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.

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