This Much I Know To Be True
It’s one of Oprah’s catch-phrases. This much I know to be true. Following that phrase, she expounds on some epiphany or conclusion or lesson she has learned.
There are many things I know to be true. In most of those cases, it is because of personal experience or first-hand knowledge.
I know that the bottom of the Dead Sea is very difficult to walk on because of the large salt crystals littering the bottom. (personal experience)
I know that acting uninterested at a David Copperfield show seems to ensure you will be called up on stage to help with an illusion. (personal experience)
I know that the pain of giving yourself fertility injections is nothing compared to the pain of being childless. (personal experience)
But, there are other things I cannot be sure of. I can only imagine how it must feel or be or what I would or would not do, but I don’t know for certain.
I think it would be great to have an awesome singing voice and perform for the masses. But, I don’t really know what that would be like and never will.
I can imagine that losing a parent at a young age would be incredibly painful and difficult. But, having never experienced that I don’t really know how it feels.
I can say that I would never move far away from my family, but I have never had to make that decision and pray I never will.
That’s just it. We don’t REALLY know what it’s like to experience something without really experiencing it ourselves. I can imagine how I hope I would react, what I hope I would think, how I hope I would respond all I want. But, until I walk through it myself, I really have no idea.
I have never been a very scandalous person. No huge public life dramas have played out in my life…until this past summer. We did not complete the adoption of the child we traveled to bring home. Naively, I had no idea just how scandalous this was in the eyes of some in the adoption community. In reading what many other AP’s think about disruption, it seems as if the thinking is either you bring home the child you were referred no matter what, or you are a terrible, selfish person who wishes for that child to never find a family.
I can tell you, without a doubt, that that is not the case. At. All. This much I know to be true.
Our adoption journey was pretty bumpy. But, by far, the hardest things this momma still deals with are the misconceptions people in the adoption community have regarding those who disrupt, and the hurtful comments said about “those parents.”
The sadness and shock we felt when the serious undisclosed needs became apparent was hard, but we had lots of supportive people walking us through the confusion. Discovering that we were not the best family for the child we thought was ours was hard, but we had peace about the decision, knowing it was the best for that child and us. We were simply not equipped to handle that child’s needs and knew that there would be a family out there who could meet those needs and meet them well. Facing the reality of not coming home with a child, the child who we had attached to at some level through video and pictures, after almost 4 years of being in the process was hard. But, with the peace we had in our decision, we knew that if that’s what it came down to, it would be okay. Our family, our friends, our church lifted us up in prayer; listened to us as we processed through everything that was happening; and supported the difficult decision we had to make.
However, the comments about disruption I read upon returning home, and still stumble upon as I scan adoption boards, pierce my heart and rattle me for days. I sit stunned at the broad paintbrush often used to paint all parents who go through this as cold, heartless, uneducated, and unprepared, only thinking of themselves with no thought or caring for what happens to the child. It just is not that simple. It is not like that.
The comments seem to center around the same logic: EITHER you are on the side of the child, OR you disrupt. EITHER you parent a child who you know is not a good fit for your family, OR you are declaring that that child unworthy of having a family.
This much I know to be true; it’s not an either/or type of situation.
From the outside, it is not possible to know ALL the details of a disruption, to know all the reasons a family felt ill-prepared to meet a particular child’s needs. Those details are extremely personal and private for both the child and family. Absolutely, the AP’s want the child they are unable to parent to find a home, the right home. It’s the same thing we all want for all the kids on those lists. We want homes for all of them. But, as AP’s we have to make decisions along the way in a special needs adoption as to what needs we feel called to and prepared to handle. Some of those reasons are personal preferences, but some have to do with very practical things such as insurance, availability of services, etc. AP’s who decide they cannot parent the child they were referred do so with the family’s and child’s best interests at heart.
Since returning home 6 months ago, I have been in contact with other AP’s who have also gone through the pain of a disruption. And, there are certain common denominators that have been true in each of those situations. This much I know to be true:
- The parents hurt and grieve over the loss of the child. In all cases, parents have prepared a room and bed and clothing for the child. They have lined up medical treatment and doctors. They have prepared the other children in their families for this brother or sister. They have packed, planned, and prayed for this child. In most cases, the parents have named the child. In all cases, the parents fully intended on bringing home that child.
- The parents want the child they are unable to parent to find the right family. They pray for them. Often times, they actively advocate for them. And sometimes they even offer monetary donations to help the child receive treatment and/or diagnostic testing while that child waits for a family.
- The parents have grief and confusion and heartache and disappointment that they need to process through.
- Parents who are offered another referral while in country (and this is becoming more rare due to Hague regulations) did not travel intending to “switch” or “upgrade”. Many times, it is implied that AP’s who come home with a different child had some “master plan” to get a better/younger/healthier/cuter child. When in most (if not all) cases, the decision is made to not complete the adoption well before the option of receiving another referral is even presented. It is not a situation of “would you rather have this child instead?”
- The parents receive a lot of negative comments on forums and on their blogs from some in the adoption community and, as a result, feel isolated, judged, and shut out. Online forums can be a blessing for all the sharing of information and personal experiences that help to educate families about adoption. However, the relative anonymity also makes it too easy for some to say hurtful and judgmental comments aimed at parents who decided they could not complete the adoption of the child they had traveled for. Most of these comments offer support and compassion for the child in a way that is critical of the AP’s.
So, to those who have said my husband and I were not prepared as adoptive parents, you are right. We were not prepared in many ways.
We were not prepared to meet a child whose needs were far beyond what were presented and what we were equipped or approved for.
We were not prepared to learn that the medical files we reviewed had not disclosed the other serious medical needs the child had that were not related to the main SN.
We were not prepared to leave behind the child whose picture we proudly shared with family and friends.
We were not prepared to find the child who IS our daughter in such a crazy and confusing way.
We were not prepared to feel God’s presence so clearly throughout the entire process.
We were not prepared to be given such a sense of clarity and peace about the decisions we felt led to make.
We were not prepared for the outpouring of love, support, and understanding we received from our friends, family, and church family.
We were not prepared to feel so alone, isolated, and criticized by members of the adoption community in cyber-land.
And, we certainly were not prepared to be judged so harshly by an adoption community that had previously been such a source of support for us.
I do hope that this experience of having my personal adoption decisions judged so harshly by others has taught me to stop doing the same to people in other circumstances. I am reminded that in any given situation, it’s not as simple as either/or, because, this much I know to be true…
There, but for the grace of God, go I.
I never thought we would disrupt. Never. It wasn’t on the radar. It wasn’t in our vocabulary. At. All. Not even a little bit. We were bringing our child home no. matter. what. Except that she wasn’t our child. We knew that without a doubt. There has never been a doubt about any of it at all. No second guessing. Just hurt. Hurt for what had to happen, and hurt for the stigma that seems to cloud over us within the adoption community. Miraculously, we came home with our child, and the child-who-was-not-ours has found a family as well. Her family.
We couldn’t be more thrilled.
This much I know to be true.
Stephanie has been married to Matthew for over 5 years. She “retired” from teaching after 18 years in the classroom when she had their first child. But, she continues to do a lot of work with school-aged children by teaching science to home-schooled children each week and being involved in children’s ministry in their church. It is through their two children that God has revealed Himself most clearly. He not only worked a miracle in enabling them to have a biological daughter who is 2 ½, He continued to show Himself in a mighty way throughout an adoption journey that was anything but normal. Her days are filled with all things “toddler,” and she loves the blessing of being a stay-at-home-mom. You can read more about their family here.