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

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!
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