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.
My husband agreed to a domestic adoption with the resolution to have a closed adoption. Very closed. Our hearts were shut to the idea of “sharing” our baby and felt we couldn’t possibly include someone else in our lives. Thankfully our agency challenged our perspective and our hearts began to open. We realized that families aren’t always traditional, and room could be made to have an additional mom cheering at the proverbial baseball game (at the time, my daily run included a route with a baseball field). I started to get excited; she can have the pompoms, I get to hold the sign (hand crafted with glitter, obviously). And my husband will probably watch from his truck in embarrassment.
Room is made for step-moms, mother-in-laws, aunts, honorary aunts, and room could be made for her, our future child’s birth mom. Before marriage, I didn’t play out the worst scenarios in my mind of my future mother-in-law but I sure did it with our future child’s birth mom. The verse “perfect love casts out all fear” (1 John 4:18) perfectly applies in this situation. As love grew in my heart, I began to trust that God’s grace would be enough to navigate potentially hard situations. It’s not realistic to think that it will always be easy because all relationships can be challenging, but we decided we were going to make every effort to include her.
The concept of stewardship parenting came easy to me. When our daughter was placed in my arms with her birth mother watching me, waiting for a reaction; this precious gift of life was not lost on me. How could I feel that this child was exclusively mine? I felt so honored to share the role of parenting this precious child, whatever it looked like. She wasn’t just being shared by her birth mother, she was also being shared by her heavenly father.
Adoption is wrought with fear and can motivate both sides to choose the ‘safe’ option, a closed adoption. Instead of allowing fear to motivate either side of the triad, allow love for the child to be the motive of an open adoption. In my research and conversations, I’ve found the biggest cheerleaders of open adoption are actually caseworkers and adoptive parents, not expecting mothers. Maybe it’s because we know the benefits of an open relationship; when our child has questions about who their mother is and the circumstances surrounding their adoption (all adoptees do) she’s only a text away. Access to family history when they have something medical come up. I thought about my future child as a teenager, not just an infant. I wanted to provide her with every opportunity to keep that door open between her and her birth mother. When our adoption is motivated by love, it’s often manifested through an open adoption.
As it turns out, we don’t have much communication with our daughters birth mom, right now. And this grieves me. But those doors are open and I reach out monthly with photos and updates. I made so many promises to this woman but those emails are the only promise she can watch me keep. I’m also motivated to keep those lines of communication open because of this scripture: “Treat one another justly. Love your neighbors. Be compassionate with each other. Don’t take advantage of widows, orphans, visitors, and the poor. Don’t plot and scheme against one another—that’s evil” (Zech 7:9-10, MSG). We work hard to honor our daughters birth mother, and that includes keeping the lines of communication open.
All relationships can be hard. While we were waiting, I decided not to run from the idea of an open adoption just because it might be. Just like a difficult mother-in-law relationship is maintained for the sake of your husband/wife, this relationship is maintained for your child. I never want it said that I could have done more to keep that door open.
All of our kids (biological or adopted) are children of God, first. This truth should cause us to pause. As my husband and I are considering our next steps to pursue adoption again, we are being challenged to adopt in a way that honors God. Our primary motivation for adopting the first time was to grow our family, and while that is still the ultimate goal, our eyes have also been opened much more to the loss that marks adoption.
When I look back on our desperation to be parents, I realize that our judgement was clouded and it would have been so easy for us to look the other way if it meant that we could become parents sooner. I’m thankful that there wasn’t an opportunity for that, but the realization scares me. I can now understand why agencies are able to practice things like; coercion, charging more for gender/ethnicity preferences or requiring reimbursement from expectant mothers that feel empowered to parent, leaving them without option other than continuing with their placement plan. This includes moving them to another “adoption friendly” state. It’s because adopting parents are willing to look the other way.
An agency can operate this way because the “end consumer” (hopeful adopting parents), are so desperate to grow their families. Because of this, the standard for adoption ethics must start with us, and that starts with challenging our motives for adoption. Being motivated by love strips us of the selfish ambition that can get tangled up in the process.
What was God’s motive in adopting us as his children? Adoption cost Jesus everything, and as he was hanging on a cross, gasping through his tightening lungs, he offered adoption to the criminal next to him. He was motivated by love.
Loving first means changing your language from “we want a baby”, to “we want to love first”. Love first means treating expectant parents with honor and respect throughout the entire process, before and after placement. To love first means that she is empowered to parent, we will fully support her decision; and letting her know this throughout the pregnancy. Even if this feels devastating.
Loving first mean changing your language from “failed adoption” to “disrupted match/adoption”. For example, we made the choice to wait to have a baby shower until after we brought our little one home. I knew we weren’t her parents until we got a call from our agency letting us know revocation papers were signed.
To love first is to honestly consider as open of a relationship as possible with birth parents, giving her an opportunity to know her roots, her heritage. She can choose to keep that door open and decide on what level of communication she would prefer.
Whatever level of openness and communication you choose for your adoption, I hope it’s made out of a heart flowing with love.
Amanda Hogue lives in North Texas and they brought home their adopted daughter in 2017. Amanda loves to go deep way too fast and isn’t scared off by the hard and difficult seasons. You can find her doing a dance party in the kitchen with her little girl or taking notes on the fly as she’s listening to a podcast. She believes in strong coffee and seeks to speak encouraging truth; always on the hunt to find God working in every circumstance.
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