2018 is here. It seems like the first of a new year is always when when I start reflecting. Our autumns are always so busy, followed by hustle and bustle of the holiday season. Once the tree is put away and the kids are back in school, I start thinking.
Much of the time, I think about adoption. My family was built through adoption. We didn’t choose adoption because we can’t have biological children. We didn’t choose adoption because we are a same-sex couple. My wife and I are in the business of meeting needs. We have much to share in the way of foundation and family. We wanted to share this with kids who needed a family. Rather than conceiving a biological child through in-vitro or surrogacy, we would share what we have with a child who had already been born. Our intentions were good.
The adoption community is pretty tight knit in some areas. There is a long list of support groups for adoptive parents or potential adoptive parents. There are countless ways to fund expensive adoption fees. There are even people who will, for a fee, look for your “perfect child.”
What there isn’t a lot of, unfortunately, is support for the adopted child. I am not talking about good moms and dads. So many adoptive parents are extremely loving and dedicated. But while adoption is seen as a miraculous blessing for adoptive parents, for the child, it starts with a loss. To be clear, I respect the fact that many adoptees report no feelings of loss or trauma. I am speaking only of the ones that do.
Parents like to say that adoption was “God’s plan” or “God’s blessing”. Maybe it is. But I don’t think God wants things to be painful for us. The fact that a mother has to say good-bye to her child because she doesn’t have the resources to raise them can bring much suffering. I can’t imagine the emotional anguish a mother must experience, even when they feel strongly that they made the “right decision.” The feelings of loss and rejection, even in kids who were adopted at birth, can be devastating. While not every birth mom or adoptee has the same experience, there is overwhelming evidence that the pain of that separation can last a lifetime. I am not sure it was God’s plan for mothers to be lacking in support and resources, thereby being separated for life from the children they carried. I also don’t think it is God’s plan for a child to have suffered abuse and neglect and end up in foster care to be shifted to another family, no matter who wonderful they may be. Even adoptees that experience no abuse can have trauma. This seems like a human condition, not God’s plan for a precious child.
I am so grateful for my kids. I can’t imagine my life without them. Being a parent is the greatest thing to ever happen to me. For me, it feels like God favored me. But what does it feel like to them? They can adore us as parents. They can also feel like they are glad they were adopted. They can feel like they would never change that. But they can also wonder why they weren’t “good enough” for their birth family to keep. They can feel the rejection of not being loved enough for their parents to do anything to keep them. They can also wonder who they would have been if they had grown up with people of their race, speaking their native language. To many adoptees, adoption feels a lot like abandonment; and abandonment doesn’t feel like love. That doesn’t mean they aren’t happy where they are. It just means that there are many feelings surrounding adoption, and it can be very complex.
I think God comes in at some point. I think that after poverty, abuse, neglect or lack of support leaves our children separated from their natural families, we have a chance to do things the right way or the wrong way. We can ignore the painful parts of adoption that our kids might experience, or we can acknowledge them and help them heal. We can step out of our feelings that adoption has to be the most wonderful blessing our kids have ever experienced (after all, aren’t we good enough parents providing all the “things” they need?) or we can remember our little babes are dealing with a lot of things we aren’t. In addition to questions about their birth family and why they were “given up”, they must always bear the narrative burden of why they are adopted. Especially with adoptees who are of a different race or ethnic background than their parents, the questions are endless. “Why are your parents white?”, or “Where are you really from?” or “How come your parents didn’t want you?” or “who are your REAL parents?” No matter how loving and supportive we are, our kids really need us to understand that adoption can be hard for them. We can’t take it personal. We must validate their complex feelings and help them work through it. They must know they are entitled to any feelings they have. They must know that WE understand it’s not about us. I think that if God is anywhere in this equation, it’s how well we help our kids process the complex feelings of adoption and show them that we are there for them through every bit of it.
In closing, I would like to add that if your child is experiencing behavior conducive to trauma or PTSD, please contact me. I would love to help you with resources to help your family heal and move forward.