In 1968, when I was adopted, my parents had their pick of babies. Literally, they were told to come on down to the Women’s Pavilion in Winnipeg, where I was born, and pick out which newborn they wanted to take home. It was like a baby farm, in those days. Rows of babies, born to unwed mothers in an age where unwed mothers were not accepted, to say the least; rows of babies, available for pick-up if not delivery.
This rubbed my dad the wrong way.
“We’re not buying a cow here!” he told the social worker on the phone. “You pick out our baby and that will be God’s choice for us.”
Fast forward 37 years, to 2005. My husband and I were in sweltering, torpid Korea, meeting with our baby daughter’s social worker, Sunny.
“How do you make a match between parents and babies?” I asked her. Sunny’s English was excellent, having come to Grand Rapids, where we lived, for a six-month internship with our agency, Bethany Christian Services.
“I go to the chapel and I pray and pray until I have my answer,” she said. “And God told me to give Peeby to you.”
“Peeby,” or “Phoebe,” our baby girl, was six-and-a-half months when we brought her back to our hotel room in Seoul. She was stoic at first, unsure of what was happening, but probably hoping these strangers who looked and smelled and felt weird would return her to her doting foster parents.
We did not return her, and she screamed. She screamed all night, and when she finally fell asleep, she resumed screaming when she woke up. She screamed much of the way home on a Korean airline, with Koreans trying to help us and making things worse. I would go to the airplane bathroom and cry my own eyes out. It was not the way I wanted to start out life with my daughter, for whom I would’ve taken a bullet before I even met her.
Nine years later, I look back and hear those screams. They were the cries of grief, at being ripped from everything she knew: her Appa and Eoma (mommy and daddy), foster siblings, her home, heritage, and beginnings. Her heart had broken like a bone.
Even so, we bonded quickly. Her brothers at home, then seven and four, played peek-a-boo and cuddled her. She took to them before us, but soon we were a family, a loving, happy family with its own unique set of joys and concerns, strengths and scars.
Two of us, me and Phoebs, bear an extra wound, an old fracture that sometimes will kick up and give us a little trouble. Like my tailbone and pelvis fractures from a car accident in 1997, these cracks will start to hurt when we least expect it.
But that’s okay. It really is.
What I want adoptive parents to know is this:
1. Acknowledge the crack. Even if your child was adopted out of hopelessness and despair, as most adopted children are, and into your loving, accepting arms, the crack is there. It just is.
I am 47, and I was (and am) loved deeply by my parents. We love our girl with a depth that startles me sometimes. But…
2. Your great love can’t fix it. My great love can’t fix it.
No human parent can “love away” such a fracture, caused by the confusing loss of one’s original family. This doesn’t mean adoptive children won’t have wonderful lives. I did and do! I’m so grateful my parents adopted me, for the gift of their unconditional love. They are my realest of real parents, not my birth mother and birth father (that’s another blog, or book, as it were). I could shout from the rooftops how thrilled I am to have to parents and brother I have, the loving grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins. And Phoebe has a pretty fabulous family, too, if I do say so.
But that original loss must be reckoned with, no matter how little of a loss it may seem to be.
4. Be brave, mom and dad. Have the courage to answer hard questions and help your child connect those dots. You are the grown up. You are the one they trust to help them navigate the scary waters of life.
5. Be First in Line
And if someday your child grows up and wants to find out more about their cracked beginnings, to search out a birth mother or father or native country or orphanage, be the first in line to help them do so. (PS: This can be terrifying.)
6. Your child will be all right.
My parents supported me in my life, and in my search, and in the end, my love and loyalty for them knew no bounds.
I understood as I never could have otherwise that I was their girl, and nothing could change that.
Ask God for a waterfall of wisdom and mercy. Ask him again, daily, hourly, whenever you think of it.
7. Lean into the Power of YOUR Adopting Father, and His, and Hers.
He is Jehovah Rapha, the God who heals hearts that have broken like a bone.
An adopting, redeeming Father, Jesus is author of adoption. He wants to adopt you, if he hasn’t already. He sets the lonely the in families, healing, bringing wisdom, clarity and boundless joy.
He alone is enough for you, and for the child He picked for you before time began. He is enough.
What do you guys think? I read this over again and realized I needed to READ it, never mind write it! 🙂 Would love to hear your thoughts as fellow mamas in the trenches.
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