Summerson Springer, a heartfelt story about family and adoption
Updated: Jan 22, 2019
Love is leading the Springer family back to China this week where they will welcome their fifth child. Read our earlier feature about this amazing family and their International adoption experience.
Best of luck to the Springers!
Where were you born and raised?
I was born in Huntington, WV, best known as the home of the Marshall University Thundering Herd. I was raised in a small town called Barboursville, WV where all of my family (grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins) lived within a 4 miles radius. I have wonderful memories of my childhood and early adult life while living in West Virginia.
What brought you to Charlotte?
My husband and I met during my junior year of college and his second year of medical school at Marshall University. His training took me out of West Virginia for the first time at the age of 23. We lived most of our time in Rochester, Minnesota, and a fun, quick year in Boston. We moved to Charlotte in 2005 just after Bryan finished his fellowship in Boston. He joined OrthoCarolina as an orthopedic surgeon, and I immediately became a stay-at-home mother. Two weeks after we arrived in Charlotte, I delivered our first child.
You have three biological sons and one adopted daughter from China. How did you decide to adopt?
Some little girls dream of big weddings and some dream of big jobs. I always dreamed of having a big family. I knew when I met my husband, I found my answer. My husband is one of nine children. His parents have four biological children and five adopted children. To say his parents are an inspiration to me is an understatement. To this day, their unconditional love for all of their children is notable. Yes, big families come with their fair share of worries and stresses, but the joy in this family is special. The first time I visited his family in Maryland in 1997, I was greeted by five little Asian girls, four from Korea and one from Vietnam. They were adorable; absolutely precious! Without a doubt, from the moment I met Bryan’s sisters, I knew that I would adopt one day. And yes, I wanted an Asian little girl.
Bryan and I wanted biological children. We also knew we wanted to adopt. I’m not a huge planner, so I thought I would just roll with life and see where it led us. We were blessed with three awesome little boys. They are now 11, 9 and 8 years old. When our youngest son was born, I knew that stroll out of hospital would be my last with a baby. Adoption was on our mind, but being in the throws of babies, we couldn’t quite pinpoint the time to forge forward with it. In 2011, we felt we had reached a comfortable place in parenthood. We also wanted our children to be close in age. We met with some special friends who could guide us to some resources, and my mother-in-law lead us to the starting line with an excellent agency recommendation. We chose China as our country of which we would be adopting.
Tell us about your experience with adoption.
Anyone who has adopted will tell you that the amount of paperwork and documentation entailed in the process is daunting. At times, I would remind myself of the goal just to muster up the motivation to sit down at my computer and read the next item on a very long checklist. I learned so much during the process. Not only did I learn where to get fingerprints in Charlotte for a background check and immigration, or how to properly get documents notarized, approved and authenticated, but I also learned how to care for and provide a safe, loving and attachable environment to my child who I would soon be bringing into a new and strange home. We attended several hours of required classes for adopting families. At the time, it seemed overwhelming and maybe doom and gloom, but looking back, it was very helpful and important to know the realities that our adoption would come with challenges.
What was the most difficult part?
No question, the most difficult part of our adoption was in the first two months. Bryan and I took my mother and our three sons to China to adopt our little girl. Evie had just turned three years old and lived with her foster family in rural China for nearly all three years of her young life. She was very well cared for and noticeably loved by her foster mother, who we are forever grateful for. Because of this wonderful woman, Evie knew love. She learned what love felt like and looked like. But because of this, Evie was very sad to leave her foster mother. Evie had a sadness that I had never seen anyone experience before. It was rare. We were with sixteen other families in our adoption group, and without question, Evie experienced the greatest feeling of loss more than any others in our group. When others were smiling, giggling, running, hugging or even crying, Evie remained silent and sad.
One of our first glimmers of light en route to the end of our long tunnel was a moment walking through a park on day six with Evie. She held my hand on her right and my oldest son’s hand on her left. My oldest son did something silly, and Evie let out a little giggle with a beautiful smile. Ahhh, there was hope. The weeks that followed were hard. There were light times and there were dark times, but most importantly, we focused on loving Evie and our boys. We wanted to make sure all four of them knew they were loved so much.
Any surprises or lessons learned?
In life, I tend to believe that all is going to be great and according to plan. Then if it doesn’t, I deal with the challenges and move on. The night before we left for China, I remember Bryan saying, “It’s going to be hard.” I responded, “Really? You think so? I’m not thinking like you. I think it’s going to be easy.” Surprise! It was hard. I suppose I should have listened to the man who had lived through five adoptions. I also put much of the “doom and gloom” in the back of my head that I learned in our parenting (for adoption) classes. Lesson learned: of course it’s going to be hard. Here is a precious little three-year-old girl who had been loved by all she knew as a mother for most of her life. Detaching is toughest when you have been loved and protected. It would not have been as healthy if she would have quickly detached from her foster mother and attached to our family. It was an important emotional process for all of us to go through together.
What was the adjustment like for you and your family?
I commend our boys tremendously. They loved her from the moment she walked in our Shanxi hotel room. They could not do enough to comfort her during her greatest period of loss and fear. I truly believe it was the greatest decision to take them to China with us. They were included in every step of our adoption, and because of this, I feel our boys understood Evie’s pain and needs. She found security in them. They gave her hugs, toys, and candy when she gave them nothing…not a smile, not a thank you not an expression. Their empathy was so real. Children are amazing and have the greatest of hearts.
Time, patience, and love were the recipe for our successful adjustment. The adjustment came in stages, in general at six weeks, six months, one year and two years. In each of the stages, our family grew and we could see Evie becoming more and more confident and secure.
How are you all adjusting now?
In March, we will celebrate Evie’s 4th “Gotcha Day.” I feel our family is completely adjusted and as normal as a family can be. Evie is super outgoing and loves many things little girls love…Barbies, gymnastics, friends, playdates, school, music, bike riding, and iPads. Our boys have not skipped a beat. Evie is their little sister so they love to tease her, yet they are quick to protect and help her when she needs them. Evie definitely spends her fair share of time at baseball and soccer fields and basketball games, however, one of the greatest changes to watch is her confidence to build relationships. She is very quick to make new friends, which make all of the boys’ sporting events much more tolerable for her. Bryan and I find life with four children no more challenging than it was with three children. Yes, we have more activities to attend to and more homework after school, but we would not change one thing about our life as a party of six.
Any advice you would give to someone looking into adoption?
I love receiving advice, but I’m hesitant to give it. All I can do is share our experience, and hope that others can learn. I suppose the advice I can give to someone who may be considering adoption is that both the mother and father must be on board. Times will get tough, and during tough times, we have to know that all of us are on the same team. If the parents are in this together, then everything else will fall into place.
Would you do it again?
Yes, we’re adopting again! We honestly believed that we would adopt one daughter and live as a family of six. However, as the years went on and I began volunteering with an organization that helps orphans in China, I was reminded that there are so many children who just need a family and to feel loved. Through much discussion and consideration, we came to the agreement that even though there are several reasons that adding one more will be challenging, there are far more reasons that adding one more is the right thing to do. We are able to love and provide another child a life of stability and security, and our family will be blessed with one more precious little girl from China.
Any organizations that are dear to your heart and the adoption process?
In 2015, I was introduced to an organization called Love Without Boundaries (LWB). LWB was started in 2003 by one amazing woman with the greatest of hearts to help a little Chinese orphan with a heart defect. Since the birth of LWB in 2003, it has grown worldwide. LWB helps orphans and impoverished children in China, Cambodia, and Uganda in areas of education, nutrition, foster care and medical care. It has been an honor to be able to volunteer for such a respectable organization filled with loving, passionate, hardworking and selfless people from all over the world. I am amazed at how many lives have been touched by LWB. For this, our family will forever support LWB.