Monday, November 2, 2015

National Adoption Month: Signs

It's a topic that comes up frequently in online discussion groups:  signs.

I remember while waiting fourteen excruciating months during our first adoption journey.  I would find signs EVERYWHERE.

  • I can still remember the vivid dream I had about walking into a hospital room and seeing our baby: a white little girl with a head of reddish-brown hair.  
  • I can remember walking a three-mile loop each morning and looking up one day to see a street sign that featured the first word of the name of our adoption agency. 
  • I remember seeing three weed-flowers poking up from the same stem from a crack in the sidewalk, and I was certain this meant that soon we'd go from just us (a couple) to being parents.  (I went as far as to re-walk that route and take a picture of that flower...which is somewhere buried in my 2007 picture folder.)

Each "sign" was met with disappointment.  Nothing went smoothly or as planned.  Our profile was shown over ten times (mostly for white baby boys, oddly enough), and each time the answer was "no" or the child's parents chose to parent.

I even went as far as to one day, when we were being shown for a black baby girl, venture to Kohl's and purchase a pink sleeper size NB.  I was certain that if I wasn't going to get a sign (like a cloud in the shape of a pacifier or something ridiculous like that), I'd make my own sign!   Brilliant!  Because it's perfectly reasonable to think you can somehow magically make a baby appear by buying a sleeper at Kohl's.  (I know, I'm a total weirdo.)

We weren't chosen for that baby.  I took the sleeper back, feeling like a complete fool.

Fast-forward and newsflash:  I don't believe in signs.


  • Because a mom has every right to parent her baby, no matter what plans she made while she was pregnant.  
  • Because a "match" isn't a promise or a guarantee.  
  • Because you can turn anything into a "sign"---even something as ridiculous as three flowers in a sidewalk crack.  
  • Because humans are flawed, and our interpretations of signs is about as reliable as the weather report.  

In December of 2012, my husband and I took our girls to church.  The sermons were focusing on the upcoming Christmas holiday, the celebration of Christ's birth.  Our pastor began each sermon by reading the verses he would be referencing.  We were trying to focus, but we had been matched with a mom due with a baby boy in January.  We were counting down the days, wondering if this little boy would become our son.  We were distracted by the match; it was all-consuming.  We were also, and always, distracted by the needs of the kids standing beside us.  A snack.  A toy.  A potty break.  A nose-wiping.

A single word caught our attention that day.  The pastor said he would be preaching on a few verses from the book of Isaiah, the name my husband had seriously considered for our future son.

He and I looked at each other, both displaying a shaky smile and tear-filled eyes.

NOT because of a sign.  Or a coincidence.   But because of a reminder.

God speaks to people in different ways.  His reassurance is bestowed upon us in the most perfect of times (usually in the most desperate times).   And this is exactly what happened to us on that cold December Sunday.

To me, the reminder said something like this, from God:

I am with you.  I won't leave you.  I know you are anxious.  I know you are uncertain.  I know you have a good heart and believe that this child is only yours if his mom chooses you again.  I know you are praying for her, and not in a "give me a baby" way, but in a way that wishes her wisdom, patience, grace, understanding, and peace.  I know you are having a hard time deciding what to tell your daughters about the match; it's confusing for these two little girls to understand the complexities and uncertainties of adoption.  I know you love this little boy and want the best for him, even though you have yet to meet him.  I know you feel faith-filled one minute and doubt-filled the next.  I have never left you.  I will never leave you.  I am with you no matter where this journey takes you.  

I share this to say that signs to me are more about superstition, not faith.  Signs are abstract.  They are distracting and misleading.  They can make those waiting to adopt completely crazy.  They lead us to focus in on ourselves and not on the bigger picture.   They offer false hope.

Why?  Because when you are waiting to adopt, you are crazy.  You just are.  It's sort of like a disease with adoption causing the onset.  You cannot see clearly.  You either have on rose colored glasses or those drunk driving glasses cops use at demonstrations.   You are all over the place.   You are on a roller coaster.

But reminders, reminders come from God.  Reminders might come to you as the right song at just the right time on the radio.  A reminder might be a friend who brings you a surprise cup of your favorite coffee (naturally, she brings you a venti, because she's KNOWS how hard this adoption thing is).  A reminder might be your husband holding your hand at an unexpected time.  Or, in our case, a reminder from a Christmas service, a Bible verse shared by our pastor.  These aren't "signs" that everything is going to be ok or work out perfectly in your favor (as you deem in your limited knowledge of any situation); they are reminders from God to show you that He is here for you, that He wants you to make the right decisions at the right times, and that He is never, ever, ever going to turn His back on you.

If you are waiting to adopt, I know I can tell you a thousand times to not look for signs, but you might be peeking around anyway.   I get it.  But after you spend too long looking for a shooting star, certain that one is a sign that your baby is shooting his or her way into your arms at any moment, remember who is the beginning and the end, the steadfast One, the promise-fulfiller, and the life-giver.

for more encouragement along your adoption journey,
check out my book, co-authored with Madeleine Melcher (adoptee and mom through adoption), available today on Amazon


  1. Loved this - we are currently in the waiting season (in SA) so our matching process is slightly different. I caught myself wanting to ask God for signs this weekend...instead i am surrendering to a God who puts children into families and praying for birth moms and trusting that our social workers and our future baby's birth mom's social workers are looking out for all 3 character in this adoption story - baby, birth mom and us. Thank you for this!

  2. Thanks for this reminder. First, I thought to a sign when I saw the post on Facebook. Now, I feel relieve being in thé hand of God with confidence. Pardon my english as I am french.


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