Meet Bridgette Cook, with the help of multiple t-shirt orders and after several years of waiting, she recently welcomed her son home from Ethiopia through the gift of adoption.
How did the Lord call you to adoption?
I was 10 or 11 years old the first time I remember telling my mom I was going to adopt. God placed that desire in my heart at a young age, but I didn’t think much about it again until I was 20, and God told me Ethiopia. My husband, Craig, and I had been dating for a few years at that time, and he thought I was a bit crazy at first. We spent the next few years talking about adoption and learning about Ethiopia, and we even attended an informational night on adoption and fostering before we were engaged. He was totally on board from that point. Knowing that it would take a few years to adopt from Ethiopia, we started the adoption process five months after we got married. We would wait three years before we saw our son’s face for the first time and another year before we brought him home.
What are three things you learned during the adoption process?
- You don’t have to make a ton of money or have it all saved up front to be able to adopt. We started the journey with a few thousand dollars that I made from redoing and selling furniture over a couple years. We didn’t know where the rest of the money was coming from, but we knew that God had called us to this, so He would make it work. And it did. We sold shirts. A lot of shirts. I lost track of how many over the four years in the process. We had garage sales. We sold doughnuts with two other families in the process. Several friends hosted fundraisers for us. I “accidentally” started a gourmet cookie business that became a side job. I taught kindergarten all day, and then I would come home and make and decorate cookies until 2:00am or later many nights. We were tired, but we were committed to bringing our son or daughter home, so we did what we had to do. We’re still tired on the other end of it, but it was all so worth it.
- We learned about the importance of adoptees knowing about and being proud of where they were born, so we used our time waiting to learn as much as we could about Ethiopia. We wanted to be able to teach our son or daughter about their culture. We watched documentaries, found local Ethiopian restaurants, and learned to cook with our favorite spice, berbere. We also spent over three months in Ethiopia waiting to bring our son home, so we went sightseeing, learned some of the basic Amharic language, and bought many cultural gifts that we plan to give to our son at each birthday until he turns 18. We purchased Ethiopian items to display in our home to show him how much we love his country. We plan to travel back once he is a little older so we can explore Ethiopia together as a family.
- The adoption community is amazing. You will meet men and woman who are fighters just like you who gave everything they had to bring their kids home. They will support and encourage you. Listen to you complain about everything taking so long. Check on your baby for you when they are in country. Tell you what to do when you hit a roadblock. Help you fill out paperwork. Send you photos of all the products for their child’s hair routine. And then you will do all those things for the next family behind you.
I never expected to gain so many friends through adoption. And I definitely didn’t expect some of those friends to turn into family.
What’s one thing you wish everyone knew about adoption?
I think one of the misconceptions about adoption is that people think you can’t love an adopted child the same way you love a biological child. I can assure you of this - the love I have for my son is no different than the love I would have for him if he was a biological son. He is mine, and I am his. It doesn’t matter how a child joins a family. We loved him from the moment we saw his picture for the first time. Even my grandma said “I never knew I could love someone so much that I had never met.”
Every t-shirt we sold for our adoption fundraisers had “love knows no borders” in the design. We believe that wholeheartedly!
What are some ways others supported you well during the adoption process and since your son has come home?
Our tribe was incredibly supportive from the moment we announced we were starting the process.
Our friends and family never stopped praying for us and for the son or daughter we hadn’t met yet. Once we were matched with our son, a group of our family and friends set an alarm for 12:28 (our son’s birthday is December 28) every day to stop and pray for him and our process.
They supported our fundraisers and even hosted fundraisers for us. I am still amazed at the generosity of people who believe in adoption and wanted to play a part in our journey.
They checked in on us during the years leading up to being matched, before we traveled, and for the three months we were in Ethiopia waiting to bring him home. If you know a family in the process of adopting, message them. Call them. Invite them to dinner. Let them know you are thinking of them and praying. This journey is hard and can get lonely.
Our tribe also welcomed us home at the airport and brought us dinners for the first couple weeks we were home. This helped us with our transition home so we weren’t spending all our time in the kitchen cooking, and we could spend more time together.
What advice do you have for couples who are currently adopting and are finding themselves growing weary in the wait to bring their child(ren) home?
Oh, how I can relate to you if you are waiting! I waited a month shy of three years before I saw my son’s face for the first time. And another year before he came home. It. Is. So. Hard. It’s the not knowing. The wondering if you will ever get “the call”. Wondering if the process after that is going to go smoothly so you can bring this child that you have fallen so in love with home. So many “what ifs”.
Try to stay busy. Travel as much as your budget allows. Don’t put your life completely on hold. Go on that vacation or mission trip. Volunteer. You will still check your phone obsessively periodically throughout the day *just in case*...but go have fun!
This is a great time to meet other families in the process and families who have already adopted. They know the challenges and the excitement you will face. They’ve heard all the crazy questions at the grocery store. They get it. They will become your people.
If you know you are adopting a child of another race, use this time to learn as much as you can about their culture and the challenges your child may face as they get it older. This is so incredibly important. They will grow up and deal with things you have probably never faced, so prepare yourself now so your child can have a strong racial identity. Don’t wait until they are older and start to experience bias and racism before starting to learn about these issues.
My last piece of advice is to use this time to grow in your marriage and take care of yourself. If you are waiting to adopt your first child like we were, your lives are going to turn upside down once your bundle of joy arrives. Our bundle was 25 pounds and full of energy when we brought him home from Ethiopia. Go on dates. Sleep in. Exercise. Cook together. Get as many house projects done that you can. Make that appointment at the dermatologist or eye doctor that you have been putting off, because you sure wont have time for that for a while once your baby or child comes home. Lean on each other while you wait for your family to grow.
CONNECT WITH BRIDGETTE: