Even as a little girl, Amy Brady dreamed of one day being a mother to both biological and adoptive children.
“I’ve always wanted to adopt,” she says. “I have cousins who were domestically adopted, so I understood the concept from an early age. Even as a child I realized that adoption is an opportunity to be part of something bigger than yourself, a way to help change someone else’s life for the better.”
The Road to Adoption
In 1998, Amy along with her husband John and their two biological sons, Austin, 3, and Justin, 8 months, moved from Pensacola to Southwest Orlando. She considers the move to this culturally diverse city a blessing. That diversity helped reignite Amy’s desire to adopt internationally.
“I’ve always had an affinity for Asian culture,” she says. “Every time I dreamed about my daughter, I saw her as an Asian girl.”
Years later, the Bradys decided to expand their family and move forward with the adoption process. “We chose China and soon began a labor of love like no other,” she says.
In 2007, the family officially started China’s adoption process, which Amy describes as “laborious and thorough.” Amy and John did their best to prepare their children for the arrival of a new sibling and encouraged them to talk candidly as much as they needed.
“We were all in this together,” Amy says.
After two long years, the family was stalled in China’s traditional adoption process, so they re-applied for another program with a brand new mindset.
“Initially, we thought simply adopting was more than enough for our family to handle,” Amy says. “When the wait grew so long, we decided to open our minds and hearts and ultimately applied for a child with special needs.”
Growing the Brady Family
In July of 2010, the family was informed that they had been matched with a child to adopt. They received a photo of a precious 2-year-old girl who Amy had already named Hope. Prior to the adoption, the Bradys were told that Hope had a heart condition for which she had a successful operation at 18 months.
Two months after receiving the call, the whole family was on a plane to China to pick her up. On what is lovingly referred to as “Gotcha Day,” Amy, John, Austin and Justin welcomed Hope into their family and hearts forever.
As happy as the Bradys were to have Hope in their family, adapting to a new home life was difficult. Amy says it took about three years to help Hope transition and understand what it means to be part of a family, which was a foreign concept to her.
She adds, “We had a lot of emotional obstacles to overcome in order to earn her trust and love.”
Just as they were settling into a rhythm, Amy and John decided to adopt another daughter from China. “Though it seemed like a crazy idea, we knew in our hearts we were meant to do it again,” she says. “We were also excited by the thought of Hope having a sibling who could relate to being Chinese and living with an American family.”
Once the decision was made, Amy began thinking of a name. “Having a name gave me something to hold onto during the difficult wait period,” she says.
Since Amy always loved the name Katie, meaning “pure,” the couple chose the name Katie Joy, which translates to “pure joy.”
John and Amy went back to China in October 2014 to pick up 2-year-old Katie Joy. Like Hope, Katie Joy is a child with special needs. She was born with clubbed feet and has already undergone several surgeries. She may require more surgeries for the condition in the future.
Adapting to Adoption
“When we brought Katie Joy home, the first few days were like Christmas morning – everything was great until reality set in,” Amy says, noting that transitioning her new daughter into the family was tough but rewarding.
Hope initially struggled to understand that her parents had enough love to share with all of the children in their family, but she has grown into a wonderful big sister. “Over the last few months, the girls have grown incredibly close,” Amy says.
Now that they have welcomed two daughters from China, Amy and John make it a priority to incorporate aspects of Chinese culture into their home. “It is hard for children to adjust to a new language and culture without feeling that they are losing a part of themselves,” Amy says.
While the long waits and tough transitions that come with adoption can take a toll on families as the process is happening, adoption advocates stress that building a family in this way is worth it.
“International and domestic adoption stretches, transforms, and enlarges the heart, the mind and the spirit,” Dawn Strobeck, an attachment specialist for Lake Baldwin Counseling in Baldwin Park, says. “It appears to be one of God’s most glorious, redemptive plans to unite human kind in a love that leaves all involved more whole. The Brady family exemplifies this.”
Reflecting on how international adoption has changed her family, Amy says, “Adoption has reshaped our family. People tell us that we saved our daughters’ lives, but the truth is they saved ours. We now have a depth and richness to our lives that would not have been possible without them.”