The adoption process isn't really the hard part

June 25, 2014 adoption realities, Chinese Culture, Kelly 18 Comments

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.


18 responses to “The adoption process isn't really the hard part”

  1. Tiffany says:

    Yes! Thank you. I love everything about this post. Our first adoption was international, with all the hoops and such, and I thought the adoption process was the bad part. Our son is an easy-going kid by nature so his transition wasn’t too bad.

    Fast forward to 6 weeks ago when we accepted an adoptive placement of a 3-year-old from our local foster care system. They literally brought him to our doorstep. They take care of all the paperwork details. We couldn’t ask for an easier adoption process, but the parenting process has rocked our world. He has come so far in such a short period of time, but without God’s help I couldn’t have made it this far. It’s rough.

    Thank you for continuing to encourage adoptive moms!

  2. Terry says:

    Kelly I say 10,000 amen’s to that!

  3. Such a beautiful and honest post… thank you. Yes, starting (and spending) my day with God is the ONLY way I can be the parent I am called to be.

  4. thegangsmomma says:

    So thankful, as I’m reading this for the third time today, to be surrounded by folks like you, Melissa 🙂 and others who are prepared to do this hard part WITH me. With US. It IS hard. It is messy. And it’s beautiful. Sometimes heartbreakingly so.

    I am reminded of the verse from Ecclesiastes 3:11 “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” That gets me through. That, and a little help from my friends 🙂

  5. meganrbg says:

    This is such a good reminder for those of us who are discouraged and overwhelmed by the paperchase process to take a deep breath, take a step back, and look at the big picture. I was just grumpy with my kids because I was so disappointed about not getting a document in the mail today that I really needed to get by today. Clearly, I have lost sight of what matters and need to spend some time with Him and refocus.

  6. Why do you want to adopt these children? Why don’t you help children stay in their home countries instead of adopting them, and then complaining about how hard it is? No one forced you to do it. Support family preservation, not family separation.

    • Doulamomof6 says:

      There are many children, like tens of millions, where reunification is not an option and if it is an option that child faces risks that are unimaginable like a incredibly hard life of real hunger, very high rate of rape, little education and possible abuse in the orphanages. It is beautiful to think they will be able to stay in their country and with relatives but the problem is so large that children will be lost in the process if we only focus on helping them stay. Many adoptive parents fall in love with their child’s first country, they look for other ways of helping insure their are no other orphans. The reality is that this is a hard option on all sides. Sometimes life is hard on all sides but speaking about how hard it is doesn’t mean she is whining and saying something is hard. I am sure adoptive moms would be excited to hear what you are doing to keep children in their birth country.

  7. Jennifer says:

    Absolutely! Thank you for this post!

  8. Rhonda says:

    Thanks for being so real! I couldn’t agree more!

  9. Tammy says:

    What a fantastic post!!! We need more adoptive parents sharing like this, so parents are prepared for the journey AFTER the paperwork is done and the long awaited treasures are home. There is amazing glory in the adoption adventure, but we cannot ignore the grueling part and say it’s all great! Adoption is beautiful, blessed, and close to the heart of God, but in the middle of it all, is a lot of brokenness, both in the heart of the child and in the parents, as they surrender their own pride and selfishness on a daily basis to love like Jesus! It’s THIS brokenness that our amazing God uses to bring about something glorious, both in the child and the parents, to show the world how amazing HE is!
    Thanks for sharing!

  10. JenniferS says:

    This is so true! You see the excitement and anticipation of everyone. They can hardly wait to get their kiddos home. Then it becomes silent. Now I understand the adjustment period and why it is silent. We had a very difficult adjustment with our (at the time) 11 yo. But I think it is also silent for other reasons. The rainbow and sunshine expectations have given way to tantrums and hysterical crying. The guilt of not really liking your child and the “fake it til you make it” come into play. People want to talk about the process even though it’s stressful because they still have rose-colored glasses about the actual child. When it comes to the “real life” stuff, that’s not so pleasant. Thanks for your post. It is very encouraging for those of us in the trenches 🙂

  11. AMum says:

    As an adopted person, this post saddened me. It really feels as if the poster finds it harder to love her child because that child is adopted. Like, if the child was her bio kid but still was special needs, does she think that would make it easier to love the kid? It sure sounds like it. And, as a parent of a biological kid — seriously, kids, especially when they hit the teens, can be seriously challenging and not the most loveable creatures on earth. Everything written here about the difficulty of loving a child during difficult times could apply to a bio kid.
    I can promise you one thing, my parents might have had some hard times with me, but they would never, ever say that it is easier to love a biological kid than an adoptive kid. As a matter of fact, they are more loving than a lot of bio parents are.
    Adoptive children, even those adopted as babies, do have different needs since there was early trauma involved, but if you are a parent who finds it hard to love the child because the child is not your bio kid, than it is a shame you adopted in the first place.

    • Kayla says:

      I do not think that is what she is saying. She is not trying to compare loving an adopted child to loving a bio child. What she is saying is that while all parenting requires an unconditional love, that adoptive parenting (where you are adopting a child who comes to you with years of baggage from orphanage care, a child who comes to you as a virtual unknown who has a fully formed personality that you had no part in, a child who is intensely grieving, a child who rejects you daily) that this is a bit different than being a bio parent and that it is sometimes hard work. Not that it is harder or somehow more noble. Just that it is different and it is okay to recognize that it is hard. Adoptive parents who are struggling to “love” their kid do “love” their kid. But it is not the fuzzy, fun, love that so many think of it. It is a gritty, working my tail off to help you heal kind of love and I’m not sure that always feels like “love.”

  12. Amy says:

    Love it! You are absolutely right! Thank you for this post; it warmed my heart this morning, and has encouraged me to “fight” in those trenches one more day. 🙂

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