Coming Home: All the Feelings

September 25, 2015 China trip, first year home, September 2015 Feature - Coming Home 1 Comments

I was once told that your life after adoption can be compared to a child’s mobile hanging over a crib.

When the mobile is bumped, it’s path becomes unpredictable and out of balance as it spins recklessly with no sure path. As time passes, the mobile will become stable again and maintain a smooth circular path. A path you can predict and count on. But let’s back up. Let’s chat a bit about the unpredictable and the out of balance.

For some adoptive families, the mobile is barely shaken and life progresses as normal after a new child comes into their family. For others, it seems there is a cool breeze blowing it off course from an open window, and no one can seem to get the window closed. For a few, the mobile has been batted down and is in disrepair. As new parents, our emotions are as unpredictable as our child’s behavior and emotional state the day we meet them.


Our first adoption day, January 4, 2005, overwhelmed with this new little person

Coming home brings great joy and a sense of victory, as well as worry, doubt and fear. It brings an amazing, ecstatic feeling that being on a mountaintop can give you, as if breathing in fresh air and filling your lungs with goodness. It also brings loneliness. It brings isolation. We can feel complete and depleted in the same day. Have you felt this? Have you been torn apart by your emotions after adoption?

In the beginning, you are getting strapped into the roller coaster called adoption. You are eager and filled with a sense of adventure. As the process continues, you are swayed from side to side, and even have your stomach in your throat, as you weather the peaks and valleys. Travel time comes and it’s the ultimate high as you board your plane to get to the destination.

Your trip might be 5 days or it might be 5 weeks. Whether long or short, you are out of your comfort zone (literally) from the time you get to the adoption destination. You get your child and have to live in a space the size of a large bedroom and eat food that may not be to your liking (or, even worse, your stomach’s liking). So, you are a new parent, in a strange hotel room, eating strange food for days or weeks on end. Not even factoring in your child’s behavior, you are running on fumes emotionally by the end of the trip. Home seems a distant reality, but you dream on nevertheless.

Your homecoming is what you make it. It is in your control whether there is an airport filled with friends and family, or a quiet car ride home with the obligatory text to your parents. Every trip is different and you’ll know what you NEED when you get to that point.

Your next journey begins as you walk through your front door.

I have lived through seven homecomings and participated in one. I did not travel for my last adoption of two sons from China, as I was part of my husband’s homecoming. I have had big homecomings. I have had a homecoming I wasn’t sure was going to happen (try getting a visibly blue heart baby on to an international flight). I have even had a homecoming where I was stranded an extra twenty-four hours – with two newly adopted teenagers in the Newark airport – before actually arriving home via Amtrak. A “go with the flow” attitude is necessary at all times when traveling.

So, you made it home. Now, what?

I have lived the first day home with a sense of accomplishment, a sense of “what did I do?”, and a sense of “Lord Help me!”

These are some of the emotions I have had after arriving home with newly adopted kids:

Positive emotions

Negative emotions



in love

jet lagged









surreal (dreamy)










So, have you felt these? Am I in good company?

Adopting my children is the single best thing I have ever done in my life. It’s nothing I ever imagined doing in my life, and I certainly never expected to be called eight times to adopt. I never expected to be passionate about anything like my passion for orphans. It is beyond words.

But, I have felt all the emotions.

I felt accomplished when we finally arrived home after spending over twenty-four hours stranded in the Newark airport. I felt overwhelmed, when we adopted our 11 yr old as I stood in the civil affairs building looking down three flights of steps, and were told, “She can’t do steps.” (That box that she could do steps was checked on the referral form and, I lived in a split foyer home, so I would not have considered a child that could not go up or down steps.)

I felt the jubilation of seeing my family waiting for me at the airport and lived the loneliness of having a new child when all my friends had older kids. I have walked around like a zombie for three days wondering if the jet-lag will ever go away. The roller coaster doesn’t stop when you arrive home. If anything, it’s like jumping on for a second ride when there’s no line.

I felt despair and disbelief when bringing home my son, Jonathan, in 2006. My son’s file said “short and deformed penis” and we were given a photo showing very normal anatomy. I guess we tucked that in the back of our mind, as he also had a conjoined finger with a large gap in his hand, as well as anal atresia. We studied up on these two issues and moved forward to adoption day. That day was very special as Jonathan was my first son. He was precious, and we had an easy time in China. This 30 month old lil’ dude had completely captured me heart.


Jonathan and big sister, Chelsea, in Guangzhou

Then we visited the urologist. I went in to the appointment with high hopes that Jonathan’s file was just a misprint. I had found nothing “wrong” with him visually, and he was potty trained to boot (yay me!). As I waited for the urologist to finish examining him, he noticed the issue. My son had severe hypospadius. I was devastated as I knew this meant surgery – many surgeries. I was completely shocked and crushed for my son. I was angry and felt physically sick when leaving the office.

I stood in the parking lot and looked up to God and said, “You have to help me through this.”

Despair, disbelief, shock – all emotions I had no intention of feeling, as my son had quickly become my little prince. He was the sweetest thing. I felt tears well up and stream down my face. It was an awful, helpless feeling. I had no control over this issue and I knew it.

Today, after 8 surgeries, Jonathan is doing well and is still the sweetest thing. He is gentle and kind and completely a momma’s boy. We made it through – one surgery at a time – with prayers and emotional support from friends and family.

I have felt that helpless feeling many times with a few of our other children. Faced with that feeling, you need to find support from friends. My cyber friends from the adoption community are my first line of defense. They understand me and understand the situations I am living. They have lived them with me or, many times, before me. Having someone to talk to that understands, and does not judge you, is of high importance.

Those negative emotions aren’t pretty, but I am fleshly and so are you. We need to stay strong and create a support network before we are smack in the middle of the hard stuff. Hindsight is 20/20 and I suggest lining up someone to talk to when you get home. Search for “post adoption support groups” in your area or on social media. Facebook has several groups you can join for post adoption support. In fact, join them now and read, read, read! The more educated you are about the emotional things you are going to go through, the better you will deal with them as they occur.

One more thing: Take care of you.

Do what you need to do months in advance to get yourself well rested and healthy. Stress can cause a whole bunch of yucky emotions and bodily illness. Try to carve out 30 minutes a day for a walk or just sitting on the couch relaxing (yoga, stretching, meditation, prayer). Burning the candle at both ends does no one any good when you need to pull from your reserves during your trip, and after your homecoming.

Lastly, do all you can to prepare and educate yourself about adopting. Read blogs, books, and pick your adoptive friends’ brains. I firmly believe you will have some of the emotions mentioned above; but, with preparation, you will be able to handle the emotions in a healthy manner knowing we are all cheering for you.

The adoption community is second to none when an adoptive mommy needs help or celebrates a victory! So, when you disembark from the roller coaster and come home to a wildly swinging mobile, know you are experiencing all the things we have experienced. You are not alone in your jubilation and in your fear. You are not alone in your gratitude and in your doubt.

Emotions are natural and very real when walking this journey of adoption. I pray you feel encouraged and equipped as you move forward.

– guest post by Kelly Rumbaugh

One response to “Coming Home: All the Feelings”

  1. MomtoJADE says:

    Thank you, Kelli, for your words of encouragement to the emotional journey that new adoptive moms have to endure. The wisdom of preparing the months before by self care is such a good reminder.

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