Six Things I’d Like You to Know About Adoption {adoption is not perfect}

November is National Adoption Awareness Month in the US.  It is a month when we celebrate and advocate for adoption.  Being an adoptive parent myself, I fully understand the highs and lows of it.  If you are considering building your family through adoption (especially after years of infertility), here are a few things I’d like for you to know.

  1. Even with the joys of adoption, there is sorrow.  You will find that you love your child or children so much that you grieve for their life stories.  You know that they have come to you after a tremendous amount of hardship and despair of their birth parent(s).  With adoption, comes loss.  Helping your children understand and grieve this is part of your responsibility as a parent.
  2. You won’t and can’t have all of the right words at the right time.  People may say things to you that just throw you off.  You usually find the right response hours later and after the moment is gone.  There are also questions and statements that your children will state at the most random of times.  Just be prepared to not be prepared times like this, because they will happen.
  3. Adoption doesn’t stop at the declaration of the Judge.  I’ve said it before, but in many ways, adoption is an evolutionary process.  As your children grow up, they will yearn for answers from you, and they will want to know more about their histories and birth families.  This is natural and should not be taken as a negative.  Your children love you.  They just want to know more.
  4. You will have moments when infertility still sneaks up on you.  Let me give you an example.  Recently, I spoke at an infertility conference hosted by a local church.  I had prepared what I was going to say and tried to stay on target.  About mid-way through, I found myself struggling to hold back tears.  I said, “I would not trade my kids for anyone else’s.  I just wish I would have carried them in my body.”   This statement was not planned.  It hit me like a ton of bricks.  These feelings and waves of emotions will stick with you long after adoption.
  5. You have to be flexible and adaptive in your approach to parenting.  As much as family members adore and deeply loves my children, I still catch them saying things like, “You never acted like that as a child.”  Typically, the way we parent is either very similar to our parents or it can be the exact opposite (if raised in an abusive, neglectful or troubled home).  I recall being a sensitive child and just the thought of making my mother cry was enough for me to stop whatever I was doing.  I’d like to be able to parent the same way or have the same expectations of my children, but I’ve learned that I cannot and must not do this.  I’ve had to adapt and be flexible about my expectations and approach to parenting.  What works for my friends’ kids or worked for me as a child, won’t work for mine, and that’s okay.
  6. Adoption is so amazing.  There is a deep joy that dwells within you when you look at the children whom God picked for you.  It is hard to describe and a bit ironic in how you just know that your kids were meant to be yours.  Is it perfect?  No.  Does it always go smoothly?  Absolutely not.  However, it is hard to deny that adoption is an amazing and incredible experience.

In celebration of National Adoption Awareness Month, we should focus not only on children and older youth in need of adoption and adoptive families but also on the authentic and honest sharing of experiences and lessons gained through adoption.

Adoption is not perfect, but my friends, neither are we.

Adoption is Not for the Faint of Heart {let’s get real}

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November is National Adoption Month and I LOVE it. Do you want to know why? Because it dedicates a lot of attention to the need for adoption and the diverse stories of adoption that are out there in the world.

What we usually see during this month are wonderful images of adoptive families smiling for the camera. What we don’t see are the tears, hardships, and struggles of adoptive families. I think it is only fair that if we set aside a month of celebrating adoption, we should also include conversations about all that encompasses it; not just the smiley, cute, feel-good moments.

Here is the truth: As an adoptive family (and I don’t mind that label), we are very normal in our basic rigmarole of the day. However, our days probably look a little different from other families. There are moments when we don’t have the right words, we recognize that genetics is a mightily powerful thing, and we wonder “will this get better?” There are times when one of our kids says, “You’re not even my real mom!”, “I bet you wish you didn’t adopt me.”, or “Why couldn’t I stay with my birth mom?” These things, my friends, are not what we often see or hear about during National Adoption Month.

So, let’s get real. Adoption absolutely changed all our lives. It made me a mother. It made my husband a father. It gave our kids permanency and the opportunity to grow up without the threat of abuse and neglect. However, adoption is certainly not for the faint of heart.

It hurts when your child tells you or asks you the things mentioned above. It is heartbreaking when you don’t know or have answers to questions that doctors are asking. It is alarming when you think about whether your kids will have anger about being adopted as they grow up. It takes a whole lot of energy and patience to handle the issues that come up during the day. It stings when you are rejected or verbally abused or disregarded by the very child that you would give your life for. Like I said, adoption is not for the faint of heart.

Before you go and wonder about the state of parenthood for me, let me explain that I fully believe in the blessing of my kiddos. I adore them. I cherish them. I love them to the moon and back and know that God fully weaved our family together, but I also strive to be authentic about our journey. If I were to tell you that everything is peachy all the time and we are all so in love with each other all the time, I would be a liar.

If you are considering adoption, I want you to know that it is truly a miracle in life. You will recognize a humbling love that is freely given. I also want you to know that there will be moments and days that it doesn’t feel good. You will shed plenty of tears in the corner of your room.

You will pretend that you are having the best of days while knowing the distress that occurred just moments before. You will discover some truths about yourself, and you may not like them. You will feel the vulnerability of others and it will hurt.

Let’s get real.  Adoption is not for the faint of heart, and therefore I know it is an absolute blessing to be a mother through adoption.

 

 

 

 

 

to love what family is {this is what matters}

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Here is a pic of my two cutie-patootie boys.  Oh my, how the time goes by.  Our ten-year-old is insanely protective and in love with his little brother.  In turn, our four-year-old just adores his big Bubby.  This right here is what adoption is all about.

They both came to us with similar characteristics in their stories, but completely different set of circumstances.  Both have those chocolate eyes that melt your heart, a strong will, a little disenchantment (at times) regarding their sister and curiosity about the world surrounding them.

I could not imagine life without them, and I don’t think they would want to imagine life without each other.  Before we decided to take in our little guy, our children asked a ton of questions.  “Why does he need to come stay here?”  “Will he be able to stay forever?” Questions like these are super normal for children whose parents decide to bring in other children.  We answered with age-appropriate honesty, and our kids completely accepted our little guy as he was – as his situation was.  They just wanted to love on him.

These boys are six years apart in age and are not related biologically, but let me tell you, there’s a whole lot of love and life when it comes to adoption.  There are so many things that we parents can determine our success by, but my hope is that I’m measured by what our children view family and love to be.  You don’t have to look the same, share genetics, or be there from the very beginning to know what family is; to love what family is.

Friends, this is what matters.

An Open Letter to Adoptive Fathers {and my own husband}

Hey, you…a father formed through adoption,

You are a father formed through the miracle of adoption.  I’m writing this because I’m all sentimental and stuff about my own husband, and also because I want to encourage you in your walk through the terrain of adoption.

You have probably heard people say, “I just don’t think I could love a child who was not born to me as much as I could one who was.”  Yeah.  I know.  We’ve heard it, too.  You sit back, absorb their words, and think, “How could you not?”  After all, you HAVE experienced the incredible feelings of wholeheartedly loving a child who was not born from your biology.

You know all too well that this kind of love takes a tremendous amount of work but in many ways, it is effortless.  It is complex, yet simple.  It can get ugly, but oh man, it can also reveal great beauty.  It certainly requires fortitude, patience, empathy, and compassion.

You took a hard look at the situation that led you to your child, and you said, “Yes.”

Yes to the idea of adoption.

Yes to the paperwork.

Yes to the expenses and training.

Yes to the belief that adoption matters so very much.

The word “yes” is a marvel, isn’t it?  When you spoke that word, you opened an entire world to your family and your child.  You refused to be a man who turned away.  You dug in deep, disregarded all of those doubts, and you pushed forward.

Your child may not be born to you, but in so many ways, the two (or 3 or 4) of you have grown from a place that not all parents can claim; your hearts.  What was born within in you is that unending desire to help your child, to understand the way his or her world works, to provide stability and love, and to offer your child the best chance for a life of love, success with relationships, and the complete recognition that his or her life is one of great worth.

Hey, you…a father formed through adoption,

In a world of fatherless children and fathers who refuse to stand up, you took a stand and you stood tall.  I can’t think of anything more manly or wonderful than this.

Don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise.

 

Adopting.Org {new website you need to check out}

Hi Friends,

There’s a new website I thought you would like to check out!  If you are interested in adoption and all things related, check out:  adopting.org

The website features blog posts from adoptive families and others touched by adoption.

Grab a cup of coffee, sit back, and enjoy!

Blessings,

Caroline

A Decade of Love {ten things i want my 10-yr-old son to know}

This is it.  This is one of the big ones.  You turned ten, and my heart just can’t believe it.  It’s been a decade since my eyes first caught sight of you; a decade of all sorts of emotions.  We’ve laughed.  We’ve cried.  We’ve raged.  We’ve said sorry.  We’ve loved.

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In eight years, the world will say that you are no longer my baby.  You will be an adult, responsible for yourself, and I can barely stand the thought of it.  Even when I look at you now, I see that curly, blonde haired cutie with chocolate eyes looking back at me.

I remember your first steps and the first time you stacked blocks.  You would hold your hands up to me and say, “Hold you.  Hold you.” and I just caved in every time.  I also remember when you would dress up like a Ninja, put on a Transformer mask, and jump on your Big Wheel.  You were going to save the world.  I believed you could.  I have the drawings and love letters from you.  I will always cherish them.

I remember our laughter when you would belt out one of your sweet songs you made up with your bright orange ukulele.  You had a silly way of turning life into a melody.  And, you were quite good at it…

 

Son, it has been a decade since tears stained my pillow as I cried out to God.  It has been a decade since I mourned receiving someone else’s baby shower announcement, and since I stared longingly at a mother and baby with hopeful wishes that one day, my turn would come.  It has also been a decade since my heart left my body and walked around in the form of a little one; in you.

It has been a beautiful ten years.  I want you to know that life is not going to be easy.  It was never designed to be, but here are ten things I want you to carry with you through the days that God will bless us all with your presence.

  1. Your worth is never measured by the size of your house, the car you drive, your academic success, or how many trophies are on display.  You know how we say, “It isn’t the size of the home that matters, it’s the amount of love in it that does”?  Well, that saying is not just about houses.  It is also about life.  Don’t ever forget that.
  2. Never forget that while you have challenges, other people do as well.  Remember this when you are with others who seem to be difficult.  Think about it when you come across a stranger that is different from you.  Stay kind.  That is one thing you will never regret.
  3. If you fail at something, try again.  The biggest lessons you will learn in life often come from failure.  Don’t give up on your goals, relationships, or talents.  Keep exploring and remember that failure absolutely rises up your character.
  4. Take care of your body.  I’m not talking eat your vegetables, drink water, and all that kind of stuff (although, that is important).  I mean rest when you need to.  Don’t burn yourself out.  Stay away from drugs and other things that will deteriorate you.  You only have this one life on Earth.  Give your health every chance it has to move you along and to capture all that you can in the vast world.
  5. Don’t measure moments in how much beauty you think they have.  Instead, remember that beauty also involves those raw, honest, knees-to-the-ground kind of moments.  This may not make sense to you now, but one day it will.  The most beautiful experiences in life often come from seemingly painful experiences.
  6. Learn to walk away when you need to.  In other words, don’t get caught up in someone else’s mistakes.  Good friends will not lead you down destructive paths.  You will know you have a good friend when that person accepts you for exactly who you are at any given moment.  In return, be that same kind of friend to someone else.
  7. Laugh.  Laugh until you pee your pants.  Laugh until you just can’t take it anymore.  Find others who make you laugh.  Laughter feeds the soul and it nourishes relationships.  Find joy in odd things; things that you find funny.  Keep making up those quirky jokes you tell.  Don’t be afraid to let the world hear your laughter.  It is perfect.
  8. When you can give, do so.  Receiving is nice, but giving is so much better.  The Bible tells us this.  Giving keeps us grounded and in return, we get the blessing of knowing that we are helping others.  Giving does not always mean material gifts.   These things are nice, but giving yourself, holding the hand of someone who seems like an untouchable, sharing a smile, and encouraging someone are all incredibly powerful ways to give.
  9. Stand up for yourself and others.  Even when it doesn’t seem like the cool thing to do or what the crowd expects, do it and don’t be afraid.  Don’t ever walk away from a situation thinking, “I could have done more to help.”  If you can help, do it and don’t make any apologies about it.
  10. Never forget that there is nothing you can ever do that will make us love you any less.  We will not always agree with your choices.  We may even get quite upset and distraught over something that you’ve done, but son, we will always love you.  The love we have for you is forever stuck right into our hearts.  It is engrained into the very fiber of our beings.  You will learn this once you become a parent.

A decade of life has come and gone; a decade of firsts, thrills, do-overs, and lots of learning.  It has moved quickly and if I could, I would go back and do it all over again.  All of it.

Faith has brought us through it and faith will carry us on.  God weaved our family out of brokenness, but there is nothing broken about us.  We are exactly who we are supposed to be.  YOU are exactly who you are supposed to be, and you are precious.  You are incredible.  Thank you, son, for this past decade of love.

What a treasure it has been.

 

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(Photo credit:  Freedom Photography http://www.freedom-photography.com/)

 

 

 

Don’t Ever Forget That {words for parents of special needs kids}

Oh, boy.  There is nothing like being at a busy and popular outdoors store (aka: the “big” Bass Pro Shop) and dealing with a very defiant, loud, and just plain out-of-control four-year-old.  Wowza.  Directives were given.  Choices were offered.  Still yet, the force was quite strong with this one, today.  Because I am the parent and he is the child, I gave him one last warning, “If you do not hold my hand and stay with me, you and I will have to go to the van.”  And, boom.  He’s off.  Throwing a major, cataclysmic style of meltdown for all of the outdoorsy, fishing fanatics to see.

I swiftly, yet gently picked the floppy body of my child up off the ground, maneuvered him in a way that protected the both of us, grabbed the keys from my husband, and headed off to the seemingly non-ending walk to our van.  The ENTIRE time, my child was screaming.  Now listen.  His screams were not just a “typical” scream.  Oh, no.  It was something animalistic that surely came from the depths of the dwelling place of Hades.

His body stiffened.  I nearly dropped him.  He somehow managed to get himself to the ground, and then magically became limp and without strength to stand up on his own two feet.  I picked him up off of the ground, carried him like a basket, watched for the flailing arms and legs, and we meandered our way through that gigantic maze of dead animals and camouflage.

As we walked, or better yet, I walked while wrestling what seemed like an alligator, people just stopped and stared.  They parted the way (just like Moses parting the Red Sea…sort of) so that I could get through.  Sometimes, a few older people chuckled.  Others made eye-contact with me with the “Girl, we feel your pain” kind of solidarity (AND I LOVE THOSE PEOPLE), but then were many that gave me a look of disdain.  I mean, how in the world would any decent parent have a child that acts like that?!   Right?  Yeah, right.

Alas, we made it to the van.  I opened the door, he threw himself on the ground.  I got his car seat all ready for his delivery, he stiffened his body.  I peered around to see a church van of folks staring and watching our little game of cat and mouse.  I finally got him in the van, shut his door, jumped in on my side, and locked it.

With a bit of snarkiness, I posted on my personal Facebook page a status that included wild animal sounds not being a new sound effect of Bass Pro Shops, having a walk of shame out of the store, and Jesus coming back, but then I sat back in my seat as he started to soften a bit, and I held back tears.

Some might say that this behavior is quite typical of a preschooler.  I suspect it is. However, and I’m going to be extremely candid about this, my husband and I deal with these type of behaviors on a daily basis, and we manage the best we can.  All of our children experienced trauma in the womb.  It is as if they not only absorbed the choices their birth mothers made, they also absorbed the chaos around them.  There is something to be said about that.

People have said to me, “At least you got them as babies.”  ‘Tis true.  We are very blessed to receive our children as infants, but that does not mean, nor ever will mean, that we do not experience daily struggles with our children.  This is the thing that only parents of children with invisible special needs can understand.

When others see my children, they see bright, cute, outgoing, athletic and friendly kids.  What they don’t see is the day-to-day parenting energy that is expelled in order to pull this off.  They don’t see our neurology appointments, clinical assessments, and a medication regimen that we have to attend to.  They don’t hear our discussions with people in the helping profession or attend the various training on managing trauma and behavioral issues that we’ve attended.

They don’t know the late-night, in bed, talks between my husband and I about how we can handle a behavior, or what we should or should not do to maintain.  They don’t know the time spent advocating for our kids.  They don’t hear our prayers for protection, wisdom, and healing.  They don’t understand just how exhausted we are at the end of the day.  And, they do not know our worries for our children’s futures.

But..let me tell you, friend.  There is this mighty thing called faith, and it encompasses us.  It envelops us and surrounds us with the will to get up each day and try to do better.  We know, with every pore in our bodies, that our children are exactly where God needed them to be…with us.

My husband and I realized a few weeks ago that we are parenting special needs kids.  Of course, we’ve known this for years, but we finally spoke it out loud.  We finally gave ourselves permission to call it what it is, and to not be happy and “okay” with life all of the time.

For others who are parenting kids with special needs, I just want to say that you are a special kind of parent.  You deal with issues that a lot of families will never face.  You understand with full attention what it is like to parent a child whose walk on the Earth is laden with challenges.  Your energy and time spent researching, advocating, listening, crying, and praying is time well worth spent.  Don’t ever forget that.

Tomorrow is a new day.  Cover yourself with the belief and hope that we are making a significant difference in the lives of our kids.  We are not perfect.  We have to discipline differently.  We have to choose to ignore the things that would drive other parents crazy.  We have to carry ourselves in a manner that does not show just how much we are struggling.  And, we should be proud of this.

It takes a lot, a tremendous amount, to parent children with special needs.  Don’t be shy to ask for help.  Don’t be embarrassed to admit that you struggle.  After all, we are simply parents whose lives are a mission field for children who desperately need us.

Don’t ever forget that.