I’ve struggled to understand love pretty much my entire life. I think it all stems from the strange juxtaposition that many adoptees are introduced to when we’re told about our adoption or when people comment on it. The juxtaposition goes something like this, “Your biological parents loved you so much, they gave you to someone else who could take better care of you.”
My son will be thirteen-years old, this August. He was delivered into our family via adoption, from Russia. When we brought him home, he was just eleven-months old. Over the years, he’s not been one to speak much about being an adoptee; he’s somewhat quiet regarding the topic.
As an international adoptee myself, I don’t press the matter. My son knows that we carry an open-door policy on the matter of adoption discussion. In other words, there’s never a bad time to ask a question, and there’s never a bad question to ask. As his mother, I want my son to know that he is safe to explore his feelings and emotions with his family. I want him to understand that, in our home, transparency is held as top priority. It’s important for my son to feel safe as he enters into his teen years: safe to discuss his adoption story, openly and honestly.
I’m a mother to a beautiful child. She’s everything I had always hoped she would be, and more. My love for her is rich and deep and unconditional. I cherish our family vacations and visits to the park, and I especially enjoy watching my daughter dance. But, it wasn’t always that way. I was once an empty, heartbroken young woman who had lost two babies to miscarriage. Back then, I feared I would never become a mom. Adoption changed that, and even more importantly, it taught me a thing or two about love. Here is what I have learned:
Difficult to place.
These are the three words that social workers used to describe me while in the care of the United Kingdom’s foster care system. In other words, these three little words equaled one giant judgement about my worth. The social worker assigned to my case believed that finding a family for a child like me would be, yes, difficult.
I was seen as “illegitimate” and “ethnic” within the system. My foster papers described me as the “extra-marital daughter” of a woman who indulged in an affair with a “dark man.” Adding, “The child is dark, like her father.”
“It’s not safe”. I think that is what I would tell you if you were looking to foster or adopt. I’m not sure that this would be a good slogan for an adoption agency, but after walking this path, I’d think a warning is in order.
I would want to tell you that if you choose this path, you will never be the same. You will no longer look at the orphan crisis as a statistic, you will suddenly look at it as a thumb sucking, 1 year old in a diaper and onesie plopped into your lap at 11 pm at night. Eyes wide and filled with fear, you and this tiny ‘orphan crisis’ will face this storm together. Suddenly, it all takes on a name and a dirt-smudged face.
May is National Foster Care Month. As a former foster child, as well as an international adoptee, I’m often asked about my nationality. In other words, people are curious as to where I originated, what my heritage is and to whom I once belonged.
Believe me, I have been — in my lifetime — ultra curious about these things, as well. In fact, the journey of discovery has taken me along paths to unknown destinations, and to unknown parts of myself.
The experience of seeking out adoption truth is like putting together a puzzle with vital pieces missing. Empty holes. Empty spaces. Those hollow places in the heart; caverns created by loss.
How much are we willing to sacrifice in an effort to put back the pieces of a shattered-self? What are we willing to risk? How can we revive the dormant parts of who we once were, as adoptees, prior to being removed from our first lives?
Last year, a couple of weeks before Christmas while my husband and I were out shopping, he turned to me and said, “Why don’t we just adopt a child from Syria?” His statement was due—in large part—to the current and ongoing refugee crisis and a result of reading and viewing horrific news almost daily about families forced to flee their homelands for safety. My husband obviously knows that there’s no such thing as “just” adopting, but he was expressing his solution to a need.
“Let your faith be bigger than your fear.”
It’s been pinned thousands of times. We all understand that we are supposed to know and feel and believe that God is bigger than any challenge, foe, or bump in the road. But what is supposed to be, and what is, isn’t always one-in-the-same.
How do you practically “let” faith be bigger than fear? Speak it? Pin it? Chant it? Stick a post-it to your bathroom mirror? Make it your phone home screen? Get a cool graphic tee that let’s everyone know that you just, “LOVE you some Jesus?”
When we adopted our three daughters, sixteen years ago, I was confident in my parenting ability. People often complimented me on my three boys and on my parenting. In fact, I used to say that when I die, they could put “She was a good mom” on my headstone.
Not long after my girls came home, that all changed. I no longer felt like a good mom. In fact, there were times I questioned if I was even the right mom for the job. I could hear the message on my headstone being ground off because it was no longer true. What I was doing, how I was parenting, was not working with my girls. They had come to me with grief. Loss. Impacts of trauma. The tools in my toolbox were clearly not the right tools. But back then, there was little research to know what the right tools were. There was very little support, no one to ask. I was on my own.
In my work as an adoption consultant, I have the honor of walking alongside couples on their journey to building their family through adoption. I partner with adoptive families for the entirety of their adoption: starting with the home study and sometimes for years afterwards. I watch in awe as they pray, wait, dream, and work to answer the call they have to adopt. We pray together for birth families and babies, and we laugh together at God’s crazy timing and overwhelming faithfulness. My role as a counselor, educator, and advisor has been incredibly rewarding.