When my husband and I stepped across the chasm – our old life on one side and our new life on the other – we had no idea what awaited us. Three and a half years later, we have a better understanding of the world we entered after saying Yes to adoption. So, in honor of all of the mamas and babas who have gone before us, as well as those who will come after, this post is for you. I have such deep love, respect, and compassion for all of you.
This is real life.
Your new child had a life before meeting you. She lived with her biological family for a few years before being found on the street alone. Your son was left at the train station the day he was born. She was taken to an orphanage. He was raised in a foster home. You missed so much and grieve for the time you were apart, the nights without stories, and the days without meals. Although you didn’t experience her first word or his rolling over for the first time, you celebrate all of the firsts you have together.
The first moment your eyes met as your saw your heart outside your body.
The first car ride as you drove away from the past and into the future together.
The first tears of mourning, which led to the first embrace of comfort.
The first giggles from putting stickers on your face and tickling his precious little tummy.
The first bath as you washed her lucky fin and discovered the adorable Mongolian spots on his bottom.
The first bottle-feeding while looking deep into his eyes and saying, “I will always feed you.”
The first time she fell asleep in your arms, and you watched for hours in disbelief that she was yours.
The first kiss when your heart melted and the Spirit leapt within you.
The first steps eight days after meeting him, simply because he finally had the opportunity outside his crib.
The first airplane ride to Guangzhou and the second one flying home – forever.
The 36-hour trip home was insane. You’ve sworn never to adopt again simply to avoid a 13-hour flight with a child who barely knows you. A month later, you forget the madness of it all when your husband nods at the empty chair next to you, and you know that you will bring another child home from China someday.
You watch your children get to know one another. On Day 1, your new son bites his brother. On Day 3, your biological son asks his new brother, “Where is your mommy?” Your eyes get wide and quickly say, “I’m right here. I’m his mommy, too.” You watch in amazement as your children learn to play together, accept each other, and fall in love. You can see very quickly that their friendship is for life – an unbreakable bond has formed.
This is real life.
You longed for your daughter for months but she doesn’t want you. She swats you away if you try to touch her. When you attempt to feed her, she turns her face away. Your heart breaks as you watch your other friends bond with their new sons and daughters. But you pray. You pray with your whole heart all day every day for God to fill both your hearts with unstoppable love and to plant deep roots of security, trust, and compassion. In time, you transition from going through the motions of parenting to feeling those tiny seeds of love and trust beginning to take root. Her stiff body begins to relax as you rock her each night. Although she used to back up to you for a hug, she is now facing you and hugging you back. While the weekly tornado siren in your town used to send your daughter screaming and shrinking to the floor, she now runs to you for comfort, trusting that you will protect her. God is faithful, and He has grown a mighty love between you both.
You are stressed out and she regresses. Which came first – the chicken or the egg? Finding yourself on your knees, you pray for mercy during this period of regression. You beg for patience while your child sabotages yet another holiday or family fun day. You may not feel love, but you choose love over and over and over again. You can’t remember if the regression ended and then the feelings of love returned or vice versa, but it doesn’t matter. This is a dance worth dancing. Her heart is worth it.
You did it again. You lost your temper. You know that thing that he does – the one that triggers anger in the pit of your stomach – he made that choice again. Some say that your son’s misbehavior is a fear-driven strategy to fulfill an unmet need, but right now, you just want to scream. Oh wait, you did. You are going to the dark place. Why did we say yes to adoption? Why did I ever think I could be this boy’s mom? How can I help him heal when I am broken, too? Just when you are about to hide and cry and wallow in self-pity, you have a moment of clarity. You remember that only by His strength and through the power of His love can you walk this road. This time you have to crawl down it with your tail between your legs. You go back to your son and apologize for losing your temper. You ask for his forgiveness. You both have a redo and move forward together because love wins.
This is real life.
Cocooning. In your old life, that had something to do with butterflies. In this new life, it’s the reality you’ve been living for weeks, months. You greeted your new daughter with hugs in the morning and kiss her at the end of each night. You play with her hair until she falls asleep while singing songs that became special during the wait. “I have died, everyday, waiting for you. Darling don’t be afraid, I have loved you for a thousand years. I’ll love you for a thousand more.” For the past 20 days, her screams wake you up, night terrors caused by a source you may never know. You begin cosleeping in hopes that she will feel more secure by your presence at night. Six months down the road, you will realize how beneficial cosleeping was for your relationship and how seeds of security were planted in your daughter’s heart.
You haven’t seen your friends in weeks and don’t want to share how hard things have been because you don’t want to scare them from adopting someday. How can you share the challenges and describe how the fight is worth it? You lean into the Lord and open your heart to your friends who have adopted, knowing they have walked and are walking in your shoes. They affirm and understand your heart, cheering you on as you pour yourself out over and over again. Date nights with your husband consist of steaks on the grill and a new release on Redbox. You’ve never felt stronger in your marriage. You are a team that can not and will not be stopped. Watching your husband become a father again has made you fall in love with him all over again. He said Yes to adoption, and you will be forever grateful for his steady hand on this journey.
Weeks and months have passed since coming home from China with your son. Although deep food insecurities led to crying during the preparation of every meal, he is beginning to trust that you will always feed him. You call your husband at work because on Meal #271, your son didn’t cry but instead sat happily in his high chair waiting for breakfast. It feels like a miracle. You have felt so isolated from your friends, spending time with them only after putting your child to bed for fear of the repercussions of leaving earlier in the evening. However, you’re 9 months down the road, and you get to stay overnight with girlfriends on a ski trip. Another miracle. They don’t know how hard you pray that God will set the lonely in their families, that they will bring a precious child home. Children deserve good moms like them.
This is real life.
Just as April showers bring May flowers, pouring intentional connection and love into your child brings her heart to life. Your daughter’s light is shining brighter than ever before. Her security is evidenced by her confidence and comfort. You hear the weekly tornado siren, run to your daughter, and with a smile she says, “I’m ok, Mom.” And she really is ok. You watch your son explore at the Children’s Museum. He is playing several feet from you, near other kids, and taking turns with a happy disposition. Every few minutes, he turns around, and his eyes meet yours. He smiles and then goes back to playing. You are so proud and amazed by his resilience. No one would know that he lived in an orphanage apart from the love of a family. For his first 3 months home, you walked around the house holding his hand nonstop because he was so afraid you would leave him. But now, to everyone and even to you, he looks like any other kid playing in the sand. You cry tears of joy.
After your biological son asks about his belly button, you explain how an umbilical cord connected his body to yours, and that is how he got all of his food and oxygen while he grew in your tummy. You look over and find your son from China staring at his belly button, poking it with his finger. You have to explain how he grew in a woman’s belly in China and that God grew him in your heart. Then one morning, your son asks, “Mom, can you get on your computer and ask someone in China whose tummy I was in? I really wish you knew me when I was a cute baby.” Your heart shatters. You don’t have the answers for your little love and wish so badly that you did. Adoption is born of loss, and the desire to mend the broken beginnings of your child’s story is so strong. But you can’t. So you continue providing the safe space for your child to feel, think, and share. You cry with him and pray that Jesus will bring healing to his heart.
This is real life.
Being a mama or a baba is a good, good work. You pour out your heart, your love, correction with connection over and over again, and sometimes you’re left feeling empty. Sometimes you eat ice cream every night. That glass of wine that awaits you after bedtime gives you the extra something you need to brush all those teeth, read all of those stories, and give all those snuggles before turning out the lights. Every now and then, you might even check into a hotel, order room service, and watch a Downton Abbey marathon to relax and rejuvenate. You’re exhausted, and that is ok. You have poured yourself into others, and taking part in the redeeming work of a child is some of the most worthwhile work out there. You’ve attended countless doctor’s visits, prayed through surgeries, and served wholeheartedly during recovery. You enjoy every single inch of that king-sized bed that you have all to yourself. Pour yourself a glass of wine, sit back, and let your cup be filled by the peace and quiet of your evening.
During a commercial break, you’ll find yourself smiling as you think about how far you’ve come, how much the Lord has grown and stretched you. You’ll stand amazed at your daughter and how she is thriving. Before you know it, you’ll find yourself thinking about the children left behind at the orphanage. The Spirit guides you to the advocacy pages as you see children just waiting for someone to say Yes to them. And that’s when it happens. A tiny seed is planted. Maybe it’s time to fill that empty chair at the table.
This is real life.
So grateful to walk this journey with all of you.