Voices of Adoption, Part Two

In honor of National Adoption Month, I’ve asked a few adoptive parents to share a reflection, something they’d like their communities to see, to know, about their journey in caring for foster and adopted children.  A note from the author of this post:  Sarah asked me to write for National Adoption Month. The topic turned out to be so painful that I am late.

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Photo by Thiago Matos on Pexels.com

We have three adopted kids and three kids the old-fashioned way. They are ten years apart. The oldest is 30 years old; the youngest is 20.

My wife and I have vastly different experiences of adoption because we are vastly different people. I will speak only for myself.

At the outset, I considered adoption as some mixture of obeying God (James 1:27) and using the considerable advantages of my life to help someone who is alone in a very cruel world.

And then there was arrogance. When the adoption process began I was in my 40s. I was a tank commander in my 20s, a bicycle racer riding 8,000 miles a year and sure I could be the inspiring kind of dad that would make a difference in the life of a troubled boy.

We planned to adopt boys simply because my wife could handle anything and I thought I would be better with boys. We already had three girls, so it could also have been balance.

At that point in my life I still believed parents had an influence nearly equal to heredity. Say, 50/50 Nature/Nurture. I now believe it’s 90/10. So much of who a child is and what children grow to be is set at birth. Ambition, manual skill, IQ, perseverance, and competitiveness are no more changeable than eye color, height, skin color, or natural hair color.

In the 20 years since we brought our youngest son home, my view of life, the universe and everything in has changed. He had stroke in the birth canal. The doctors said it was just bad luck. We had no idea the extent of the damage or what that would mean. He is blind in his right eye and everything on his right side has nerve-related problems. He has ADHD, dyslexia, learning disabilities and problems that grow from those.

Ten years later we adopted another son. He was 11 at the time. A year older than the first son. Second son was taken from a mother arrested for dealing crack and he was exposed to crack in utero. He had a different set of problems, but the same learning disabilities. Neither boy could or will ever be able to do the single-digit multiplication table.

We attempted and failed to adopt three other boys. One was with us until he went into a rage and threw knives.

Someone could read this and accuse me of focusing on the negative. I admit that. But the process of dealing with the ups and downs of the troubled children we adopted reminded me deeply of my own childhood with a bi-polar mother. Her rages were awful, but equally terrifying to my own little child self was when she was very happy. Nothing predicted a big explosion in mom’s psyche better than the slow burning fuse of happiness.

When the older son got into trouble in high school, I was waiting for the next problem and finally doing my best to keep him out of jail.

When people ask me about adopting, I never recommend it. I imagined I could be a good adoptive father, but I was run over by the wrenching difficulties. And I see neither unicorns nor rainbows in the future. Both boys are troubled in their own ways and I have little hope they can be anything like self-sufficient, independent adults.

Voices of Adoption, Part One

In honor of National Adoption Month, I’ve asked a few adoptive parents to share a reflection, something they’d like their communities to see, to know, about their journey in caring for foster and adopted children.  A note from the author of this post: “Adoption is complicated, full of both joy and grief, celebration and sadness. Each story is individual, uniquely its own, in the same way that we are each uniquely our own. As adoptive parents, we keep our children’s stories, protect what was entrusted to us. That can sometimes make it difficult to share the complexities of adoption with others in a way that honors the children we love. May this raise some of the awareness but also keep safe, a story that is both mine and not my own.”

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She walked in, set them down, both secured in their carseats.

Little feet reaching out past fabric and plastic, stretching beyond, announcing growth and life.

Their wide eyes looked around the room, taking in the composition of furniture and artwork, skillfully nurtured and placed to create a home.

A home that was not theirs. A home unknown.

Their watchful eyes began searching for something familiar…but everything was new.

She took them out, little hands and feet, circumspectly moving about, lifting, pulling, rolling. She talked to me, I can’t remember what she said. Maybe something about hair or skin. Black. White.

She pulled her son close. His little body relaxing into hers, touching her face with his round, trusting fingers. The familiar smell of his mother’s breath, her skin, her touch.

She pressed her lips against his head and breathed him in, trying to hold this moment, his softness, his smell, so she would never forget it. Never forget them. She kissed him and drew a breath.

Tears stung my eyes. I looked away so she wouldn’t see. My body screamed but my mouth was silent. Grief gathered in my throat, choking out sound. My eyes betrayed me.

She reached for her daughter…but baby girl moved away, making it easier to say goodbye.

How does one watch a mother break, robbed of her children, her dreams? What can a stranger offer to comfort her children who know she is gone? These are not my babies. This is not right.

I have so much and what little you have, you lose? Injustice, embodied.

Rocking, singing, stroking. I gave them all of me but it didn’t unbreak them. They cried, their eyes far away. My own children cried while my heart and my body were away. They were alone, where had their mother gone?

Pools of tears and milk. When her babies cried, my body ached, traces of milk left from my own weaned child, let down, spilled out. Milk in my breast for babies that were not mine.

Days, weeks, months, went by. By law they were hers. They were always hers. They should always have been hers. And then one day, the court said they were mine. But I knew the truth. That day we all lost something.

I see your pain. I see your courage. If I listen, I hear your tears. I cannot give what this life stole from you but I will try to keep them safe, mama. I will bring them back to you. There is enough room in the heart for us both, but you are theirs and they have always been yours.

We never break in black and white. A mother’s heart breaks the same in every color. 

Giving Life a Voice

~A guest post by Andrea Bailey, a dear friend in whom Christ shines~

I used to think it was okay to be quiet. In a time where words are excessive and peoples’ lives are laid bare in blogs and social media without caution, only to be consumed—chewed up and spit out– by anyone who has five minutes to read them…and then forgotten. Opinions, reflections, stories—words are in abundance and so prolific that the average person takes very little time to let messages conveyed in media actually stay and sink in.

So I have often thought it pointless to share my thoughts, to give my silence, ‘my experience’ a voice. After all, these things that seem so hard to share publicly, that have taken years to compose, will be consumed and forgotten in a matter of minutes. But even so, in light of all that has happened with the Planned Parenthood videos and conversations surrounding abortion, it is time to speak up—if only for those who cannot speak. It is time to be a voice among many faithful voices and to bear witness of God’s love for those who cannot speak for themselves.

So please, take a minute to hear my voice and reflect on my story. Let these words that I am sharing not be forgotten and may they be one of many choruses that sing the profound love of our Creator for His Creation—for humanity made in the image and likeness of Himself!

A Story of Life

There is no need to go into all the details of my life. Let it be enough to say that my mother was left with a choice—to give life or to take it away—and she chose life. And she was a courageous woman for doing so. Knowing the shame she would have to carry, the comments she would receive, the weight of raising a child alone…it was not as if she chose life and because she made the right choice, life was easy. It wasn’t easy and there was much cost involved. And she carried that choice for life, day in and day out, as she worked and cared for me.

As she raised me, she wasn’t alone. God provided for her needs, surrounded her with loving family who helped her carry some of the weight of raising a child alone. Grandparents, aunts, uncles… all loving me and coming alongside. An aunt and uncle who took me in when she needed support and continued to show love and cherish the life she had given. But her choice to give life still changed her and left a scar…a wound that had healed but that could be seen. And yet she carried it–she made the choice to love me and she lived out that choice each day.

Perhaps it is because of her choice to regard the sacred value of human life, the life of her child, that her legacy of sacrifice and love lives on.

Fast forward to life today. I am consumed with loving and giving care to the six beautiful lives that God has entrusted to me—six beautiful souls whom I love more than I thought was possible.

Three years ago, my husband and I considered being done having more children. A family of six, a perfect balance of boys and girls. Life was full but still within the range of manageable.

And then everything was turned upside down. We heard the words, “She wants you to adopt them….” This question was asked of us regarding the placement of our twins, not children of my own flesh and blood, but children that would become mine in every way.

And we said yes…though be it reluctantly. I knew what we would have to give up. Being an average middle class family, I knew that there likely would not be money enough to give our children the life I had envisioned for them—sports, dance, music, private education. I knew it would demand all of my time to raise twins and that would mean that the other children would struggle, would hurt, would feel alone, because there wouldn’t be enough of me. I worried because I knew there would be brokenness that would permeate the core of our family, and would change us. I knew our choice would limit what we would be able to do…it would be a cost that we would all bear. There would be stress that would threaten to unravel the cords of our marriage, of our family.

And yet, all I could think of when I heard the question, was my own mother…a woman who chose life in the midst of what it would cost. The woman who chose burden and limitations and a giving up of her own freedom.

And I considered the beautiful young woman before me who had courageously chosen life in the face of unrelenting hardship. A woman who had every reason to end life but chose to give life. And in sacrificial love, asked us to give welcome and a home to the beautiful lives she had carried into this world.

I am reminded every time I look at the six beautiful children that God has given to us, that this life is not about fulfilling our dreams or realizing every hope we have for those we love; rather, it is about giving welcome and care and love for those who need a place to rest and find shelter. It is about giving out of what we have been given.

Christian brothers and sisters, it is not my place to give prescriptive plans for your lives, but PLEASE consider and do not forget those who are discarded, dismembered and cast aside. Please ask, “What can I do to help women who feel they have no choice, to choose life?” DO NOT be tempted to consider what you will give up or how you will survive because God’s mercies are abundant and will be with you in all that you face.

And be ready, because as you love and care for those who are forgotten, you will face hardship and it will change you and it will leave a scar that can be seen. And you will bend under the weight as you are changed, refined, exposed. But God’s mercies are lavishly given.

I have been asked when grieving all that we have had to let go of, “But didn’t you know going into this that this would happen?” I guess I knew that it would require a great letting go of my dreams for our family as I knew it…but not to this degree.

And even so I can say, that in those darkest moments of grief and loss, I don’t ever have to question if we did the right thing. I know our choice to come alongside a woman who chose to give life is close to the heart of God and He tenderly loves her and the children she gave life to.

I have never doubted God’s presence with us in this journey though hardship has left us grasping and questioning with expectant hope. I have always seen God’s mercies poured out to us, when I thought this would break us. And finally, I have seen God’s deep care and love for our children—a love that exceeds my own. A love that is fitting them for eternity and teaching them to order their lives accordingly and love life. And I pray that their lives would continue in this legacy of giving life a voice.

Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh? Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call and the Lord will answer; you shall cry and he will say, “Here I am.” If you take away the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness, if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday. And the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail…                               -Isaiah 58: 6-11

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Horror and Hope on a Sunday Night

http://www.lifesitenews.com/news/abortion-counselor-caught-on-video-if-baby-is-born-alive-they-do-not-resusc

I held little Henrik and tickled his pajama-ed belly.  His deep dimple appeared in his wide-smiling cheek and I put my fingertip in it.  The hollow that shows up only when he’s full of joy.

And as I rocked him in my arms and walked ’round the rooms of our home, my shoulders shook with deepest sorrow and my eyes poured it right out.  I had just watched the above footage, see, and my soul was pierced, again.

How?  How can I help to end this tide of infanticide?

How can I tell that scared mama whom I don’t know that she carries a gift within her; that arms are aching to bring up her baby, loved, cherished, wanted.  That the inconvenience of carrying to term and giving birth would be eclipsed by the JOY, THE SHOUTING BIG JOY, of life coming crying into the room, whole, new!  If she could see the radiance of the infertile woman’s face as that baby is placed in her ever-longing arms, oh!

Or, mercy, what if when she finally lets herself love that baby moving around inside; what if she knew that at nearly any church there’s a whole bunch of us crazy-affectionate ladies who would help her keep her baby?  Would throw a big old happy baby shower and celebrate life in all its messy glory?  What if?

Because, ladies, we aren’t just pro-life, we’re pro-mamas.  We’re for life-lived-joyfully, women made new, families being supported, and barren arms filled.