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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Preparing for your Home Study

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A home study can feel really daunting for future adoptive parents. It feels like someone is coming into your home and asking you personal questions in order to decide if you are fit to parent. Potential adoptive families can feel like one wrong answer or one thing out of place in the home may disqualify them from being parents.

I hope that this post can give you some helpful and encouraging tips for you as you prepare for your home study.

1. Remember that they want you to succeed.

The purpose of the home study is not for you to fail. It is designed to give your adoption agency a clearer picture of who your family is so that they can better represent you as you pursue your child. The home study worker is not out to catch some tiny error in your life story and then prevent you from becoming a parent.

Of course, if there are glaring concerns about a particular home, these concerns will be raised through the home study worker. But in the overwhelming majority of cases, you will pass your home study just fine. So don’t sweat it!

2. Be prepared to answer personal questions.

You will probably be asked questions about your childhood, your family growing up, your marriage (including some questions about intimacy in your marriage), past abuse, criminal history, mental illness, etc. Be completely honest.

I know it can be really awkward to share the most intimate details of your life with a complete stranger, but it is imperative that you tell the truth. Having a history of being abused in the past does not disqualify you from being an adoptive parent. But it is important that they know the truth.

Be prepared to answer questions together as a couple (if you are married) and also individually. If you have older children in the home, they may be interviewed as well.

Again, they are not out to make you fail. If there is a major concern, they will let you know. But your agency just wants to know the truth about who you are and what your life experiences have been. Your personal experiences are going to better equip you for parenting your child. Areas that you see as weakness may be considered strength. So just tell the truth and don’t be ashamed of your past.

3. A tidy house is good.

Of course you want your house to be clean when you have your home study. But your home does not have to be perfect by any means. The home study is not a critique of your decorating style. Clean it, but don’t worry if it doesn’t look perfect.

Check around to make sure that all chemicals and medications are out of reach of a child (in Texas, medications have to be locked up). Empty your trash cans and put outlet protectors in the plugs.

One of my main concerns before our home study was whether we needed to have a room entirely set up for our future child or not. I have since learned that they want to see where your child will be sleeping and the bed or crib that you have for him/her. But you don’t have to have clothes, diapers and toys ready to go yet.

4. It’s ok to ask questions.

As I said earlier, the main purpose of the home study is for your agency to get to know your family better. The home study is also a great opportunity for you to express concerns or ask questions. It might be helpful to make a list of questions ahead of time so that you don’t forget.

Take a deep breath. You are going to make it through your home study. And when you do, you will be one step closer to meeting your child.

Had your home study already? What was it like? Was there anything you weren’t prepared for? I’d love to hear your experiences! Please share in the comments.

To read about the adoptions of our daughters, click here and here.

Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

I Am the Face of Adoption

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I didn’t choose adoption. I didn’t choose to be born to a mother who couldn’t take care of me. I didn’t choose to grow in her womb for nine months and listen to her voice and feel her love and then be separated from her at birth. She chose that. Not me.

I didn’t choose my family. I didn’t hang my picture up on a church bulletin board and wait for someone to find it. I didn’t put my own face in a newspaper saying, “This child needs a home.” I didn’t pick up the phone and request a family. No, they chose that.

I didn’t grow up feeling like I was missing something. I didn’t grow up empty. I didn’t feel abandoned or lost. I didn’t miss the mother I had never known.

I was always loved. I was always wanted. I believe that my first mother spoke to me before I breathed air. I believe that she told me that I needed to love my family. I believe that she told me that she loved me so much but that she just couldn’t do it. I believe that she wanted me to know wholeness. I believe that she gave me permission to live and be a daughter.

I always knew I was adopted. It was never a secret. It was never embarrassing. It was never something that couldn’t be talked about at dinner. It has always been my story and it always will be.

I have a mother who loves me. I have a father who loves me. I have a brother who loves me. I have grandparents and uncles and cousins and friends who love me. I have been given the greatest gift of love by a woman whom I have never met.

I didn’t choose adoption. Adoption was a gift. Freely given, freely received.

I realize that every adoption story is different. If you would like to share your story in the “I Am the Face of Adoption” series, please contact me at jenkporter@gmail.com.

Hoping to adopt? You can read our adoption stories here and here. And you can also check out my tips on preparing for a home study.

The Adoption of Our Fairy

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About 11 months after the birth of the boy, we decided to go back on the “active” foster care list. Our intent was truly to adopt another older girl, but we stretched our preferences and said that we would accept children ages 0-10. In the praying process leading up to going active again, I felt the Lord speak the name “Anaiah” to my heart, telling me that that was going to be the name of our daughter. I had never considered that name and never known anyone with it. I looked it up and found that it means “God answers.” What a promise.

It wasn’t long before we got a call about a baby that was in the NICU that needed to be placed somewhere. This was not our intention (to foster babies), but our hearts are so tender and soft to these kids that we couldn’t say no.

The thought of having two babies – as our Boy was just 13 months at the time – was overwhelming. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to manage, but we said yes anyway.

We showed up at the hospital to pick her up. She was the tiniest, most fragile little person I had ever held in my arms, weighing only a little over four pounds. She had been born 9 weeks early and weighed a whopping 2 pounds, 14 ounces at birth. What a delightful surprise to learn that she and the Boy were exactly one year apart, sharing the same birthday.

My heart was swept away as I held her for the first time. I looked into those big blue eyes and her too tiny body and could barely keep my heart inside my chest. We spent all day at the hospital that day, going through all of the check-out procedures that NICU babies have to go through. I held her and talked to her and told her how excited I was to meet her. I remember feeding her that first tiny bottle and cradling her in my arms ever so carefully, truly afraid that I might snap her in half. I wondered where she had come from, wondered where she was going. I asked too many questions and tried to get information about her story.

I remember watching the Teacher as she slept on his chest. Seeing our Boy and our Teen kiss her and love her and gently nurture her. Such a tiny little girl. How could my heart be so involved already?

The months rolled along and the love grew and grew. There were days and nights of pleading for permanency, begging for adoption. I didn’t know where the story was going, but knew where my heart was and the thought of her leaving seemed too much to bear.

In the fall of 2011 we learned that our Fairy had an aunt who wanted to be her mom. Our little baby went to live with her aunt and uncle in the spring of 2012. She was just a few months shy of being one. I can tell you that the months leading up to her departure were some of the most heartbreaking, pain filled months I have ever experienced. It felt as though my heart might literally explode when she left. The only comfort and solace I found was in the fact that I knew, without a doubt, that our girl would be loved, nurtured, cherished and treasured by her family.

I vividly remember the last time I held our Fairy, as I handed her to her new mommy. She reached for me and I quietly told her, “Baby, you don’t need me anymore.” Those words played over and over in my mind for months. I knew they were true, she didn’t need me anymore, but I continued to feel like I needed her.

My heart literally ached for her every moment she was gone. We were at peace with her new life and home and continued on with our journey of fostering, but her sweet sprit left an imprint on my heart. We were been blessed with continued contact with her family and were able to see pictures of her on Facebook. Every time I see a new one, tears well up in my eyes and I tell the teacher, “There’s our baby.”

Our sweet girl moved to Korea shortly after going to her new home. To me, that was like closing a chapter. She was across the world now and she really and truly wasn’t mine. We moved on with life, fostering more babies, trying to find our way without her.

And then out of the blue one day – four and a half months after she left us – we got a phone call that literally made my heart stop. Our Fairy needed us and she was coming home.

The day after we got that phone call, I turned back to Jeremiah 31, a chapter that I had read and prayed over my girl many, many times while she was still with us. I was struck by verse nine on that day, which read, “Tears of joy will stream down their faces, and I will lead them (her) home with great care.” Yes, Lord. This was the plan, this was the promise.

Our Fairy came home to us in October of 2012 and we were able to finalize her adoption in March of last year. We changed her middle name to Anaiah as a reminder of the beautiful journey that we have all been on together. We are so thankful that she is our daughter.

Click here to read about our other adoption.

Adopting an Older Child

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This is a repost from my former blog, originally posted in the fall of 2009.

We decided to adopt a year ago.

We did the paperwork as fast as possible.

Along the way, we decided we would foster instead. We decided what ages we would be willing to take (3-7), what issues we could handle, and how many kids we could take in our home (only one for now, please).

We got the call on December 10. A little girl needed a new foster home.

We said yes.

What better way to spend the holidays than with a child?

She came to our home the next day, December 11, as a foster placement. At this point, we were not thinking about adoption. In fact, I read an email that our caseworker left on the table that said we were “adoption minded” and I about hyperventilated. This was just supposed to be a foster placement!

It didn’t take long to know that this was, in fact, our daughter. She would be for as long as the state would let us have her. And that has turned into forever.

No, we didn’t choose her out of a line up. We had no idea what she would look like when she came to our home to stay. In fact, we didn’t even know her name.

But she’s ours. And she always will be.

Click here to read about our other adoption.