Hey fellow adoptive mama! I’m Erin. I’m writing this post today because I was asked to share what it’s like to have a large family by adoption. In the world of adoption, my family is considered fairly mid-sized: six kids and two parents. In March 2015, I jumped from mama of four to six when my husband and I adopted for the first time. Our kids are now ages 12, 9, 8, 6, 6, and 3, the youngest basically being developmental triplets.
We adopted our two six-year-old daughters from China, and they both have Down syndrome. People often comment about the size of our family and ask me how I do it. If you were sitting in front of me and asking me the same questions, I would first tell you that this has been a year of survival for me. Let’s say it together, “SUR-VI-VAL.” Then, I might tell you about a few practical ways we manage our home, and while I have implemented some time saving tips into my life – mostly like buying cereal and lowering my general standards – I am not convinced that any actually are legit or “pinworthy.” I decided to write you a letter instead. Here’s to you, new mama by adoption, who suddenly has what feels like a large family, whether you have two kids or twelve.
My Beautiful, Broken Friend:
Sweet friend, you are exhausted. I want to wrap you up in my arms and hug you. It is okay that you are not enough. Listen. Pretend that you are looking in my eyes, I am earnestly pleading with you right now; remember who you are and take a breath. You are daughter of the our Lord and Savior, King and Creator of the universe, Most High and Holy Father God. He is holding you now as He held you from the very beginning. Remember back when you first had this idea in your heart for adoption? That was Him. Remember the late nights while you filled out paperwork and waited for LOA and LID and DTC? Remember the times you didn’t know if you would have the money to pay for the next fees and yet you accomplished every step and goal? It was through His strength and by His grace and by His provision. Now, take a drink of coffee and sit down because this is not going to be easy. There are four things you need to remember as you manage this new family of yours:
1. This adventure surprised you. I want to remind you, God set this in motion; therefore, please remember that He has a plan. It may not seem like there is coherence or rationale behind anything that is happening in your life, but He is always prepared. You are on an adventure for which you were chosen. So, when you wonder what the heck is happening and why your plans keep failing, don’t be surprised because this wasn’t your idea in the first place. The fact that He has a plan gives you the freedom to accept this moment in all its messy glory, stop trying to fix it, and just breathe in God’s grace and love for you right where you are, right now, in the mess.
2. God is your stability. Forget your count down to normal. Forget what your family was or what you hoped it would be. Forget the impressions you had from your update letters, photos, and imaginings. Take one moment at a time and allow yourself to get to know your children – the real children – and allow them to know the real you. They are hurting. It is normal and good that you are hurting too. We hurt when our children hurt, don’t we? So stop worrying about when you are going to feel bonded or if/when you will ever want to serve your family in the ways that are demanded of you in this season. Stop dreaming about that day when you will feel like you have things under control; stop straining to fix things and just live today. Don’t worry, it never depended on you. It was never about your sacrifices, your attitude, or the way you can scrub poop off your floor in a housedress and pearls with a smile. This is not even about perfecting your Karyn Purvis impressions. No, friend, this process is not about you and what a good adoptive mama you are. This process is about love, and love is not a feeling. God is love. Since love is not a feeling, then you don’t need to worry about the fact that your feelings are all screwed up and hormonal and jet-lagged. You can just be you. Allow your children to be themselves, and allow God to be God, your Rock. So please, before you start reading that next book or blog post on how to be a better mom, get a friend to come over so you can take a nap, for goodness sake, and let your kids have a little break from you as well!
3. Jesus runs to you in your mess. Bask in and soak up the mercies of our LORD every single day. He doesn’t enjoy seeing you in your suffering, but He adores your humility and your brokenness. He desperately wants for you to see that you are not enough so that you will see that only He is enough. He wants you to experience your weakness in a new way because He wants you to experience Him in a new way. So do it. Embrace this time when you see clearly that you are not enough and experience Him in ways that would have never been possible if you had everything under control. This is not a disaster. This is an opportunity to know your LORD more deeply in His sufferings for you (Philippians 3).
4. God longs to give you mercy. Hosea 6:6 says, “For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.” Memorize this. I think it is clear. God yearns to lavish kindness upon us in our desperation so that we will turn and acknowledge Him in all His goodness and compassion.
As a community of adoptive mamas, we have held dying babies in our arms; we have seen horrific scars from abuse and neglect; we have sent our children into surgeries knowing we may never see them again; we have embraced PTSD, RAD, ODD, anxiety, trauma, and so much more. And maybe there were some of us who thought we might fix our children, but now we realize that pain is a part of our child, a part of us, and a part of our homes forever, as well. It is not comfortable, friend. There are no Pinterest tips, tricks, or time saving techniques I can spell out that will fix this. You can plan and try your hardest, but you will still fall short in meeting the needs of your home. So, go back to the verse I asked you to memorize and dwell there. God desires mercy and acknowledgement of Him. Acknowledge Him today, bow low before your God, and worship Him in your broken spirit. It is beautiful to Him, and He loves you.
I’m in the trenches beside you. It’s not easy to stare suffering, weakness, brokenness, and injustice in the face or to acknowledge its presence in the world and in our homes. It is difficult to accept that we cannot control it, resolve it, or change it, but we must learn to embrace the discomfort, patiently allowing pain to do its work while also holding firmly and steadily to grace and hope.
Please, if you need a friend, call me. I also have a blog and a public Facebook page. I will connect with you, and I will help you connect with others. I can’t fix the mess, but I can tell you that you are not alone.