Recently, I had a candid chat with a friend of mine who is parenting former orphans. It was Mother’s Day, which is one of those slightly awkward holidays when you aren’t the only mommy your child has ever had. She has also faced infertility, making it an even harder day. She was overwhelmed by the loss and brokenness that accompanies adoption. Hurting for her children, but also herself, at the years of life she didn’t get to see.
The hard thing about loving someone so much it hurts is that, well, it hurts. When you think about their loss and pain, you just ache and wish you could take it on yourself.
Sometimes the brokenness is overwhelming.
Sometimes it’s maddening to think about all you’ve missed.
Sometimes you just want to tell your child, “YOU are remarkable. Your life has been harder than just about anyone I know and yet you have somehow come through it all with a tender heart.”
Sometimes you actually do tell your child that.
So, what do you do with all of the grief and loss and brokenness?
Gloss over it and pretend it didn’t happen? Sometimes that’s a good option, frankly. It’s sort of hard for kids to heal if they’re reminded all the time of their wounds. But, obviously, that’s slapping a bandaid on a big, big hurt.
Where I’ve noticed the greatest moments of redemption are in the firsts. Which are (ironically) usually the most painful reminders of all that’s been lost. I didn’t get to see my child’s first step. I don’t know how much be weighed at birth. Or when he got his first tooth or said his first word. I grieve all of that, but I cannot focus on it. That wouldn’t help anyone.
So we manufacture firsts. We choose to celebrate the firsts that might seem insignificant to others.
The first unsolicited hug.
The first time he had ice cream and winced at the cold with every bite.
The first time he pushed away a plate of food without pleading for more.
The first time he saw the ocean.
The first “I love you.”
The first time he went to a movie.
The first time he fell asleep without clinging to me for dear life.
The first time he celebrated his birthday.
We make a big, big deal out of these things.
We see the brokenness for what it is, which allows us to stand in awe of the wholeness that comes out of it.
This healing – it doesn’t come from a family, although that certainly helps. It doesn’t come from a book or counselor or therapy method.
It is God Himself who takes these little lives and makes them whole again. He redeems all the lost firsts and shows us that sometimes the manufactured firsts are even better, because they remind us of His goodness.
Lara is a Jesus-loving, book-reading, coffee-drinking, kid-chasing farmer’s wife of 5 years. She and her beloved farmer, Jon, have three kids: Cade, Ambrose, and Ellie. They brought their most recent addition home from Uganda in October 2011. Follow along on their journey at The Farmer’s Wife Tells All.
When I first became passionate about Christians caring for the fatherless, I just didn’t understand why anyone wouldn’t want to adopt. I was FURIOUS with Pat Robertson when he said people needed to “count the cost” before adopting. I thought, “Great, he just gave people an out and scared them off from adopting!”
Today I am going to do something I will probably not ever do again and I’m going to agree with Pat Robertson. Oh, my fingers burn just typing that! Let me do some splainin’.
Let’s go back to that first sentence. It was a little arrogant, I’ll admit. I would have conversations where people would say their reasons for not adopting -
“We just don’t have the money”
“I can barely handle the kids I have”
“I just couldn’t love an adopted child as my own”
And so on. Inside I would be thinking, oh, come on, you could do this!
Now as an adoptive parent of exactly three months, let me tell you this:
God doesn’t need you to do Him any favors. If you don’t want to adopt for any reason, DON’T.
If you aren’t ready for the reality of adoption (which is that it’s messy and borne of tragedy), don’t do it. I wanted to adopt. I want to adopt again. I have been blessed beyond measure by my second born son. But with all my passion for adoption and love for my child, this is still hard. It isn’t like, oh, I wanted to bring a child home and I did and he loves me every second of every day and nevermind the traumatic past he has, he’s just so happy to have a home!
Guiding a little heart toward healing is hard. Parenting through grief and trauma is sometimes exhausting. It takes patience that I have to constantly ask God to give me. I cannot fathom having gone into this not 100% devoted to helping our child heal, no matter what the cost.
Because guess what?
I’m selfish. And so are you, unless you’re Jesus. Being a part of helping a child heal takes selflessness that I just don’t naturally have.
So I guess I would say this:
God doesn’t need your favors or mine.
Now, let me backpedal. God calls the church to care for orphans and widows, so I’m not saying not to care. I’m talking specifically about adoption. As my good friend Pat Robertson said, people should consider the cost, out of fairness to their adopted child and entire family, and be sure that is something they are prepared for.
If you want to do something about the orphan crisis, really examine how you can be a part of the solution. Consider giving money to a reputable organization that helps orphaned children or sponsoring a child or becoming a mentor or CASA worker. Adopt if you’re kept up at night with that fire in your heart to bring a child into your home and see them through the hardest of days. Otherwise, don’t. Really, it’s ok. I hereby give you permission to just not want to do it.(I know, you’re breathing a real sigh of relief there.)
If you are one of those people up at night with that burning inside and you just know beyond a shadow of a doubt that this is what God wants you to do, then DO IT. And don’t worry about money or how many rooms are in your house. That all falls in place. Instead, get on your knees right now and pray for God to give you the grace to be the parent that child needs. Know that He is going to stretch you farther than you ever imagined.
Lara is a Jesus-loving, book-reading, coffee-drinking, kid-chasing farmer’s wife of 5 years. She and her beloved farmer, Jon, have three kids: Cade, Ambrose, and Ellie. They brought her most recent additional home from Uganda in October 2011.
During our paperwork phase, I learned that adoption can really turn you into a loon.
I think this is especially true when the waiting starts.
For you non-adoption folks, you should know adoption is one wait after another. Waiting for a referral. Waiting for a court date. Waiting to travel. Waiting for an embassy date. Waiting, waiting, waiting. It’s just the way it goes. Some of my friends that are starting to understand this will ask me, “So what are you waiting on now?”
I’ve compiled this little list of ways to remain sane when the wait starts to get intense. I am not saying there is anything wrong with thinking about adoption or the baby coming home, but I often see mommies get downright obsessive over it, and that’s just not healthy! So, after nearly losing my mind a time or two, these are my ideas on (hopefully) not going nuts during the wait:
1.) Get off the internet. Now. Stop reading blogs about adoption. Stop reading Yahoo and Facebook adoption groups. Stop checking your e-mail all day long to see if there is any news. To keep this simple, I have a little rule for myself that I never get online when my children are in the room. Some days I do a better job of this than others, but it’s something to shoot for anyway.
2.) Try having conversations without using the words, “adoption,” “referral,” or “travel.”
3.) Go on a diet. Yea. I know that sounds strange, but it really is helpful to have a non-adoption goal you are working toward. Taking advantage of this time to take care of your body before your child comes home just makes sense.
4.) Pick a project (preferrably a non-baby related one) to occupy your mind. I am redecorating my kids’ play area in the least expensive way possible. I find that sewing – even though I’m not great at it – is very therapeutic.
5.) Find exercise you enjoy and do it. What does exercise have to do with adoption? I don’t know, but I do know that my daily Jazzercise class releases some endorphins and helps me clear my head. It gets me out of the house, forces me to girate my hips at 9:30 AM in a church sanctuary, a win-win situation all around.
6.) Focus on the kids you have now (assuming you have kids.) A friend gave me some great advice about taking the time before the baby comes home to give your other children some extra attention, or just to enjoy them before the family goes through the transition period of bringing a new sibling home. I did this with Cade before having Ellie, and we had some really special times together during his last few weeks as an only child.
7.) Consider revising some of your routines so there is less of a shock when babe comes home. I started thinking about the things our family normally does that we will need to change before our child comes home. For example, I am guilty of leaving the TV on as background noise while I go about my day. I switched this to the soft piano music of David Nevue, and I can’t explain what a difference it has made!
8.) Research. If being proactive helps, try spending some time researching good sensory toys (as many children from orphanages suffer from sensory deprivation) or even make some sensory kits of your own. Filling a tub with dried rice and beans and hiding small toys in it is an inexpensive and fun sensory building activity.
9.) Stay connected with your real life friends. In the throes of adoption, it becomes all too easy to seclude yourself to the world of adoption blogs and groups. It is so important to continue to nurture relationships with your real life friends though. Even if it feels like they don’t understand what you’re going through, focus on all of the things you do have in common rather than the things you don’t. And just a hint, don’t talk about adoption all the time. It gets old for other people.
10.) See the unique beauty of this time and seize it. At the end of each pregnancy, I would find myself thinking of how soon life would never be the same. Rather than wishing this time away, cherish it as a season of life that will not come again. Rest, get healthy and energized, so that you can do the work of parenting that God has called you to.
Wait patiently for the LORD. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the LORD.
- Psalm 27:14
Lara is a Jesus-loving, book-reading, coffee-drinking, kid-chasing farmer’s wife of 5 years. She and her beloved farmer, Jon, have two kids, Cade (4) and Ellie (20 months). They are waiting, waiting, and waiting to adopt from Uganda.