The truth as I know it:

We witness a miracle every time a child enters into life. But those who make their journey home across time & miles, growing within the hearts of those who wait to love them, are carried on the wings of destiny and placed among us by God's very own hands. ~~~ Kristi Larson

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

This is the truth...

I am cautious about posting this because I don't ever want to deter someone from adoption. However, if the truth deters you, the reality is that you probably should be deterred. You don't do anyone any good if you bring a child into your home "just to rescue a soul" and you aren't prepared for the reality. The truth? It's HARD sometimes. The older the child is at the time of adoption, the longer the child has been in the orphanage, the degree to which the child was parented or not, all are factors in how easily the child will transition into your home. But this is something that not many agencies are talking about and I don't really understand why. I know there are SOME agencies out there that are presenting the information and some of the ownership of this is on the family to seek and find the probability of what adoption is going to look like, but in the end, not many people are talking about the hard stuff.

There are tough issues to deal with no matter how old the child is, but if a child is very young (say, under three) the likelihood that you are going to deal with prolonged attachment issues is greatly decreased. There are exceptions to every rule and some five or ten-year-olds come home and hit the ground running. But the reality is that not everyone can be an exception to the rule and it's better to prepare yourself to fall into that statistic and be PLEASANTLY surprised rather than the other way around and be shocked when you are not the exception to the rule.

So many agencies and families want to focus on the exciting and glamorous part of the adoption process. We want to talk about how much we are going to love the child, how we are going to deal with well-meaning (or not) comments from folks in the grocery store line, we want to make sure the family has working smoke detectors and safe stair railings, we want to talk for hours about what to take when we travel and what to expect in court. But the real rubber hits the road when you've been home three weeks and your new child is totally overwhelmed, scared, angry, sad, confused, grief stricken, and immature in her/his ability to deal with emotions that even adults don't know how to process. Add to this the fact that you, too, are overwhelmed, exhausted, confused, angry, worn OUT from both adoption and travel, and you have this stranger who is DEMANDING EVERY OUNCE OF YOU because they are scared, confused, etc. and you have a combination for a complete mental breakdown. If you aren't prepared, if you don't see it coming, if you don't have a strong support network (not of birth parents, but of folks who have done what you're trying to do SUCCESSFULLY... you know, don't take financial advice from broke people, and don't take parenting advice from people who haven't successfully navigated what you are trying to do either), if you don't REACH OUT when you FIRST start to feel overwhelmed by it and if you aren't prepared to totally batten down the hatches, circle the wagons, and BUCK UP, then you are going to fail.

It's okay to fail to an extent. It's in our failure that God can be glorified, but here is the important part, when you fail, you HAVE got to be ready to cry out to the Lord, with your face in the dirty fibers of your unvaccuumed carpet and let Him know that you CANNOT love, parent, care for, protect or heal this little wounded one. You cannot do it, it's not humanly possible, and this is the place where God steps in and fills the gap. What I am telling you is this... you CAN'T do it! You CAN'T!!!!!!! But it CAN be done! It CAN and it will be the greatest blessing of your life. It will change you forever and you will never regret it for a moment. But you have to know that you CAN'T and it can't all be done perfectly and you have to give up some of yourself to do it well and you can ONLY do it if you are willing to let the Lord do it through you. If you are one of these people who has it all together and can't function if it's not all together, I can tell you from experience (not personal experience, but counseling experience) that you are going to have a much harder time than the people who are sort of willy-nilly to start with. That is not in any way to say that you shouldn't adopt. That is to say that you should walk through that door with your eyes WIDE OPEN and know that you are going to hit a wall and you will hopefully see the wall coming way off in the distance and reach out for help before you hit it. And you will already know who you are going to call WHEN you see the wall coming so you're not looking around for the rescue boat while the storm is raging!

I am a passionate advocate for orphans. I am PASSIONATE about adoption. But I am also fiercely opposed to people adopting for the wrong reasons or becoming so bogged down in the forest of transition and attachment that they lose their way and can't get back. "Saving a child" from an orphanage and then abandoning them either through disruption or continually abandoning them through little abandonments day after day is NOT "saving a child", it's abusive and they would have been better off in their home country. (Gasp, I dared to speak the unspeakable!) It's not a noble thing to bring a child into your home in a foreign country for ANY reason other than a desire to parent a child. If you are motivated by the "romantic notion" of being part of this glorious rescue, boredom, or missions, then I would question whether or not you can sustain the level of energy that is going to be required of you to wade through the thigh high muck of attachment parenting and the bog of transition!

I am not writing this to discourage anyone from adopting. I think we are ALL called, EVERY ONE OF US, to serve orphans. But that doesn't ALWAYS mean you are called to adopt them ( though clearly, many are called that never answer the call because I know it's not the will of our Lord that any should languish in orphanages.) My point is, know that it's going to be hard, knwo that you are most likely going to need to spend some money on an attachment therapist, know that you need to reach out to other parents and be VERY closely involved in the daily stuff with someone who knows. If you don't have that support network, find one! If you're call IS to adopt, then by all means, PROCEED in the total light of truth in knowing that it is the most rewarding, life-changing, blessed, amazing and beautiful experience that anyone anywhere has ever been part of. But walk through that door aware of the reality and seeing the valley you will be required to traverse if you are to experience the glory of that promised land. The Israelites wandered for 40 years.... there is no prescribed time for how deep the valley is that you will have to cross, but if you are persistent and prayerful, you will come out the other side and your reward will be greater than you ever expected. God is abundant and extravagant in His love for us. But His burden is not always light and children don't typically come into your home thankful for every single thing you give them that they never had. They don't say, "Wow, I'm so lucky that I was plucked out of poverty into prosperity and I just want to be the most obedient and thankful child that ever lived." It just doesn't happen that way in real life. So by all means, ADOPT! ADOPT many! Live, eat, sleep and breathe adoption, but don't be fooled and don't be dismayed when you are asked to empty yourself into this child. To whom much has been given, much is expected!

Luke 4:25-26
"Certainly there were many needy widows in Israel in Elijah's time, when the heavens were closed for three and a half years, and a severe famine devastated the land. Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them. He was sent instead to a foreigner...."


The Monroe 6 said...

Oh my gosh!!!
I could not agree more with everything you wrote!

Anonymous said...

Wow. I so agree with your post. We have adopted two children from Russia, and thankfully were well educated by our agency about attachment issues. They were great while we were in country and wondering what to do with our new 3 1/2 year old daughter! However, we have several friends whose reasons for adopting were....we want to "help" a child, we want a "cute child from another country". The attachment issues have taken them totally by surprise and my heart goes out to them. They were falsely advised that if you simply love them they will be fine. How thankful I have been in the past 10 months for our agency, for attachment therapists, and for fellow adoptive parents who had much advice for our varying issues!
His love to you and your family....

Kristine said...

This is an important thing for people to consider...their reason for adopting...not to save, but to love and to parent...a desire to have another child. I think folks should also consider this when taking into account a child with special needs...especially because BOTH parents need to be called...not just one.


Bethany said...

Another great post! I found myself nodding throughout the entire post. It is HARD! We lived in Guatemala for 2 months, bonded amazing well with our daughter, and we have several issues that we are dealing with. We are now dealing with Caroline being delayed in her speech. She understands everything, but will not speak. She just started jibbering, but not many real words. On another note...Just the other day, a lady that knows that we have a 'heart for adoption' called me. "I almost had a baby for you." "Oh, really?" "Yes, but she was Hispanic and I didn't think you would want that kind." WHAT!!!! My child is from Guatemala???!!!!

lori said...


Thanks for being brutally honest. I know I can't deal with all those attachment issues; I really like to have my time for myself. I like to have some quiet time: I'm an only child! But, I can go to Africa for 2 weeks and build a house and love on some kids that are being cared for by others. We all are not called to adopt, but we are all called to care for the orphans and widows.

Kristi J said...

Wow...great post!!! Preach it sista :) Crazy days, huh?? kristi

Kim said...

WOW ... another great post!

Adrienne said...

I LOVED this post. It drives me crazy to hear people say they feel so sorry for orphans and then they do nothing. It also drives me crazy to hear people say they are going to adopt just because they want to save a child. You are so right. If they are not 100% ready to embrace all that this child they are "saving" comes with, then they are not "saving" the child.

I did not feel prepared by our agency for attachment issues and was so thankful I had done my own research and reading to know at least what to expect and how to deal with it when Owen came home. It has been and is one of the hardest jobs I've ever had, and we have given our whole lives to securing an attachment with Owen for the past 2 years, never leaving him with anyone but us, not letting anyone else hold and love on him or provide for him, carrying him around at 35 pounds like he's 20 pounds, paying attentino to every scrape and bruise, and doing our best to see this child of ours transform. We finally feel like we're there TWO YEARS later. Still, every move, each day, we will continue to analyze our sweet son's words and actions ...

Thank you for writing this post.