After three miscarriages, Elaine, 33, and Sander, 41, decided to go up for adoption. And now their son Noah (10) is the proud brother of three sisters from Hungary: Olivia (8), Kayla (5) and Sadie (almost 4). “I thoroughly enjoy our extended family.”
Eileen: “Olivia was recently at a children’s party in Pallorig where the boys were teasing her. ‘Would you like to call Mommy to pick me up? A moment like that shows she completely trusts me and still feels special.
Noah was a year and a half old when Sander and I went on to have a second child. Unfortunately, after fifteen weeks, the heart stopped beating. She was a girl: the daughter I so desired… Our hearts were broken, and we were never sad. I got pregnant two more times, but again something went wrong. That last time I was given a drug to induce an abortion at home.
Meanwhile, we were on Netflix to clear our minds when we came across a documentary about an American couple who adopted three children at the same time. My heart pounded. I thought this is what I want. How nice to give children who don’t know love and security a solid foundation? I had never considered adoption before, but it was as if the documentary had kindled a fire in me.
Sander also thought adoption was a great idea and something for us. We have always had a strong feeling that we want to dedicate ourselves to others. I started reading all the adoption stories that could be found on Google. I’ve noticed that many couples who couldn’t have children saw adoption as a kind of plan B. It didn’t feel that way to us, on the contrary. From a medical point of view, no reason for the miscarriage was found, and according to the doctors, the chance that I would carry a new pregnancy to term was seventy percent. However, we said without hesitation, “We’ll stop. Later on, we want to tell our kids that they are not Plan B, but Plan A.”
They support each other
“After enrolling with Adoption Services in early 2016, we quickly thought adopting not one, but two children would be amazing. We’ve always wanted a big family. Sander comes from a family of four and I have a brother and a sister, but I also grew up with kids.” adopting.So we are used to the turmoil in the house.When several children are adopted at the same time, it usually involves brothers and sisters.We thought it would be good if they were not separated, but they would support each other.
Moreover, each adoption procedure takes a very long time – you can only file a new application one year after the adoption. So there can be a huge gap between children in terms of ages if we want to take them in our arms one by one. In 2017, we attended an informational meeting about adopting several children at the same time. We heard there that there is a shortage of parents dealing with three children. This got us thinking – if we’re going for two, why not add another one? We have enough love to give.
Of course we were not naive and we knew it was going to be difficult. Through the Dutch Adoption Foundation (NAS), we contacted parents who already had experience with such a “random adoption”. Sander and I also discussed what it would be like for Noah. Because from just a child to a large family, this is very little. Noah is a sociable boy who has a heart for others. Truly a social person – the more lives, the more fun. It wasn’t always easy for him, but we trusted it would make him grow. Just as we felt strongly as a kind of connection: this is what we need to do.”
“Soon after the informational meeting, we took the plunge and applied for a soft adoption. Although it could take years, we prepared well. For example, we signed up for weekend and holiday adoption care. We had Room for that, that way Noah is no longer alone and we can gain experience: can we really handle that, many kids in the house?
In just a few years, we’ve fostered five children, including three siblings, ages eight, seven, and five. Noah was great with them and it turned out to be good for us too. It was hard to say goodbye again. This is also why incubation is not for us long term. We longed for children who would truly belong to us forever.
Meanwhile, the adoption file was in the works and family and friends shared their thoughts via our blog. Most were wildly excited that we were “adoptive pregnant,” and some had to get used to the idea. There were also people who had doubts as the years went by. “Is it still happening?” they asked. “Won’t you try again on your own?” Like, maybe you’re wasting your childbearing years. Of course I thought so myself. What if there is no match?
At the same time, the friend couples had a child, either biological or through adoption. I gave it to them, but it hurt me sometimes. Sander remained calm and confident. That helped. I also drew strength from the stories of other adoptive parents. They were equally desperate, but eventually embraced many children.”
A dream come true
This past June—after six years of intense preparations, overtures by all kinds of authorities and a long wait—the time finally came. I was doing odd jobs in our new home when the adoption agency called, “We have news.” I raced with Sander, because we had to hear this together. A little later we sat down on the sofa, very nervous, and heard that there was a “pulse”: the intention to assign us three children. Three sisters from Hungary, whose biological parents and relatives could not take care of them. We looked at each other in disbelief – we lost three children and now we have three more? also girls? I felt healed, as it was meant to be.
After that conversation, a lot of paperwork followed and we received another medical exam to see if we were all ready. The Dutch and Hungarian authorities also checked whether the children’s files were clean. In other words: Is the possibility of taking care of children in your country really excluded and are we the best place for these children?
Pictures of the girls followed with all the lights turned green. They stood in dresses in front of the wall, laughing, with their arms around each other. They had the most beautiful curls I’ve ever seen and I couldn’t wait to meet them. Noah also smiled proudly. My phone grabbed the pictures between us and said, “It’s like they’re already with us!”
“Our house was not yet inhabitable, so we worked day and night to finish the renovation on time. We painted the girls’ rooms pink and took pictures of them. We sent a photobook and three cute toys with our perfume to Hungary. That way the sisters could get used to our scent and get to know their place.” the new.
A month after the proposal, we left for Hungary. When the girls walked into the room at the Child Protection Board, I thought: Wow. They were smaller than I expected, but very beautiful. I preferred to cuddle them flat, but we let them set the pace. Kayla and Sadie shook hands. The elder Olivia didn’t dare. But when Noah reached out, I shook his hand, and then I shook hands and then Sander. Very special: Noah was the bridge between us.
Getting to know each other quietly, we lived in Hungary for six weeks. Then we flew to Holland, where the family was waiting for us with a banner with the Hungarian text: Welcome home, dear girls! The first few months we spent a lot of time at home so that the girls could get used to family life. Set the table, bake together, and play games. Because of various traumas, they were afraid that we would leave them. One of them literally pushed us away when she hugged and beat everything she didn’t like. In the other two cases, the fear of abandonment expressed itself in delightful behaviour: they embraced everyone, including complete strangers, in the hope of being loved.
“It’s already hard to deal with one foster child, let alone three. One time you sat on my lap with all the girls crying, and you don’t have time for me anymore,” added a sobbing Noah. Oh, I thought then. But I knew in advance that she wouldn’t be Just a pink cloud and dividing our attention would be one of the hardest things.
It was very sweet of Noah, but the girls kept talking through it and he felt like everything revolved around them. Advice from other foster parents was this: consciously give him individual attention. So we started doing things with him separately – going to the supermarket with dad, walking with me and talking. That eventually brought everything into balance. We still create those one-on-one moments now, including with the girls. We treat everyone as equals, so that they know that the four of them are dear to us. The girls call us Mom, Dad and Noah their big brother. He’s crazy about them. The first time I took them to school to pick him up, he exclaimed proudly, “Look!” These are my sisters! “
with a great happiness
“In Hungary, girls have experienced transnational things that no child should go through. Their family history shows that unfortunately this problem is passed down from generation to generation. We hope to break this cycle now and give girls other chances – which I think is the best thing about adoption.” .
It takes a lot of patience and dedication to help them come to terms with their past. Of course there are days when I get bored, but I schedule time for myself to recharge. Enjoy watching a series or take a bath with Sander on Sunday night. At the same time, I feel tremendous satisfaction and energy to see the girls grow up.
I am proud of our four children and thoroughly enjoy our extended family. Still going strong, though. Wash four times every day, sandwiches four times, four times in the pre-sleep period. But it’s all worth it. I have never been so happy before.”
Follow the rest of Eline’s adoption adventure and daily life at @eline.vanderwoude (Instagram & TikTok).
Text: Tessa Hesselhaus
Photo: Amaury Miller
Make-up: Lisette Verhofstadt
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