After three miscarriages, Eline (33) and Sander (41) decided to go 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 really enjoy our big family.”
Eline: “Olivia was recently at a children’s party in Ballorig, where boys teased her. “Do you want to call mom to pick me up?” she asked the birthday girl’s mother. I then drove to her with tears in my eyes – not because she wasn’t having fun, but because she asked about me, her mother. A moment like that, showing that she trusts me, still feels very special.
Noah was one and a half when Sander and I went to have another child. Unfortunately the heart stopped beating after fifteen weeks. It was a girl: the daughter I had wanted so much… Our hearts were broken, we had never been so sad. I got pregnant two more times, but again it went wrong. Last time I was given medication to induce 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 skipped a beat. This is what I want, I thought. How beautiful is it to give children who do not know love and security a stable foundation? I had never thought about adoption before, but it was like the documentary lit a fire in me.
Sander also thought that adoption was a good idea and something for us. We have always had a strong feeling that we want to dedicate ourselves to others. On Google, I started reading all the adoption stories that could be found. I noticed that many couples who couldn’t have children saw adoption as a kind of plan B. It didn’t feel like that to us, on the contrary. From a medical point of view, no cause had been found for my miscarriages, and according to the doctors, the chance that I would get pregnant again was even seventy percent. Still, we said without hesitation: ‘We’re stopping. Later, we will tell our children that they were not Plan B, but Plan A.’”
Support each other
“After registering with the Adoptionsservicefonden at the beginning of 2016, we quickly thought: It would be great to adopt not one, but two children. We always wanted a big family. Sander comes from a family of four, and I have a brother and sister, but I also grew up with foster children. So we were both used to trouble in the house. When adopting multiple children at the same time, it usually involves brothers and sisters. We thought it would be nice if they would not be separated from each other but would support each other.
Furthermore, each adoption procedure takes a very long time – you can only submit a new application one year after your adoption. So there could be a big age difference between the children if we were to hold them one by one. In 2017, we participated in an information meeting about adopting several children at the same time. There we heard that there is a shortage of parents who are open to three children. That got us thinking – if we’re going for two, why not add one more? We have enough love to offer.
Of course we weren’t naive and we knew it was going to be tough. Through the Dutch Adoption Foundation (NAS), we contacted parents who already had experience of such a ‘needy adoption’. Sander and I also discussed how it would be for Noah. Because from an only child to a large family, that’s a lot. Noah is a social boy with a heart for others. Truly a social person – the more souls the better. It wouldn’t always be easy for him, but we trusted that it would make him grow. Like it felt very strongly to us as a kind of calling: this is what we have to do.”
“Shortly after the information meeting, we took the plunge and applied for a triplet adoption. Although it could take years, we prepared very well. For example, we have signed up for weekend and holiday care. We had room for that, and that way Noah was no longer alone, and we could gain experience: can we really handle it, more children in the house?
In a few years we have taken care of five children, including three brothers aged eight, seven and five. Noah was great with them and it turned out fine for us too. It was hard to say goodbye again. This is also the reason why foster families are not for us in the long term. We longed for children who would truly belong to us, forever.
Meanwhile, our adoption file was being prepared and family and friends were sharing their thoughts via our blog. Most were wildly excited that we were ‘adoptive pregnant’, some had to get used to the idea. There were also people who had doubts as the years went by. ‘Should it still happen?’ they asked. “Wouldn’t you try again yourself?” Just like you might be wasting your childbearing years. Of course I thought so myself. What if there is never a match?
At the same time, friendship couples had a child, biologically or through adoption. I gave it to them, but it also hurt sometimes. Sander remained calm and confident. It helped. I also drew strength from the stories of other adoptive parents. They had felt equally desperate, but in the end they embraced more children.”
Dreams do come true
“Last June – six years after intensive preparation, screenings by all possible authorities and a very long wait – the time had finally come. I was tinkering in our new house when the adoption agency called, “We have news.” I ran to Sander, because we had to hear this together. A little later we were sitting very nervously on the sofa and we heard that there was a ‘pulsation’: the intention to give us three children. Three sisters from Hungary whose biological parents and relatives were unable to care for them. We looked at each other in disbelief – we had lost three children and now we have three more? Girls too? It felt healing, as it was meant to be.
After that interview, there was another lot of paperwork and we had another medical exam to see if we were all set. Both the Dutch and Hungarian authorities also checked whether the children’s files were clean. In other words: Is the possibility of childcare in your own country really out of the question and are we the best place for these children?
Pictures of the girls followed with all the lights on green. They stood dressed in dresses in front of a wall, laughing and with their arms around each other. They had the most beautiful curls I had ever seen and I couldn’t wait to meet them. Noah was also beaming with pride. He held my phone with the pictures between us and said, ‘It’s like they’re already with us!’”
“Our house was not yet habitable, 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 photo book and three pets, with our perfume, to Hungary. That way, the sisters could get used to our smell and get to know their new place.
A month after the proposal, we traveled to Hungary. When the girls went into the room at Child Welfare, I thought: wow. They were smaller than I expected, but so beautiful. I preferred to put them flat, but we let them set the pace. Kayla and Sadie shook our hands. Olivia, the eldest, didn’t dare. But when Noah held out his hand, she shook it, then mine and Sanders. Very special: as if Noah formed the bridge between us.
To get to know each other quietly, we lived in Hungary for six weeks. Then we drove to Holland, where the family was waiting for us with a sign with the Hungarian text: Welcome home, dear girls! The first months we spent a lot of time at home so the girls could get used to family life. Set the table, back together, play games. Due to various traumas, they were afraid that we would leave them. One of them literally pushed us away as he hugged and hit anything she didn’t like. In the other two, the fear of abandonment expressed itself in agreeable behavior: they hugged everyone, including complete strangers, in the hope of being loved.”
“It is already a challenge to handle one adopted child, let alone three. Once I sat on my lap with all the girls crying and Noah added sobbing, “You don’t have time for me anymore.” Oh, I thought. But I knew beforehand that it wouldn’t just be a pink cloud and that dividing our attention would be one of the hardest things.
It was very nice for Noah, but the girls kept talking through him and he felt like everything revolved around them. A tip from other adoptive parents was: Deliberately give him individual attention. So we started doing things separately with him – going to the supermarket with dad, walking with me and talking. It eventually brought everything into balance. We still create those one-on-one moments now, even with the girls. We treat everyone equally, so they know that all four of them are equally dear to us. The girls call us mom and dad and Noah their big brother. He loves them. The first time I took them to school to pick him up, he shouted with pride, ‘Look! These are my sisters!”
“In Hungary, the girls have experienced borderline things that no child should experience. Their family history shows that this problem unfortunately passes from generation to generation. We hope to break that cycle now and give the girls other options – I think that’s the best thing about adoption.
It takes a lot of patience and dedication to help them come to terms with their past. Sure, there are days when I’m just tired, but I consciously schedule time for myself to recharge the battery. Enjoy watching a series or taking a bath with Sander on a Sunday evening. At the same time, it gives me enormous satisfaction and energy to see the girls grow.
I am proud of all four of our children and really enjoy our big family. However, it is still going strong. Wash four times as much every day, butter sandwiches four times, four times the bedtime ritual. But it is worth it all. I have never been so happily happy.”
Follow the rest of Eline’s adoption adventure and daily life at @eline.vanderwoude (Instagram & TikTok).
Text: Tessa Heselhaus
Photo: Amaury Miller
Make-up: Lisette Verhoofstad
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