When Adoption Is Misrepresented

My youngest child likes to watch motivational videos on YouTube. Sometimes, the videos are fictional stories based on current life issues. One particular video caught my eye, so I sat down to watch it with him. Adoption is the main theme of this video and in my opinion, they got so many things wrong. When adoption is misrepresented, I tend to notice.

*I decided not to post a link to the video as I do not want to promote it. The story is fictional, using actors.*

Scene: A couple introduces a school age girl to their middle-school-aged daughter and says,

“Meet your new sister.” Their daughter reacts by saying, “She’s not my real sister. I’m your real daughter. She will never be my sister.”


The girl runs off, crying and soon the parents start scolding their daughter for her actions. Then, they said the words that cause me to cringe every time I hear anyone say them.

“We’ve been waiting until the right time to tell you but…” They go into this toxically sweet explanation of how they couldn’t have a baby and decided to adopt her. “So, you see, you’re adopted as well.” The girl said something like, “My entire life has been a lie?” They comfort her and she (quickly) becomes okay, again. She then runs upstairs to comfort her newly adopted sister.”

End scene. Cue throwing up a little in my mouth.

There are so many things wrong with this video. While I believe the creator attempted to teach a lesson about assumptions and adoption, it was way off and a total disaster. (This is my perspective of an adoptive parent – not of an adoptee.)

First, it’s never going to feel like the “right time”. Because let’s be honest, a lot of us (AD parents) fear the child rejecting us. Here’s the reality, though – kids deserve to know their histories. All of it.

Using adoption positive language in our home (once we were legally cleared to do so) became the norm. The words – adoption, foster care, biological families, biological mothers/fathers, siblings, etc – were words my kids were familiar with. Placed as infants, they grew into toddler-hood and school-age-hood knowing they were adopted. We don’t fear discussions about it. Our kids take charge of these discussions, ask questions, etc. They grieve when they need to – not when we’re ready for them to.

Seriously. It’s never going to feel like the right time for you (adoptive parent) but if you hide adoption from your child, don’t expect him or her to trust anything else you say. Their entire lives may feel like a lie – because omitting the truth is very similar to it.

Okay, second point. It is unrealistic for a child to just go, “Oh, okay. Now I know the truth and I’m all good.” Um, nope. From witnessing my children, I have seen that adoption is very much an evolutionary process. Each and stage of life brings about unique challenges.

Sometimes, it’s heavy. Sometimes, it’s light. But it’s always about their needs, not ours. When they come to us to talk about it, we stop and listen. When they eventually say they want to reunite with biological family, we will stop what we’re doing and ask if they need help. It will be when THEY’RE ready, not us.

Third point – Please do not use infertility as the sole reason you adopted your children. Let’s say that again. Do not use your infertility as the sole reason you adopted your children. My kids know I can’t have babies. They figured it out when asking if I could have a sibling for them. I have never said, “The reason we adopted you is because we can’t have a baby.” The truth is that is not the reason we adopted our children. We adopted them because we loved them and when the opportunity came, we took it.

Literally, cringe-worthy. Infertility comes into play in a lot of adoptive families’ lives but it should not be the only reason for adoption. Adoption deserves better. Our kids deserve better.

Fourth point – Just say to no to surprising people with new siblings, etc. Kids are not presents that you lay under a tree. We’ve surprised our kids with a new puppy but I could never image surprising my kids with a new sibling. Every ounce of that is wrong. Kids should be a part of the discussion.

When we took in my youngest (who is also biologically related to me), our kids were a part of that discussion. They were only six and four; yet, we included them. We call our third adoption a “surprise” but not because it was a surprise to our family – as in “here’s your new puppy kind of surprise”. We didn’t plan to adopt again. So to us, it was a bit of a surprise.

Looking at my son when the video ended, I said, “I think her parents should’ve told her she was adopted when she was a lot younger. Do you?” His answer: a resounding “YES”. My kiddo is only eight and struggles with comprehension but he understood very clearly what was wrong with the video. When adoption is misrepresented, it does more damage.

I sure wish media did the same when creating tales about adoptive families and adoptees. They miss the mark nearly all of the time. This so-called motivational video got it all wrong, as well. Adoptive families and adoptees are either portrayed as over-the-top positive, lovey-dovey or the lead perpetrator of heinous crimes in an episode of a crime show. There’s hardly even a show with adoption theme that represents the vast majority of us – just normal people doing our best to live and love.

We must recognize adoption for what it is – a complex, multi-layered experience. We aren’t perfect and I know every (adoptive) family will experience different things, but we must always put kids first – before our feelings, before our fears. When adoption is misrepresented, it hurts everyone involved – adoptive parents, biological parents, and most important, adoptees.

loss is often overlooked in adoption

I’ve known for years that loss is often overlooked in adoption. I’ve seen it in my own family and the lives of others. This week, loss hit our home.

Legs shaking as I walked down the stairs to my child. “Hey, I need to talk to you about something,” I said.

My child looked up. “Uh-huh?”

“You’re not in trouble. I just need to tell you something. You know how your biological mother calls me from time-to-time?”

“Uh-huh.”

“Well, she left a message yesterday and I don’t want to wait any longer to tell you. Your biological father passed away this week.”

Silence. My child wouldn’t look up from the Ipad screen as I explained what I know and only what I know. It was my responsibility to tell my child the exact truth. Nothing more. Nothing less.

“Adoption is our life experience, but I’m not in competition with your biological family. I care about them. I don’t know what it’s like to be in your shoes; to have a biological parent that I don’t know. If you ever need to talk or ask questions or any of that, I need you to know that it’s okay.”

“Okay”, my child said.

The truth is I’m just saddened about all of it. To be the one to tell my child about the passing of a biological parent breaks my heart open. I’ve sat in the reality that adoption is both a blessing and a burden.

A blessing that gives every single day.

A burden that continually humbles me.

Loss is paramount in adoption. Anyone who says differently needs to do a serious heart-check about it. While we acknowledge what is believed to be a God-ordained weaving of our family, we also mourn that we will never be able to replace what should have been for them.

God doesn’t want this. He doesn’t want families like mine to have to care for children like ours. He never intended for families to be broken by trauma, abuse, and absolute hardship. This reality smacks me. It breaks me.

When I say that loss is often overlooked in adoption, I mean it. When I say that loss is weaved into every fiber of it, I mean it.

I know it. I live it.

While adoption should be celebrated, at the same time, it should also cause one to consider the deep meaning and reasoning behind it all. I will never replace what my children have missed. I will never be their biological parent and fill that hole in their lives. This agonizes me.

But, I can do what I know needs to be done. I can be honest. Tell the truth. Be open and genuine.

I can welcome questions and console tears.

Barrenness dropped into my life. The only way to become a parent was through adoption. But, friends, the full measure of that emotional responsibility pricks my heart nearly every day.

Yes, loss is often overlooked in adoption but the truth is that loss is weaved into every fiber of it.

This Journey We Are On

There are a lot of worries about this parenting gig. Raising kiddos who are neurologically different offers me multiple moments of worry. I know I’m not supposed to worry. I know that the Lord who knit them in their biological mothers’ wombs has already weaved the tapestry of their lives. I need to trust more; to trust this journey we are on.

Scrolling through some old pictures today, I came across this one taken by my friends at Freedom Photography back in 2013 (before the adoption of our youngest son & when I went through a dark-chocolate dyed hair phase – ha!). Looking at my kids’ tiny little faces with their scrunchy, sweet smiles greets me with great joy.

The statement on the chalkboards sends a ripple through my heart. We weren’t together at birth, but our journeys began together on those days; those laborious, wonderful moments. Those moments belong to their biological mothers. They always will.

If everything we experience is easy, I doubt we could call it a journey. Perhaps, we are meant to stumble a bit along the way so that we can learn how to rise after a fall. Or, maybe, we are meant to mess it all up so that we can know what it is to receive and offer grace. It might be that our hearts are meant to be torn apart so that we can know what it feels like when they are made whole. Maybe, the best part of the journey isn’t so much the final destination, but all the bumps, bruises, and tenderness in between.

I’m not perfect. I won’t ever be all I need to be for my children or my husband. I struggled today and probably will tomorrow. And, do you know what? That is okay. It’s going to be okay.

Pieced together by many little parts of the story – some joyful, some devastating. We are travelers in this journey, each with our own part to play.

My mom always reminds, “The right thing to do is never the easiest.”

And, goodness, this journey we are on isn’t easy, but it is so right. 

Podcast Interview and Thankfulness

Hey friends – Just a little note about a recent podcast interview and thankfulness.

It was 1983 when the words infertility/not being able to ever give birth first became a part of my vocabulary. People just didn’t talk about it, then. Not.At.All. To think of women (and men) throughout centuries who suffered in silence makes me ever-so-thankful for where we are now when it comes to this topic. We still have a long way to go for it to be understood, but we have made significant progress.

Recently, I had so much fun on a podcast called: Foster Care – An Unparalleled Journey. You can listen to my interview by clicking here.

As an adolescent, I knew that I had a lot to say about it but also wanted to keep it hidden out of shame. I thought, “maybe one day, I will write a book”, but it was a burden to carry, becoming heavier as each year passed. When given the opportunity to tell it now or write about it, I still feel a measure of the pain unpeel itself from me – even after all of these years.

Reminded of what the Lord can do with hardship. The Enemy can’t stand for us to be free of the things that were meant to bring us suffering. He would rather us live in misery, sticking to the labels we often give ourselves.

Keep speaking of those things. Keep walking in faith. Keep believing. YOUR story matters.

I also just want to say a big, “THANK YOU” for those of you who have reached out or have read my posts. Your kindness truly means so much.

The 11-yr-old girl I used to be would not believe how far we’ve come; how far she has come. She would be thrilled and dance with joy.

She would also be so encouraged and thankful for you.

Just a Little Longer, Baby

“Just a little longer baby” This thought has been a recurrent one in my mind as my oldest on approaches adulthood. After watching a him singing a song he made (around age 4 or so), I looked at my husband, started crying and said, “I miss this. I miss the little boy he used to be. It goes by so fast.”

We put a lot of emphasis on celebrating and grieving our “last babies”. I get it. I really do. But, oh man, there is something about watching our first babies grow up. It is a slow process of grief and yet, it seemingly happens overnight.

One day, your first baby is stacking blocks to his own amusement. Laughing at all the silly jokes. Crawling into your arms. Asking to be held. In the tiny, sweet voice, you hear, “Just a little longer, Mommy”.

And then, that little boy is gone. That voice is gone. All the silly jokes are gone. The amusement at stacking blocks is gone. Time is cruel. It steals from us – carries pieces of our hearts away. You look at your first baby and think, “Just a little longer, baby.”

I used to cringe when people would tell me that “it goes by fast”. It’s easy to get annoyed by this because you are just so darn tired and busy. I also used to wonder why elder women (and men) would stare at my babies, grinning to themselves, and giggle a bit. I know now. They were going back in their minds to when their babies were young; visiting a place from long ago, a tourist in a land they cannot stay in.

And now, I’m there. I’m a tourist walking through the land of memories of my first baby. We are getting closer to him becoming an adult. Gulp. In the blink of an eye, he went from being that curly-haired, goofy little dude to a teenager just five years removed from adulthood.

It isn’t fair. It doesn’t feel good. Sometimes, I feel that my heart just can’t take it. I don’t like being this kind of tourist. I don’t want to just visit that place from long ago. I’d rather move back there and do it all over again.

Just a little longer, baby.

Just a little longer.

When We Said Yes to Adoption

When we said yes to adoption, we chose YOU.

We said yes…

to laughter and tears,

to delight and heartbreak,

to gifts and losses,

to sweet words and eye-rolls,

to the past and the future,

to hardship and grace,

to love.

Happy Adoption Anniversary Day, Sweetie.

Note: Our daughter’s adoption anniversary was on Monday but due to the flu bug (YUCK) hitting our home, I’m just now getting around to posting this on the blog.

A Letter to My Daughter on Our Adoption Anniversary

Happy Adoption Anniversary, Sweetie!  It’s been eight years since we were declared your forever parents; the ones who would walk you through the rough times and celebrate with you in the good ones.

There has been some rough times, hasn’t there?  There has also been some incredible times.  I know this.  You do, too.

I watch you.  I see the way you watch my every move, as well.  There is great pressure raising a girl in this world; raising one who is strong enough to be fierce when it matters and soft enough to be empathetic when no one else will.  Well, I’m here to proclaim that you are both of these things.  You’re fierce when you need to be and you are soft when it is necessary.  (Although, Mommy wishes you were a little more soft with me…especially when our shared strong-wills clash.)

It’s different raising a daughter.  Not bad, just different.  Us girls are complicated.  We feel every ounce of emotion that enters our psyches.  We over think and overthink until our brains are just done.  We love big and we grieve big.  Often, we are our worse critics.

It’s because of this that I want to tell you to never underestimate yourself.  Allow those strong emotions to come but do so in a way that will always respect yourself and those in your life who matter.  Don’t stop grieving for the homeless and others who are in a bad place.  That kind of empathy may not be rewarded on this Earth, but I believe it will be in Heaven.

Stick to your guns.  Stand up for what you believe in.  Don’t shy away from expressing your opinion (even when it’s not how others think you should feel).  Don’t give yourself away; to a job, to men, to anyone.  It’s hard to get yourself back once you do.

You, by far, have challenged me more than your brothers.  However, you, by far, have taught me more about myself and about this parenting life.  You question everything.  I mean EVERYTHING.  Don’t stop doing that.

You leave me nearly exhausted each day but you also give me the gumption to get up at each new dawn and try harder.  This, sweetie.  This is what it is like to watch your heart dance and prance around in the form of a little girl.  This is both challenging and incredible all at the same time.

It’s been eight years since the Judge declared you to be our forever daughter; although you were always “ours” from the minute you were brought to our home.  I need you to know that I’m constantly thinking of you.  I’m constantly considering how I can make a positive impact in your life and how I can protect you from the harshness of this world.

Yes, it’s been eight years since the Judge declared you to be ours forever, but to me, time is sifting by at too quick of a pace.  If there is anything I can teach you, it is this.

What you are right now is not who you will be in the future.  You will grow and stretch and sometimes, it won’t feel good, but it will be good for you.  Life is neither easy or hard.  It is both at the same time.

There will be times when you feel less than the girl sitting next to you.  There will be other times when you feel that you can climb the highest of mountains with ease.  Both are relevant, but both are fleeting. 

No matter what, always remember that as much as we love you, you have a Heavenly Father who loves you more.  Our love will never compare to His.  While we are your parents, you belong to Him.  He knew you before we did.  He knew you when you were in your birth mother’s womb.  He was present when you were born.  (We were not and that is something that has always grieved my own heart.)  You are wanted and you are cherished by us and by the Lord.  Don’t ever forget that.

It’s been eight years since the Judge declared us as your forever parents; eight years of laughter and tears.  Eight years of talking-back and saying “I’m sorry”.  I literally cannot imagine my life without you.  These years seem to have come and gone so fast.

Eight years from now…well…I don’t even want to think about that, yet.

Happy Adoption Anniversary, Sweetie.

We love you.

We always have.

We always will.

Eightisgreat

 

No, Adoption is Not Second Best

Adoption is a distinguished road not for the faint-of-heart but for the faithful one.I remember it as if it happened yesterday.  After our adoption of our daughter in 2010, family and friends gathered a local Starbucks to celebrate.  It was obvious that we were a happy bunch by the joy and laughter going on.

The barista behind the counter asked, “Are you celebrating something?”  I said, “Yes.  We just adopted our second child.”  He then said, “That’s great.  Are you going to have children of your own, too?”

Hit the brakes.  Inner Mama Bear rising up (Ladies, you know what I’m talking about).  Deep breath.  Tender smile.

Pause…bless his twenty-something, hipster little heart…

I responded with, “Our children are our own.”  “Oh,” he said.  “Well, congratulations.”

I always try to give people the benefit of the doubt when it comes to questions about foster care, adoption, and infertility.  I really do.  I’ve heard some doozies over the course of my lifetime of barrenness; ones that just ripped right into my heart.  Yet, I try my best to respond in a manner that is both respectful and educational.  After all, if we (foster/adoptive parents) want respect, we need to show it.  Plus, knowledge really is a powerful tool in helping to expand someone’s worldview.

Children who enter our lives, often through the tragedy of brokenness, are not replacements or an after-thought.  These precious souls are each born with their unique talents, challenges, and personalities.  Their histories are sometimes scarred but their futures are limitless.  The tapestries of their lives are weaved with love, loss and that incredibly soul-inspiring notion that there is always hope.

Adoption is beautiful and heart-breaking.  It is humbling and faith-building.  It is joy and laughter and tears all wrapped up in one.  It is a whole lot of things but it will never be second-best.  It is the path to parenthood that many families facing infertility choose to walk down.  It is a choice.  It is not easy and can be wrought with many unknowns.  Yet, each step is padded with the firm belief that adoption is a distinguished road not for the faint-of-heart but for the faithful one.

When following the command to care for orphans and the least-of-these, we should also look in the mirror and know that we, too, were orphans.  The Lord said, “I chose you”.  Not only are we chosen, we are cherished and known to our Father in Heaven.  I believe that Jesus had you and me on His mind when He carried that burdensome cross up the hill towards our salvation.  If I thought for one minute that adoption is second-best, I fear the glory and humbling essence of belonging to our Heavenly Father would be trivialized.

But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.  -Galatians 4:4-5

Each child in need of adoption is a treasure to the Lord; worth more than gold or the greatest riches on Earth.  To Him, they are not second-best.  When I look into the eyes of my children, I do not see a secondary option.  No.  I see a longing fulfilled, redemption and the scripting of life without the borders that humans like to establish.  I see children who are worth it.

Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. -Luke 12:7

Is adoption second best to having a biological child?  I don’t think so.  Instead, I believe that adoption is a predestination lovingly anointed with the mystery and power of the Lord.   When I hear people comment about adoption being less than giving birth to a child or just a fallback plan, I cringe.  Friends, these thoughts are the whispers of the enemy trying to sabotage what our Father holds so dear.  The Enemy wants to destroy families.  He wants to bind children.  He wants to remind us of our own loss.  He wants to complicate the calling on our lives to care for orphans.

However, the voice of the Lord is stronger and more powerful.  He calls us upon the seas.  He asks us to tread where others fear to go.  He seeks the willing.  He equips the courageous.  He does this in the name of love.  If we believe in this, then how can we ever accept adoption as second best?

To the hipster dude at Starbucks, it’s okay.  I’ve long forgiven you for questioning whether I would have my “own” children.  Just know that my children – the ones who the Lord declared and prepared for my life – are mine.  They are not second-best.  They never have been.  They never will be.

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. -Psalm 139:13-16

Note:  This was written as a guest post featured on the blog, Mess Into a Message Blog and can be viewed there along with other thought-provoking posts by the author of “Mess Into a Message”.  

Could YOU adopt a teen?

The is a great need for families to foster and adopt older youth.  It is a constant challenge that those of us in child welfare deal with.  During various recruitment events and other types of meetings, we often speak about how long too many kiddos, age 12+, are lingering in the system.  The challenge is to get people to understand that older youth in the system are just as “adoptable” as young children.

I get it.  My husband and I fostered infants.  This was our desire.  There’s nothing wrong with it.  It still fulfills a need.  However, as we get older and as our children age, IF we were to ever foster again or adopt, we would absolutely consider older youth.

Could YOU adopt a teen?  Maybe so.  Here’s an article I wrote for Adoption.com regarding this very subject.  Click this link to read more:  Could YOU adopt a teen?

Blessings,

Caroline

Why You Should Never Say “You Can Always Adopt”

Many people have lots to say about infertility.  Some sentiments are of comfort while others are shallow and insincere.  Soon after my hysterectomy in 1983 (at the age of eleven), I lost count early on regarding the number of times someone said to me, “You can always adopt.”  “She can always adopt” were also words that my parents heard regarding my illness and subsequent hysterectomy.  This statement was definitely a running theme in my life.

Don’t get me wrong.  I do believe that people tried to encourage us.  However, in the early to mid-1980’s and subsequent years, the topics of barrenness, infertility, and adoption were often whispered, and not spoken out loud.  Adoption was also in the far off distance of my life.  Sure, I thought about it.  I knew that if parenthood would come, it would do so through adoption.  However, telling me that I could always adopt did very little to help in my understanding of the strong and complex emotions I was feeling.

The reasons why these words fall flat on the ears of people dealing with infertility and pregnancy loss are just as varied as the emotions people feel when facing the issues.  For some people, adoption is not even on their radar.  Others may fear being rejected or not matched for an adoption.  The time it takes, the waiting, the approval, expenses, the desire to adopt, and heartache are all factors that one must take into consideration.

For me, the reason why I never appreciated the words “You can always adopt” is simple:

These words negated the grief and loss I felt about losing the ability to have a biological child.

I suspect others may feel the same way.

Although adoption seems like an instant resolution to barrenness and infertility, it is not.  It is a separate experience in life, and should be considered so.  Telling someone they can always adopt (in reference to infertility) ignores the importance of grieving over the loss of having a biological child, and minimizes adoption as a second choice.

With any great loss in life, there is a process to recovery.  Infertility, barrenness, and pregnancy loss are no different, and yet, so many suffer in silence.  When we are comforting someone who is grieving over the loss of a significant person in their lives, we do not offer that they find someone else who is of equal importance.  The same should be considered when supporting a friend or loved one who is infertile, or has miscarried.

Instead, know that you will never understand their experience and emotions unless you have gone through a similar experience.  Realize that while you are offering quick answers, they are still in the process of asking a multitude of questions.  Some may be in shock or confusion about their situation.  Life is different from what they once thought it would be.  It is important to recognize this.  Understand that infertility is a big deal, and should never be minimized.  It is a life-changer.

“You can alway adopt” are well-meaning words, but they are ones that are better left unsaid.