I met my first child when she was four months old. When she came into my house I was told she might only stay for a year or two, so I shouldn’t get too attached. “Can you handle caring for a baby, and then letting her go?” they asked. “Can you have an open hand, loving her and caring for her, while knowing she’s not yours and may leave at anytime?”
“Yes,” I said. “By the grace of God, I will.”
Four months later, my child’s birth mother unexpectedly terminated her parental rights.
Four months after that, we were her adoptive parents. That’s unheard of. I battled daily with being caught up emotionally, loving a baby and keeping a level-headed, realistic perspective. We were fortunate to have colleagues who had walked this journey, who helped us truly understand the reality of adoption. The reality of a child becoming someone you care for, becoming a forever part of your family.
Adopting our daughter as a one year old meant we had awhile before we had to explain to her how she became a part of our family. We had a plan. We had time. Then, at her four year old check-up, when asked about medical history I told the doctor she was adopted (like I’d done many times before.) This time was different. She was paying attention. She left the appointment anxious, and when I asked her what was wrong she shouted, “I hate adopted! I don’t like it!”
I asked, “What do you think adoption is?”
“It’s when you leave and go to a new family.”
My adopted baby thought she would be leaving us! “Oh honey, you are not leaving us. We got you. Adoption means babies grow in mommy’s heart, not in my tummy. God gave you to us as a gift.” It wasn’t the ideal time or place to have that conversation, but I did it. God gave me words and I resolved that the next time I would be prepared.
A year later, after a play date, she came home and asked matter-of-factly, “Do I have another mommy and daddy?” I started crying, and she kept talking. “I know I’m adopted, and my friend said that means I have another mommy and daddy.”
That night we took her on a special date and told her more. We never tried to hide things from her, we just wanted to share stages of her story as she grew and was ready for it. As it turns out, you can plan what you tell your children, but not what their friends will tell your children.
Every year there’s a moment or two when she has more questions.
“Do you know anything about my birth mom? Do you know what she looks like? Why couldn’t I just stay with her?” We’ve very intentionally decided to be honest. You can’t play stupid in the age of social media.
Last year we had to explain the difference between an open and closed adoption. My now eight year old daughter had to hear that her birth mother chose a closed adoption. In her young eyes, that meant, “My mom didn’t want me.”
We knew we had to do what we could to connect her with biological family. We still don’t have contact with her birth mother, but we were able to stay connected to her aunt and uncle. Visiting them didn’t solve every problem or answer every question. But it’s a piece of her puzzle that got put together. My daughter’s biological family will always be a part of her life. I really took that for granted until now. There’s a very good chance her biological family, even her birth mother, could have a huge role in her life. If that’s God’s plan, we want that relationship to be awesome. It’s my job to respect the family so that relationship has a chance.
Adoption is a sea of murky waters. You can’t tip-toe your way through it. It’s a march, and you’re going to need boots. All your hopes and dreams for your family readjust when you adopt. Never have I been more earnest in prayer. Never have I been asked to be more selfless. Never would I want anything different.