Adoption. While I’ve never done it I imagine it starts out in much the same ways having my kids did. Instead of staring at two little lines or a plus sign signifying an impending visit from the stork, perhaps you might stare at a face on a screen, a picture, an adoption agency application or sit in front of the home study agency representative as they complete your home visit with a mix of excitement, joy, and sheer terror. Should you be doing this? Can you pull this off? What if this is a terrible idea? Nonsense, you tell yourself. It’s going to be amazing! Right?
And it is amazing; at least, that’s what the adoptive parents I’ve talked with tell me. They also tell me it’s far more difficult, more heartbreaking than they could have ever dreamed. These parents, from different walks of life, confess it’s stretched them beyond anything they ever dreamed possible and they often feel unseen, unsupported, forgotten. Today, I tell their stories in hopes of changing some of that.
Vinny and Krystal spent two years lovingly calling two boys from Ukraine their sons. After hosting the boys in their home for a summer, both they and the boys agreed they were meant to be a family. With aching hearts, they put their sons on a plane and sent them across the world with a promise to soon be reunited for good. They began the arduous process of raising the thousands of dollars needed for never-ending paperwork, overseas travel, and home visits, even making plans for the boys’ rooms. When Vinny and Krystal spoke of their boys it was always with a gleam in their eyes, proud parents waiting for the adoption stork to bring their family back together for good.
Finally, the much-anticipated day arrived. Vinny and Krystal had made arrangements for their other children while they’d be away and traveled across the globe to bring their boys home. Living in a foreign land, apart from their family, was a small price to pay in order to finally have their children in their arms again. Except, when the appointed day came, the boys came into the room, announced they changed their minds and no longer wished to be adopted. Stunned, Vinny and Krystal were ushered from the room, their dreams falling like shattered glass at their feet. If Krystal’s journey to parenting the boys had begun by seeing two lines on a stick telling her she was expecting, this would have been the moment when blood began to flow when her body began to cramp and friends rushed to her side. Instead, she’d return to a tiny room in a foreign country and attempt to put the pieces back together again. Sometimes, adoption hurts.
For Vinny and Krystal, the call was clear. They were to rescue and set free and that’s just what they did. Even as their hearts continued to hemorrhage, they moved forward. Their dreams fell apart, but they gave way to new dreams. Vinny and Krystal didn’t leave Ukraine alone, but with three amazing girls.
Robin and her husband felt the call to the foster-to-adopt program. Their two precious boys came to them as infants, at six and eighteen months––– highly traumatized. Robin jokes that she didn’t sleep for those first three years. Their boys were racked by night terrors and anxiety, even as well-intentioned onlookers said, “You just need to discipline them more.” Or “They should be over this by now.” (a belief reinforced by the length of time her boys have been with her.) Her family found the school system ill-equipped and at times unwilling to help their boys. She confides people “just don’t get it” and because of this her family and others like hers are desperate for support and understanding.
Author and adoptive mom, Stacey echoes this sentiment. She says, “Adoption is hard, dirty and gritty. You cannot adopt and think the child will seamlessly transition. It is also lonely, and you have to connect with other adoptive families, because what you experience on a daily basis is extreme. Without my adoptive friends, I’d be lost. Others don’t understand a child that smears poop or screams for hours. They just look at you with pity and horror.”
When I asked Robin what advice she might offer those just starting on the path to adoption, I was floored by the both beauty and practicality of her words. She said, “Most days it’s going to feel like you are failing. You are not. One bad day (or six or seven) is not failure. Also, take any resources that are offered to you. You never know what might come up later. Don’t underestimate the expenses you’ll accumulate. Date nights are crucial. This is going to take a toll on your marriage. Gather support. Find people who will pray with and for you as well as offer to take your kids for the night or even the weekend. Respite care is twenty-four to forty-eight hours free of the constant demands and stress of daily care, of sleep without multiple interruptions throughout the night, and it’s a necessity.”
So whether your journey is just beginning, or today you are a seasoned veteran in the trenches. Whether today you are surrounded with support or alone, whether today is a mountaintop or valley. Whether your arms are aching and your heart is bleeding or you are overwhelmed with joy, may I remind you that you are doing the work of heroes and champions, legends and life-changers? Today, we celebrate you and the hard, beautiful work you do.