Over the past couple of weeks, I have been blogging every day on my personal blog, My Passionate Balance, about our trip to China to adopt our son, Tyson. This was my family’s second adoption from China in addition to our two biological sons. Now, I am the proud momma of four beautiful boys! How did I ever get so lucky? It was never my plan to have four children, let alone four boys, but God’s plans are always better than our own. I only remember the time that I noticed the empty place at our table after Tucker was home, and simultaneously, Ryan and I knew that we would return to China and fill that empty chair.
Over the past 11 months of our adoption process, I cannot tell you the number of times I said, “I am so thankful this is our second adoption.” At the beginning, as we were completing our home study, I kept saying how grateful I was for our previous experience. I knew exactly which agencies to call to begin the adoption process. I remembered which steps to take care of immediately (i.e., fingerprints and background checks), as we knew which pieces took the most time. Filling out the application, locating all of the necessary financial information, choosing our references, completing required education, etc. were all so much easier just knowing what to expect having been through the process once before. I felt like I was back at home, with my people, where I belonged. Does that resonate with any of you seasoned adoptive parents out there?
Having been through the adoption process once before, I knew I had made some mistakes. I had spent too much time in Adoption La-La-Land. You know exactly what I mean! DTC groups, Travel groups, Agency groups, special need groups, advocacy groups, private adoptive family groups – the list goes on and on. Of course there is much value to these groups. In fact, I’ve written a post for NHBO previously about the importance of getting connected to others and finding your community during the adoption process. However, there is a line that I crossed the first time around, as it became too much of a priority. I lost a lot of time with my husband during our first adoption, talking with other adoptive moms and reading about everyone’s progress in the groups, and I refused to let that happen again.
Another mistake I made was living with not just half my heart and mind in China but probably 75% or more. Everywhere I took my children, I found myself feeling sad that Tucker was not with us. We would be swimming at a pool with friends, and instead of enjoying the time together, I would be crying about Tuck being so far away. When I took my children to the park, I would find myself lost in thought about Tucker and couldn’t hear when they called my name to come play. I was constantly living in another world – a place halfway across the world to be exact – and I was not present for the people I loved. I was not available to those who loved me.
When we came home from China with Tucker, I looked at my youngest son, Liam, who was 2 ½ years old at the time, and I saw how big he had gotten. I realized how much I missed out on an entire year of his life, all because I made the choice to obsess about adoption and compulsively think about my third son living in a Chinese orphanage.
And that’s when deep regret hit me. When attachment between Tucker and I did not come easy, I found myself longing for the simpler days of having only two boys at home who loved me more than the world itself. Because my heart and mind had been across the ocean, I had missed out on those special play dates, trips to the park, and quality time together with them. No one wants to live with regret, but I had to because of the choices I had made. I vowed that when we adopted again that I would continue to pour myself into my husband and my children.
As a second time adoptive mom, I was able to keep that promise. Experience had taught me to savor every single moment with my family just the way it was rather than longing for what our family would be in the future. Every trip to the park was an opportunity to give my children undivided attention and play our hearts out. Each time we went swimming, I was able to enjoy the boys jumping off the diving board and learning new skills. The majority of nights that I could have spent on Facebook talking with other adoptive moms and getting lost in Adoption La-La-Land, I chose to spend time with my husband instead. God taught me the importance of appreciating and enjoying each day with my family, regardless of the child who was waiting on the other side of His calling.
When we saw Tyson’s (our newest son) picture and made the decision to move forward with his adoption, I fell in love with that little boy. How could you not? He is so adorable! At the same time, I had realistic expectations, healthy boundaries, and a commitment to my family to stay present and connected to them completely. Because of those choices, I spent the months between receiving Ty’s file and meeting him for the first time enjoying every moment possible with my family as it was.
From the beginning of our first adoption process to reaching a year home with Tucker, God had grown my teeny tiny faith in Him into faith that was bigger, more mature, and more complete. As you wait for DTC, LID, PA, LOA, TA, and CA and receive notification of each one, you experience His faithfulness. When you finally hold a child, to whom God called you, in your arms, you see His promises fulfilled. After you fight for your child’s love and affection for days and weeks and months, and you find yourselves experiencing beautiful love for one another, you feel His grace and goodness. I believe that God uses the adoption process to prune us of our selfishness, impatience, self-centeredness, and desire for control. If you come out of an adoption the same person as you were when you started, then you will have missed part of the purpose in your wait, and the delays that inevitably happen during this process.
During our most recent adoption, I was determined to let my faith guide my actions. I focused my concerns for Tyson’s well-being in China into prayers for his health, safety, nutrition, love, and comfort. Rather than obsess about him being so far away, I trusted that God would care for Him until our Family Day. Even then, I knew God’s love and care for Tyson would not end. Instead of wishing away the days and weeks waiting for the next adoption milestone, I found joy in the people who were standing right in front of me. I had faith that God had not called us to Tyson to leave him alone in China. In His perfect timing, I knew that my faith would be my sight. Tyson would be in my arms, and he would have a forever family. And I knew this because we had experienced the fulfillment of God’s beautiful promise of His incredible calling once before.
Today, I am sitting on my couch with all four sons sleeping upstairs in their beds. We have been home from China for 3 days, and life is not easy right now. Tyson is TERRIFIED of our dog and shrieks for the majority of the day. In her defense, she is the kindest, most gentle 10 year old dog alive. Tucker is struggling because he didn’t see his parents or big brother for two weeks, and that is hard for a kid who lived in an orphanage apart from a family for 2 ½ years. Liam is super high maintenance because he also stayed home for two weeks, and well, that is just Liam. He requires lots of attention and energy, and we love him regardless. Noah slept with us every day in China, and he is scared sleeping apart from us now. All four boys are pulling us in different directions all day long, and it’s a lot to manage with two of us home. And tomorrow, Ryan goes back to work.
I could feel overwhelmed. I could feel grief. I could feel depressed and question what we have done bringing home another little guy who spent the last 19 months in an orphanage. But you know what? I’m not. I’m ok today. I have great hope because I have deep faith. God is all around us as we navigate these waters and transition to a family of six. I am praying for Him to stand in the gaps as I will inevitably not meet every single need, want, and desire of my husband and children. I am trusting that He will fill my cup when it feels empty at the end of the day. He is a good, good Father, and He will not leave us in this space. I know the Lord will guide our family and equip us for everything He has asked us to be – obedient to His calling and serve the children with whom He has entrusted us. Experience of our first adoption has grown my faith, and so I can believe with expectation that God will see us through this transition home.
Remember that chair at the table? Tonight at dinner, I looked over and realized that place is filled. The child we knew we would bring home is sitting in that space, eating his food and signing for more. We made it! We crossed the latest finish line together, and I cannot wait to see God’s plans for our family reveal themselves in His beautiful time.
video: Allison Mayer; Red Thread Session – Indianapolis, IN