When my phone rings, no matter the time or how busy (or not) that I am, I rarely answer. I let it turn to voicemail, filtering the message to determine if it’s something I want to deal with, save for later or—let’s be honest—blatantly ignore. So why, on an early August morning when I heard God calling me toward adoption, did I decide to tune in, on what would otherwise be the first ring?
It was the first week of August 2018 and I went out for a walk with our dog, tuned into a random podcast and heard the hosts speaking on adoption. Adoption had always sounded like a nice idea but was not yet on our radar. Nevertheless, I came home from that walk and told my husband all about it, ending with something like, “We have to do this.” I think he was probably a little shocked, that my usually detail-minded and indecisive self would be so spontaneous and certain. Months later we’d learn that our son was born on nearly the exact morning I felt that nudge. Even later, we’d be amazed to find that our son legally became our child on the anniversary of the night my husband and I started dating. To put it clearly, we have no question as to the divine intervention that orchestrated the growth of our family.
“Seeing the beauty doesn’t diminish the pain.”
Kelli Belt is the host of the podcast, Beauty is Rising. She’s the mother of 3 and a wife of 21-years. Kelli’s 7-year journey to adopt her daughter from Ethiopia led her to the work she focuses on today: equipping adoptive mothers with what they need to be happy right now, and connecting those mothers to a larger community of support.
“There are a million reasons why people feel broken.” This comment, shared in an email, caused me to sit back in my chair and reflect for several minutes.
“Are there really a million reasons why people can find themselves shattered and on the floor?” I asked. “That seems overwhelming….”
My friend replied, “There are people who grew up in stable, but unloving homes. People abandoned in marriage. People who never found love. People rejected for all sorts of reasons that have left them feeling worthless.”
We sat in front of him, listening to the statistics of why we had a very low chance of conceiving on our own. All we could do was smile. That was it. It was the permission slip we were waiting for. The green light from a fertility doctor, giving us permission to pursue adoption. He gave us the facts about our treatment options and instead, we drove down the street and sat in on an adoption meeting for new adoptive families. Adoption had been on our hearts all along, yet we felt like we had to try everything else first. Like society expected that from us. Like we couldn’t announce our plans to adopt until we had exhausted every other measure. Like adoption was our Plan B.
My heart sank as I watched her walk out of the room. She had birthed this beautiful child and was leaving empty handed. I was completely unprepared for the wave of grief that hit me as I realized this may be the only time we would ever meet. This is adoption.
By the time we met our daughter, we had experienced 3 years of infertility and 1 year of a tumultuous adoption process. Our tender hearts had been shredded with the pain of waiting and felt the dull ache start to erode our hope. It’s common for eroded hope to turn into fear, which is part of our story.
Black, White, Just Right was the first book that I purchased when pregnant with our first baby. I wanted her to know from before she breathed her first breath that who we are as a family and who she is as a biracial child, was more than just right. I’m a Brooklyn girl born of Caribbean immigrant parents and my husband is meat and potatoes Midwestern boy born of farmers. It’s amazing how our love for children, especially those who have a more difficult beginning, brought us together.
She was beautiful. I fell deeper in love the moment the nurse placed her on my belly and I saw her for the first time; all pink and soft and beautiful. Over the next week while she remained with the agency’s foster mom, I visited and held her, committing every bit of her to memory. I told her everything I could, knowing she wouldn’t remember but explaining, nonetheless, about how much I loved her, and how I agonized over the decision to make the adoption plan.
You’re almost ten, dear daughter. In two days, we’ll celebrate another year of life. It seems like only yesterday when we were celebrating your coming into our family.
I remember holding you for the first time, in Ethiopia. I recall the feeling like it was yesterday, your tiny body folded into my arms. I couldn’t imagine what I ever did without you.
At the same time that I held you, I was also holding your birth mother in my heart. I wondered where she was, who she was, how she was. Although, I couldn’t answer the questions swirling around in my mind, I promised to never let her go. Your mother of origin—she would always be a part of us.
Why do I write so transparently about the adoptee experience?
Because I know that there are other adoptees in the world, right now, who feel isolated and are frustrated by this sense of isolation. That’s not to say that these same adoptees are not loved and cherished by their adoptive families, it’s just that adoption—for the adoptee—can feel lonely.
Who do you talk to? Where do you turn? How do you grab hold of emotions and questions that you’ve stuffed way down inside of you and bring them up to the light? Will you still be loved, included, if you do?
Fear of rejection is real for the adoptee. Often, our initial reaction to this fear is to push with all of our might away from the rawest parts of ourselves. Pushing is a protective mechanism for the person of adoption.
You are too new at this.
You have no knowledge or wisdom to impart.
Are you really going to share with all these people about your struggles with bonding with your daughter?
When asked to write this blog post, initially, I was so excited for the opportunity but then these questions crept into my mind. I found myself intimidated by my own inexperience and shortcomings. I thought there was nothing in my experience worth reading about.