I know there are many ways to come to adoption, but all I can speak on is what I know from our adoption journey's. Choosing to foster to adopt, is knowing you may fall in love, give of your time, resources and life to a child, then have them go home. It's saying 'yes' with all you have to offer, knowing that may only last a day, but for that day, a child will know love, safety, kindness, boundaries, family, nutrition, health...they may stay a day, they may stay forever. And that can be hard. It can be very scary to wonder, what will I do if they go back? If another family member takes them?
We've had a new child enter our home on seven occasions. The first time we knew was only two weeks. The second was our oldest son, joined by his newborn baby brother five months later as our fourth placement. Third, in between them was a baby boy who stayed the weekend. The fifth, a little girl who stayed just 24 hours. Not long enough I'd say we loved her yet, but long enough I know I wish she had stayed. The sixth, was the sweet girl we are about to adopt, and the seventh, a little girl who stayed ten days earlier this year.
Of those experiences, the hardest ones to get through, were the three kids we adopted. With all three we fell in love with them early on and believed that God had brought them to stay. Even knowing that, we still had to get through the process set fourth by the system. A process that allows visits with parents, that takes years, that gives chance after chance, even when it's obvious to all what is best for the child. And that waiting, the visits, the asking other family members, running checks every time a long lost uncle or cousin speaks up wanting them, while you wonder, 'will they move the baby?', is scary.
We've known for ten months now that we would be able to adopt our girl, but paperwork got lost, slowing the process big time, making me wonder if this is in answer to an earlier prayer for patience? God is funny like that, you know!
So, now it is here, and excitement is high! She has no idea, of course. She won't be changed by her court appearance on Monday, but in light of the significance I can't help but remember adoptions in our distant, and not so distant, past. Beginning with my own...
My dad adopted me when I was eight. He and my mom met when I was three and his daughters where three and seven. They married three years later when my sisters, Shanon and Jaime, were 10 and 6. Jaime and I are only four months apart and have had fun our whole lives telling people we are twins. Why, then, is she six inches taller with blonde hair and blue eyes? I was born four months premature, of course! (You would not believe the people who have bought that line! Maybe it's happened...I have no idea, but it was not the case with us. Ornery fun, I suppose.) Our little sister, Andrea, was born nine months later, making us a family of six, and me the only one 'who wasn't dad's'. But then two years later, he adopted me. I don't remember much of that day, other than I got to miss school, which was awesome, and that the judges chamber was big with lots of wood furniture. (I think, or maybe I made up that memory?!) The night before, I remember I got in trouble for something and dad was getting on to me. I said I didn't want him to adopt me, and I remember my mom telling me to look down the hall at dad. He was in a chair, heavy hearted at the words I just said. You don't realize how hurtful you can be to your parents when you are young, but now I see how harsh those words must have been for him. I didn't mean it, of course, just mad and making sure he knew it. It makes me sad to think I ever said that, because him officially becoming my dad was one of the best things to happen to me. He gave me a home, a family, three sisters....I love the life I had as a child. Not perfect, but mine with the family God intended for me. He is still the best dad a girl could hope for, and I'll aways be grateful that he gave me his name, and made me his, even if it was a different path from my sisters.
Then there is the adoption of our first two boys, Timothy and Mason. Timothy was with us for two years and three months before it was official, Mason five months less. To our surprise and utter amazement, I ended up pregnant during that time, so baby Elijah was just four months old. It was the best day! We entered in as parents to one son, and foster parents to two, and left the proud parents of three wonderful sons. It was a great day.
We have used the adoption of our girl to begin the conversation with our boys about their own adoption, since they were so young and have no memory of it. Mason, who is now five, has little interest in what happened four years ago, but is so excited that his sister will now share his name. Timothy, however, is beginning to understand and ask questions. Last night, during our bedtime snuggles, I asked Timothy if he remembered his adoption day. He said he did not and asked how big was he. I told him he was three and Mason was one and that Eli was just a new baby. His eyes shot up to mine and he said, somewhat unsure of the impact of his words, "Mommy, I wish I came from your tummy."
So, I said, "Son, sometimes I do too. But, then I remember those days and I remember how long we tried to have a baby, and how hard your daddy and I prayed for a baby, and then God brought us you. It wasn't an accident or a mistake. It was just as He had planned from the very beginning, that you would need us and we would need you, and the same for Mason and SoSo. We are just the family that God wanted us to be. I am the same mommy to you, as I am to May, as I am to Elijah, as I am to SoSo, and nothing with ever change that."
There were a few more deep questions that come with answers difficult to process at the age of seven, but I hope what he left with was the truth that my dad told me several times throughout my childhood when insecurities would arise, 'I'll always be your dad (or mom), no matter what'. And, at the end of the day, just as I couldn't imagine a life without my family, I hope they see what a gift we have, no matter how we came to be. The gift of family, of a history we can't erase, of blessings beyond measure, and love that chooses each other, all of our days.
I love this line (slightly modified) from the book, Stay With Me, by Sandra Rodriguez Barron, "If they are bound to one another, it is not because they share common blood; but rather, because God has given them the chance to be essential to one another, and they have chosen to accept that invitation."