I would like to begin this post by saying that I understand my experience with my son and his adoption is by no means universal. Every child and family is different. While some issues may resonate with certain people, with others they may not.
This post is not meant to be an exclusive or all encompassing picture of what adoption looks like. However it is a snapshot of what our journey has looked like our first 16 months home with our four year old son. I want to be honest in hopes of encouraging those who have been or will be where we are. I want to be vulnerable in hopes that those who feel alone and isolated know that they are not.
However I do not want to frighten or distract anyone from the high calling that is adoption. Adoption is a raw, real, painful, beautiful blessing. It is one of the hardest and best things you will ever do. It will be painful, but it will be worth it.
Adoption is born of trauma and brokenness. There is no way around it. If this world was whole and healthy there would be no babies abandoned, no childless mothers and no need for adoption. But our world is like a broken vase and we are shattered people in the process of being made whole. We are a part of God’s redemptive work on this earth. He is making all things new, including the brokenness where adoption begins.
When we adopt we are imperfect people inviting and accepting hurting children into our homes. This does not make for an easy and painless transition. Adoption is anything but easy.
Adoption is not about being relieved that you got to skip pregnancy or the newborn months.
It’s not picking and choosing a cute little kid at whatever stage sounds the easiest for you.
It’s not about making your Christmas card look diverse.
It’s not playing savior or trying to look spiritual.
It is certainly not being handed a well behaved loved and secure child who is ready to walk into your family and go along with your previously established system.
Adoption is an act of obedience.
It involves feeling inadequate and having nothing left to give, but choosing to believe God will give you what you need.
What that looks like currently in our home is holding my sons arms down to keep him from hitting himself, trying to choke himself and scratching his face while he rages and screams that he hates me, our family and God.
It’s listening to him list all the reasons that he doesn’t like me, how I have failed him or how I plan abandon him in the future.
It’s is holding him on my lap while he tells the counselor he is mad at me because I make so many mistakes.
It’s watching his fear of abandonment be triggered by things that seem so small to me that I couldn’t even predict them, like: being the last one out of the car in the afternoon, being left alone in a room, or having a sleepover at his grandma’s house with his siblings.
It’s me wiping the blood off of his face once he calms down, having been powerless to stop him from the self-harm no matter how many times I say “gentle hands” or how tightly I hold his arms down.
It’s entering into this precious and broken child’s pain. Watching him writhe in it, grapple with it, scream because of it and wondering if it will ever end.
Adoption is the many appointments with neurologists, psychologists and therapists. It is trying to connect through playing, talking, reading, and playing attachment games. It is about identifying feelings, talking about emotions and how to verbalize and express them, building up felt safety. Passing cotton balls back and forth from each others noses and singing songs about how wonderful he is only to hear five minutes later, “You hate me and will never be proud of me because I put my shirt on backwards” or “I hate myself and I am going to hurt myself.”
It’s feeling like I am failing even though I know deep down that is not the truth.
It’s saying to myself, “I am not equipped for this. I don’t know what I am doing. I am afraid I am screwing up and I just can’t do this another day.”
And then, where I end He begins…
Adoption is being completely reliant on God because you have no other choice. Adoption is a beautiful picture of the gospel. Of Christ’s love for us.
We can’t handle the love that God wants to give us and we try to run away. We don’t understand it, we don’t think we deserve it. But he keeps coming after us, loving us, redeeming us. No matter how much we say, “No you can’t love me! I hate myself and I hate you!” He holds us, looks into our eyes and says “Look at me. I love you. Nothing you can do will make me stop.” And that is what we do for our children.
We hurt ourselves, try to make ourselves unlovable, we push against our loving Father with all of our strength. But he is stronger. His grip is firmer.
As we hold our angry, broken babies close to our hearts, he holds us close to his. We push away and he pulls us to his chest.
It’s the ultimate love story.
We are bought with a price and that price was his life. We are then accepted into his family in spite of our shortcomings just as we accept our children into our families. We give of ourselves and of our lives for them just as he did for us and asks us to do for others. No conditions, no turning back no matter how much we may want to. We are able to love them because he first loved us (1 John 4:19). It is his strength alone that will give us what we need each day to wake up and love them again. Even when they are at their most unlovable – his mercies are new every morning.
He has walked this painful road before us. He has seen and suffered everything our children have suffered and he sees and suffers alongside us in this journey. We are never alone. They are never alone. We can trust God with their lives and with our life.
He is making all things new and whether we see the fruition of that in this life or the next, we are promised “that everything sad is going to eventually come untrue and it will somehow be greater for once being broken and lost.” (Dr. Timothy Keller, 2014)
Keep going adoptive parents. Keep loving.
Remember we were never promised this would be easy, but we were promised we wouldn’t be alone.