Monday, April 2, 2012

my joy is her heartache...

(For our adoption paperwork, we are required to read 2 specific books on adoption and write a 4 page reflection upon what we've read. You know, it's been awhile since I've had to do a book report! So what follows here are my reflections & this is what I'm handing in to the adoption agency. Thank you for joining our adoption journey with us and thanks for keeping your eyes & ears open for us, too!)

Step right up to the most exciting and scariest roller coaster imaginable!

It’s completely out of your control!

It takes you up one minute, and down the next!

You’ve never experienced anything like it.

Oh, and did we mention there’s also a HUGE wait? (That’s probably the worst part. Some people have to wait longer than others.)

But after you ride it successfully once, you’re hooked.

Like we were.

Because it’s an incredible ride.

And now we’re ready to try it again.

This roller coaster is, of course, adoption.

We feel like we’re supposed to be on this wild ride. We feel we have a call upon us to adopt again. And if that’s true, His plan will not be thwarted. That’s what keeps us buckled in tight when things turn, twist, drop, and generally feel upside down.

As wonderful as adoption is, there are SO many misconceptions and myths about it, too. Shall I elaborate?

I think what most people don’t realize about adoption is that it involves grief on all 3 sides of the adoption: the adoptive parents, the birthparent(s) AND the adoptee. Each party involved in adoption carries a measure of pain in the experience.

Here’s what I mean. The first grief in the adoption process lies with the adoptive couple who is not able to conceive their own child. As I know from personal experience, this loss parallels the same stages of grief when a loved one dies: denial, anger, sadness, and finally acceptance. Even for couples who have not faced infertility but choose to adopt, they must face the loss of genetic similarities as their child. Hopefully, by the time a couple turns to thinking about adoption, they have resolved the deep grief with which they have wrestled and come to an acceptance with it. Nevertheless, there will always be scars there.

However, I’d say the biggest source of grief in adoption is that of the birthmother. It’s so sad, but honestly, until adoption became a realistic option for us, I had never stopped to think about the person on the other end of the adoption: the birthparent! (yeah, it’s the person who kinda makes it all possible!) My daydreams were of images of Marc & I walking out of a hospital overjoyed with a new baby in our arms.

How were we so completely OBLIVIOUS to what a terribly painful moment that would be for any birthmother as she releases her own flesh and blood to another?

But it didn’t take long to realize the JOY of the adoptive parents is the HEARTACHE for the birthmother. OUR GAIN is born out of HER LOSS. Adoption can only come with great pain and great sacrifice.

The grief that the birthparents face is particularly acute at and just after placement. Let’s face it- there is nothing normal about forever giving your child into the arms of another woman. And it’s SO important that the birthmom is provided with counseling and help AFTER placement, just as much as she was before.

When the adoption is an open one, I think that helps ease a birthmom’s grief. She has carefully selected the adoptive parents of her child. She loves them and wants them to be the ones to parent her baby. I think that helps ease the sadness some. I know as we walked through part of Megan’s pregnancy with her, it gave her comfort to know that after the birth, we would plan to visit her and she would be able to see her baby again. But that still didn’t take away the initial gut-wrenching grief she had to face as she made a selfless decision for her daughter.

The last grief in the adoption triangle is that of the adoptee, as he/she slowly begins to understand and embrace the reality of his/her adoption. Caroline is not living with a biological relative, and there’s loss there. Some adoptees feel that more acutely than others. But as an adoptive parent, it is my prayer that Caroline would never face deep levels of grief over her adoption, but that she would always be understanding and thankful for birthmommy Megan’s sacrificial decision on her behalf.

I think the openness in Caroline’s adoption will also help to that end-- she won’t have to wonder what her birthmother or birthfamily is like. She can talk to her or visit them!

That leads to another misconception and a common fear surrounding adoption: that the birthmother will want to reclaim the baby. Just as all parents routinely deal with fears regarding the safety of their children, they don’t dwell on it too much nor do they deny the fears are there in the first place. Yes, a birthmother LOVES their child and they will NEVER forget their baby (unlike the stereotypes want to make us believe), but that does not mean they don’t stand behind the lifelong decision they made FOR their child.

I realize that’s a huge fear and misconception people have about adoption. “Can she come back and change her mind? Can she take the child away from you?” people ask. The short answer is no. Legally, an adoption is binding and when the papers are signed, the birthparent has no legal rights to parent the child in any way. However, in an open adoption (and there are many different levels of open adoption), I suppose a birthmom could show up unexpectedly on the doorstep an demand her baby back, but any loving birthmother knows that to actually DO that would be detrimental to the stability and well-being of their child, who is being raised with a mother and father that she herself has carefully selected! Plus, I believe open adoption helps to reduce the likelihood of that happening, not heighten it. I suppose for people who have never met a birthmom, it’d be easy to carry these fears. But for us, it’s simply not a fear.

Open adoption has so many advantages over the hush-hush, secretive adoptions a generation ago. Many people might think open adoption causes confusion in the adoptee since Caroline has two mommies.

Is my daughter confused? Not at all.

She has a birthmommy Megan who gave birth to her, who picked us to be her forever parents, who she sends pictures to and we visit each time we come to Texas!

And then she has her Mommy. I’m the mommy that tucks her in bed each night, that talks to her and shepherds her heart, and is so lucky I get to provide a lifetime of love and support for her.

There’s no confusing the roles to Caroline. They are distinct, and they are both important! As Caroline grows and has more questions about her biological identity, I am so thankful we have the open communication to get those questions answered. I can never give Caroline her biological heritage or genetic future, and Megan can’t raise the child that was born to her. We are both important to Caroline. If Caroline wants to call or visit birthmommy Megan, there is no need for me to feel threatened. Megan and I both love this little gal, but we have distinct roles in her life.

I thought this was a good (and truthful) definition of adoption: Adoption is the process of accepting the responsibility of raising an individual who has two sets of parents.

Since day one, Caroline has heard the word “adoption” in our house. Before she could read, we made her a book about her adoption story so that she could see pictures of Megan and know where she came from. We celebrate her “Gotcha Day” each year as a family with great joy. But we also don’t overdo the fact that she’s adopted, either. I don’t look at her differently, as an “adopted child.” She’s just mine. Adoption is the way she came to my family, (and I am utterly grateful and amazed at it! How else would she have ever become mine??) but it is also a past event, too. It is how our family was formed, but it doesn’t completely define us.

I also have to admit, it bothers me when others talk about our adoption process as similar to pregnancy.

I’m sorry, but it’s not the same.

Although pregnancy involves a waiting time, there is a due date. And a growing belly. And everyone’s approval and excitement around them. The couple didn’t have to go to endless limits to “prove themselves” to be fit parents physically, financially, emotionally, spiritually, etc. (though if people DID have to go through this process in order to have a child, there would be FAR fewer children in the world!)

For a husband and wife awaiting an adoption placement, there is no end to the wait in sight. No due date. No physical changes are happening, and it may seem as if nothing’s happening. You literally have no control. You do what is required of you, and then you sit back and wait for that moment when a young pregnant woman looks at your profile and says, “They are the one.” It’s definitely not the easy way. Society doesn’t usually assist the adoptive couple in preparing for their role change to parenthood, either. I’d say that’s probably because people don’t understand adoption in general and they themselves hold onto myths about it.

I know I did.

We had a GREAT adoption experience the first time. Both parties knew God’s hand was in this. We respected one another and grew to trust one another. We know not all adoptions are that way. Each adoption situation is different, and we realize our second adoption may not be what the first one was/is. We are at the mercy of God in this, and we know that if it’s His will for us to adopt again, He will bring us the child He wants for our family. In all of the ups, downs, and uncertainties, we have to hold onto this.

Meanwhile, while we wait, you can be praying with us. Pray that our birthmother, whomever she may be, will grow spiritually and have peace through this time in her life. Pray that her family and friends will rally around her. Pray that opportunities will open up for her future. Pray that she will make wise decisions and develop healthy relationships.

And pray for us. Pray that we would trust Him to write our story as He sees fit. Pray that our hearts would rest in His will for us. Pray that we would not be so desperate to take any baby, but that God would bring the right baby to our family. Pray that the Lord would be gracious to us in the process of waiting for His perfect timing.


  1. I'd give this book report an A++.

  2. This was amazing Amy. All of it so true as an adoptee. Caroline has been so blessed to have such amazing parents. The Lord has led you in an amazing journey.

  3. This was absolutely beautiful. You are Marc and Caroline are such a beautiful picture of the gospel. Thank you so much for your testimony and profound influence you have had in my life.

  4. Amy, your last two posts have been beautiful! Will be praying for your family!

  5. Thank God for the beautiful adoptive family. We love you!!