One of my most popular posts in recent months was on falling in love with a baby who wasn’t mine. Waiting for five months to find out if the little girl I was slowing falling for would become my daughter or not was one of the hardest seasons of my life. And I certainly made it much harder on myself---but willingly (and without regret). Why? Because we are an ethical family.
Let me explain.
When I was in grade school, we had a music teacher who was very hard to please. We had to prepare for two concerts a year: Christmas and spring. We would practice the songs she had chosen over and over and over and over again. When we sang, she’d yell, “Sing louder! I cannot hear you!” When we obliged, she would then stop us abruptly, mid-song, and yell, “Stop screaming!”
This went on for years. Years.
We just didn’t know to strike a balance and make the woman happy. It seemed like no matter what we did, even when we were collectively attentive and obedient (or so we thought), we were met with disapproval and a scowl. We spent a lot of time just feeling terrified, so I’m certain that was reflected in our performances.
Essentially, music, which is supposed to moving and magical and joyful, just wasn’t what I thought it would be.
Each time we adopted, we had learned more and more and more about ethics. We learned to lead with our minds, not with our hearts, because as the Bible reminds us, the heart is deceitful above all. Adoption is emotionally draining by nature. It takes a toll on one’s heartstrings, and oftentimes, one’s heart pieces (since many of us have had heart-shattering moments along the journey). We couldn’t count on our hearts, which left us too vulnerable and too disillusioned.
Relying on one’s foundation, that of ethics, is truly the way to go. But when doing this, it meant shushing heart whispers and pushing down emotions. That’s not healthy really either, right? I mean, we’re still human!
It goes a little something like this!
Elation: We are matched!
Ethics: Mom has every right to parent her baby. We will wait and see what happens. We will not get our hopes up. We will stay in our lane. Respect mom’s space. It’s not our pregnancy. It’s hers.
Elation: Baby was born last night!
Ethics: Mom may choose to parent. That is her decision to make. We must give her space. We must not claim a baby who isn’t ours. We must not call the baby “our” baby. We must continue to stay in our lane.
Elation: TPR might happen today!
Ethics: TPR is something that is both incredibly hard and sad. The thought of no TPR is also hard and sad. But the sadder/harder is a mom who places who really doesn’t want to. So we still stay in our lane. We remain respectful.
Elation: Baby is ours!
Ethics: Mom and baby are now separated, legally. Baby may experience feelings of sadness, rejection, loss. Mom may, too. We are trying to bond with our new baby while remaining respectful to mom and keeping our promises.
Do you see it? Too loud! Too quiet! Too sad! Too happy! Too far away! Too close! Too serious! Too joyful!
It’s hard to find a balance that satisfies both the heart and the mind. The emotions and the ethics.
It is very easy to become overwhelmed during a match, during a birth, post-placement (if the placement happens). You feel like you are the tennis ball in a very strange match, bouncing between two extremes, and expected, despite that wild game, to always do the right thing, have the correct reaction, and remain sane.
If you have been in this place, or you are in this place now, know that this is normal. Is it enjoyable to have such a grounding in ethics that you are in a state of walking the tight rope for fear of losing balance? No. It is not. It is hard. It is difficult. It is challenging. It is confusing. It is frustrating. It is exhausting.
I implore you to keep going. And when it feels like too much (and it often will), here are some things you can do:
1: Take it one step at a time. I know this sounds cliché, but sometimes the future is too big and unknown and unpredictable for you to make big plans. What is the next decision? Take that on. Then go to the next, and the next, and the next.
2: Take a break. It’s hard to take a step back when you’re in the midst of trying to stay balanced. But moving positions (taking that step back) gives you fresh perspectives, rejuvenation, and space to breathe and just be. Remember that Bible verse where we’re commanded to “be still” and know our place?
3: Take on change. Remaining stagnant IS a decision, and it does have consequences. You can either create the change or be part of demanded change. As a type A control freak, I want to be the change. The initiator. The decider.
4: Take the opportunity to experience the joy that comes with change. Whether there’s a change in your openness with your child’s birth family, a change in your openness to adoption situations, or change in the way you educate yourself on adoption, there is joy to be had. It’s there waiting to be discovered. So many of us fear change, seeing it as our enemy, when really, change offers gifts that only come with embracing rather than shutting out. Change is inevitable anyway, so why not go forth in joy?
There is no guidebook on how to strike a perfect balance. Each adoption is so different. Each person is different. You can remain forever committed to ethics in adoption and still have a heart.
Wherever you are today, you will not be tomorrow, because being ethics is an upward journey of empathy, humility, and strength. And at the very heart of everything is a precious child, one who is relying on the adults in the situation to make the best choices possible.
You can do this. You have done this. Just sing a little louder, or a little quieter, whatever is best.