“You weren’t trained for this, but you were born for it.”
I keep reading these words sent to me by a dear friend the other day. She knew I was struggling with parenting our three year old son, home since January, while also trying to meet the needs of our three biological children ages four, five and seven.
Initially, when I read the quote that nagging voice inside of me kept saying, “But you were trained! Or you were supposed to be at least. You did all the required training, read all the books, lowered all your expectations, joined all the Facebook groups, read all the blogs, talked to adoptive parents, lowered your expectations some more. It shouldn’t be this hard. You must not be a very good adoptive parent. Or a very good parent at all for that matter!”
What a jerk that voice is. I would never say that to my friends or even a stranger for that matter. It was then that I realized that it doesn’t matter what you read or do…. nothing can prepare you for the experience of adopting. You have to live it to truly know and understand the full reality.
If someone told me ten years ago that I would be a mom to four kids: three boys, one girl, one with autism, and one with cerebral palsy adopted from China, I would never have believed them. Or maybe I would have. I don’t know. I did always want my life to look different.
My desire to adopt began as a child when my parents hosted two Russian girls for three summers in a row. Later, as a teenager and college student, I had a heart for orphans and loved supporting children from third world countries and going on missions trips.
When my husband and I were married only a few months he received a job offer to work for an orphan care non-profit that was affiliated with an adoption agency. The job was the perfect fit for him so we moved to a new city and began a new chapter. It was during those years as he traveled to various countries, including China, that we wanted to adopt. But we had our biological children very quickly – three in three years – and, to say the least, we were overwhelmed, exhausted and not thinking about a fourth.
When the dust finally settled we decided to kick it up some more and start praying about that old feeling we had years ago that we wanted to adopt. I have found in talking to people, that if you ask God if He wants you to adopt, the answer is most likely going to be a resounding “YES!”
We began our process looking through the requirements for each country that the agency we were using worked with. During this process our good friends were considering adopting a little boy with Down syndrome through the China Waiting Child Program. My husband and I looked at our agencies waiting child advocacy list and were shocked by how many children were paper ready and just waiting for families to adopt them. Already having a biological child with special needs we looked at each other and said, “How can we not adopt one of these children?”
When we began the process for a special needs child from China we were originally drawn to a girl with minor needs and as young as possible. But God had other plans. We soon learned that on the CCCWA Shared List (the list the Chinese government has of waiting children who are paper ready to be adopted) there are about 2,324 children. Of those children nearly 1,692 (72.8%) are boys! (Red Thread Advocates, June 2016). This does not even include the children who are part of adoption agency partnerships and are being advocated for within those agencies. We knew that we couldn’t wait months or even years for a young girl when there were so many boys, with needs our family could handle, waiting for a home.
Within weeks of completing our homestudy we were matched with our son.
Elijah was three years old, had cerebral palsy, and at the time his file was written he was unable to walk. We requested an update from the orphanage, talked, prayed and sought advice from doctors. We were trying to make a wise, informed decision, but deep down we knew he was our son. We found out he was able to walk, however; we knew he would need various therapies and leg braces as well as have some developmental and possible cognitive delays.
Despite the uncertainties, the update confirmed in our hearts that he was our son.
We said yes on June 15 and met him on January 10 – only ten months after we began the adoption process. And, believe it or not, our friends who first encouraged us to look at the waiting child list brought home their three year old son with Down syndrome a week before we did.
God had a perfect plan for these abandoned little boys long before we knew about it.
But as we know, just because something is a part of God’s plan doesn’t mean it’s easy.
We have been home six months, and I don’t think we have ever been through a more challenging season. I am daily reminded of how unequipped I am to parent a three year old boy with a neurological condition and a history of abandonment and trauma. I have to remind myself hourly that for some reason God allowed me to be a part of a bigger story.
A story that is not about me. He is allowing our family to be a part of this child’s story.
A child who was born on the other side of the globe and was abandoned in a field as a baby.
A child who spent two and a half years in an orphanage and at the age of three became a little brother, a grandchild, a nephew, and a son to a family living half a world away from anything he had ever known.
So am I equipped for this? No.
Was I born for the “good works God prepared in advance for me to do” (Ephesians 2:10)? Yes.
Will He give me the strength, patience, resilience and love I need to keep going? I have to believe He will because it is the only thing that keeps me going. That and a whole lot of coffee and chocolate.
The days are long and sometimes I want them to end before they have barely begun. There are sweet and special moments and moments that leave me hiding in the pantry sobbing because I don’t know what else to do.
Yet when I consider and see the sweet faces of all those children waiting for homes, I know that we have been blessed beyond measure to be a part of just one of their stories.
The poet Mary Oliver wrote, “Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this, too, was a gift.”
It is impossible to adopt without facing pain and darkness. It is both beautiful and brutal to walk through that pain with a child. Yet no matter how dark and long the journey is, it’s ultimately a gift.
That is why we keep going, keep loving, keep advocating, and keep saying yes.
– guest post by Megan