What Adoption Has Taught Me About Love, by Susan VanSyckle

vansyckles-adoptionIn 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.

But walking with these families, day in and day out over the years, has probably taught me more than I have ever taught them. I’ve come to the table with information and insights, but, if I’m honest, I’ve learned much more about the important stuff of life from them.

Here’s a few of those important lessons adoptive families have taught me along the way:

Love isn’t limited, it can be multiplied.

“When we started this journey, we worried about so many things: could we love this baby the way we would love a biological child…won’t it be confusing if we have an open adoption…and how will adoption impact our biological children? Now we realize how adoption only maximizes the love that is shared.”

I’ve seen many families wrestle with these honest questions that come naturally when dealing with the unknown of adoption. And, I love watching as parents discover that biology has nothing to do with the love they have for their child. In fact, many adoptive parents who also have biological children have confided in me that they have to think twice about which of their children are adopted when someone asks. The fabric of their family is sewn so closely that it’s easy to forget which child came via birth versus adoption. Many families share that one of their favorite things about adoption growing their family, is watching the amazing way their older children embrace the newest addition.

And, what often surprises adoptive families most of all? The love they develop for their child’s birth family. When families start on the path to adoption, they’re always thinking about the baby they are praying will become a part of the family. It’s beautiful when they discover a birth family they come to know and love as well. What an incredible gift when a child has even more people to love them throughout their lives!

Love isn’t blind, it’s bold.

“I always thought being color blind was a good thing; looking past a person’s skin color to who they ‘really’ are. And we thought we wouldn’t talk about adoption until they were older. Now we know both our daughter’s ethnicity and adoption story are huge parts of who she is and celebrate them within our family.”

On the front end of adoption, many hopeful adoptive families think it’s a service to their family and their child to overlook differences or even hardships with a kind of “love conquers all” mentality. While I appreciate the sentiment, I’ve learned real love embraces the good and the hard all at once, bravely stepping into difficult spaces to acknowledge the realities of both.

It takes courage to embrace the bittersweet of adoption. Courage to step into the unknown of adoption. Courage to learn about another culture or another family or another way of life. As I watch adoptive families boldly choose to love this way, they’ve taught me that celebrating differences has helped them truly embrace and love their child.

Love isn’t easy, but it’s worth it.

“I never imagined adoption would be so incredibly challenging. But I can say, with utmost certainty, every heartbreak, every tear, every desperate prayer we prayed was worth it.”  

I have yet to work with a family who looked back on the adoption process and noted how easy it was. Adoption is, most often, a long and hard journey. It is born from brokenness; a birth family not in a season to parent and sometimes an adoptive family unable to grow their family through biology. There’s mounds of paperwork, agonizing waits, and pleading prayers. There’s sacrifice and struggle. There’s important relationships to maneuver, hard questions to answer, and often obstacles to overcome.

Adoptive families decide to step right into the hard and messy of adoption. Birth families decide to selflessly choose what they believe is the best for their child. So often the things we cherish most, the things we hold most dear, are the experiences that we fought through and battled for. We choose what is right over easy and what is difficult over what’s comfortable. Real love wades through these waters because it’s worth trudging through.

Adoption, like love, is much more complex sometimes than we sometimes acknowledge, or think in the beginning. I’m so thankful that in my work every day, I walk alongside amazing families who teach me what real love looks like. The kind of love that expands to the story God is writing, that courageously works to celebrate truth, and acknowledges the reality that true love is often fought for.


Susan_vansyckleIn addition to working as the Adoption Consultant Director at Christian Adoption Consultants, Susan’s favorite role is wife to Jamy (a social worker as well) and mama to Isabelle and Jackson. She’s a lover of Jesus, strong coffee, and the beauty that can come from the bittersweet of adoption.

You can find Susan sharing more of her life and beautiful adoption stories at her blog, My {Grace-filled} Mess or follow her on Twitter or Instagram.

Connect with Author Michelle-Madrid-Branch on Instagram

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