Dear Younger Me.
There you are, flying across the country to learn from Dr. Karyn Purvis and driving to Alabama to complete adoption training.
There you are, reading every adoption book you can get your hands on.
There you are, doing what you always do when approaching something new, you learn everything you possibly can. You dive into research.
You have not become a mommy yet, but you know this is such an important role you are stepping into. You know that this journey to become a family could be painful for all involved, you just don’t know how painful.
But, younger me, though you know the research, you do not yet know what it feels and looks like. Sure, you have watched the Purvis videos with real life examples and interventions. You have yet to live it, for it to become incarnate. It is okay that you do not know.
In childbirth, it is expected that the mother screams out in agony as parts of her body are stretched and torn to bring forth new life. It is a beautiful brokenness and triumph as she holds her baby for the first time. Her life has forever been changed. And others understand the pain when bringing a baby into the family through childbirth. In adoption, you will scream out prayers of pain because your heart and resources are being stretched to bring forth new life. And that first time your child melts on your shoulder — years after coming home — you are like that exhausted, broken, radiant and joyful mama holding her newborn. The painful moments in the process make this moment so much sweeter, divinely precious. Many people do not know what it took to get here or that pain is also a natural part of this process of becoming a family.
Dear younger me, months after getting home from China, you will still wonder if your child will ever like or love you. Each day, you will face what feels like rejection. You are colliding with history, a history that says a mama leaves. I am proud of the way you keep trying to reach your little one. There are moments you are sad, and must adjust your expectations, but I love the way you pursue her without conditions. You long for connection, you pursue connection, but you do not demand it because love cannot be demanded.
Mama, you will grieve all of the moments you missed with your precious one: the first cry, the first feeding, the first diaper change, the first smile and coo, the first time she rolled over, and her first steps. You will then grieve all of the moments that She — the one who gave life to your child — does not get to experience: the birthday cake, the preschool graduation, the everyday ordinary moments. And because She is not there, you promise to take in all of the preciousness of each moment for the both of you. You will grieve that in order for your children to become part of your family, loss had to take place. And at night as you look at your little one sleeping, you will think of Her and hope that someday you will meet. You will save every preschool drawing and every note to someday share with Her.
There will be seasons when you will feel lonely and misunderstood. You will long for community. There will be those who really educate themselves about the journey your family is on, though some you love will not go there. It is easier for them not to. “You all have too many rules,” a few say. What they do not understand is that you too grieve that it needs to be different, that it has to be. Sometimes, it is from the people you expected to be the most supportive and that adds to the isolation. “Oh, your child is fine! Every kid does that.” No, I promise, it is different.
But those who try to understand will become a healing sanctuary for your family. They become like the doulas in childbirth, holding your hand as you scream out in pain and reminding you to just breathe and massaging where it hurts. Sometimes, you just need to remember to breathe. To rest. To stop.
Your tribe will be small, and so precious. Doctors, therapists, and social workers will become part of your village and with you, they will notice and point to each precious sign of growth as a family. And friends and family who really want to know your family — even the messy and broken — will become your lifeline. They won’t judge or critique you, but they will embrace you and each precious person in your family unconditionally. Like you, they will get to witness the miracle that is about to unfold and they will provide encouragement along the way.
Dear younger me, you will discover your voice. You will realize that it is impossible to both people please and parent your children in a manner that brings healing. You will calmly ask that stranger to stop tickling your child. Sometimes, you will be the first to ever share with a teacher how childhood trauma impacts behavior, but you will use your voice to do that. You will wrestle with how much to share and whether to share and whom to share with and when to share. You will fumble over your words. You will advocate for you kids in medical appointments and teach them about attachment and trauma. And you will respond to what feels like intrusive questions from strangers about your family – and you will learn that sometimes the most appropriate response is, “That is private.” You will discover inside of you a strength and a bravery that had never had the opportunity to blossom before.
You will make mistakes. And you will feel guilt. At times, you will feel unbelievable pressure to not add to your children’s hurt and the guilt when you make mistakes will be overwhelming. You are human, mama. It is okay just to be okay sometimes. You will embrace your flaws and work to make changes so that you do not get in the way of your children’s healing. You will learn to ask for help. You will learn that when you make mistakes with your children and when you hurt their hearts, that the moments of repair and saying “I am sorry” are even more healing than being perfect. Modeling repair is powerful. You will cling to Jesus for grace and to bring supernatural healing in your life too. You will come face to face with your own brokenness. And mama, don’t worry, research shows you only need to get connected parenting “right” 30% of the time. You can still fail and get it right. You will work so unbelievably hard at attachment — walking away from your career, driving hours to meet with clinicians — and you will see progress.
Dear younger me, you do not yet know the ache you will feel, the overwhelming feeling of love for your children that is so fierce, it takes your breath away. She and he may not have grown inside you, but you will learn their rhythm, their scent, and they will become part of you and you part of them. You thought this love would surely be instantaneous, but it takes time for both of you. Give yourself time. Give your children time. Remember, your friends who describe the instant connection at childbirth with their babies carried them inside for 40 weeks. 40 weeks of moments. It was not instantaneous. Give yourself that time and do not feel guilty when it is not immediate. But, know that it will come.
Cling to hope. He makes all things new. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.
And all of you will be made new and experience a deep and abiding joy.