn later how God used our sorrow in the infertility, waiting and uncertainty to soften our hearts towards children we could adopt who would know more than a thing or two about grieving loss. He would show us how we could use all of these things to better know our family and identify what we were prepared to offer children who came from hurt places. We would need this perspective in order to become loss and attachment experts…meaning as you go through your own pain you realize you can build on your strengths, ask for help with your needs and have the compassion to open your eyes to someone else’s pain.

We discovered we could work together in partnership through the wonderful services of APAC and were drawn to the children available for adoption. Learning all we could from the GPS (adoption preparation classes) offered, we were excited, nervous, overwhelmed, terrified. We took things to heart, every good and bad story and all the what-ifs, truly ensuring we got to know the children waiting for us. The ponderings were endless as we assessed the impact this would mean for our family… What would our child/children be like? We knew we could provide the crucial necessities like help them build self-esteem and assure their health and safety…But could we also effectively communicate God’s love to them? Could we be patient, offer a listening ear and not be defensive as the child grieved his/her past?

I remember the night we found the boys’ profile on the computer. It was a gentle whisper in our hearts that led us to inquire about them. Armed with all the information we had learned and leaning on the prayers of friends and family, we felt assured we were making the best informed decision for our family. And deep in our hearts, we just knew this was “it.” We were thankful beyond words to be matched to twin fraternal boys, 7 years old, full of life. As we all adjusted to being a family of four, there were many times I marveled at how we had been perfectly matched to our children.

Becoming instant parents to 7 year olds has its unique set of challenges and more days than not I ask for their forgiveness when I screw up in parenting and we grow, learn, try to communicate effectively and work at this thing called life together. Parenting also opened my eyes to see when you talk of managing behaviors that definitely includes starting with your own.

Following the adoption of our boys, a few years later we attempted fertility treatments. Since God is in the business of doing more that we imagine, I gave birth this past October to our second set of fraternal twins. I believe the sweetest part of this is that both of my big boys prayed unceasingly for more siblings. One boy prayed for sisters, another prayed for brothers. So God gave them a boy and a girl.

My oldest children are my heroes. They have taught me how to both embrace, remember and honor the past and still enjoy the present and future. That you can love and belong to many people, and that connections to those we have loved never die and they never should.

And so to those who think big dreams are only for the young, I would say that it is less about age and more about follow through. That life isn’t what you expect but cherish the ride. That somebody somewhere needs your story. For when God places a desire deep in your soul, He intends for it to be nurtured, sought out and explored. And maybe when you embrace your own story, you can open your heart to others who do not yet have a voice and are just waiting to be heard.
- Tonya Sauder, Adoptive Parent

Tonya is the parent moderator for our APAC Adoptive Parent Facebook group! If you are an adoptive parent living in Alabama, and would like to join in the conversation, receive encouragement and gain support from other adoptive parents, join our group! For more information on how to get connected, email Tonya at or visit our site,

If you or someone you know is interested in adoption, contact our APAC Adoption Support Team, 1-866-4-AL-KIDS or visit our website,