Disclaimer: We are not adoption professionals.
We are adoptive parents hoping to help other adoptive parents.

Monday, September 20, 2010

No Hope

It was 11:00 last night. Everyone in my house was in bed - except for me. It was my wind-down time. Time to collapse on the couch and watch some mindless TV before bed.

I flipped through my favorite channels and landed on Food Network. It was Cupcake Wars. I thought I'd watch for just a few minutes. If you have watched this show before, you know that there are 3 rounds. The first and second round the bakers are judged on taste and appearance. Each round, one baker is omitted. The last round is different. They have to bake 1000 cupcakes in 2 hours. Then they present them on a display they have each created.

Every episode, there is a guest judge. That judge represents the organization for whom the cupcakes will eventually be displayed - and eaten.

Last night's guest judge caught my attention. I still don't know what charity she was representing, but it was an organization for kids. She had some artwork that the kids had created that the bakers were to use as inspiration.

My promised few minutes turned into an hour's worth of the show...

In that final round, the evenutal winner used her own 6-year-old-daughter's artwork in the cupcake display. There were butterflies, rainbows, and flowers. Words like hope, dream, and love were on the art too.

The guest judge was in tears. She said, "You got it. Perfectly. The kids I work with don't have any hope."

I was then in tears too. On the couch at midnight, all by myself. Watching Food Network and crying my head off.

No hope.

Kids have who have no hope.

I felt like my heart had fallen out of my chest.

Kids who have no hope sounds like an oxymoron of a sentence. Kids should be running and playing and getting their boo-boos kissed. Not having no hope. Kids should be cuddled and treasured and spoiled just every once in awhile. Not having no hope.

I was taken back almost 5 years ago. We were in a Russian orphanage adopting our son. Of course the children there spoke no English - but we heard, "Mama! Papa!" over and over from the children.

Heartbreaking. Kids who have no hope.

Then I thought about how I had spent my evening. On a computer. Specifically on adoptuskids.org.

Heartbreaking. Kids who have no hope.

Except maybe a glimmer. In both cases - in the Russian orphanage and on the website, there is a glimmer of hope. A shout out to a mama, to a papa. To someone. Anyone. Please.

I am not an adoptive mother because I want to save the world. I am an adoptive mother because I wanted a family. We adopted for selfish reasons. We were not thinking of the hope we were giving our children when we adopted them. We were thinking of the love we had and wanted to share with children. We were thinking of the desire we had to become a family.

But now, I do think of all the children who don't have families. The children who are begging for one - and yet night after night, they go to bed without one. I think about what it must feel like to have lost all hope.

It's devastating.

It doesn't matter if those children are in a foreign orphanage or a foster home right here in America. They have no hope.

I am at a loss. I can't give hope to every child without a family. My husband and I can adopt again, sure. We actually hope to adopt again and again! But we are just one couple who can only adopt so many kids....

But what about the rest? What about the thousands and thousands of children who have no hope?

My heart aches for all of them. They deserve a chance to have that hope.

After all, they're just kids.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Changing Culture One Family at a Time

My Dad is 70 years old. He grew up in a small town in Kansas in which he saw separate drinking fountains and designated bathrooms for white people and black people . My dad saw signs that said “Colored Enter in the Back”. My dad heard dozens of politically correct and downright hate-filled terms to define a people group in his lifetime. My mom had similar experiences. The generation of my parents closely watched the black and white televisions report the story of historically monumental leaps in the civil rights movement. I’m guessing the opinions did not vary much of that generation who watched this happen.

But now 70 years later, my dad and my mom will be grandparents to an African child. We will soon adopt a child from Ethiopia. They are receiving this child with open arms. Not without concern (as they should as parents), but in love and courage and faith.

We are slowly progressing forward even more in bridging the gaps between races. I believe that transracial adoption, while not overwhelming in the percentage of families who adopt outside of their race, it is extremely impactful in the lives of a family and community. It requires the races to hit head on with the heart and mind. I believe God will use the transracial family to require amazing love in and for all people. It is the impact of the family in which God will change a culture.

Jesus never tried to change society or government systems. In fact, he actually had an approach that we would characterize as very passive towards political and societal systems. What Jesus did focus on is the change in the individual, in the family. This is where the catalyst begins. Change the individual first and then the culture will follow.

This is what transracial adoption does for culture. It starts with the individuals, the families. My white sons will have a black sister. We will raise these children knowing both the traditions of our families before us. We will raise them with Russian traditions and we will raise them with Ethiopian traditions and with those mixed up European traditions. My sons will know what African hair feels like, they will eat injera, and they will know African history. They will know the culture of African-Americans like I never did. My daughter will sip tea, celebrate Father Frost and know what a Russian “samovar” is.

There will be a personal knowledge of the races between my children that I never knew.

And those around us will see how our children interact. Their children will watch and be a part of the changing cultural as they become familiar with different traditions and ways. But it is not familiarity of traditions that cause someone to change their perspective. What will change perspective is when they befriend and love the people who celebrate those different traditions.

Transracial adoption is the beginnings of a changing community, a changing culture. It is really remarkable to get to be a catalyst to a changing world. I count it a great blessing.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Getting to know our son's needs

Today was the day! We would finally meet our son! We traveled to Ethiopia with two other couples and we were all filled with butterflies. Our hosts came out and invited the first couple in. And then the second.

Then it was our turn - and we were told, "Your son is napping."

For a deflating two hours, we mingled with the other children at the orphanage and took pictures on behalf of other waiting parents. We would stick our heads in the room of the sleeping 2-year-olds and hope our son had awakened. We waited and waited. Finally his beautiful eyes were opened and I picked our son up.

Now, I am an adoption "veteran". I know that during the first meeting of adoptive parents and children, the Disney music is NOT always playing in the background. However, I had not prepared myself for our son's crying. He was emotionally attached to the wonderful caretakers at the transition house. In his world, he knew who was supposed to be there lifting him out of his crib - and it wasn't 1) a man who 2) spoke a language he had never heard. My son started crying and had to be taken by his nanny to calm and soothe him.

I, the adoption vet, felt terrible. I was tired from jet lag and totally depressed. I tried to put on a brave face, but I was bummed. My wife wisely played off the tenderness of the nanny who absolutely loved our son. Watching her, learning from her, my wife began the long process of bonding with our boy. I moped around the margins.

The next day, we went back for our "gotcha day". It didn't take long for me to get over that initial disappointment. When we picked up our son and carried him to the van, he cried out for his "mama". I knew he was calling for his nanny.

With crocodile tears in his eyes, we left the transition home ready to become our son's parents. Little did I know that this little boy who loved his nanny and cried out for her would quickly attach to my wife.

In the early days, our son was attached to my wife's hip. He demanded that he be carried everywhere. Carrying a 23 month old constantly is exhausting but my wife carried him because he needed to be held, he needed to be close, he needed to feel the warmth of her skin.

In this way he knew he was loved and cared for. For him, this was his way of attaching to us.

Well, he was attaching to my wife.

Our son would come to me, but I was not someone he looked for when he needed comfort, soothing, love.... my bonding time with my son would look very different.

The first 7-9 months, our son routinely awoke anytime between 4am and 5am. I would bundle him up, put him in the stroller and we'd walk - anywhere between 2-4 miles. This was a wonderful way for our son to learn that I was not a bad guy. He was close to me, but not touching me. This is the way he needed to bond to me.

For us, a major treat was when he actually stayed asleep until 6 or 6:15. But, as tired as I was, those early mornings yielded beautiful bonding between Father and Son. Sure, it wasn't the recipe used in many adoption books but it was the one my son needed.

Now, my son is my bud and whenever I am not home, he constantly calls for "Daddy". Conversely, whenever my wife is out of sight, he wants "Mommy".

Figuring out how our son needed to bond to each of us has made our family connection strong.

Monday, August 23, 2010

When God Speaks - Obey!

It was August 2004 when we began to explore the idea of adoption. Two months later - after much prayer! - we made the decision. We were going to adopt a child!

We researched adoption agencies and found one we liked. We began paperchasing. But then the doubts crept in. Were we too old to adopt? Would we have the finances to complete an adoption? Would our friends and family be supportive?

We finally decided to press forward and trust God.

By November 2005, we had finished our home study. Then we had piles of paperwork problems. It was May 2006 before we submitted our dossier (adoption paperwork) to our agency. But we were finally in the "waiting room"!

In October 2007, we made a very tough decision. After health problems and a job loss, we decided to stop our adoption process. Our hearts were heavy. We didn't want to close the door on adoption but we weren't sure what God's plans were for us at that time.

We prayed for wisdom and to know God's will for us regarding adoption.

In January 2008, we decided to start a morning couples devotional. One evening, we stopped by the Christian Bookstore to pick up a guide for our devotions. We were not sure what we were looking for but we put it in God's hands and had faith He would show us the way.

After several hours (we both get lost in a bookstore), we finally settled on a book.

Strangely (or according to God's plan) around the begininng of January, we both began to have feelings that we should re-start our adoption process. We started feeling a need to get our paperwork in order because maybe....just maybe.... We had been there before, and realistically we did not have the finances to complete an adoption. So neither one of us said anything to the other about what we were feeling.

That is, until we started our devotions.

As we began praying and doing our devotions daily, we started talking more and shared our feelings about the adoption. We were compelled to add the adoption to our daily prayer list and ask for guidance and wisdom.

Within days, we received a series of phone calls from our agency and our homestudy agency encouraging us to get back into the waiting room!

I have to admit, I was overcome with anxiety about this and could not wrap my head around it. It felt like a cruel joke. We had resigned ourselves to the fact that we would never be parents. We had given up the idea of adoption - we told everyone it wasn't for us and that God had something else in mind for us. We even thought perhaps our purpose was hosting exchange students.

Not sure if we were really "hearing God tell us to continue with the adoption", we focused our prayers on adoption and asked God to "hit us over the head please" with His will for us.

At the end of January, we received a call from our adoption coordinator telling us that we were at the top of the list but we MUST get our dossier updated. We were stunned!

We were feeling overwhelmed with happiness but also overwhelmed with sadness knowing that our adoption savings had been spent on living expenses for the past 5 months. That evening we talked about it and prayed about it and came to the conclusion that we could not afford to adopt. Why must it always come down to money? We went to bed that night praying for some message from God that our decision was the right one.

The next day, we began our usual routine. Got up, fed the cats, made coffee, brushed teeth, began our devotion. BAMM! There it was, our answer! The devotion was: Adopting God's Heart.

In the middle of the page was this statement: Caring for the fatherless is not simply a compassionate act. Adoption is not merely an additional means of growing our families to the desired size. Caring for orphans is about obedience and expressing the heart of God.

Clearly, God hit us over the head! The message was very clear, God was calling us to adopt and we were saying, "Not now. We can't. We don't have the money...."

As I look back, it seems that God was speaking to us clearly all along, we were just hard of hearing! God calls us to have faith and trust in Him that our needs will be taken care of.

We pulled out the adoption file and began working on updating everything.

In September 2009, we found out how faithful God is. Our daughter finally came home! She is such a joy. I can't imagine our family without her. The struggle was worth it and we are SURE God meant for us to be a family.

And we know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. - Romans 8:28.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Choosing adoption wasn't easy

After we were married for a few years, we felt that it was time to have kids. So off the birth control we went... and I found myself dreaming of how I would paint the nursery and what we would name our baby.

A few months went by. Those months turned into years.

We are Christians but we began to struggle with our faith. Why wasn't God answering our prayers? Did we have some sin in our life? One of us wasn't spiritually mature enough? Were we thinking of having kids too much and that thought had become our idol? We weren't serving God enough?

There had to be an answer. And so we prayed. We prayed God would reveal whatever it was that was keeping us from having kids.

He was silent.

But our desire to have children wasn't silent. The desire burned - actually seemed to scream at us. Why was it so easy for everyone else to get pregnant?

We really wondered whether fertility treatments were the right route. But then we decided that if we needed other medical treatment, we wouldn't shy away from it. So we pursued it.

But it didn't work.

Why God? Why? Is wanting to have kids such a bad thing? It's not like we were asking for a lot of money or a mansion! We wanted a child. The Bible says procreation is good. Why couldn't we procreate???

We were completely exhausted. Emotionally, physically, and spiritually. We had never been so exhausted in our lives.

I just wanted kids. I started looking into adoption.

My husband just wanted kids. He wanted to continue fertility treatments.

"Why can't we just adopt?"
"Because we should have our own child."

We had completely opposite thoughts and we did not understand each other's viewpoint. But we both had the same result in mind: to be parents.

I made a 'deal' with my husband. "If we talk with an adoption agency, then we can go back to the doctor." I thought for sure that once he heard about adoption, he'd be hooked. He thought that once we went back to the doctor, we'd be pregnant.

So we scheduled appointments with an adoption agency and the doctor - both in the same day.

I loved the adoption option. He loved the doctor option. We were going nowhere fast.

We talked. We prayed. We cried. We finally decided we would try one more treatment - and then move to adoption.

Another failed treatment. So we moved to Option #2. Adoption. I felt like it was a back-up plan for my husband and so we talked. Really talked. He wasn't sure he could love another man's child as his own. I didn't understand. He was honest; so was I. We talked and talked and talked. We finally agreed that what really mattered was...we wanted to be parents.

It was heart wrenching. It really was. Deep down, I was completely disappointed too. I felt like I had let my husband down. That he had to settle for second best because I couldn't give him what he so desperately wanted.

But as we moved forward with adoption, God healed our breaking hearts. He showed us that His plans are always good, despite what hurts our circumstances had caused. He showed us how to love like we have never loved before. Most importantly, He showed us that adopting a child isn't Option #2 - but it is a perfect picture of what God has done for us. He has adopted us!

We now have a better understanding of the love that God has for us. God adopted us. He chose us.

We adopted. And we love our child more than anything. It doesn't matter that our blood doesn't run through our child - God's blood runs through that child. And the blood of Jesus covers that child - just as it covers us.

"....you have received the spirit of adoption...." - Romans 8:15.

God chose adoption. We did, too. Or maybe adoption chose us. Regardless, we are now a family in every sense of the word. My husband could care less about biology now - and completely loves this child with all of his heart. I do too.

Adoption is no doubt, a miracle.

Why we chose adoption

We had 2 little boys, at the time ages 2 and 4. I'd always dreamed of having a little girl. I also had rough finishes to my pregnancies with months of pre-term contractions. And lastly, but most importantly... I'd always loved and been intrigued by the idea of adoption. When people talked about it, even when I was younger - and again when I became a mom - the idea just pulled me in. There was something about it.

But it never came into our minds because we conceived quickly.

I still remember where we were when I first brought adoption up to my husband. Sitting in our driveway, watching our boys play. I said to him, "You know how I said I was DONE having kids?" (Our baby #2 was HIGH maintenance.) "Well, I think I've changed my mind. And what do you think about considering adopting?"

He was floored.

My husband confided in me that he always thought adoption was plan B - and since we hadn't needed a plan B, he had never considered it.

We prayed about it for 6 months and talked on and off during that time.

The following January, we applied with our adoption agency. 2 1/2 years later (a bit longer than we had originally thought!), we brought home our daughter.

Along the way, there have been multiple "signs" that we made the right decision. But there were also concerns along the way, when it took so long and tested our patience beyond what we felt we could handle.... had we discerned God's will for our lives incorrectly?

We are so thankful for those around us who lovingly and gently walked along side us during those emotional rollercoasters!

Just because it takes a long time, doesn't mean you aren't meant to be on that road! I learned patience like none other from that experience. And I have to say that not only do I love my daughter - as does my husband and our whole family - for that matter everyone... because pretty much everyone melts around her! - but also, I feel so incredibly priviledged to be a part of this adoption.

Wow. Adoption is just so amazing and I just am so happy to know and fully understand and to be a part of such an amazing miracle.

The same can be said of giving birth to a child.

But they are very uniquely different.

Our daughter is a gem and we can't imagine life without her!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Empty arms, heavy heart

When we got married, we had dreams similar to every other couple's dreams: the house with the picket fence, 2 kids, a dog. The American Dream.

A year after we got married, we bought a house. The next year, we got a dog. Check and check. The year after that, we decided we wanted to have kids. Check.... well, not so fast.

I was having some issues with the pill. My doctor said my dose should be increased. When I told him we were only a few months away from trying to have kids, he suggested I go off it altogether to give my body a rest and get ready for baby making. I came home from the appointment and my husband just stared blankly at me: "You can't go off the pill yet, we weren't going to start trying for a couple months!" "It'll be alright", I assured him, secretly thinking that in a few short weeks I would be pregnant.

Within a few weeks, we found out that my sister-in-law was having fertility problems. "Poor her" I thought, "perhaps she is too old to get pregnant." She was, after all, in her mid-30's. I was a spring chicken in my mid-20's, realizing I was in my prime fertility. Shortly after that, she told us she was going to attempt IVF. "Oh how fun," I thought, "We will be pregnant together."

Her IVF worked. I wasn't pregnant. But I knew I would be shortly.

A year goes by. The doctor says it is time to look into infertility issues. What?!?! I am in prime fertility years, I can't be infertile!

Test after test after test found - well, not much. "You are perfect candidates for IVF" I hear him telling us. IVF? Isn't that for old women? "Especially given your age, you have over a 60% chance of becoming pregnant." Well, alrighty then. An easy solution.

Easy it was not. Shots, testing, bloodwork, mood swings, bloating, weight gain. "It will all be worth it" we assured ourselves. The day of the transfer, they put back 3 embryos and we started dreaming of triplets.

A couple weeks later was the pregnancy test. Negative. What? Well, where did my babies go??? You put 3 in there and now they're gone?

It felt like we had been hit by a sledgehammer. We couldn't process what had happened. We cried. We got angry. We were in disbelief.

A few weeks later was our follow up appointment. I sat there, crying, just staring at the doctor as he told us "Sadly, you fell in the 40% range instead of the 60% range. When you try again, your odds will increase." When we try again? What planet was he on??? We were NOT going through this again.

Except we did. Maybe he was really convincing. Maybe we desperately wanted to have kids. Maybe we thought this was our only answer.

Another negative pregnancy test. We were devastated. I have never experienced such devastation in all my life.

The world slowly stopped spinning. I felt like I was barely holding on. Everyone around me was having babies. All of my friends were popping them out like it was nothing. It got really hard faking being excited for them. It never failed - when we'd go to WalMart, there would be a dirty screaming baby - and the mom would be just as dirty and screaming just as much. Seriously??? I quit going to WalMart.

We had a circle of friends that got together quite regularly. They all had kids. Some had 2 by now. We had to quit getting together, it was too emotionally hard on us to smile and pretend like we weren't hurting.

Eventually, we decided to adopt. "If we can't have our own...." we thought, "we might as well adopt. It's a second best plan, but we'll be finally be parents..."

When we found an adoption agency, we had a glimmer of hope. "Welcome to your paper pregnancy" said the paperwork from the agency. Pregnant! I was pregnant! Not in the way I had imagined - but I was thrilled to read that from the agency. Those words helped to heal me - and helped us to move forward.

Working on the mounds of paperwork kept me busy and focused. It was good therapy. When the paperwork was finally completed, we sighed a big sigh of relief. Finally. We will FINALLY be parents. And soon!

Nope. Not so soon. We waited and we waited and we waited. It made no sense. There were a TON of kids internationally who needed parents - we needed kids - and things weren't moving quickly. At all.

Month after devastating month we had no news of our adoption. This was all too familiar. We had years of month after devastating month of no news. We could not go through anymore!

But our agency encouraged us to perservere and hang in there. So we did. We still felt like the world was giving birth all around us - but we hung on. Barely at times, but we did.

Two long years after completing that paperwork, it finally happened. We became parents. All the misery - disappeared. All the questions - answered. All our fears - subsided. All our sadness - replaced with joy.

All because of one child.

A child who was not born of our bodies but immediately became a part of our souls. A child who opened our hearts in ways we didn't know possible. A child who made our empty arms full.

A child. Finally. A child. Parents! We were finally parents!

Once we were united as a family - biology disappeared. It didn't matter that we didn't birth this child. It didn't matter that we were born on opposite sides of the world. Nothing mattered. Except that we were all together. Finally.

And there is no doubt that we were always meant to be together. We can't imagine our lives without OUR child. This child is ours in every sense of the word.

Adoption was not second best for our family afterall. It was the greatest gift we could've received! Thank God for all those years of infertility - or else we never would've had this child - our child - as a part of our family.

God works in mysterious ways.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Lost in the Alphabet Soup

We decided to adopt a child from Russia. It was all very exciting. We found an adoption agency. They were fantastic and guided us through all the mounds of paperwork. After months of paper-chasing, we finally submitted our dossier. And then we waited for a referral.

While we were waiting, we did all kinds of fun things to prepare. We got the nursery ready. We made lists of things we'd need to care for a child. We made lists of things we'd need to pack to take to Russia. We read about Russia's culture. We joined yahoo groups and talked with anyone who would listen about our adoption. We had baby showers, we got lots of advice from other parents. And we waited.

While we were waiting, our adoption agency would sometimes send us information on books to read and websites to investigate. They would mention letters like RAD, SPD, ADHD, PTSD, FAS.

And so we researched, just like we were told. We didn't like what we found. Attachment Disorder. Sensory Processing Disorder. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. We'd read a little but it got scary. So we went back to the fun stuff. After all, the baby's room still needed painted....

But you can't easily forget that kind of research. Every once in awhile, I'd see a friend's child scratching at their tag on their shirt. "Hum", I'd find myself thinking, "My friend's child has SPD and she doesn't even know it." Later, I'd see another child who couldn't sit still. "Hum", I'd think again, "That child has ADHD. I wonder if they've looked into that."

I became a diagnoser of the Alphabet Soup without even knowing any details. I was, after all, just a superficial reader of these acronyms.

When we finally brought our child home, I noticed some of these behaviors. Up close and personal. Instead of scratching at his tag, he'd freak out if there were too many toys around him. Instead of not being able to sit still, he'd be hyper-focused on one object.

As time went on, more behaviors surfaced. Was he really just humping his pillow? He is only 3! Does he really cry hysterically over something that really isn't that big of a deal? Does he really shut himself down and almost stops functioning when something doesn't go his way?

I pulled out the books and re-found the websites. I started reading all of this again from a new perspective. I was amazed - I thought these things had been written specifically about my son. Who observed him and then wrote a book about him???

I did what I do when I am in information-overload. I ask a lot of people a lot of questions.

I contacted our home study agency. "Boys will be boys", she said. "He is adjusting fine. You are doing a great job."

I contacted the local social services that focus on child development. They evaluated him. Except the evaluation was language intensive and he didn't quite understand English yet. So the screener talked slower and louder to him. Ugh.

I got on my cyber-groups where there were other adoptive parents. It seemed like everyone had letters tagged onto their kids - and talked about it freely. I felt silly asking any questions. What kind of adoptive mother wouldn't know this stuff anyway??

I talked with my friends who have biological children. "Oh my kid does the same thing" they would tell me. "Don't make a big deal out of it, all kids do that."

His pediatrician said, "Of course he will experience some of these issues, give him time to adjust."

My head started spinning. Was it boys will be boys? Post-institutionalized trauma? How much did his brain not form while he was deprived in the orphanage? How much is biological - and we have no clue what to expect? Should I have him officially diagnosed so he can have letters after his name too?

I didn't know what to think or what to do or how to help him.

Fast forward 4 years. He still has 'issues'. Behaviors will rear up and I'll find myself thinking, "I wonder....." We have had him professionally evaluated and we have no official diagnosis. I am no smarter now about the Alphabet Soup than I was while we were waiting for him to come home.

Perhaps he is border-line in some issues and that is why it hasn't been diagnosed yet. Perhaps we will learn more as time goes on. Perhaps boys will be boys. Perhaps we are missing something. Perhaps we are overlooking something.

Or - Perhaps this is just the way God made him.

Yes, I am sure his past has had a huge effect on his development. Yes, I know he will have those scars for the rest of his life. And yes, it is good to at least have a bit of a grasp on the Alphabet Soup.

However, the Alphabet Soup was drowning me. It was drowing us. I was so consumed with wondering what letters described my son that I was missing a very important point: He is my son and God made him special. And no matter what his "issues", God has big plans for him as he grows. And I need to nuture him just the way he is.

And that seems to make the Alphabet Soup disappear just a bit.... And then the real personality of who my son is - who he was created to be - can shine just a little bit brighter.

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Truth

Adoption stories are supposed to be beautiful and perfect, right? They are full of sweet moments and happily-ever-after endings, aren't they?

I used to be afraid to tell the ugly truths about our adoption story. True, there are many beautiful parts to the story: a precious little boy who needed a home, a family who had so much love to give... the list goes on. From the outside looking in, our adoption story looked like a fairy talke.

After we brought our son home, we appeared to everyone around us to be the picture-perfect family. Our son is absolutely beautiful, no doubt. It really seemed to thrill people that he looks just like all the rest of our (biological) kids. People love his big personality and bright smile. They oohed and aahed at how quickly he learned English - still do. And I can't forget to mention how people constantly tell us they think we are so noble for bringing an orphan into our family.

But what if I told you that, before our son came home, there were many days during the seemingly never-ending 2 years of paperwork that I really didn't want to continue? During that time, I often told my husband that we should just forget it and never look back. It makes me cringe to admit it, but it is the truth.

What if I told you that I lived in absolute fear of the financial requirements and strains adoption brings? We are not a family of means, and with 3 kids already, I simply could not see how we would afford it. I completely doubted God on that one.

What if I told you I wanted to yell at God "NO-WAY!" when I discovered our son lived in Siberia and I would have to leave my other 3 children not once, but twice, in order to bring him home? Wow. Leave my children who are safe and loved to bring my other child home who is alone and has no love? Seems like a no-brainer now.

What if I told you there were many times I didn't feel love for the screaming, angry two year-old son we brought home and that I had no idea what to do to help him? I thought I had read all of the books and was well-prepared ahead of time, so this was extremely hard to swallow.

What if I told you I have screamed back at a very small little boy who never deserved that kind of response, all because of my selfishness and childishness? Out of all the truths, this one cuts the deepest into my heart.

What if I told you I have felt a consuming hatred for those who have hurt my son in the past? I have never felt that way about anyone before. I didn't even know I could feel that way.

All of these things are hard to admit, but true. I have not been at all the kind of Christ-follower and mother I originally set out to be.


What if I told you in all of this, there is and always was HOPE.

SOMEONE was always there with me,

HE pushed me to do the things I didn't want to do.

HE is the One who whispered to me, "Your son is out there and he is REAL. Go get him."

HE gave me the courage I didn't have.

HE took care of the financial details. What amazing miracles He did!

HE held my older children safe in His arms - He even enlarged their hearts and gave them a deep love for their baby brother while we were gone.

HE is the one who makes me see Jesus in my son's eyes when I am tired and feel as though I have no more to give him.

HE is the one who has healed my angry heart and has allowed me to see those who have hurt my son as He sees them.

HE is the one who, through all of this, has given me a deep and unbreakable mother-son bond with my son.

GOD has done all of these things - and more.

Yes, there is pain in this journey. My son was left without parents at the very start of his life. That HURTS. I still see glimpses of that hurt even now. People want to trun away from that truth... I wanted to turn away from that truth.

But God can turn pain into healing. He can turn failures into triumph. HE can turn hopelessness into hope.

God does miracles.

And THAT is the truth!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Adoption Journey: Learning to Love

Our son officially became a part of our family just about two years ago. Of course, he was really part of our family long before that. What an amazing feeling to carry him out of that orphanage forever! It was one of the best moments of my life. I can still remember every detail as if it just happened yesterday. The memory of it still fills me with a mixture of amazement and childlike wonder. It was so surreal. I remember riding in the car back to the hotel in a state of absolute shock that it had really, finally happened. Our son was ours. I was a Mama again!

Just a few hours later, my world came crashing down at bedtime in a hotel in Siberia. As I attempted to put my son to bed, it quickly became clear to me that our precious two year-old son did not even know how to be touched, let alone loved. I was at a loss. As I held my sweaty, screaming son, I realized that none of my maternal attempts at calming and soothing him were going to work. I had tried everything I had done with my other 3 children when they were screaming infants, but to no avail. He screamed desperately at me in Russian and wildly tried to escape my embrace.

I had read about this very thing, but that still didn't stop the overwhelming feelings of rejection, anger and sadness that welled up inside of me. I had been unprepared for the emotions that would need to be dealt with inside of ME, and I had underestimated the anger and sorrow that would be triggered in such a small little boy. Tears began to stream down my face as I began to grasp my new reality: our son was not the only one who needed to learn how to love.

True, our son needed to learn how to give and receive love, but I needed to learn to give love without being loved back. And I needed to learn how to forgive the people who had caused him this pain. Despite my preparation, I did not know where and how to begin.

So there we were: two mourning and frightened beings, weeping and clinging to one another in a hotel room in Russia.

For the first few months, our son fought our love with just about every ounce of his being. He screamed, he kicked, he bit... he even hurt the other 3 kids... and I knew I still had to love him. I wish I could say that it was easy, but it wasn't. I wish I could say I have never failed him, but I have. There were so many times I felt consumed with anger, which would quickly give way to sorrow and fear. How could I help my son? Why was God allowing this to happen? Would this ever get better? How much can a person get kicked and screamed at before giving up? What kind of mother must I be if our son still could not learn to love back?

Satan was always creeping around back then, getting into my thoughts and filling my mind with doubt and feelings of inadequacy. I spent the entire first year wracked with guilt and shame over the anger I felt. I knew I had to let go of all of it, or I would never be able to help our son.

Over the past year, I have worked hard on loving my son the way HE needs to be loved. We have cried countless times together. I have learned that when he rejects me, he is really begging me to love him. When he is mean and ugly, I have learned that he needs kind words, reassurance and affection. I must fight the urge to be mean and ugly back. I must swallow my pride and selfishness and love him. I candidly admit that this is a daily struggle for me, but truthfully - I love my son. I am not perfect at it, but I am learning. He is not perfect at being loved, but he is learning. We have been woven together and our bond is strong and unbreakable.

My son is my hero and he is my teacher. He has shown me things about myself that I never would have known, had he not been woven into our family. He has opened my eyes to the reality of what happens to a child's heart and mind when he is without love at the start of his life. My son has forced me to see that there is only one kind of love, and it is the kind that mirrors the love Christ has for us. Selfishness has no part in it.

Jesus fiercely loves even those who reject him. I know I cannot ever love perfectly, as Jesus loves, but I give it my best shot everyday and His GRACE covers me when I fall short. God is in the process of healing both Mama and son.

People often find out about our son being adopted and tell us what an amazing thing we have done by giving our son a home. I used to feel shame at this type of commentary, because I knew I had done NOTHING amazing. I would fake a smile and awkwardly thank them for their praise. If they only knew.... about my selfishness, my anger, my struggles to forgive, my feelings of inadequacy.... too many failures to count.

Two years later, I look forward to responding to these kind of comments. Now I know I do not need to be ashamed, I need to only speak the TRUTH.

I needed a lesson in love and I got one...

From a little boy.

GOD is the one who has done something amazing.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The day we met you

We had been waiting a long time to meet you. It had been about a year and a half from starting our adoption paperwork - but it had been about 7 years that we had been longing to become parents. Empty arms for 7 years. And then the day finally came.

When the phone rang, we couldn't believe it. Finally! There was good news and bad news. The good news was - we had a referral. A referral. We had requested 2 children and there was only 1. She said, 'There is not another child available at this time'. Then she told us that this region in Russia gave semi-blind referrals, which meant that there was limited medical information and no picture.

So she e-mailed us the information. We called our International Adoption Specialist to review the information. He said things looked pretty good, so we accepted the referral and began our travel plans. A few days before we were to leave, we got another phone call.

"I have good news and bad news. The bad news is, that referral is no longer available but there are 2 more available now. You can pick from a 3 year old boy or a 1 year old boy."

"Why isn't the first referral available?"
"I honestly don't know, we got a call from Russia. They are saying there was a medical condition."
"Can we consider both since we requested 2?"
"Not at this time."
"Why not?"
"I'm not really sure, our facilitator in Russia said you could only adopt one."

She went into more detail about how this region in Russia worked, and then since she worked for a Christian agency, she reminded us that God always has a plan even when it doesn't make sense....

And so she e-mailed us the information. Again. We called the IA Specialist. Again. He said both read well on paper (again - no pictures) but all things considered, he would encourage us to accept the younger one. Simply because typically younger children can overcome being institutionalized easeir than older chilren.

So we accepted the 1 year old referral and got on the plane a few days later.

After many, many hours traveling to the other side of the world, we arrived in Siberia. Exhausted and culture-shocked. But ready to see our baby. The orphanage was 2 1/2 hours from our hotel. That seemed like the longest ride of our lives!

Upon arriving at the orphanage, the ladies in white coats immediately brought the child to us. They were so excited to show him to us. They encouraged us to play with him. He was cute as a button - but there was no attachment. I knew he wasn't our son. I tried to force a smile. I glanced at my husband and knew he was thinking the same thing. We both felt like we were babysitting someone else's child.

After some time of trying to bond with this child (we really did try), the ladies in white coats were picking up on our discomfort. They were all talking - in Russian of course. Even our translator was talking with them. No one would look at us.

I couldn't believe what was happening. We just traveled all this way and waited all this time for - nothing? I had never been a parent before, did I not have the "mommy feeling" right? Why did God bring us here if things weren't going to work out?

We were devastated.

They took the child out of the room and we sat there in silence. Finally, the white coats stopped talking and our translator said, "Well, the 3 year old boy is still available, would you like to get some more information on him?" We agreed. She said, "We will have to come back tomorrow to see him, it is too late in the day now. But we can talk about him tonight."

So we got out our notebooks and pens and listened to the translator. A few things we asked for clarification on. A few times they answered us. Once they did not. The white coats ignored us again and talked and talked and talked - in Russian. Our translator was not translating.

Finally, she said, "The doctor will be right back, she is going to get more information for you." And so we sat in silence again.

A few minutes later, our translator said, "Look" and motioned toward the doorway. We turned and there you were. Our son. You were standing there looking at your feet, holding the doctor's hand. You glanced up at us and then ran straight to your daddy's lap and buried your head in his shoulder. I was immediately crying hysterically. Your daddy said, "You've got to stop crying, you're going to scare him!"

There was no doubt that you were meant to be ours. None. You weren't "perfect". You were 3. An older child. Your teeth were a rotten mess. You waddled intstead of walked. You had blue tights and girl shoes on. But when we looked into each others' eyes, we knew God had brought us all the way here just for you.

The hardest thing we ever had to do was say goodbye to you. We had to come back to the States and wait on who-knows-what paperwork to be completed. When you walked down the orphange hallway, your back to us, holding that doctor's hand as we waved goodbye - I didn't know if I'd be able to breathe. A piece of my heart was left there that day.

Four long months later, we went back to the orphanage bring you home. No looking back that time! You honestly never looked back. The smile of joy on your face was unbelievable. Ours too :)

It was a long journey home with a scared 3 year old. But for some reason, you trusted us. Oh you cried and cried and cried for most of the plane ride home, but we made it. And when that plane touched down on US soil, I think we all breathed a sigh of relief.

We will always be grateful to Russia for giving us our son. But even moreso, we are grateful to God. I still don't know why you could not be born of our bodies or why we had to be separated from each other for 3 years. There are scars there that will never go away - for you and for us. But this was God's plan all along - every detail of it. God doesn't make mistakes and He's never late. Even when bringing families together.

And God had another surprise for us as well. That second child we requested? She came home from Guatemala a year after our son came home from Russia. We had the wrong country and the wrong timing for our other child, but God knew that!

Life is not always what you expect - but when you trust in the Lord God Almighty, He will never let you down. Our journey to parenthood is not what we expected - but it has been way beyond our wildest imagination!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Attachment Disorder: A Parent's Viewpoint

"Any child can be transformed with enough love and consistency." That was something I said while we waited for our court date to bring our son home from Russia. Boy I'd love to travel back in time and smack myself in the back of the head... Here is when I say, "Self.... welcome to reality."

Attachment Disorder is a lot like lightning. I read about it, prepared for it... but deep down I knew our son wouldn't have it. Our wait between meeting our son and traveling for court was exceedingly longer than average (2 years) so when recommended by another adopt-mom, I decided I might as well read "Becoming a Family" by Lark Eshelman. Thank goodness I did...

I had expected a small array of attachment issues, but did not anticipate the destruction it would do on me personally. I never dreamed that such a small child could transform our peaceful family home into a war zone. And yet - there it was. Within the first 12 hours of our nearly 3 year old son stepping foot into our home, he had given our oldest daughter a black eye, and he had hit our other daughter in the back with a ruler. It was fear that caused him to lash out at my daughters when they crowded him with too much love and too many hugs.... fear that I assumed would subside over a few weeks once he realized he was safe. I was wrong.

It was 8 months of pandemonium before we met the right psychologist. She's a local doctor who had focused a lot of her training on attachment. And since I believe God is the Almighty, I don't count it as a coincidence that our meeting with this psychologist happened during our arrival to what some like to call "rock bottom". During that eight months, we were just barely surviving and slowly but surely anger and discontent made itself at home inside me. Our son destroyed his room, peed and pooped in numerous rooms in the house, he was aggressive and full of hate. His presence in our home made me actually consider leaving my husband so that I could stick the boy with him and be free... I would much rather pay monthly child support than deal with him anymore....

Thankfully, while those thoughts of separation were a fantasy, my marriage was strong enough and my husband was secure enough to survive it. We never seriously even considered it - although I'd be lying if I said it didn't (and doesn't still) pop back up and seem like a viable option for my sanity. This boy who called me Mommy, he was only my son on paper. He didn't love me and to be quite honest, I didn't love him. What was happening...???? I assumed that attachment disorder was something we'd have to counsel our son to overcome.... then why did it seem like I was also becoming a roadblock? I didn't even want to try anymore.... and I felt like a monster.

Fast forward another two years and I would love to say that things are all better. That's not the case. But on a quiet day while the kids are in school I am happy to report that I'm able to see the progress. He still struggles with a lot of hurt, a lot of anger. And at this point, I can't help but feel responsible for some of his hurt and anger. During these couple years of just barely surviving, I haven't always had the right response. When he was pushing me away, I was hurt - and I withdrew from him when he just needed me to love him. Most of the time I don't feel strong enough to be his mom.... my brain knows what he needs but my human-ness, my heart, just can't do it sometimes.

Parenting a child with attachment disorder goes against all my natural instincts of parenting my other two. Discipline approaches like Time-Out only reinforce his feelings of being an outsider when he misbehaves, and spanking only creates more anger and aggression. When he lashes out at me, I'm supposed to stay calm and tell him I love him. Some days, I just can't do it. But one thing that our psychologist has said that will probably stick with me forever is that "Being a good parent doesn't mean you do the right thing every time. It's reconciling when you've messed up."

So for my son, every day I try hard to be the mom he needs me to be. Some days I fail, but my desire for him to have love continues and so do my efforts moving forward.

Attachment Disorder is not only about the child. It has a lot to do with what you as an adoptive parent are willing to do for the child. It's a daily decision to pin your heart on your sleeve and risk it getting trampled on - and then starting over and doing the same thing tomorrow. All in the name of love.

One thing I recommend to all adopting parents is to find a good therapist before you ever bring your child home, no matter how old the child will be. Find one that you can talk to, feel comfortable with, and trust. I met quite a few therapists during our 8 months of desperation and they were a waste of my time - and theirs. I knew right away when we found the right one, there is just an unexplainable chemistry with her. Had I known to get one before we needed one, then we wouldn't have had to go through 8 months of floundering before we understood what was going on and how we should handle it.

This morning when my son was getting dressed, I heard him say to himself, "I wish I had a new mommy." Recognizing and understanding Attachment Disorder doesn't make it any more pleasant - but at least I know what I'm battling, and with the perfect amount of love and consistency from God, I can hope for a better tomorrow. For all of us.

Monday, April 26, 2010

"Before I adopted, I wish I knew...."

None of us have a crystal ball to see the future. As we are waiting to bring our child home, our minds are flooded with thoughts. What will the child be like? How will I be as a parent? Does it really matter that this child isn't biologically mine? When is the child coming home? What issues will we face as a family once the child is placed in our arms?

No two answers will be the same, of course. But there are many who have been-there-done-that who are willing to share some thoughts here on this blog.

This is not one person's thoughts, but many from people who have already adopted.
  • Biology is never a factor once the child is in your arms. Forever.
  • I never knew parenting was such hard work.
  • I never knew parenting was such a blessing.
  • I knew more about being a parent before I was one.
  • Even though I am a mom now, the thoughts of infertility never really go away.
  • Having this child in my life made the infertile years worth it.
  • You can't spoil an adopted child, meaning - don't let the child cry it out. Meet his or her needs as quickly as you can so that he or she can begin to learn to trust and to count on you to be the person who will meet his or her needs.
  • Having the child bond with the adoptive mother is of upmost importance, even before bonding with the dad. He or she had a biological bond with the birthmom and it is natural for him or her to have that as a primary bond. However, that is who "abandoned" the child so in order to build trust and learn to bond naturally to others, he or she needs to form that bond with his or her adoptive mother first.
  • Skin to skin contact is very important.
  • Join a support group (like yahoo or other forums) of others who can advise you and support you during this time.
  • Don't waste the wait. Wait wisely. Prepare for the child's homecoming. Spend time with your spouse. Read alot of adoption books that will help prepare you. Enjoy the wait instead of wasting it away.
  • Attachment issues are real. Love isn't enough to overcome them. Get the help your child needs. Get yourself the help you need. Find an attachment therapist "just in case".
  • Your social worker is a great resource once the adoption is finalized.
  • You are your child's advocate in school.
  • While you are waiting to adopt, read, read, and read some more. Be familiar with issues your child may face once home and know how to seek help if necessary.
  • Regress your child when they come home. Even if they are older and can dress, feed and bathe themselves, do it for them. You need to teach your child that he or she can depend on you.
  • Have patience with your child. It will take awhile for the child to trust you and to love you. It will be alot of hard work on your part to gain that trust.
  • Do not give time-outs to newly adopted children. Use "time-ins" instead. Place the child on your lap and bear hug the child. Say "I love you" over and over until the child calms down.
  • When you first bring your child home, clear out the bedroom except for the bed. A new home is very overstimulating to begin with - let alone new toys, books, etc. The bedroom should be a quiet place. You can slowly bring toys and things into the room after about 6 months post-placement.
  • Rock your child to sleep even if he or she is "too old" for that. This is a great bonding exercise.
  • Have daily holding time where you are doing nothing but holding your child. You can read books, do a puzzle, etc. but the key is - you are holding the child without distracting that hold.
  • Make eye contact with the child. Sounds simple but sometimes it isn't.
  • Make up catchy "family phrases" to teach the child what a family is. You can use things like "We are together forever!" or "I love you forever!" The words together and forever are very important for the child to hear over and over.
  • Don't forget about your marriage. Yes, alot of energy will go into raising your child. But your marriage should be your first priority.
  • If you adopt an older child, that child may scream at you, try to hit you, and try to push you away during holding time. It's okay. That child is scared. Show unconditional love and teach that child how to love.
  • Go "into hiding" after you adopt your child. Keep visitors to a minimum. This is your initial bonding time, you will never get this time back. This is an important trust-building time.
  • Your child really will be your child.

If you have any more insight, please leave a comment!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


Welcome to the Adoption Help blog. We are hoping that this will be a resource to other adoptive families.

While there seems to be an information overload on the internet about adopting, we still found it hard to determine what help we needed during each of the 3 adoption stages. And although we by no means claim to be experts - we have talked with many adoptive parents and professionals to gather helpful information.

While each adoption journey is different, we are hoping that this blog will turn into a resource for adoptive families, where we can all share information in order to help each other on our individual life journeys.

Check back often. Hopefully this blog will be updated frequently with new resources regarding all areas of adoption. And if you have any links or books to add - or if you'd like to post an entry, please leave a comment!
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...