Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Adoption: The Truths For All Parties

I've been thinking a lot. Lots about my life and everything that exists within it. Mostly, the adoption consumes many of my thoughts and I wouldn't have it any other way. I can't get enough of getting lost in my day dreams. Who is this child that Ty & I will one day be blessed with? Will the Lord bless us with a toddler, a little babe, one with minor disabilities, or one with attachment issues? And oh how I love that He will know the right child for us. But until the day we can get our hands on him...I will continue to day dream, I will continue to be inspired to be a good mama to this child, and I won't stop praying.

I've also been thinking about what it means to be on the other side of adoption. To all you who read this, to all those who know someone that is adopted or someone that is adopting, or maybe you're just interested in one day, some day adopting yourself....you all must have these certain ideas about what adoption means. I was once there too, before the adoption process and before all the required education hours. Well, we figured we'd let you in on a little something: 
it's not as glorious as what everybody makes of it.
I don't say that in any bad way of any sorts. I say that in all honesty. 
And I want you to understand all sides to it.

Yes, it's an exciting thing. Adoption can be a great thing. To the outside world, it's "so much paperwork", "lots of waiting," "a long process," really "neat," and "so cool you're doing that" type of deal. Sure, it can be whatever you let it seem to be or what others can make it out to be. Don't get me wrong, we are thankful for all the lovely comments from people and the support from many, but let me give you some insight of what it means for the rest of the parties because most adoption stories aren't without loss, trauma, or grief.

The Biological Parent(s)
Imagine being raped. Raped at the age of 14, maybe 23, or maybe 42. It's a big deal in many of theses countries, rape that is. Imagine not only being raped, but getting pregnant. And then imagine leaving that child on the doorstep or in a garbage or anywhere someone may or may not find the child. Imagine the feelings that woman has experienced...violated, harmed, grief, sadness, pain, etc. And not just in the moment of it all, but what it means for her lifelong.

Imagine being counseled to give your child up (there are actually services in South Africa for parents who are deciding to give their child up for adoption, classes they must go through, counseling, etc.). Imagine knowing you are giving up your child for their best interest. Imagine being so selfless for the good of that child. Yet, imagine those feelings again...sadness, grief, loss.

Imagine dying from HIV/AIDs (because we all know there's a large number of individuals with the disease in South Africa but what you may not know is that much of the middle generation is gone...gone because of this disease. That means orphans and many of them). Maybe you had the chance to watch your child grow up to be 2 or possibly 4, knowing at some point death was imminent. And it was. Now your child is in foster care or an orphanage. Imagine leaving this world, praying to God that He puts your child into someones arms that is someone special, someone who will be there always, someone who will love your child every day as you wished you could for many more years. The loss of control, the grief, the fear, you name it.

Can you fathom any one of those circumstances? Put yourself in any one of those situations...think about your health, your feelings, your loss, the unknowns. Because they too have feelings on the other end. And although that child may go into a loving home some day, remember that there is the mother on the other side of the adoption journey. And she too has her story.

The Child

You're 4, your parents have both died from the most common thing that gets that generation (AIDS) and you have no family to take you in. You now live in an orphanage or in foster care. What you once knew is gone. Where you once felt at home and at peace, no longer exists. You've lost your parents and you grieve during this traumatic event. You then get put into a new foster care situation or another orphanage. More loss, more trauma, more grieving. You learn to fend for yourself in more ways than one and you don't attach to anybody anymore because why would you? You're only 5 now and that's all you know. Think about it, put yourself in that child's shoes...

You grow up "adopted." What does it even mean to be adopted? Nobody seems to understand. And what about my identity? I live with white parents, I live in a country outside where I was born, I know nothing about my birth parents, and I go to school with all races. Who does that make me? Identity is a real struggle as years go on. Many children know the trauma of being removed from homes, they have attachment issues, and some have life-long identity issues. Imagine having that child in your class who acts out or who gets picked on all the time...maybe there's nothing truly wrong with that child other than the fact that they were adopted and they too, are trying to find themselves in this big world.

These children don't always come from happy places, although maybe places that did the best they could for them. They may find themselves in anything but feelings of happiness at times during their lives. They may feel so lost in this big world, just as many of us can at times. They too, are no different than anyone else...it just may be their story is a bit different from yours. But who's isn't?

The Adoptive Parents

We are very excited to be adopting and look so forward to the day we finally get a referral and eventually make it to South Africa to meet our child. We get butterflies, we day dream of all the wonderful things adoption can bring, there's lots of joy and exciting moments, but there is also this feeling of guilt. Sounds weird, right? Within all the excitement and joy brings the guilt of taking this child out of their only known environment, bringing them to a place they have no idea about, setting them up for constant questions and frequent stares, and questioning their own identity. We get it. We weigh out the alternatives and of course, press on with the adoption process. But we too, remind ourselves of the need to be sensitive because neither Ty or myself know what it means to be adopted. But what we do try our hardest to understand it...
We are required to do thirty education hours prior to going overseas. Many are suggested within the first 20, so we learn about every possible thing that could go wrong with adopting a child. They remind you that your child may never attach or bond with you (sounds a bit scary for a mother, right?), they will resist you even if it doesn't look like it because on the inside you can sense it as you hold them (they never lean into you, they constantly stay rigid, etc.), and that your child could end up having many issues through their childhood and into their adulthood (i.e. attachment disorders, addiction in adulthood). I'm convinced these books and movies want you to think nothing goes right and that it will never be easy. Probably better to be prepared than not, right? I've even shed some tears watching these stories unfold! They want to instill a little fear, yet make sure you understand the potentials. I get it, I get. But I'm also going to assume that's possibly why most families ditch the adoption process right about now (which is one of a few reasons why adoption agencies make you go through this part of the process besides to make you fully prepared for anything).

So instead of fearing the possibilities of the adoption journey, we pray and we find joy in what we've been doing for the last year. And yet, another reminder...the adoptive parents are excited, the story will unfold, things will be glorious in one way or another. But do remember that those adoptive parents could be dealing with much more than what it looks like from the outside. Again, be sensitive.

Generally speaking...
there are more sides to the journey than we realize. It's easy to get caught up in the stories, the idea of adoption, and what it means from the outside...all the glorious ideas. We forget there were once other mothers, mothers who may or may not be living. We forget that those children once had completely different lives before their homecoming and we forget what it could mean for an adopted child. So we ask that you just remember all parties involved, what it meant for everybody through the process, and be sensitive to the adoption process. Remember and thank those who were selfless enough to make sure their child would always be in good, loving hands. And we ask that you don't forget the children who have been adopted, who have been through things we may never know, and how life changing this process will be for them.

We don't do this because of the fame, we don't do this because of the need to hear "that's amazing what you're doing." In fact, I don't even know what to say to people who say things like that. Thanks? I guess? Or maybe just nod? We do this because there is an orphan out there in need of a family that the Lord has called us to adopt and because we want so badly to provide this child with love, a home, and a joyous, adventurous life. We will never be truly ready (because who ever is), but we will be ready. As always, we will wait and we will be patient. Patience is key and patience has be testing us beyond what we ever thought possible. Because at the end of all this patience, all this waiting, all this paperwork, all these fees, and all our prayers is YOU. There may be many things between us, but there will be nothing to stop us (not even these movies and books)!
Inch by inch, prayer by prayer, we're that much closer to you little one.