The Hard Truth About Adoption (Part 1)

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In this series, I will explore some of the truths about adoption that I have discovered as an adoptee and now an adoptive mother of two girls. I recognize that every adoption experience is unique, and this is just an attempt to share my experiences.

Adoption is Beautiful

Of course, I have to say this first. Through adoption I have been given the gift of an amazing family, and as an adult I have gained two precious daughters through adoption. I am so very grateful for adoption.

But the truth is that there are a lot of things about adoption that are hard. There are experiences that mothers and fathers and adoptees are afraid to give voice to, because they don’t want to sound selfish or mean. They don’t want to discourage others from adopting, because they know this first truth: Adoption is Beautiful. And in all of its messiness and hardness and tears there is beauty and there is hope.

So as you read this, I ask that you remember that I am for adoption and I am for every child having a home. I am also for counseling and for being honest about the struggles. Because it is wonderful, but it is also very, very hard.

Adoption is Grief

You cannot separate adoption from grief. The very foundation of adoption is a child losing his first parents. So there will be grief. And it won’t only be the birth family grieving. There will be a child grieving. And to your surprise, you will likely grieve too.

I went into adoption thinking that I was a rescuer. I thought that I would be saving children from monsters and that it would be a joyful experience.

That was until I looked into the eyes of my daughter’s first mother. I looked into her eyes and I saw her soul. I saw the ache for her daughter and the love that was very real. I saw an emptiness there and a brokenness there and a desire for things to be better, but an acceptance of the truth that they wouldn’t be. I heard her speak before a judge and be honest about her own failings. I saw her relinquish rights to her daughter, the one that she loved so deeply and truly.

And in all of her mistakes and pain that she inflicted on my daughter, I grieved for her and I was broken for her. I grieved that she did not have the ability to show the love that I knew she felt so deeply. I grieved that she had never been loved, and therefore didn’t know how to give love. I grieved that my daughter, the one I so desperately wanted to adopt, was going to lose her mother.

I grieved with my daughter. I was broken and humbled by her loss. I had no words to comfort. There was nothing I could say that could even begin to express the depth of the pain that she was feeling.

Even in a private adoption of an infant or an international adoption, there will be grief. As you hold your newborn baby you will know in the deepest and truest places of your heart that somewhere out there are a mother and a father who are broken and crying and who feel like they might suffocate from the pain of it. It will hit you when you don’t expect it and it will be real and raw.

Bonding may not come immediately and it may not come easily

Because so many adoptive families wait so long for their child and spend so much time working towards the goal of holding their child in their arms, they expect that they will have an immediate bond with their child.

How shocking and disturbing it is to hold your child and feel like the babysitter. To look down at the one you have waited for and to feel like a complete stranger. To wonder if you made the right decision because you don’t feel like a mother and here you are holding this stranger child and you don’t know what to do with her.

How strange it can be to go through the motions of parenting and to wonder why you made this decision and will you ever feel that deep love that you assume a parent always feels for their children.

I have talked to my mom about this and she has told me that after they got me (through a closed, private domestic adoption) she walked around for weeks feeling like she was my babysitter and wondering when my real mom was going to pick me up.

Bonding takes time. For some, it may be immediate. For others, it may take days or weeks or months. That doesn’t mean that the adoption is broken or that you made a poor decision. It also doesn’t mean that you will never bond with your child. That deep soul love will come with time as you pour out your life for your little one.

{Stop by Wednesday to read part 2 of this series}

If you have been affected by adoption and have a truth to share, I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

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