Labor Pains

A new friend asked me to tell her about adoption. I share it with you, with only a few minor changes:

I'm not sure where to start or how much to tell you. I wish I had had an open heart and an open mind when I went into this. I think I still would have adopted, but it would have been less painful had I been prepared - emotionally and mentally.

Here is where I see the beauty of adoption. For me, it has enriched my understanding of God. My faith in Jesus has deepened and widened. You can take religion out of it if you want, but I have to share it within that context:

Take a young woman, in our case a 19 year old who worked at a gas station, had no college in her future, and an 18 year old son of a divorced mom. In Korea, a child born out of wedlock has no identity or place in society because they cannot have family registration. The woman would be shunned at every turn.

I believe the oneness we experience as husband and wife is a glimpse into the mystery of the Trinity. How can you be 3 distinct Persons in One? I also believe the mother and child bond is another way God shows us the mystery of the Trinity. Totally separate and complete individuals that are bound so fundamentally that the baby does not exist without his mother. He knows nothing of the world but her. Then take that baby, rip him from every sensation he knows. Hand him to a stranger who doesn't rock the same, walk the same - doesn't sound the same feel the same smell the same. A month later, just as he's settling down with this stranger, hand him to another stranger in another city. Raise him to a stage in his development where he recognizes faces and consciously knows his new "mom." Then give him to total strangers. Again. Who, on top of not rocking, smelling looking, smelling the same, don't SPEAK the same. What baby would handle these traumatic changes blandly??

Then look at the couple - me and HH. We try the infertility treatments, think about the more invasive ones, count the candles on our cake and realize not only are our chances of success minuscule, but the process smells distinctly immoral.

Take the sad choices those two young people made, the sad result, the unfairness of the societal structure. Then take this baby who is ripped from everything he knows. Then add the frustrations and failures of the couple. Shake it all up - sadness upon sadness upon sadness. Bring out of that a Beauty. No, not everything is happy, but there is a beauty to what happens. And I believe only God can bring Beauty out of so much pain.

As a Christian, I have heard the notioni that I am an "adopted heir" to the Kingdom. (Romans 8, Romans 9, Ephesians 1, Galatians 3) By adopting Boo, I have seen more clearly the significance. This child was a stranger to me, forsaken on this earth, destined to a pitiable life. By adopting him, this stranger has become mine (ours.) He is exactly as if I had borne him and is our heir. And we are strangers! yet God adopted us as heirs to His Kingdom just as much as Jesus His Son!!

I want to tell you adoption is not for the faint of heart. The process is long and rife with uncertainty, humiliations and potential hazards. My process was relatively smooth and I was in total denial about the humiliations of the whole process, because I had a goal: getting a baby.

If you adopt domestically, it can be quick and inexpensive but very uncertain. You can go the private route with an attorney but I really don't know about that except again, it is very uncertain whether the mother will actually relinquish the child. Overseas? there are accusations of baby selling (Guatamala) and baby stealing. You can be lied to and 'taken." It can cost more than $20,000 with multiple trips to the country. I have one friend adopting from Haiti and it has been 4 years. I have another friend who adopted from China and that little girl was so sick they almost lost her. I know someone else who had to give "gifts" to the foreign workers.

You know any 16-year old can do it behind the bushes and have a baby. She can even take the baby home. Take a mature, respectable, educated couple like us? We have to prove our financial capability, show them the medical and social resources available to us, show pictures of our house, have a social worker deem us worthy, write a biography of our family, list family members names and addresses, get child abuse clearances, get a criminal check, fill out umteen forms, be herded around like cattle, and swear you won't spank.

They will ask you what level of disability you're willing to accept. So, you and your husband sit there, like you're picking features on a car and check off boxes: missing digits yes no; missing limbs yes no; mental disability yes no; cystic fibrosis yes no; cleft lip yes no; mental illness yes no. It's painful.

Korea has a very well established adoption process. Actually no bragging on my part but it is considered the best. Their medical system is very advanced (established by American missionaries.) There was some concern about Boo's head, so they did a CT scan. That won't be happening in places like China or Haiti, believe me! They tend to be generally honest, and even overly cautious of the medical condition and physical development of the child. At one point, they thought Boo was hypotonic. Well, you're on the other side of the earth and what the heck does that mean?? Do we continue or do we abandon?? Abandon HIM??

Your child finally arrives. You have been dreaming of those misty pictures of a mom snuggling a baby, tinkly nursery music, revolving moon and stars behind them. Instead? The baby screams and screams and screams. He won't sleep for more than two hours at a time. He won't nap for more that 20 minutes at a time. Every tiny noise startles him awake and it's more screaming. He doesn't lay in y our arms or want to be held. Instead, he's stiff as a board, and "stands" in your arms always looking - hypervigilent - over your shoulder, looking for his "mom."

Or. . . some kids don't care whether you come or go. He'll go in anyone's arms. When you return, he doesn't even look up. He's listless.

And the spectrum is anywhere in between. Sure, lots of babies do OK. But they get older and they talk late. They have learning disabilities. They're autistic. They're overly charming and/or extremely temperamental. Most parents chalk that up to the child's "personality." They'll even be racist and say it's "kimchee temper." Yeah, and blacks dance well.

IF I HAD KNOWN, I would have been prepared and parented him differently. I would have used attachment parenting. I would have read books on attachment. I would have understood FROM THE CHILD'S PERSPECTIVE what was happening. I wouldn't have been selfish and only seen it from MY point of view. I wouldn't have sunken into a deeeep depression wondering WHAT in the world I had done. WHY was God punishing me for becoming a mom??? Planning escapes...change my identity...leave Boo with my husband to deal with.

When Boo was 3, God saved me (and him!) by bringing another adoptive mom who told me all about the devastation to attachment and bonding that EVERY adopted child goes through. (Although I know not every child will be traumatized, depending on their innate personality.) She shared with me what she had gone through with TWO adopted children. And she introduced me to mom after mom after mom who recognized their adopted child needed to be raised differently than a birthed child.

Now, I do not exaggerate when I tell you how much I love Boo. Labor pains? You bet.


Daisy said...

Well said. My son has been with our family for almost 3 years and our daughter for just over 1 1/2 months. Two totally different experiences. Adoption is surely not for the faint of heart, no matter how prepared you are...but what a blessing both have been. My once empty heart now overflows.

Rebecca said...

Wow, Grace. That's something else. When we get together, I'll tell you about out attempt to become foster parents.

Julie said...

Amen. You just wrote everything that I tell people about adopting. But you and I have already talked about that.

I especially like the planning the escape. I used to sing, "Someday. Someday things are going to get easier..." to myself nonstop making myself believe that this couldn't be what parenting was all about.

You can't be a weak person and adopt. Only the strong survive.

Musings of a Housewife said...

I know most of this already, but I'm sitting here choking back sobs and wiping tears off my face.

Boo is SO blessed to have you. He is a beautiful child, and he has survived much. ((hug))

Anonymous said...

I've been through the infertility part but not the adoption part. I had no idea. This is so beautifully told. God found Boo the right mom when he put you together.