I have heard a lot of parents explain adoption to their kids in this way,
I have heard many comments and been asked similar questions since being home with our newest son.
“You must have a lot more patience than me!”
“So, what’s it like being a mother of four?”
“How are your other kids reacting?”
“How do you do it?”
I recently read this quote:
The family I’m praying for tonight has no idea there is a storm brewing over the horizon. A storm so violent, life will never be the same for them again. They will lose one of their most prized possessions–their child.
How do I pray for a family like that? I almost feel as if I have some inside information on their lives that even they are not aware of today. They will go to bed tonight and without thinking about the tragedy that lies ahead. Who knows what will happen tomorrow as they go about their day? Their child will likely disobey, talk back, whine, or have a stinky attitude that needs to be addressed. There will be sibling rivalry, fighting, and disputes over who gets to ride up front or get their turn next. Will Dad lose his temper and escape to the golf course? Will Mom utter things she swore she’d never say? Maybe.
But mothering a dying child brings a new perspective to everything. I still lose my cool and say things I wish I could take back. I still wonder what in the world I was thinking when I brought home three little girls all the exact same age. But, suddenly, in light of the reality looming on my own horizon, I am compelled to live a life of no regrets.
When we brought Rachel home from China, we simply didn’t know how long we had. We decided ahead of time that what we could not change in quantity, we would make up for in quality. More than anything, we wanted Rachel to know the love of a family, to know that she had a mommy and daddy committed to walking through the dark days with her. And, above everything, we wanted Rachel to know that the love of Jesus was with her, no matter what.
The reality is that parenting a house full of children demands a lot discipline. Rachel had much to learn in order to “unlearn” some of the terrible habits formed inside the walls of an orphanage for 7 years, not to mention the many things she must learn for the very first time. Living within a family unit requires a lot of work, even when learning begins at birth. Our home is certainly not all hugs, kisses, and chocolates, and I’ve yet to be nominated into the Parenting Hall of Fame, but our home feels so much different than ever before through the lens of a new perspective. When you are committed to living a life of no regrets, you make different choices all together!.You choose to see life differently and to live it differently. If that heart never comes and we end up losing our Rachel, I want to remember this time for what it was–precious. I want to embrace every precious moment and look back with no regrets!
We could be the family I wrote about at the beginning of this post, living life completely oblivious to all that lies ahead for myself or for the people I love so much. I have not been promised any special immunity to loss. I am humbled that as I pray for the healing of my own child through a new heart, I will only receive it through another’s indescribable loss. And I wonder, why should God give life to my child and yet take life from another? Kate has offered her own heart for Rachel several times! I tell her that is unacceptable. But, is it more acceptable only when it happens to someone else? This subject makes me terribly uncomfortable, but it haunts me every time my thoughts turn toward the “new” heart we pray for so many times a day.
Tonight, as I pray for a new heart for Rachel, I am strangely not in such a hurry anymore. God has been so merciful and has kept Rachel strong while she waits. “No hurry, God!,” I whisper, “Thanks seems enough for the sweet summer we’ve shared and for the joy that fills our home, simply because Rachel is in it! Let the parents who will soon face the fate none of us want enjoy this summer with their child too! Fill their home with laughter and sweet memories so that when the impending storm blows through, they will look back with no regrets! And if your plan is to take Rachel home instead, Lord, help us to embrace each moment you choose to give, so that our lives will be filled with love and no regrets.
Three years ago, my husband and I stood in front of the orphanage in Beijing, China, and promised we”d be back. We knew it was full of children who were dying, who went to bed hungry every night, and cried for someone, anyone to love them.
We”d always wanted four. It seemed logical: two boys and two girls. Everyone would have a best-friend for life. And Evie would know the bond of a sister from her birth country.
It sounded beautiful. And we honestly thought that was where God was leading us. He had given us Evie. He had shown us over and over that Evie was our daughter. We had prayed for months, “Bring her home. Bring her home. Bring her home.”
And then we landed in Chicago. And discovered Evie”s undisclosed special need– developmental delays. Not only did she have tetrology of fallot and cleft lip and palate, but she could hardly sit, stand, walk, talk, chew, turn the pages of a book. She was completely and utterly shutdown.
We saw hints of this in China. But we assumed she would wake up and start acting like a two year old. But she never did.
So my new life–the one with only 3 three kids–consisted of juggling them so we could go to PT, OT, developmental therapy, and speech multiple times a week. Plus, all her other doctor visits.
I was exhausted. And that fourth child seemed further and further away. And the guilt of ignoring my two homegrown kids weighed heavily on me.
As time passed, I got into the rhythm of my new normal. And now three years later, things seem almost under control.
But, still, we won”t be adopting again.
Evie needs too much. She is too traumatized, too emotionally fragile, too needy. The honest, bitter truth is another special needs adoption would take too much of my time away from her. There is only so much of me to go around.
We”ve prayed about this. We”ve agonized about this. Because we know there are kids who need parents who love them. We know there are kids going to bed tonight with empty bellies, who are cold, alone, and afraid. We know, because that was Evie three short years ago. She was starving–not only for nourishment, but for human touch.
We aren”t done with adoption. We just aren”t adopting.
So now we are praying, “Use us. Use us. Use us.”
And I wonder, how God will use us to care for the orphaned.
I am a Christ-follower, wife, mother, and writer. I have two wonderful boys and a princess from China. We became a family of five on August 28, 2009. My new book, One Thousand and One Tears, is now available on Amazon.
So here is what happened after church. We went downstairs for coffee and donuts, as we do most Sundays when Lute is mostly well behaved during the service. (Yeah, we bribe our children, and sometimes it works.) The boys were running around, playing with their friends, dancing onstage, chasing each other, and stopping for brief moments to stuff their faces with maple bars. Eddie asked for water, so I lifted him to the water fountain, where he managed to ingest about three teaspoons from the 12 gallons that hit his face.
As I started to carry him back to where the action was, an older gentleman stopped me and asked, “Is he your foster child?”
“Oh no, we adopted him as a newborn, he’s mine,” I replied happily.
“It looks like he needs a lot of guidance, doesn’t he?”
Well, yeah dude, he’s TWO.
I was a little more diplomatic than that, but a bit of the mama bear started to well up within me.
Why is there such a stigma attached to adopted children? Here is my thought: they are kids. A kid is a kid. Now I am not saying that there aren’t real issues for children that stem from adoption. I’m sure there are. But I am just as sure that every child has some issue of some kind… because they are human. They are going through life. And life isn’t fair, and we all have to deal with that at some point in some way, and we usually feel pretty disillusioned and victimized.
Before we brought Eddie home, several people asked us if we knew if he was exposed to anything harmful (valid question) or if we were worried that he would have predispositions that we weren’t prepared for. I am not sure I am prepared for any of the things any of my children are predisposed to. You should see George when we cut off the cookies.
If anything, it’s been the opposite of the common misconceptions. If you were to spend a good amount of time with my three children (does anyone want to, by the way?), you might notice that Lute and George have a little bit of a woeful nature. Sometimes a lot of a woeful nature, actually. Eddie, on the other hand, is probably the most joyful kid I have ever encountered. He might get a little frustrated from time to time, but he is usually having a grand time doing whatever it is he is doing. And yes, he is a handful, but that is because he is a boy through and through. (I think they are calling that “spirited” these days, right? Wanna be PC.)
So here are a few statistics that I hope help eradicate some of the ideas floating around about adoption:
85% of adopted children are rated in “excellent” or “very good” health.
The national average for non-adopted kids is 82%.
over 90% of adopted children have positive feelings about being adopted.
88% of adoptive parents describe themselves as a “happy couple”.
Non-adoptive parents: 83%.
The New York Times did an interesting article awhile back that addressed this issue. I know I have a tendency toward the Pollyanna side of life, and I can gloss things over from time to time, but in my heart of hearts, I really believe that a change needs to come about in the attitude toward adoption.
In my experience as a parent with three little boys very close in age, no kid is easy, but every kid is a blessing.
I see her, a tall Hebrew woman, struggling to stand. Nestled inside her body is the weight of a child, ready to arrive. Her mind is troubled. Restless nights after sleepless nights are confirmed in the dark circles underneath her eyes. The husband seems distressed too, his hands shaking. Working as a slave, forming bricks, he begs God. Tears fill their eyes, as husband and wife, apart yet together in their anxious worry, entreat the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob
I’ve left all of you lovely people out of the adoption loop for the past month.
Partly because some of the information that allows the story to make sense isn’t my story to tell.
But also because the reality of our adoption journey thus far is sometimes a little difficult to put into words.
I first told you about K, the birth mom we had been matched with, back in June.
Then, the birth father came into the picture.
Then, K began to say things to us that made us think she was probably going to keep her baby.
We found out that this was her final decision 3 weeks ago.
K and I have built a friendship over the past couple of months and I told her to keep me posted with any baby news.
I got a text Tuesday morning that she was in labor and that night she had her baby…not our baby.
Tuesday was a hard day for me.
But God took care of me as he always does.
He brought this verse to my mind.
This is the day the Lord has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it.
Every time sadness, worry or fear crept in to my mind, Max and I would sing this song.
We sang it a lot on Tuesday.
I kept thinking…
If we were at the hospital meeting our new son that day, I would be rejoicing.
I would be glad.
God reminded me that even in my sadness, I can be glad.
I can be glad because of all of the blessings He has given me. I have an amazing husband, a precious boy, great family and friends, a house, clothes, freedom and on and on and on.
But more than anything else, I can be glad because I have a relationship with Jesus.
I get to have a relationship with Jesus.
I felt His presence all day and Him saying to me, “I know this is hard, Abby, but this is so, so good for you. Trust me.”
So, in the midst of my sadness, I’m choosing gladness.
May all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you.
But let all who take refuge in you be glad;
let them ever sing for joy.
Surely this is our God;
we trusted in him, and he saved us.
This is the Lord, we trusted in him;
let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation.
May you be glad in whatever circumstance God has you in today.
Abby has been married to her college sweetheart, Wes, for 8 years. After 5 years of infertility, they began the journey of domestic adoption. Blessed with a (more than they had planned) open adoption experience, they were able to witness the birth of their first child, Max, in the summer of 2010. Wes and Abby are trusting God as he leads them in their relationship with Max’s birth family and as they journey through adoption number two. You can follow their story at Akers of Love.
Your family is doing such a neat thing–you are literally saving four kids.
I cringe upon every mention of “saving”or “rescuing” orphans and vulnerable children. It depicts this picture in my mind, a picture of a prince and princess galiantly riding in on a big white horse, and swooping up helpless kids from a dark, gloomy orphanage. What that image does is it places the adoptive family up on a high pedestal, and it gives the notion that the kids are forever indebted to the adoptive family for doing some great, high and mighty task.
What a horribly dangerous place to be.
If not careful, that thought process can very quickly turn into “just be glad that you live here and not on the streets.” or “why are you complaining about that food, at least you HAVE food?”
It is said all the time, “adoption brings a family together, but in the process it tears another family apart.” While it is true that “adoption” is not what tears a family apart, the reality is, these kids have experienced pain and hurt beyond what we realize. Whether adoption happened at birth or at the age of 17, there was a loss experienced. I firmly believe that as Christians we have a high calling to “look after orphans and widows in their distress.” I believe that when we approach adoption in a “rescuing” sense, then we are undermining these kids feelings of loss, which deserve to be validated. Not to mention, we are exalting ourselves in a very false way and taking the glory away from the Lord.
Adoption is a gorgeous picture of what our Lord has done for us, when “He predestined us to be adopted as his sons
i knew her for three months.
as long as i can remember, back to the days of black paten leather shoes, i thought of her. all the important people in my life know her name, and more, the way she is weaved into my story.
on June 7, 2012, my birth mother, Mary, passed from this life.
i am writing today to tell you pieces of a beautiful story. a story written by God, one with much grace, love.
on my thirty fourth birthday, Mary had received a letter from me. it was sent in a small kraft paper envelope. in it, our first communication, i said all the things i had felt prompted to say. things like thank you, if you have ever felt regret…don’t, i’ve had a good life, i am grateful. these are the things i needed her to know, and yet knew i would never say in person, me who runs from awkward.
a few short days later, i received a letter in return. it was the kindest letter written with great detail and honest love. she had things to say. things like, i’m sorry, i loved you, i never forgot. those things she would never say in person, because maybe she like me runs from awkward. at the end of the letter she wrote a phone number with a request for me to call.
for a few months we exchanged brief phone calls, sometimes texts. our conversations were light and random. the only constant was Mary’s request to meet me and my people.
it was only three months ago when we finally drove in, van full of children, to meet her. some circumstances had her moving out of state within days. she was adamant that we meet before her move. we cleared our calendar and drove the two hours to her city. as we made our way down her street, she stood in the yard wrapped in a pink shirt, hair in a bun. within seconds of parking, awkward hugs were exchanged, and just like that i was standing with the woman who carried and birthed me. we, Mary and i, worked hard not to stare at the other.
at the end of the day we stood in a parking lot saying good bye. i will never forget the way she hugged me. her hug was tight and long, like she had waited all my life to give it. or like a momma holding her baby for the very first time. i couldn’t fully understand it, but felt the need to honor it.
eighty three days after that hug, i stood at her hospital bed, saying good bye once again. she had suffered a severe stroke that only left her alive by machines. a lot of us drove through the night to be with her before she passed.
with Ernest on one side of her bed, and me on the other, i was overcome with thankfulness of knowing Mary. i finally, and awkwardly, said words out loud. i will try to live each day thankful for your gift of my life. i will try to do it in honor of you. thank you, Mary, thank you for loving me.
in case you have ever wondered, God is about love stories. i still can’t get over the sweetness of this grace.
for years i had thought about Mary, but this particular year, i felt a need to pursue her. it came from a deep place in my bones. a knowing it was time. i would see a vision of releasing her from any hurt giving me away left with her. i felt joy for my story and desperately wanted her to feel the same. still, i always knew these feelings were not from me. they were promptings from a God who loves and redeems.
in fact, when she wrote to me, she said those shame feelings, she never forgot. as a mom, i understood.
in the last months of her life, this chapter of shame was redeemed.
i see it as evidence of God’s wild love for the heart of his beloved, Mary.
and also evidence of his wild love for me.
it is complete grace that i followed through with the stirring in my bones. God loved me through sleepless nights of talking myself out of writing, and then meeting Mary.
it was joy to have known her, and to have been known.
Debra Parker was born near the beach in Texas to a birthmom and a couple waiting to adopt her. From the moment of birth, God was teaching her a story of unconditional love. This is a journey that He would continue to pursue throughout her life. As a girl, she could be found wearing black patent leather shoes with frills from head to toe. Today, you will find her wearing faded jeans and a cotton tee as she does life with her four wild but fun kids. She is happy to brave this life alongside her super sanguine husband whom she calls E. You can read her original post here.
I have been quite ill this week with an influenza type chest cold.
Apparently my immune system did not get the memo that it is summer, not winter.
My kids are not used to seeing me laying on the couch for days at a time–have I ever mentioned I’m a bit hyper? (I always tell parents of active kids that while it may be hard to parent, it is a blessing in adulthood.)
Anyhoo, all that lounging created a lot of angst for my kids. Not just normal angst.
Mei Mei sat and watched me cough. She showed great concern throughout the days, then finally, hesitatingly asked, “Mommy no die? Mommy cancer?”
Knife in the heart. No words for how it shatters my soul that even our newly adopted kids know the evil of cancer–and silently worry that death’s tentacles linger.
And yet their fears go infinitely deeper, especially for my kids adopted at older ages.
They fear the loss of their mother. They fear in a way that goes way beyond what most children can conceive.
Every child’s deepest fear is the loss of their mother.
And adopted kids? They fear loss infinitely more. They KNOW. They’ve LIVED it.
They know what it is to cry for a mother who only exists in their dreams. They know abandonment. They know what it is to go unprotected, untouched, unloved. They know what it is to be alone. THEY KNOW. And they FEAR it will happen again, no matter how much I try to convince them that it won’t.
And really, how can I be sure? How can I be sure I’ll live through my kids’ childhoods?
I reassure my children that I will do everything in my power to be safe; to live a long and healthy life. I wear my seatbelt, go for check-ups and eat my veggies. I even find myself being extra careful because of their precautions. (When Hubby and I went to Hawaii, I refused to kite-sail because Vu’s last words to me on departure were, “Mommy, please don’t die!”)
But there are no certainties–and they know it. They know it even more clearly in our family where cancer and death has shown its evil grasp.
It comes up in conversations. Lan Lan says that if I ever die she is going to be so mad at me! Mad! Oh, my sweet, spicy girl.
Vu says that if I ever die he is going to die too. He has even gone so far as to consider ways he might achieve it. When he first started asking me questions like how long it would take to die of starvation I was concerned. In reality, I know he was simply longing for a solution of how he would possibly survive the loss of his mother–yet again.
The only solution that really seems to help my kids is to talk about it–to quit denying the possibilities and instead face them head on. I let them know we have a plan for the unthinkable, reassuring their tender hearts that they will NEVER be alone again. We talk about who will care for them (especially if both parents die) and how our relatives and friends will rally around, encircling them with abundant love and devotion.
My kids feel especially surrounded by love when I remind them of ALL the people in their lives who love them; individually naming each and every sibling, relative, godparent, friend, neighbor, teacher and counselor.
And, of course, I remind them of the One who loves them more than all those people combined. The One who created them. The One who cried with them in their darkest hours and who will take their hurts and use it against evil, for good.
And most importantly, I remind my kids that death is only temporary. Eventually, we will all be together for eternity. ETERNITY. There will be no tears, no sadness, no loss, no devastation. No cancer. No death.
“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death, or mourning, or crying, or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” ~ Revelation 21:4