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Adoption Blog: Melting Pot Family

The Miracle of Adoption

After my husband and I had our first child, I marveled at the miracle of birth. Before we brought home our daughter, adopted from Ethiopia, I had not thought about adoption in those same terms.

It isn’t that adoption is uncommon in my life. My best friend from my childhood was adopted. Family friends from my youth adopted children, and many of my adult friends also became adoptive parents through domestic and international adoption. I saw it as a wonderful second chance for couples who wanted to build their families but struggled to do so or as a priceless opportunity for orphaned or vulnerable children to gain a family—more utilitarian than the stuff of miracles.

I couldn't have been more wrong.

As we labored through the extensive paperwork and qualification process, I continued to focus on the utilitarian aspect, how each step of the journey had been designed to better prepare us to parent than any biological process. Each of the many questions asked forced us to search deep in our souls. Topics that rarely are discussed openly with strangers needed to be brought forth and examined—my relationships with my parents and siblings, my conflict-resolution style, and how I would handle challenges my adopted child—as well as our whole family—might encounter.

I felt the first tingle of something beyond my ability to explain the week before we received our referral. I called my caseworker because I knew we were next in line. I was incredibly excited to be so close to seeing our daughter. But I was also worried. I had seen other families in the program receive referrals recently for children as young as 4 months old. At the time, our sons were 7 and 11. My husband and I discussed our adoption plan at length and decided we were open to a child up to 2 years old, with a preference for children between the ages of 1 and 2. When I saw these referrals for very young babies, I panicked a bit. We were long past the diaper stage. And bringing a toddler into our home felt more manageable with our current family life.

So I called my caseworker and asked her if it was likely we would receive an infant referral. She paused and pulled out our file. She replied, “Yes, your coversheet says you requested a child up to a year old.” I was stunned and said, “There must be some mistake. We said up to 2 years old and were told we would likely get the higher end of the range.” She checked the file again and confirmed that while the remainder of our file said up to 2 years old, the coversheet had inadvertently been marked that we would take a child up to 1 year old.

She then asked me a potentially life-altering question. “Do you want me to change it back? We can wait for an older child to become available.” I hesitated, but I thought, Things happen for a reason. We decided to leave things as they were. Three days later, we received the referral of our precious little daughter, Leyla.

When I looked at a photo of Leyla’s face next to a picture of our youngest son Damian, a stronger sense of wonderment came over me—there was a striking resemblance. I thought to myself, You are just seeing things. Then my Greek mother-in-law, in her limited English, looked at Leyla’s picture and without prompting confirmed, “She looks just like Damian, only black.” Later, at an event at our local Ethiopian Cultural Center, an Ethiopian man remarked that Leyla and I have a similar face structure.

Since Leyla joined us, similarities with family members have continued to present themselves making me marvel with each one. She is a funny, outgoing, very verbal child who in many ways resembles her brothers when they were her age. (The common assumption that boys are less verbal did not apply in our house.) I watched her sleeping one night and noticed she slept on her back with frog legs, a rather uncommon sleeping position with legs bent at the knees and flat against the bed forming a perfect diamond in the center, just like I did as a kid. How is that possible?

She is a mama’s girl who is shy when you first meet her. But when she warms up, you will discover a wicked sense of humor, which my mom tells me is how I was as a child. Leyla has an intense love affair with shoes (mostly mine for the moment) that she shares with her father’s sister. Leyla and Dimitri (his name comes from the Greek goddess Demeter, lover of the earth), our eldest, both have an innate respect and love for animals. In addition to their looks, Damian and Leyla adore sweets (and both find sneaking them makes them taste even better). In so many unexpected ways, she fits perfectly into our family. In fact, Leyla fits so perfectly with us that a friend once observed after watching her antics at one of her brother’s soccer games, "She is such an Angelidis!"

I thought biology explained why my boys had many family characteristics, whether from my husband, one of our parents, our siblings, or me. But how can I explain all the characteristics my Ethiopian daughter shares with members of our family? She came into our lives with a similar strength of will and determination as her father. And he likes to joke, “She is as odd as her brothers. Now we know the reason they are all that way is nurture.”

For me, all kidding aside, I have only one answer as to why Leyla fits so seamlessly into our family—the miracle of adoption. In some ways, I have found adoption to be more miraculous than birth because the treasured gifts it revealed were so much more unexpected.

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Ellenore, I totally agree! It is bizarre how a child who shares no genetic traits with you can be so much like you in so many ways. My daughter is a mini-me in her personality and even odd quirks I didn’t teach her like an over-developed sense of smell that I inherited from my mother and that she now shares. My son, also adopted, is just like my husband. It is very strange, isn’t it? And so wonderful for us, because were don’t have biological children and we mourned the fact that our children would not share certain traits of ours…or so we thought!

By Gaby on Wednesday, August 03, 2011 at 9:07 pm.

Thank you Gaby. 

It is truly both strange and wonderful.

I think there is much we don’t fully understand and make assumptions about . . it is great to learn we are often ill informed and the truth is more beautiful and complex than we anticipated. 

I imagine that sense of smell your mother, you and your daughter share must come in handy smile


By Ellenore Angelidis on Thursday, August 04, 2011 at 12:03 pm.

Over on our Adoptive Families Facebook page, this blog sparked the following comments:

Sharon Cerasoli my friend just commented yesterday on how my daughter, adopted from China, shares so many personality traits of mine…too funny..

Vickie Uffman Wingfield That’s a beautiful story! Thanks for sharing smile

Donna Musgrove Banks I have two adopted daughters from different birth families. They are seven years apart and shared the same ballet teacher who told me that they both dance like sisters. Who knew that ballet had familial characteristics?

Lorri Karafa Awesome story.

Doris Ternes Cooper The only thing our son doesn’t get from us is his athletic talent. He has the same eyes as our biological daughters, his dad’s wit, and shares his build and blond hair with cousins. I completely relate with this wonderful story!

Ellenore Angelidis Thanks Lorri!

Ellenore Angelidis Hi Doris, Thanks for sharing a bit about your family and our shared experience!

Ellenore Angelidis Thanks so much Vickie!

Ellenore Angelidis Hi Sharon, Thank you for sharing about you and your daughter. Like mother . .like daughter it sounds like smile

Vicki Slatton Vanderveen Our adopted son’s kindergarten picture is the spitting image of our birth daughter’s picture, at the same age, even though they are five years apart and share no DNA. We call them “cosmic twins”.

Laura Ostrow Sanchez Our daughter that was adopted from Guatemala looks strikingly like my husband of Mexican descent and some of his family members. And in terms of personality it is amazing how she and our bio son can be so similar. They are not twins but sometimes it does seem like they even have their own language!

Ellenore Angelidis Hi Vicki, I love the description “cosmic twins” - perfect way to capture the unexplainable . .

Ellenore Angelidis Hi Laura, Thanks for sharing about your family. Your daughter sounds like she was meant to be part of your family . . just like our daughter was. It is so great to hear from other’s who shared this fantastic experience!

By Danielle Pennel on Thursday, August 04, 2011 at 5:23 pm.

Thanks for sharing, Danielle.

I really enjoyed reading more about other families who have had similar experiences.  Very inspiring!


By Ellenore Angelidis on Thursday, August 04, 2011 at 10:41 pm.

Beautiful Story!  I’m often told my daughter looks and acts just like me and she also looks just like one of her cousins! From her facial expressions to her very strong personality:)  I truly enjoy hearing these stories because my husband and I are the first one’s in our families to adopt, so we are trying to educate our family on adoption and debunk any ideas that biology dictates everything.  Thanks again!!  Great stories to start our weekend.

By JulieS114 on Friday, August 05, 2011 at 5:49 pm.

Thank you Julie!

We are the first in our family to adopt too so we are doing some educating as well.  We definitely have learned biology is only part of the story. 

I appreciate you sharing a bit about your family - having a strong personality will likely serve your daughter well in life.  I could say the same about mine and her brothers.

Enjoy your weekend.


By Ellenore Angelidis on Friday, August 05, 2011 at 6:25 pm.

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Ellenore Angelidis

Ellenore Angelidis

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