Friday, May 27, 2011
Guest Blog Post: The Heart of This Adoptive Parent
I used to be naive, so naive. I used to see only the good in adoption. Granted, this was long ago. Then when we began the adoption process for the first time, (and even the second, if I'm being truthful), I had a bit of a "savior mentality", or the idea that I was somehow saving my girls from an otherwise undesirable life. (I won't lie and say they would have just as much physically or socially if they were not with me, but these are small, maybe moderate benefits that do not compare at ALL with the losses they have had to endure). I patted myself on the back a little bit and though I felt uncomfortable when folks sang our praises for what an amazing thing we were doing, I too believed that ultimately we were on a noble course.
Now, I want you to know that my children are by FAR the GREATEST blessings in my life. My love for them runs so deep and true. I would be beside myself should anything happen to any one of them... should anyone hurt my babies. The truth though is that they have been hurt. And though it is not my fault, at least it was beyond my control... and believe me, my husband and I have dealt with the misplaced guilt of taking our children away from their first families, cultures, countries.... my very adoption of them plays a role in their loss.
I didn't think too much about what my girls were losing; I acknowledged it in some sort of way, but I looked to the poster children of international adoption, the older adult adoptees who claimed that adoption was great, that they didn't think about or miss or grieve any part of their roots. And these adoptees exist, and their point of view and their spin on it all is valid. It is! But the more I read and the more I talk with people, the more I realize that there is also a large crowd of adult adoptees that speak candidly about their hurts, about their losses, about the things that cannot ever be reconciled. Even after reunion. Even though they love their parents; both sets.
And I see my girls in this second group. Not because I'm pinning it on them, not because we "talk too much about adoption", but because it's real. They feel deeply, they tell us when they are hurting. They talk about Korea, about Ethiopia. They talk about the people who are missing from their lives and how that makes them feel. They love us and we love them... but love, here on this earth... is not enough to heal earthly wounds. My love is good. My love is never-failing. It is a mother's love. But it can't replace the love that should have been. I'm learning to be okay with that. The reason it is hard is not because I *want* to replace that love with mine, but because I know the heartache it causes in them. My babies. And when they hurt, I hurt. When Bereket says "I miss my mommy!" as she lays in her bed at night, I know what mommy she is talking about... it hurts me... not because it's not me in that moment, but because it hurts her... because life isn't fair. When Ellie says "I miss my Korea family" I know that even though she has no memories of them, she is speaking honestly about that which is missing from her life... people who are *supposed* to be present.
I know the truth... I know that if we hadn't adopted our girls then someone else would have. I know that my *not* adopting them wouldn't have enabled them to stay where they were and certainly wouldn't have enabled them to return to their first families... too many social and economic problems and not enough support w/in their country systems. What does God think about all that??? (a post for another day!) And yet I realize, humbly, that their being with me specifically (vs. another adoptive family), is somehow meant to be... that for some unknown
reason, God decided to knit us together as a family... out of hurt, out of loss, out of circumstances that humans created and nurtured because we are human and we will continually miss the mark.
If I could give advice to parents who are thinking about adopting internationally, I would say this:
Listen to the voices of adult adoptees; take their words to heart. Ponder them carefully and absorb and acknowledge the truth that your children will experience multiple losses that will affect them their entire lives. I'm not saying they can't and won't live fulfilling and happy lives... make no mistake... but the losses are real and they cause pain. Don't be afraid to talk about them with your children. So many folks are incredulous or amazed that my girls have shed tears (esp. the one that came to us at just 6mos of age) and expressed sorrow over their losses. Even fellow adoptive parents... the thing is, if you don't start the conversations with your children, they may never feel that it is okay to talk about these things and they will bury or stuff them. Christian parents must be especially careful, as the Christian community in general is quick to tell the adoptee how very blessed they are. There is nothing shameful in feeling sorrow over loss and the adoptee is no more blessed than the bio child. Your children will take their cues from you, so be proactive.
You can read more by Holly at her family's blog.