Family photo 2013

Family photo 2013

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Adoption Stuff

Thinking back to before we had our first baby, I realize nothing anyone said could have truly prepared me for the once in a lifetime experience. After I became a mother, from that instant forward, I would never again go back to who I was before children. Everything had changed. No one could have expressed to me, in terms I would be able to comprehend, the sudden vulnerability that would accompany welcoming my first child into the world. They couldn't have told me what it would be like to have my heart so tenuously exposed, that a tremendous piece of it would now be held by a separate, tiny being. I wouldn't have understood the fierce, protective emotion that would cause me to be willing to do anything, anything at all for another human I only just met. Experience was the only apt teacher for the event.

In the months since our adoption, I have often found myself wishing they had told me more so I could have gained a better grasp on what was to come. That they would have shared in our training just exactly what we would face. That the emphasis was not placed wholly on the children and difficulty of their transition, but also mine. Maybe some of the shock I encountered could have been avoided.

Or perhaps not.

Maybe it would have been like having that baby. It's quite possible that nothing they could have said would have truly prepared my mind, my heart, my soul, my emotions, my spirit for the journey we were entering.

As we were talking to some friends who have recently adopted and I was listening to them share their challenges, I realized something: Their words could have been mine. Exactly. Strangely, this has happened time and again since we returned home with our little ones while speaking with other adoptive parents. There are many common elements to our experiences.

It got me thinking, if I were facilitating adoption training what would I want to share with people to help them prepare themselves for what may lie ahead? Here are a few things I would mention:
  • I would tell parents that the adoption of their children may expose parts of themselves to themselves that they did not know existed - parts they may wish they could have kept under wraps. It can be a  difficult realization to discover that when faced with unusually trying circumstances 24 hours a day 7 days a week, you're not the person you thought yourself to be. It's hard to look at. Still, if you let it, this can be a truly liberating discovery. It can do a great work of building compassion toward the suffering and sinful nature of others in your life. We all need abundant grace and mercy.
  • Sometimes, our compassion flows more freely for strangers, especially toward the faces of orphaned children flashing before us on a computer screen. Once the kids are solely your responsibility and their immense need shows in often very undesirable ways, that compassion that carried you through the process may quickly fade. That can be really discouraging as you might be tempted to wonder what happened to the person you once were - the one who was willing to scrimp and save and do mounds of paperwork and wait and pray and withstand great uncertainty as you entered the adoption process. It's ok. It will come back. It will emerge deeper and more real, tried and true rather than fleeting and superficial.
  •  It is not only the children's issues you will need to sort through. They will and have experienced grief and loss and sorrow and sudden change. So will you. Allow yourself to grieve if you need to grieve. Mourn if you need to mourn. Cry if you need to cry. Your life has also been turned upside down, as well as that of your family. Just because your adopted children have suffered huge, traumatic losses does not mean that your struggles are any less significant. They are uniquely yours. They will be processing and you will be processing. You are a human being, not just a parent.
  • There is a chance you will be shocked to discover that if you have biological children your feelings and emotions toward your adopted children are not at all the same. God built into us wonderful, essential aids to help us birth and care for our children, like the flow of hormones and oxytocin that usher us through pregnancy and after. In adoption, it is a whole different ball game. The kids will be unfamiliar - in appearance, in smell, in feel. Their voices and mannerisms and quirks and behaviors and likes and dislikes will all be new to you. It's not at all the same as giving birth to a biological child, and the bond is developed completely differently so it's not at all strange that you don't experience the exact same love for them. It doesn't have to be the same to be exquisite and blessed and honorable. Don't stress about any distinction you may feel. The gap will lessen over time. It may or may not always be present, but that's not so important. Embrace the unique relationship with each of your children - biological and adopted.
  • Your journey may be 2 steps forward - sometimes 3 or 4 or 20 back. There will be times of remarkable strides and moments of devastating setback. There will be elation and joy and excitement at the progress made, and sadness and sorrow over the lack of forward motion. In the tough times, try to keep the big picture in mind and think back to how far you've come. It's likely further than you think. Give them and yourself credit for every milestone. Praise God in good times and in bad.
  • You may question God's presence in your lives and wonder if you did indeed understand His will for your correctly. It might even cause a spiritual crisis of sorts as you reevaluate what you thought you knew about how He works. Be patient. Keep praying. Look to examples in the Bible of people who had to wait and endure suffering before they saw blessing. There are many!
  • Sometimes love comes slowly. It comes softly. More like a trickle than a flood. 
  • What is hard earned is most satisfying to the soul. ♥


Carla said...


Tisha said...

Thank you Carla! :) I certainly need to take my own advice.

And, thank you also for your comment about school and your experiences with it. It has been SO helpful to me. You help me not lose heart and hope.

jan said...

you're spot on. thanks for writing in a way that most adoptive parents can understand :)

Mama D.'s Dozen said...


So well said.

Thanks for your transparency.

I wish we had had an adoption coordinator that cared enough to share this with us. We knew NOTHING of the traumatic transition that we were walking into when we adopted 3 older children (ages 6, 9, 12) from Africa.

Blessings to you as you learn to be the mama that God has called you to be.


Mama D.'s Dozen said...

I'm writing a post tonight with a few excerpts and links to this post. Thanks again for sharing from you heart.

:) :) :)

HollyMarie said...

I think the difference in feelings toward our adopted children is only really there if we adopted older children. Having adopted three times, once an older child and twice babies... there is something so staggeringly significant that happens between parent and child when you get to bond so early.. during their infancy. It happens so completely naturally. I could even be fooled into thinking I birthed E and Ez... the bonds formed so quickly and fiercely (until I remember we don't look at all alike! lol). It has been a totally different walk with B, but I do believe we WILL get there 100% with the same feeling, as I can testify that three years in we have made huge strides and a mama friend of mine took 4 years for the feeling to be there, the exact SAME as with her bio children. So I know it can happen and time will prove itself. :)

Tisha said...

Part of what helped me not feel so badly about feeling differently toward M&F is talking to moms who had bio kids, then adopted infants from the hospital. Even they said it was completely different than the times they gave birth and the bonding was not the same, it was harder. Obviously everyone's experiences will vary to some extent - I'm not saying it CAN'T happen, just that it might not and parents may not feel as strongly for their adopted kids as their bio kids. I'm sure the age in which the kids are adopted has a huge impact as well. But it can certainly be difficult to bond with infants also.
I certainly wouldn't want to minimize that for the parents who are struggling even after taking babies home from the hospital.

waldenbunch said...

Our adoption journey has been the hardest thing I've ever done in my life. 11 years of progress, devastation, betrayal, hope, revelations and God's grace. We still battle. We still hope. We still hurt. Thank you for expressing so eloquently the very same journey you have traveled. God bless you and your family.

Lisa Stucky said...

Thanks for sharing your heart. You know adoption is a hope we have ... that God would one day allow us to adopt. I always enjoy reading your blog and how candidly you write. I love that you tell it like it is and don't hide your feelings. You've helped give me a realistic glimpse of adoption, not just an idealistic hope/ expectation that can often come to us "wanna be adoptive moms".

HollyMarie said...

Of course you should not feel badly about feeling differently, but I have actually never heard someone w/ bio and adopted infants say there was any difference in the feelings they had toward their children, and the prevalent thought in society is that "you can't possibly love an adopted child like you would/as much as you would a bio child" and it's simply baloney. The comments we've gotten recently from well meaning folks about "having your own" and "how nice what you're doing for these kids" blah blah blah makes me want to scream! They're just my KIDS who I love completely, who I couldn't possibly love any MORE had I BIRTHED them MYSELF!!! I am just tired of adoption being thought of as second-rate compared to biology, and the line of thinking that love can't be the same is a big part of what feeds into the myth. NO, I've never birthed a child but I can tell you I could not possibly love a bio child any more than I love Ezra (feelings happened immediately w/out effort), Ellie (only took two weeks), and we're definitley getting there with B (almost there at 3 yrs!).

I know what you are trying to say, and I just want to encourage everyone out there not to give up... like just because it's okay to temporarily (like even years worth) have these feelings like it's not quite natural yet, and are these kids really mine cuz they don't really FEEL like mine.... well, at some point we SHOULD *absolutely* feel like they are ours totally the same, or there is something broken in US. And it's not a bad thing to admit that either. We're human. :)

Tisha said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Courtney said...

thank you for this. WHY do more people not share this stuff?? it is hard. brutal. worth it? yes. but NOT smooth and easy! not that i thought it would be. i just didn't know HOW it was going to be hard!

Holly said...

you've gone and done it again Tisha....

loved it.
well, it was hard to read but still, I loved in the 'hard to read loved it' kind of way.

jenlyn said...

Great Post! It is the most beautiful PSA on adoption I have ever seen/read. You rock Tisha!

Blog Archive