After adopting my daughter seven years ago, the lessons I’ve learned astound me.

I never saw the personal growth coming. I was too busy hoping for that little baby my heart craved, not realizing her adoption was a beginning for me, too.

From the first time I held her tiny, 10-day old body, I began to see a huge shift in my awareness. I was a mother of one at the time, so motherhood in itself didn’t rock my world. But knowing her birthmother was grieving for her brought a sacredness to the adoption ceremony that shook me to my core. There is something hallowed about loving a child nature didn’t give you.

This was only the beginning of the transformation adoption worked in my head and heart.

Lesson One: Grief Softened my Heart

I prayed for years to be able to have an open adoption, and God blessed us with a young woman who was an answer to those prayers. My empathy for her loss caused me intense grief for more than a year after my daughter’s birth. I would think of her every time I looked down at my sleeping baby. Every time her sweet smile made my heart soar, I would think “She’s missing this.” Her sacrifice was constantly on my mind, and it gave me a deep tenderness for birthmothers everywhere. I hadn’t expected to grieve as I did, but God had a purpose in it.

Out of my compassion came an intense desire to do right by my daughter’s birthmother. Without sacrificing my child’s well-being, I learned to look at our communication with an open heart. This meant a lot of prayer and guidance from the Holy Spirit because if left to my own desires, I would have reacted far more selfishly to her requests. The reality is, the adoptive parents have the power in the adoption triad. I have a responsibility to wield it with grace. Adoption taught me a palpable lesson in selfishness.

My broken heart for the woman who birthed my daughter surprised me, but without it, I may never have been open to cultivating the relationship we have now.

Lesson Two: I Became an Honest Advocate

I think we wore rose-colored glasses prior to adopting. We believed in honesty, and I accepted the negative stories I read, hoping they wouldn’t become our story. But the truth is, parenting is hard. Raising adoptive kids is hard. The more we accept this truth, the more we can support each other and every adoptee. The struggle doesn’t change the fact that adoption is a GOOD THING.

I set out to have open, honest discussions about the myths of adoption, but especially the tragic sides no one wants to discuss. An adoption is a one-time event, but parenting is for life. I believe the stigma surrounding negative adoption issues must end for the betterment of the entire triad. So, I began blogging, talking, interviewing, and reading on the subject. Education is important, and I advocate for adoption education through my blog. It’s one of my passions in life to improve adoption experiences when we approach from a place of truth and support for adoptive families.

I want to help other potential adoptive families exchange their rose-colored glasses for a pair that helps them see the beautiful mess of adoption. My interest in adoption may never have turned into the passionate advocacy that I have today if I had chosen not to adopt.

Lesson Three: I’m Not Enough, and That’s Okay

I still struggle with this lesson. One of the hardest things for adoptive parents to accept is that they aren’t the only parents their child has. We are the second set, and the first set will always matter. My daughter, whom I cherish as my own, is still also her birthmother’s daughter. We are forever tied together through her. When my jealousy glows bright, I have to remind myself my daughter’s needs come first. And though she may view her birthmother as a cousin or distant aunt, their positive relationship is still vital to my daughter’s emotional health.

This realization has forced some humility on this otherwise prideful woman. I want to be everything my daughter needs, but I am not enough and that’s okay. God IS enough. He planned all of this down to the last detail. He chose all the members of our triad for a reason. And it is good.

If someone had told me how much adopting would change me, I probably would have been too scared to pursue it. But discovering this new version of me has been a blessing after a tough journey. Change is good. Especially when God changes your heart and mind.

 

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Kathie Harris

Kathie is a writer, mom to four and an Army wife to her high school sweetheart. She loves Jesus, books, and coffee. She shares her passions for adoption and racial reconciliation on her website, kathiebharris.com, where she asks women to share God’s grace in order to foster change in the world.

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