Before Duzi came home, while we were still gestating in the paperwork pregnancy process that is adoption, I had the incredible opportunity to glean wisdom from friends who have adopted. Most of these friends attend my awesome church. Some of these sages are in my very own family. I’ll never forget what my friend, Kathleen (mother of 5-- 3 bio, 2 adopted), told me about parenting adoptive kids from traumatic backgrounds. Over lunch one day, she said, simply, “Adoption is messy.”
She didn’t say it in an intimidating way – she said it in an honest, encouraging way – in a setting realistic expectations kind of way. I took her words to heart and began trying to adjust my expectations. Even though I had read lots of books and blogs on adopting older children, I knew that I had romanticized the process to a certain extent, and I wanted to prepare for reality.
The truth is, I don’t think any parent, biological or adoptive, can truly prepare adequately for the arrival of a new child. You learn on the spot, adversity becomes your teacher, and you cry a lot. Most often, you learn by making mistakes. The addition of Duzi to our family has been wonderful and hard at the same time, just like the other two times we’ve added children to our family.
But, we are definitely encountering new challenges - challenges that are unique to adoptive parenting. I haven’t blogged since August. I’ve avoided writing because I haven’t known how to articulate just how messy our life has been. I’ve hesitated to write about the chronic messiness of our new family life because 1) We are supposed to be a poster family for adoption, 2) I don’t like feeling vulnerable, and 3) Denial is just more comfortable sometimes; It’s a pretty awesome coping mechanism.
Here’s my full confession: I’m exhausted and am dropping balls all over the place. I’m forgetting things. I’m not doing a good job caring for important friendships in my life. I’m having a very difficult time processing any adversity that pops up outside our family life. I’m grieving for my new son and all that he’s lost in his young life. I believe God uses adoption as an incredibly transformative, redemptive tool but, all adoption stories begin with loss – and I’m grieving for his loss.
The grieving is what caught me by surprise. Mike and I have traveled all over the world, visiting orphans and street children in unimaginably poor communities and slums. I thought we had grieved for these injustices. I thought we were appropriately outraged.
And then, we started grieving these things for our son. Our SON. We’re committed to protecting his privacy and to allowing him to tell his own story when he’s ready. But, as you can imagine, there was a significant portion of his life that was lived under very unjust circumstances.
Strangely, this has thrown me for a loop. We knew all about his story before he came home. The story itself wasn't a surprise. But, as we bonded with him and really became his parents, the story we had memorized felt different. Now, I’m incredibly angry about what he’s lost and profoundly sad about it - in ways that feel paralyzing and incapacitating sometimes. For the first time, because I am an upper middle class American woman and have lived a life of privilege, I am seeing injustice through the eyes of a mother, and it has wrecked me.
So, if I haven’t responded to your emails, texts, or voicemails – I apologize.
I’m a mess.
I do think that this mess is holy. And I know God is at work, doing His usual thing - redeeming pain, transforming our mourning into gladness, making a way in the desert.