I’ve tried to write this post many times, but it never came out right. Well here’s to imperfect… I had never thought of adopting. Not that I was against it, but it wasn’t on my radar, not like Jaime from Simple Homeschool whose mom reminded her that when she was a child she said she was going to adopt a little girl from India. Maybe it’s because I didn’t grow up a Christian or maybe it’s because I had a strained relationship with my mom that I was so nervous about being a mom, that being a mom of a child from a hard place wasn’t even a thing I could imagine? But I love kids, I love them like crazy, heck I’m a kid still, often the one causing ruckuses, bending rules that include jumping on furniture and ball playing in the house and telling my 8-year-old that I’ll take her hang gliding or parachuting when she turns 18.
In the midst of really trying to figure out how to be a mother, when my girls were 3 and 1, learning how to be unselfish, loving, and yet not permissive, I met a young girl. I’m going to call her M for the time being. Our church had decided to help a family from Liberia that was in a refugee camp in Sierra Leone get settled in America in our little town. I had volunteered to help get the 6 young children registered in the school district since I use to work in it, but other than that I was a little leery as I still had little ones at home. It was then discovered that the oldest of the young kids (there were 2 adult kids and one mom) who was 15, was pregnant. This was M and she was scared and trying to adapt to life in a whole new culture as well as being pregnant. I was the only one on the team that had been through childbirth who was home during the day so I became M’s advocate. We went to all her OB appointments together. We went to WIC and a new school where they taught pregnant teenagers how to take care of their babies as well as how to provide for them as well as their classes. M who I originally thought was quiet, turned out to be an amazing girl of drive, intelligence, and had a will to succeed like no one else I’ve ever met. She enchanted everyone she came into contact with and always, always smiled even though home life was difficult, as money was tight with lots of young kids and not as many working adults. She was a straight A student and worked hard. Then it was time for her to have her little baby. I can still remember her bouncing on my exercise ball as she was having contractions, and then I remember being in the delivery room holding her leg as she gave birth. It was amazing – I had never been on that side before…. it’s much more fun not being the one to have to do all the pushing. M’s baby was so handsome. Little A was perfect, not a problem – just a perfectly healthy bouncing baby boy. And M having been there to help with little brothers and sisters really did already know so much. I remember the first time she pumped milk for him for the nursery while she would be in class and she got 9 ozs!!! I’ve never pumped that much. She was a great mom and began a path to being an American teenager. I tried to give us some distance so she could learn things on her own and she had already found out ways to get baby A day care, diapers and more. She was amazing, we still talked once a week but she was sad because her family wanted to move and sadly my family was moving to Virginia for a year.
But then on the trip to move, M got into a car accident and she ran to check on 9 month old baby A but as she was checking on him she was hit by a car and died. Baby A was fine, but now orphaned. I was ridiculously beside myself. We had a memorial and I tried to work through my feelings with God, but I was stuck on baby A. Their family had so many mouths to feed and M and her mother didn’t always see eye to eye, she was even considering staying up here when they were going to move. What if they wanted to put baby A up for adoption? And instantly my life changed. M use to joke because my youngest (2 at the time) would always call baby A her baby. M loved it and laughed and would always hand her baby A who was really only about 5 pounds less than she was. We loved him and his mom. I felt so responsible to them, I felt like family, but I wasn’t and M’s sister just a year younger than her was an amazing caretaker of Baby A. They never put him up for adoption and he is in a beautiful family that still has struggles but can completely surround him with stories and songs and the life of his amazing mother.
But now I was different, I really and truly was ready to do anything for this little boy, he had already had my heart. That was when God starting to work on my heart, yearning for another child. Really feeling an ache for another child (Sarah Bessey talks about that Ache here). I began journaling and praying and God talked to me about adding to our family through adoption. I wasn’t sure…what would my hubby think, our family? I prayed and prayed for it to be made clear. Since we just moved we found a new church in Virginia and guess what, several people that we became friends with were adoption advocates, two families in particular each had had multiple adoptions, we talked, we prayed and God did one of those rare things. He made it so clear to me that this was our path that I had complete peace… and he confirmed it with doing the same for my husband. We were on our way. This was our path… but now what. We knew we were only going to be in Virginia for a year so we didn’t want to start the process to have to redo it all again, but we tried to learn everything we could.
We originally wanted to adopt through the foster care system, but we knew we wanted our children to remain in the same birth order and we weren’t sure if we could handle a situation where we were taking care of a child, but that he might not be adoptable. I’m not sure if we did it more because we thought it would be hard for our kids to understand or if it would be too hard for me to handle. So we decided on International Adoption. We chose our agency because their mission is to find a family for every child, not a child for every family. We love that they only work in countries that they do social services in as well. After finding out which countries we qualify for we decided based on time… shortest possible. And we came to choose a beautiful country. We began the process of working through dossiers and home studies, and then the process of waiting.
What we’ve been doing while we wait:
- We are learning Amharic.
- We are celebrating holidays of this new country.
- We are learning about transracial adoption.
- We are learning that International Adoption is really not the preferred way for a child to find a forever home. We always knew from baby A that more means doesn’t necessarily mean the better choice, there is culture, blood, and similar experience and there is something to be said about trying to preserve that in any way we can, but really it would never be the same as getting to grow up in your country of birth, or with those who are of your nationality.
- We are learning that waiting is hard. It is so heart breaking to feel useless, not knowing what exactly we should be doing to prepare. It is so hard to wait not knowing when. After our first daughter, we had a miscarriage after 13 weeks. After getting over the pain it was the question will we be able to get pregnant again that was hardest to deal with, and then when we did get pregnant it was watching and waiting to see if the baby was okay that was hard. This is different in so many ways, but yet so similar. That ache for a baby, a child, your child hurts and then can feel crushing even sometimes.
- We are learning to see our lives through different eyes. I think of my brown-skinned boy walking with me wherever I go – will he see people like him when we go to church, to school, in our neighborhood. We are making intentional decisions so that we can answer yes, but there is so much self-doubt. Can I prepare enough for this? Can he truly be able to grow and mature into a strong man with a great self-identity if I’m his mom? (This blog post does an amazing job of putting into words what I’m feeling, and then another one today- so I bought her book on amazon).
- I’m learning to feel differently. My husband and I have always had race issues near and dear to our heart. We belonged to a small church dedicated to racial reconciliation and learned that it is a long slow process of true healing and understanding. We learned through friendships and meetings and just general living together the racial inequality and divide is still occurring, even though some dismiss it, and it takes work to heal it. My heart has always hurt for it, but now it’s different. The shooting of Trayvon Martin hit me in a way that I wasn’t expecting. I expected anger and disappointment, but I wasn’t expecting fear and deep sadness. That could be my son walking around. That could be my son judged solely on perception and ignorance. I struggled to figure out how can I prepare him for this world, how can I talk about this reality that pits those of my color that are lost and ignorant against people of his color, when I really just want him to know that he and I are exactly the same inside and that our love isn’t affected or dependent on color, blood running through our bodies, or which continent he was born on. Because we live in a reality where some people do let it affect their respect and love for others and a mother needs to help her child feel safe and feel pride in who they are I need to do more than to pretend we are exactly the same. I need to empower him with self-confidence, love of his culture, his race, his identity as a wonderful black man, but I am not. Can I help instill that which I am not? I’m going to do my very bestest (and most importantly with God’s help and a community) to do that. But mostly while I wait to hold him, I struggle with fear of my inadequacies, fear of my own lacking, my own desire to be more than I am.
- I’m learning more and more that there are a lot of very well-meaning people who kind of get the adoption thing wrong. I can’t even tell you how many times I hear “you are such a good person doing this, your child is so lucky”. I know a lot of adoption blogs talk about it, but it seems only people who are adopting must read the blogs. There is this weird set up as the child undeserving of this love and the adopters self-righteously bestowing it. Don’t get me wrong I think a lot of people just use the wrong terminology and really mean that it’s hard to bring children into this world no matter what way they come to your family and that is a brave and wonderful thing, and I think some people are saying that because the adoption process is long and hard… because as you can tell from this post it is. But there are some who really feel the other way. But right now my son might be dealing with the biggest traumas in his life. He is losing his parents and having to navigate a system that is confusing and hard. He has to leave the only country he knows and has to be with people he doesn’t know and that don’t speak his language well and live with them forever not knowing what to expect. He is losing control, safety, and a part of his identity. And even though my family has had paperwork, a financial commitment and the burden of waiting, it is nothing to his loss. We gain everything we’ve been waiting for. We get to have and to hold him and have him in our family. Our family grows. His does to and I know that our son will be loved completely, but at a cost - a huge cost, one he didn’t have any say in. Calling him lucky isn’t really a fair thing to do. But I know that many just mean that they love us and the child is lucky because they know we will love him like crazy and he’ll get to be apart of a family that does messy well. So maybe I’m just sensitive. Maybe I just already want to protect him.
- I’ve learned that I am not enough, that through this I’ve needed God so much. And as I learn more and more about adoption I know that I will need him every step of the way. It’s a lesson that I keep seeming to need to learn again and again.
I just want to give a thanks to Katie… she knows who she is and might actually might be the only person to get through this ramblingly long post.