Picture it—a roomful of adoptive and preadoptive mothers. It’s a little quiet, and you’re in charge of getting some conversation going. Likely, the easiest way to start a buzz is to open up the floor to (1) odd things people have said to you about adoption or (2) the red-tape, long wait, and high costs inherent to the adoption process. Hours later, all those women will be in the same spots they were all night and their husbands will be texting them asking them if they’re ever coming home.
I know about having a hard adoption process. Ours started years before we ever signed any papers, with infertility and multiple miscarriages and heartbreaking losses of babies I’d never hold in my arms. After the healthy delivery of three babies, the process officially started, and we found ourselves working a part-time job in the field of paperwork, with money leaving our account with every paper we completed. It seems so long ago now, but the memories remain of racing to the post office before they locked their doors, fighting rush-hour traffic to make our appointments for fingerprinting in the city, and fighting with legos and puzzle pieces and the children who left them under foot before our social worker showed up in some sort of vain effort to show her that good housekeeping qualified me to be a good parent. Then, when all the chaos abruptly ended with the hand delivery of our dossier (aka. our lives and hearts in two dimensions and bundled into a file folder), we waited. And, we waited. Then, we questioned and waited and reconsidered and waited. Two years later, when we realized we’d be grandparents before we would have our Chinese daughter, we joined the special-needs program with fear and trepidation. We thought the adoption process was hard before that; then it got about 10x harder. Looking at files that represented real children, facing our own humanity and ability to parent a child with varied needs, saying yes to a child and then turning around a week or two later and saying no. It was all hard.
But, here we are, home 4 years. And, all that hard that I remember are only memories. I can talk about those memories readily in that room of adoptive moms and contribute to that buzz with the rest of them. But, when I do, I want to take the conversation a step further because adoption isn’t over when you sign that last paper or stand before a judge or set foot on American soil.
I saw this image in my Facebook newsfeed one day, a quote put with a beautiful image meant to warm my heart, posted by a large nonprofit supporting adoption. I saw it. I read it. And, all I could think was this: Seriously? Everything about the adoption process is hard except loving the child?
Please tell me I’m not the only one who isn’t feeling warm fuzzies.
I know the adoption process is hard, but loving my child selflessly for the rest of my life is a whole lot harder than a few months of paperwork and a few years of waiting. She needs a lot of love, and I want to give it. I truly do. But, loving doesn’t come naturally to me; it’s hard. In fact, it’s a battle, not against an unloveable child but against my own selfishness. Add to that how children who need the most love often ask for it in the most unloving ways and I’d say that love the way I believe love is defined is all about hard.
When she stumbles into my bedroom in the morning with her hair awry, rubbing the sleep from her eyes, I want to breathe her in and keep her tightly snuggled in my arms. There’s my warm fuzzies, people. But, my motherhood seems to be more in the trenches than being cuddly in the stillness of morning. Most of the time, I feel like I’ve put the black on my face and am ready for the task. But, there are times—more than I care to think about right now—when I feel just plain done and wish there were an app for that.
Parenting is hard; adoptive parenting is even harder as you simply cannot coast and get away with not being intentional and purposeful as a parent. That’s not a bad thing; intentionality and purpose are good things and can keep you moving on the right path, but the task can be harder. I’m sure I’ll still use the listen-to-this-crazy-thing-someone-said-to-me and I-cannot-believe-we-need-a-notary-for-a-notary as ice breakers. Yeah, they’ll get people talking. But, let’s not stop there, and let’s not keep silent about the trenches and lead people to think it’s all rainbows and lollipops. Let’s be honest with each other and talk about the rest of the adoption process—navigating what wise adoptive parenting looks like for our families and for our children and loving unconditionally even when we feel like we have nothing left to offer to meet what seems like never-ending needs. That’s #whatadoptionmeans for this adoptive mama, ya’ll.