A Story of Adoption, Foster Care and Abundant Grace
My love will fix everything. While your love will certainly be instrumental in bringing healing to your adopted child, love alone cannot meet all your child’s needs. You will need support, education, qualified professionals and new parenting tools in order to help your child adjust to their new family.
The child will be grateful to us for adopting them and show us that. While they may have moments of gratitude toward you for adopting them and may even express that to you, you should not expect this from them. Adoption begins with the loss of a family and home. That is not something that a child should ever have to feel grateful for or appreciative of. It may take a very long time before your child is able to come to terms with the grief, hurt, anger and rejection they feel. Giving space for those feelings is important.
She was so little, she won’t remember. Unfortunately, trauma impacts the brain and body in ways we are just beginning to truly understand. Even prenatal trauma can affect the way a child thinks, processes and learns. Trauma triggers are a real and unavoidable reality for a child who has entered your home through adoption. While your child may have no retrievable memory of early abuse, neglect or trauma, her body and brain will remember and give voice to the struggles she has endured.
I will “fall in love” with them immediately. You might. You might have an initial feeling of affection, overwhelming love or protectiveness. Or you might just feel like this child is a stranger or intruder in your home and family. You might even feel resentful sometimes of the way they have interrupted your life and normal routines. There may be times you strongly dislike the child and the ways that they make you feel and react. Bringing a new person into your family will involve some growing pains for all of you.
I will have a deep sense of satisfaction and reward for making this choice. Or if you are a Christian, you may buy into the lie that you will be more spiritually mature or blessed because of your choice to adopt. While there will certainly be moments of great reward, much of the time you will struggle to feel like you are truly enough for this child. The emotions, behaviours and needs they bring to your family will be challenging at times. They will likely resent you and challenge your authority as they grapple with the changes being forced upon them. A sense of reward is not what will keep you going through the tough days. Instead, you need to be firmly grounded on the truth of why you are here and what you are doing.
I will always feel compassion toward my child’s biological family. My friend, there are times you will struggle deeply to feel compassion and empathy toward your child’s biological family. There are times you will be angry on behalf of your child and yourself. It is not easy to forgive the people who have hurt your child. It is also not easy to justify the love your child will most likely feel toward these people who have harmed them. You will have complicated emotions about your child’s first family and it’s important to find a safe space to process those. Anger, grief, jealousy and love are all normal feelings. Having those feelings does not make you a terrible person, it just makes you human.
Adoption is second best. While it’s true that adoption is always a result of loss, God has this incredibly beautiful way of rearranging our lives based on human failure and sin. When we wander off the path, we are not forever stuck in ‘second best’ for our lives. Instead, God is able to bring about a fully restored version of our lives. This means that while adoption is painful, it is also full of joy and hope and beautiful redemption. Adoption brings a child who has been hurt into the loving, healing atmosphere of a family. Adoption brings new opportunities, new places and new people. This post-adoption life can be full and beautiful. Generational addictions can be broken, poverty alleviated, relationships restored and bruises healed. While I don’t believe God intends families to be torn apart and separated, I believe He is fully capable of mending our children’s lives with such care and beauty that they are transformed into something even more full and complete and glorious than they would have been without this complicated thing we call adoption. Celebrate it!
My child is lucky to be adopted. Your child is not lucky. They have lost some of the most important pieces of their identity. Their family of origin, their medical history, their memories, their name and control over their story. While they may have left behind awful realities, that does not in any way mean they are ‘lucky’ to be here with you. They are chosen, deeply loved, wanted and protected…but not lucky.
Struggling with infertility? If you adopt you will get pregnant! While this seems too bogus and obvious to even take time to discuss, you would be surprised how many couples who have biological children after adopting get these sorts of comments thrown at them. As if adopting somehow miraculously opened the womb or solved the medical complications. Maybe they never really struggled with infertility at all! It was all some sort of mental delusion. Really!? I don’t know why so many people who struggle to conceive end up having a biological child after adopting, but I do know that I’ve heard many of their stories and what they say are words like…His perfect timing, surrender, beautiful, divinely orchestrated, blessed. I think that the way God brings about our desires and dreams and even worst fears is planted in the truth that He knows what is best for our lives far better than we.
Everyone will love my child. On the contrary, once the honeymoon period has passed and your neighbours and friends and family settle into normal with this new child, you may just find that you discover who your true friends really are. Bringing a child with a history of trauma, interrupted attachments, learning differences or behavioral issues into your friends’ lives is uncomfortable. You will find yourself in awkward positions having conversations you didn’t want to have and needing to offer grace and be offered grace over and over again. You may lose some friends, and you may gain some. You might decide to move to another town, school, church or neighbourhood. Seek out the people who will love your family unconditionally and be honest with them. Remember they are learning too. Forgive others the way you want them to forgive you.