Without a doubt, you know that an absolute miracle transpired in your heart when you adopted your child. Trying to describe it would be impossible, for it is like a million emotions exploding simultaneously—like fireworks! Debbie describes it well: If I had to pick just one moment of absolute, unadulterated joy it would be the moment I saw her photo pop up on my computer screen. I kept saying, ‘That’s her, that’s my daughter, my daughter, my daughter!’ And somehow, in all the crazy excitement of the moment, I felt my heart fold itself around her half a world away.
This miracle needs to be reflected upon and celebrated often, especially when times get rough.
It is my belief that becoming a parent through adoption parallels becoming a parent biologically, except for the fact that are some more wondrous parts for parents through adoption, as well as some more painful aspects. Let’s talk about the pleasurable part first!
Conceived Again in Your Hearts
Think about the fact that every person on the face of this earth is conceived physically and the parental awareness of that conception might be pleasure or displeasure.
However, the adopted child is conceived again in your hearts, at a specific time and a specific place. Twice conceived! What a wonderful assurance for both parent and child. The first time the thought entered your mind about adopting a child, that likely was adoption conception. You may be understandably thinking that those thoughts enter the minds of many. Surely, but they wash away, like sandcastles in the tide. For adoption parents, the thoughts return, not in an obsessive and upsetting manner, but as consistent heart impressions. You know you want to parent a child. Your motivation is not to fulfill your need to become a parent, but to fulfill the needs of a child who needs good parents.
This brings us to a sensitive point about adoption conception, but one which must be addressed concerning sincere people of faith. Barb Testa Butz, M.S.W. and leader of “Moms through Adoption” at Willow Creek Church in Shaumburg, Illinois says, “I find that churches often have a confused view of Adoption ministry, somehow viewing the act of adoption as a ‘ministry’ vs. born out of the desire to become a parent. I think the Scripture verse about caring for widows and orphans gets misapplied oftentimes, and ‘rescuing’ orphans through adoption becomes viewed as a ministry. If we are to
care for widows and orphans, is the church called to start a ministry to
marry-off those widowed? Of course not! Neither are we ‘called’ biblically
to adopt orphans — it is personal heartfelt choice. Rather, we are called to serve those who are widowed and orphaned, whether financially,
spiritually, relationally, or emotionally. Adoption is a wonderful
option for those who desire to parent another child. Too often, I hear folks
view it as a ‘ministry,’ as though we are ‘rescuing’ kids in need. I am not
in the ‘savior’ role for any child, just a parenting role here on earth. The Bible does not call us to adopt, but to love and to serve — and we can serve countless more orphans through committed financial support to
trustworthy organizations than by adopting only one or two.” ( )
Unlike the various parental reactions to the news of physical conception, adoption conception is always a joyous occasion, even though a couple may not arrive at that conclusion at the same time, which may cause stress. There may be a “dragger” and a “draggee!” Perhaps one person experiences adoption conception and it takes a while for the spouse to become convinced. This was the situation with Laurel and her husband. “I had a dream and in the dream was picture of children—two Chinese girls and a boy. Laurel and her husband had already adopted two little girls from China. Thus, when Laura woke up, she wondered, “Who is the boy?” Her mind began reasoning that it’s nearly impossible to adopt boys from China. Then a friend who knew nothing about her dream, said, “So, are you planning to adopt again? Yesterday, I heard about a boy from China who is available for adoption. Let me give you the web site.” Laura went to the site, read the information and printed his photo, but no lightning bolt of insight hit her, even though she began praying for him. After two months, she was convinced about adoption, but her husband wasn’t. Then, the adoption agency called to say that the boy was now unavailable and the paperwork was returned to China, which made adoption almost impossible. Months later, her husband told Laura that he thought they should adopt the boy. In an incredible turn of events, that night the head of another adoption agency called to say they’d been doing research and Michael had just been added to their list for available adoptees. Before long, the little boy from China that Laura first dreamed of, was a member of their family. ( )
For Melissa, it happened when she learned that an acquaintance, still a child herself, was expecting a child facing the hardest decision of her life. Melissa wept for the birth mother and the unborn baby she was carrying. At that moment, the thought of adoption entered Melissa’s heart and seven months later, that baby was placed in her arms by a loving birth family.
Placed Miraculously in Your Arms
Prior to that adoption day, a child has neither a home nor parents who are prepared to parent. Sleeping in a long crib with other babies, she may never leave the nursery. On adoption day, the orphanage worker hands her to the parents, wrapped in a tattered bedspread that the orphanage worker must keep. Without a stitch to her name, her parents reach out as the bedspread unfolds that small body and the hand-off takes place At last, they can touch her soft pink skin and hold her close. Their dream has come true. The child that was conceived in their hearts is now in their arms. After the long train and plane rides home, she settles into her own crib in her own room, surrounded by the loving gifts of friends awaiting her homecoming. To look at her months later, she’s sitting on a soft carpet, dressed in a dainty pink and white lace dress, circled by admirers. What a beautiful picture of adoption—a child who had nothing is embraced by parents who have given her a name, an identity, a forever home, unconditional love, a nurturing family, and security.
Cari and Phil Alt from Indianapolis said after bringing their daughter home from the Ukraine, “Bringing her home and realizing this is OUR baby and she is here to stay is joy unspeakable! She is not from my womb but I feel she was and is ours! I walk into her nursery and feel overwhelmed, knowing a few weeks ago she was somewhere way around the world, and now she is here.”
Rebecca’s family from New Jersey adopted a twelve-year-old child. “The first day we met was incredible – it was as though she had been waiting for me, as though she knew me when she saw me, as though she could understand the words I spoke to her, as I knelt before her. When I asked her if she wanted to come home with me, be a family with me, love each other, she didn’t waver in her gaze but stretched her little arms out to me, asking to be picked up. In my embrace, she wrapped her arms around me, grabbed handfuls of my hair, searched my face again, and cuddled into my neck.”
Kristen and her husband from Nevada adopted a newborn domestically. “I felt every emotion, from A to Z, the moment we got the call that our precious daughter was born. The first time I held her and our tears mixed, I knew she was mine. The memory of watching my husband holding her and looking so happy still brings tears of joy.”
Connected Forever to Your Soul
There are so many parents I have interviewed that have expressed the belief that “this was meant to be.” They know, without a doubt, that this child was meant from all eternity to become a member of their family. Adam Pertman, father through adoption and CEO of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute says, There’s always the feeling in my soul that this was meant to be.
As an adopted person, I will never forget the realization as a young adult that my biological parents and my mom and dad had been handpicked for me. In my mind, to this day, there were no coincidences and no mistakes.
There is a wonderful plan behind it all that I can’t see, like looking at a beautiful tapestry from the underside. Someday I will see it in all its splendor. I love the sovereignty of it all.
By the way, parents, this is a point you want to emphasize with your children—that this was meant to be. No mistakes! We adoptees secretly believe that our lives are a mistake because of the circumstances surrounding our conception or relinquishment. Others feel like “aliens” who were just dropped into their mom and dad’s home. Your child will wholeheartedly be able to celebrate adoption with you when he knows “it was meant to be.”
Lest we get carried away with euphoria and verge on the precipice of romanticism, let’s remember that not all adoption days are filled with joy. Some are downright painful and parents must remember that this is no reflection on them. “The first night our baby came to us,” Julie sobbed, “I dreamed she pulled a silk scarf over her face. I woke startled, but she was asleep in the bassinet beside our bed. I didn’t fall in love with our baby at first sight. She cried and cried, and I couldn’t comfort her. For the first 100 hours we were together, she cried or slept—exhausted.
Elizabeth D. Branch describes their experience on the first day with their their-and one-half year old daughter: “How do you love an adopted child? Will you love her as much as your biological children?” With a resounding yes, of course…However, you never asked yourself if she would love you. This is my story. This is where my bubble popped, and our difficult journey began. The next morning, our first morning together with our daughter, my husband walked into the living room where I was playing with her. She took one look at him, then hung her head down and started to cry—not just sniffling, but deep, terrified shrieks of fear. We were confused, thinking it was a one-time thing. Unfortunately, this behavior continued for the rest of our trip.”( )
Some adopted children are extremely needy when you receive them and no matter how hard you have worked at being ready to connect on a meaningful level, your child may not be ready to connect with you…yet.
Adoption authority Gail Steinberg says in an article from OURS Magazine:
Newborns and parents don’t always fall in love at first sight. Thankfully you have a lifetime to work on it. There’s no race. What matters is your commitment to attach no matter how long it takes. ( )
Also, let me add here that in the best case scenario adoption day, it is STILL stressful, even though a wonderful thing is occurring. We will talk more about that later, but first let me share a story that reminds me of you and your relationship to your children. Perhaps it is one you can share with your children someday!
Once a man named David was traveling with his university’s drama club. On one particular stop, a yachting club sponsored their play and after the performance, gave a dance at their clubhouse on the waters of a lovely lake. A member of the club was appointed as a host for David. When the orchestra at the yacht club took a break, David’s host took him out to the veranda, saying that he wanted to show him something. David followed him through the clubhouse door that opened on to an unlit balcony over the lake. Bright lights from the yacht club’s ballroom streamed through the doorway and the moon was making soft hues on the rippling waters below. David couldn’t figure out why this man had invited him out to the balcony, but within seconds, the man thrust his hand into his pocket, pulled out something, and held it in the light from the doorway for David to see. Looking David straight in the eyes, he asked if he had ever seen anything like what he held in his hand.
On his open palm lay about ten little pale stones. As David gazed at the stones, each one was shooting fire-ruby lights, emerald lights, amethyst—they were indescribable. It was as if tiny living rainbows had been captured and put into pale translucent prisons, from which they were sending forth rays of fire. David was amazed and couldn’t stop looking at them. When he asked his host what they were, he was told that they were Mexican opals. The man said that he liked them so much that he carried them loose in his pocket because he liked to put his hand down and feel them, even if there is not time to take them out and admire them. The man then added that he carried them everywhere he went.
Like the man at the yacht club, you consider your child a jewel that you carry everywhere you go, not necessarily in your arms or in a baby trecker, but in your hearts…deep in your hearts, no matter what their age, no matter what their successes or failures.
When our first grandchildren were born, identical twin boys, I put my index finger near them in their bassinets and said, “Welcome to the world, Austin and Blake! You are so precious to me. You don’t have to do anything to make me love you. I adore you just because of who you are.” Suddenly, a tiny hand grasped my index finger. I have given the same message to each of our six grandchildren and I carry them as my jewels in my heart, wherever I go.
This is where inspiration and vision for your child’s future begins, and the place you must return to often, especially when discouraged, for it will build faith and hope.
When you get some free moments, pull out your child’s baby book, or life book, make yourself a cup of coffee or tea, curl up in an easy chair and allow your mind to remember the wonders of your child’s adoption. Even if it was a painful experience at first, reflect upon how you grew strong through it and how you and your child came through it successfully.
Establish a “reflection ritual” with your family. Explain to them how important it is to remember the miracles of adoption and talk about it with one another often.
- Set the time for your conversation with your family about “reflection night.”
- As a family, determine the date of the first reflection night and brainstorm on something special each person might bring to the evening: bake cookies, find a poem about adoption, share your first memory, find a contemporary song about adoption, etc.
Now that we’ve assessed your stress level, determined ways to get started on taking better care of yourself, and begun remembering the absolute wonders and miracle of adoption, let’s prod a little to make sure there are no hidden defenses in your hearts so that are totally open for renewing your passion and purpose.
We have just talked about that blissful, amazing honeymoon stage of adoption. Savor it while it lasts, but realize that it’s only a fraction of the big picture, kind of like a slivered almond.
I’d like to challenge you in the next chapter to be open to hearing the voices of parents who were receptive to hearing about adoption realities, those who resisted, as well as those who didn’t have information available. Perhaps you can identify yourself in the mix?.
CREATE A “PARENT” LIFEBOOK
Recognizing that the wonders of adoption involve pain as well as pleasure, the best thing for you and ultimately your children, is to first of all, recall the joys thus far of adoption parenting. Currently, it is popular to make a life book for your child, recounting his/her story in order to celebrate and remember often. What about a lifebook celebrating your life as a parent, not necessarily for the edification of your child, but of you.
MAKE UP A SONG FOR YOUR CHILD
Reflect back on the thought “we were meant to be” and write a song that you can sing to your child from day one.
(Excerpt from 20 Things Adoptive Parents Need to Succeed book: Copyright, Sherrie Eldridge).