He’s in my arms, just fallen asleep. It’s his birthday eve, and I’m thinking of his birth, wishing I had a just one baby picture, so instead I imagine with that thick stack of birth records, his entrance a full nine weeks before his body and brain were fully prepared for the harsh world he would face.
But now I’m imagining, and he’s my infant and he’s been born and I’m gazing at him in wonder. I think of the two children I gave birth to, that surreal experience of staring at them for the first time. Those nine months of pregnancy, those hours and hours of labor, a true 80 hours of agonized labor with my first, but then, the baby.
Women experience conception, pregnancy, labor, delivery, all with hope, a desired outcome, but never a guarantee. The baby created can turn to a demise at any point in the process. But there’s hope. And women cling to that hope while they endure the difficulties in the process. There will be a baby to hold, to call mine, to feed, to hold. Perhaps…
No! women do not think perhaps I will have a child. In most cases the hope is so strong that it overrides the reality that there is no guarantee.
And I’m looking at my son again and see the similarities. When a child is handed to you for adoption the pregnancy begins, the labor begins. But this time the agonizing labor pains are staring you right in the face from the beginning. And sometimes hope is hard to find.
In our culture women easily talk about all the miseries of pregnancy. We share labor stories as if we were swapping tall tales. But what about adoption? Especially in the evangelical community, fairy tale stories of adoption are shared, trying to rally the church to move forward in masses to adopt. And don’t get me wrong, I am glad the church is rising up.
But what about the labor, the agonizing labor pains of adoption with no guarantee this child will attach to you and you to them? I propose that we need to ask potential adoptive parents – are you willing to imagine yourself in gestation, in labor with this child for as long as it takes?
Secondly, adoptive parents need to a place to voice the hard questions during the labor process and labor coaches to get them through it. And we need to normalize the questions, take away the stigma –
Will this child ever accept my love?
Will my care for them ever feel more than mechanical?
Why do I respond differently to this child than my other?
These questions are no different than wondering when this 24 hour-a-day “morning sickness” will end.
Without ending the stigma of these questions and offering support, we increase the risk for fetal demise, the D-word in adoption that no one likes to talk about. The disruption rate for children adopted between 3 & 10 is 10 percent. Teens are a staggering 25 percent. I read a website that described these statistics as low. I disagree. I think the statistics are way too high because adoptive parents do not have what they need. They do not get help with their labor and delivery until it is too late.
Back to my son now. It has not been an easy week. But he’s in my arms, body soft and I smile. I have been “pregnant and in labor” with him for two years. I have asked all the hard questions and we have worked to get the support we need. But I have realized enough hope to carry me through a hard week. He is mine and I am his. Fruit of my labor.
Jenny was just 15 when she felt God’s call to spend her life with foster care and adoption. Shortly thereafter, she started working for Royal Family Kids’ Camp and did so for the next 10 years, even asking her then boyfriend to join her at camp. Her vision became a shared vision and she married her best friend Joe in 2002. By 2012 they had two children ages 4 and 6 and were planning on fostering babies and toddlers. But instead God brought a sibling group, ages 1, 3 and 5 into their lives and made it clear that they were to adopt them. Her professional background in Child Development and Early Intervention has made her passionate about forming healthy attachment relationships with her children and helping them heal from trauma. Her personal blog has been her way to seek God’s heart along the journey and you can read at lifewiththebrackmans.blogspot.com