A girl I went to school with just suffered her third miscarriage. She is now considering adoption. As I talked online with her, my mind was taken back to a time two years ago. Many people turn to adoption after experiencing infertility, my family included. Adoption is a beautiful thing no matter how you get to it, but when it’s not what you had originally envisioned for your family there are some things you need to think through.
You need to mourn the biological child(ren) you may never have. When we were trying to get pregnant, I was so mad at my body for not doing the one thing it was made to do. I was mad at the doctors for not being able to tell us why, and I was mad at God for letting teenage crack whores get pregnant when I couldn’t. When I didn’t know if I would ever be pregnant, my heart longed to feel a child growing inside me. I wondered what I would look like pregnant and how it would feel to breastfeed. I didn’t know if I would ever get to experience those miraculous parts of womanhood. Even if we had the most wonderful adoption that ever existed, I would still miss out on those things- and that thought made me sad sad sad. Feeling sad made me feel guilty about our adoption. But I think it’s okay to feel sad. Even if you are lucky enough to get pregnant eventually, adoption signals moving on- and it’s hard to move on if you don’t acknowledge loss.
When considering adoption, you need to keep an open mind and heart. I know, you have a vision in your mind of what your family is going to look like. It’s already been messed up, so now you want to get it as close to that vision as you can. When we first started adoption, I wanted young kids with no issues. Now I can’t help but cringe when I hear perspective adoptive parents say they want kids with no issues. Look, all adopted kids are going to have issues. Adoption exists because their life is effed up from the very get go. Their biological parents can’t, for whatever reason, care for them. You can bring them into the most wonderful perfect family there is and they can go on to have a very happy life, but at some point they have to deal with their beginnings. If you are interested in adoption, you need to accept that fact and start preparing for it now. The nature of their unique situation and their personal temperament mean their issues can vastly vary, but you need to be ready to deal with them. My motto is that it’s better to be over prepared than under prepared. Having issues doesn’t stain a child. You can witness true works of God by watching a child overcome their rough start to life. But you have to be ready to support them.
One of the reasons we were interested in international adoption is because we didn’t want to mess with an open adoption; we didn’t want to share our kid. Through our process, I have met many families who had the chance to meet their adopted children’s biological parents in Ethiopia. Every single one of them have talked about what a blessing that is, about how they treasure those conversations and photos. Some of them plan to travel back to Ethiopia when the children are older and meet the family again. Although most international adoptions are not considered open, hearing these stories changed my mind about open adoptions. It won’t work in every case; sometimes the biological parents are toxic and the child needs to be protected from them. But open adoption can be a beautiful thing. The child feels loved from all over and this can help them come to peace with their situation. If we ever adopt domestically we will strongly consider an open adoption. We will ask “What is truly best for this child?” instead of “What do we want for our family?” and force ourselves to answer that honestly.
When you decide to adopt, you are not going to have a “normal” family. You are going to have challenges that other families don’t. Some of the parenting advice that works for “normal” kids isn’t going to work on your kid. Although our adoption is many months from being complete, we accepted the fact that we will not be a normal family a long time ago. No, we will not be normal- but we will be very special and very blessed. Normal is boring anyways.
There is a ministry at our church called Beauty From Ashes. It has nothing to do with adoption, but I really like that name. Infertility sucks. Being born into a family that can’t care for you sucks. Either one of these things alone can destroy a person. But match them together, add a little luck and a lot of love and a ton of prayer, and I truly believe you can find beauty from ashes.