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.

 

Home Is Where Your Story Begins (sort of)

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“Home is where your story begins…”

This is the sign that is hanging on a wall covered by the artwork of my children. I’ve had it since our oldest was a baby.  Today, my daughter looked at the wall, and said, “That’s not really true, you know.” I said, “What’s not true?” She said, “Home is where your story begins. That is not true. Your story begins in your birth mom’s belly.”

She moved on and went about playing around the house, but of course, I’ve thought about this conversation all day. I promise you we do not prompt discussions about adoption or biological parents. It may seem like we sit around and hash out our adoption story with the kids on a daily basis, but that is not true. Honestly, we rarely talk about it unless they mention it.

Over the course of the past few weeks, both of our older children have randomly said things about it. What this tells me as a parent is that they are both coming into recognition that adoption is a big deal, that their lives have a different component than their non-adopted friends, and that they are figuring it out as they go along and grow older.

And, you want to know what? I’m both excited, a bit relieved, and a little scared by it. I’m excited that they trust us enough to bring us their questions. I’m thrilled that they seem to understand (as much as their age allows) that they grew in a different mother’s body. I’m relieved that I can start sharing more about their stories as they grow older, and that, so far, I haven’t totally messed it up.

However, I am also a little scared – scared that they will experience a measure of heartbreak (and rightly so) for not being able to grow up in their families of origins. I’m scared that the next question will be one that I will have to answer with truth, even though, some of the truth is ugly.

This is the life of an adoptive family. We chose to tell them as young as possible (like reading stories about adoption when they were barely toddlers) that they were adopted. When they were learning to count, we would say things like, “two mommies”. When they played with baby dolls, my husband would ask, “Did you adopt that baby?” And, so on.

No regrets. Only truth.  

My daughter’s insight caught me off guard today, but it also caused me to be a bit in awe of her.

Yet again, this is another example of a life lived from barren to blessed.

Keep on Keeping On {a message for adoptive families}

Today was one of those days when I was reminded that adoption is a human experience that reaches the depths of emotions. I sat through an adoption staffing (interview with families in hopes of being selected for a child in need of adoption). I listened to the families pour their hearts and hopes out to the team members. There were tears, laughter, and a lot of emotions in between. As I finished my day, I watched a touching video of a family who adopted their little one that they have been fostering.

And, I cried.

I thought about our own foster care and adoption journey. I thought about the families who are interviewed time and again, yet never selected. I thought about the ones who are just taking their first steps to becoming adoptive parents, the ones whose hearts are just now being stirred about adoption, and the multitude of others who will soon join the ranks of waiting families.

Adoption is so much harder than it appears to be. I don’t think it is possible for anyone to understand this unless they have been through it. It forces oneself to be strong and courageous, while also being vulnerable. Foster and adoptive families are asked to give all of themselves to children with no guarantee that it will work out.

They have to prove to others that they are worthy of being parents – this is something that people who have had biological children will never understand. They are asked to be authentic and genuine, and by doing so, they are judged on their potential as adoptive parents. Their expectation and labor are not counted by hours or months. Often, they are counted by many years.

Beyond the glorious adoption announcements and videos are years of struggle, hope, angst, heartbreak, and resilience. These things are weaved into the fabric of adoptive families. These things reach into the deepest part of our souls, and remind us that in the end, it is all worth it. The children are always worth it.

Adoption is hard. It takes a ton of patience in the waiting. The ride up the hill is torturous, but my friend, the other side of this mountain is sheer beauty.

To anyone who is awaiting the time when adoption calls your name,

Buckle up,

Put on your boots,

Hold your head high,

and keep on keeping on.

Adoption is worth it

He’s Never Called You Mommy, Birth Mother.

This weekend marked the eighth anniversary of the adoption of our oldest son and Mother’s Day.  Despite the joy this weekend had, you (Birth Mother) were on my mind.  He’s getting so big and growing into a young man; still yet, in my heart, and I know in yours, he will always be a blonde curly-haired and brown-eyed little boy.

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The reality is that he has stopped calling me “Mommy”, and I don’t know when this happened.  One day, he was tugging my pants saying, “Hold you, Mommy” and the next, it became just simply, “Mom”.

It grieves me a bit to think about how fast time is flying by, how we are all so far removed in years from when he was little, and how soon…too soon…he will be grown and spreading his wings to fly into the world.  Still yet, through all of the mountains and valleys of raising a boy in this world, you are never far from my thoughts.

The painful truth that hits me square in the heart is that he has never called you “Mommy”.

I don’t know why I feel compelled to write to you every anniversary of our adoption.  I suppose it is the least I could do.  The fact that our adoption occurred right around Mother’s Day is something I rejoice in, but also feel sadness about.  My first official Mother’s Day was just days out from our adoption in 2008.  In many ways, I feel that the timing is God’s wink at me.  In other ways, the timing is so incredibly complex and full of grief.  People may not understand why, or wonder how I could think of you so often, especially on this day, but that is okay.  This is our journey – his, mine, and yours.

Honestly, if I think too much about it all, my emotions get the best of me.  On the one hand, my heart leaps with love at the thought of being his mother.  On the other, it sways in sadness that you are not.  If you did not choose life, if an intervention had not happened, and if difficult decisions were not made, then I would not be here, typing this out, and listening to him laughing at a video in his bedroom.

This, Birth Mother, is the place where sadness and joy sit next to each other; one touching the other, one never too far from the other. 

I want you to know that he is a wonderful little human.  He is kind, athletic, artistic, and enjoys all sorts of people and places.  He does not seem to know a stranger and has no expectations of the types of friends he makes.  I love that about him.  He holds no judgment about other people.  He doesn’t care what skin color a person has, or what interests a person has, he just meets people where they are at.  This is a lesson for us all and makes my heart swell with pride.

He is eager to enjoy time with others, loves to goof off, and is a loyal person.  He is a good big brother, loves animals, and is always thinking of grand ideas that are (sometimes) okay to explore.

Birth Mother, you were so incredibly kind to us even though we had your son.  You could have chosen not to be.  You could have decided that we were your enemy and that I was anything but his Mother.  Instead, you referred to me as his “Mamma”.

Thank you…from the deepest and most vulnerable part of my soul, thank you.

I suppose you will always be in my thoughts, and in my heart on every adoption anniversary and Mother’s Day.  He may not call me “Mommy” anymore, but know that…

In my heart, we are both his “Mommy”.

 

Momma-in-Waiting {Part 5}

Dear Momma-in-Waiting,

It is that time of year again, isn’t it?  Images of happy children during the holidays are flooding your social media threads, but you are still waiting, aren’t you?  You are trying, with every ounce of your soul, to make the world seem simple, but you are in the most complicated battle of your life.  Appointments, tests, needles, counseling, hope, disappointment, prayer, tears, anger, confusion, frustration, and countless moments of utter heartbreak all seem to color the path to which you walk.  For some of you, there are no needles, no appointments, no tests, and no tangible sense of hope.  Barrenness has settled in and made you its home.

You are a Momma-in-Waiting, and the world seems to be passing you by.

You hear others speak about their babies.  You view their first pictures with Santa, and watch videos of them singing Christmas songs.  They are all growing, aren’t they?  They are learning new words, discovering the excitement of first steps, and giving their Momma’s an array of challenges on a daily basis.  Yet, there you sit.  Listening, smiling, even laughing at some moments, and looking upon their babies with a longing that is only matched by your own determination to get through this season of your life.

You wonder, “When will it be my turn?  When will I hear first words, see first steps, and be challenged day in and day out?  When will I get to experience a Christmas flooded with the laughter of children?  When will I no longer be a Momma-in-Waiting?

You are dwelling in that seemingly lonely place.  This time of year is especially hard, isn’t it?  The holidays, New Year’s Resolutions, fresh starts, and images of children splattered across almost every single piece of media only seems to remind you of what you long for…

a child…

your child…

your blessed answer to prayer.

Dear Momma-in-Waiting,

When your friends are trying to avoid pregnancy, you are screaming for it.  When your friends are complaining about pregnancy, you turn your ears away.  Your heart sinks in a bit, and you just want to silence their words.

It took me many long years to meander my way through the thickness of barrenness.  It seemed an even longer journey to until my number was called and I knew that I would be a mother, forever….when adoption called my name.

It’s not easy.  You know that all too well.  It is not understood.  Nothing seems to be anymore.  Infertility is truly one of the unexplored territories in the human existence.  The ones who travel through it understand, but the ones who do not, really have no clue.

Even after adoption and the gift of three children, I still find myself thinking back to my surgery.  Sometimes, I still wonder what my birth children would have been like, or look like.  I wonder if they would have had resembled my grandmother, or had the dimple of my husband’s chin.

If there are a few words of comfort that I can offer (and I’m a woman of many words, so this will be hard for me) it is, do not stop praying.  Do not stop seeking the ends (whatever they are) to meet your goal.

If, at the end of all the medical trials, you are told your only hope for motherhood is to adopt, it is okay to grieve this.  It is okay to cry fountains of tears over barrenness.  I know I have.

It is okay to get angry, question why you are battling this stupid war taking place in your body, and wonder if the very Lord you have staked your eternity in has forgotten about the life you are living on Earth.

Dear Momma-in-Waiting,

One day when things seem to make more sense, you will look back on this time in your life, look up to the heavens, and say, “I get it now.”  You will be able to share your Christmas pictures, wait until the kiddos are asleep to put out gifts, and plan for months how you are going to surprise them during the holidays.

One day, you will wake up on Christmas morning to the sweet excitement of…

a child…

your child…

your blessed answer to prayer.

 

5 Things I Want You to Know About Adopting After Infertility {Adoption.com article}

I recently wrote an article for Adoption.com regarding five things that are important to know about adoption after the struggle of infertility.  It is valuable to recognize that infertility is truly a life-long process, and there are moments (even after parenthood enters your life) that will catch you off guard.

Adoption of children and the blessing of parenting absolutely fills the void of childlessness, but the impact of infertility on one’s life may never fully go away.  

“Adoption is full of immense joy, but it also has poignant moments when one’s heart is pulled into pieces, and reminders of infertility and barrenness will intertwine with this.”

To read the article, click here:  5 Things I Want You to Know About Adopting After Infertility

Blessings,

Caroline

However Motherhood Comes

Infertility offers nothing, adoption gives everything.

Infertility dispenses despair, adoption dispels it.

Infertility breeds confusion, adoption grows clarity.

Infertility is lifeless, adoption is life-giving.

Infertility seems hopeless, adoption is full of hope.

Infertility gives the impression that one is not deserving of children, but adoption reminds us that we are very-much deserving of parenthood. The two are polar opposites, but when they collide, one’s world opens up to the enriching, beautiful, and life-affirming gift of children.

Friends, if you are meandering your way through the warfare of infertility and barrenness, do not give up. Choosing to pursue adoption is your decision, no one else’s. However, from this barren one’s experience, I encourage you to consider adoption. I’m so thankful that I did, and that the Lord delivered my heart’s fervent wish to experience this gift of parenthood (even on the hard days).

“However motherhood comes to you, it’s a miracle.” -Valerie Harper