I travel often for work. Enough that the whole experience is a fairly routine one for me. Airports, car rentals, hotel rooms, even long security lines and flight delays — I’m fairly numb to it all now. It’s just a means to the end of getting where I need to go. However, a recent trip to Chicago was anything but routine. My oldest daughter came along with me and it changed the entire dynamic.
Imagine being scared everyday of your life as you wonder which one of the kids would get a beating. Would it be me this time? Would I have to hide in my room while dad beats up mom, as I worry whether she would live through this one? Did I clean the house well enough? Was dinner good? Are the kids behaving or would I have to take a beating for one of them? Will mom and/or dad even make it home from the bar tonight?
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.
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?”
In 2010, my husband and I were still newlyweds, but we firmly believed God had called us to adopt our first child. We were very young—only 23 and 25—so our options for adoption were limited. Through prayer and guidance from others, we found our adoption agency and decided to pursue an Ethiopian adoption.
When I look back on our adoption journey, I laugh at how much my faith was stretched and how—at the time—I felt that the adoption process would be one of the most difficult journeys I would encounter as a parent. If only I had known what was ahead! We anticipated a nine-month adoption timeline but a variety of factors stretched the process over two years. There were so many details to see to: the paperwork, the revisions of our home study parameters, and the losses and matches of families ahead of us on an agency waitlist. I marvel at how our son was matched to us—it is a miracle that a little boy born in Gambella, Ethiopia, now resides in our home in Brooklyn, NY.
I’ve been thinking a lot about our story, and all the other stories that need to be told. As foster and adoptive families, we often walk a lonely, isolated path. It’s been almost a year since the adoption of our son was finalized. He was our first placement and had been with us for three and a half years.
We had only been licensed for a couple of months when the call came. With the help of our three bio children—a son and two daughters—we prepared the extra bedroom in a gender neutral fashion. Our kids had picked the paint color, a shade of orange that I definitely was not in love with, but it had a hidden meaning that would show itself later.
Each of the following blogs brings a unique perspective to the topic of adoption. In addition, each blog shares some of the challenges that adoptees and adoptive families face. The stories are raw and real—told by people who have been touched by adoption in a variety of ways. Reading these blogs will leave you with a deeper understanding of the complexities of adoption, and leave you feeling uplifted