Friday, October 18, 2013

Adoption - a [somewhat] brief story of our journey

I'm using an old post for the adoption link-up.

No Bohns About It

Since Kelly's Korner blog is having a link-up today on adoption, I thought this might be a good time to review where we've been. It's a long story and some of my newer readers may not be familiar with it. I'll try to keep it short. (Ha! Not my strong suit.) We'll see how I do.

I have always been interested in adoption. It was something I always wanted to do and even did some serious research into it after our second child, B. was born. (Our first, M. was two.) I wrote away (yes, it was that long ago) for information from various agencies and thought and prayed about it. It never seemed quite right and we never did anything more serious than think. In the meantime, we had three more children, A., P., and D. I had five little blond stair steps and life was good. They were easy, pleasant children, life was pretty stable, and we had a new and bigger house. We felt on top of things. And something felt as though it was missing. Perhaps it was adoption.

After D. was born, I remember sitting in the rocking chair, nursing my adorable, healthy baby boy and feeling so sad. Sad enough to cry. I couldn't shake the feeling that somewhere there was another baby who was not being held by his mother. I didn't understand it and I couldn't explain, but I wept for this unknown child.

It was also at this time that J. and decided that if we were ever going to actually adopt, we should do it now. We weren't getting younger and our family wasn't growing smaller. It seemed right. We filled out paperwork. We waited. We filled out more paperwork. We did more waiting. More than once, I thought this is crazy, why are we putting ourselves through this. We should just stop. And I would burst into tears. It was crazy and scary and I knew we had to keep going forward.

Eventually, we got the call we had been waiting for. A little three year old boy was living with foster parents in Vietnam. Were we interested? Of course we were interested and eagerly awaited the FedEx man to arrive. When the package finally arrived we stared at a picture of a very handsome, smiling boy. Our new son who had been relinquished and was placed in an orphanage at the same time that I was nursing my new baby and grieving for a child I didn't know. We began a new round of paperwork and waiting, along with diligent reading about what to expect when adopting a toddler. We felt nervous, but prepared when we boarded the plane to Vietnam nine months later where we were to meet the little boy (TM) who would change our lives.

We had no idea what was in store for us that day when we caught our first glimpse of our child. A child in full tantrum-mode being ushered away by multiple nannies from his visibly grieving foster parents. We may never know the full story of all the trauma in his life, but we saw first-hand this small and pivotal piece of it. If I am to keep this brief, there is no way to fully communicate here his pain, our shock, and the subsequent years of trying to reach and love this wounded little boy. (You will have to read past posts to get the full story. Go up to the adoption tab and there will be links to all of our adoption stories as they happened.) It started us down a path we never thought we would take.

But through the tantrums and upheaval that our new son brought, we knew we wanted to adopt again. Our family didn't feel complete and we didn't want our son to always be the different one in a sea of blond children. We wanted another child and we wanted to give our son a sibling who looked like him and who shared a similar story, so we applied again. We knew the wait times were long and we wanted a child who was younger than D. our youngest, so we were anticipating waiting at least a year before receiving a referral.

Imagine our surprise when just a month after turning in our application, we received a phone call asking if we would be interested in a 7 month old baby boy with cleft lip and palate. We agreed to look at his information and found ourselves waiting for the FedEx delivery. This little boy (K) was also cute with his wide, wide smile and we said yes, even knowing that his province was taking a bit longer than the others in Vietnam.

A bit longer turned into months and months longer. We received updates on our baby and watched him grow up in pictures. It wasn't until he was over two years old that we were allowed to travel to bring him home. This time we traveled with TM, who couldn't tolerate being left by us and also our two oldest as helpers for both the new son and TM.

While TM surprised us with his anger and trauma, K. surprised us with his size and delays. As we watched him grow up before our eyes and I mourned not being able to parent him as a baby, I had no idea that he would be so small and malnourished and delayed that he would be like a baby when we adopted him. And so we began another learning curve of therapists and patience as we waited to see what life long implications this would have for him. Would he ever speak? Learn? Be able to care for himself? We had no idea.

We didn't know if we were done adding to our family, but didn't rule it out. There were a couple of different avenues we tried and everything ended in a dead end. I received a clear message from God that I was to dare to be idle as far as adding children to our family. It was an emotionally difficult few months. I can remember sobbing in the basement as I was doing laundry and feeling as though I would never have any more little girls to dress up and get to be a mother to. It felt heartbreaking.

And then I discovered I was pregnant... with twin girls. It was the most joyous unexpected blessing I have ever received. Having G. and L. join our family as numbers 8 and 9 was wonderful and exhausting. I felt pretty sure I was done and our family was complete. I stopped even looking at waiting children because I knew none of them were mine.

Then one evening when the little girls were about 18 months old, I was reading a post on someone's blog that a friend had sent to me. I was impressed with the post, and started to poke around a little on the blog to see if I could learn more about who wrote it. It turns out it was an advocacy blog for Chinese orphans... a place I would have never visited on my own. I scrolled through a few pictures because I was there and came across the picture of a little girl with a facial deformity. My first thought was, "Oh, that little girl needs a mommy and a daddy." Then I read a little about her and it stated that she wanted a mommy and a daddy who would love her and sing to her and cook her good food. And my heart broke. But it was crazy to even think about it because we didn't meet the country requirements and we were pretty tapped out with the children we had at home.

Over the course of the next few weeks, I couldn't get this child out of my head. I would think about her and go back and look at her picture. And then I would tell myself all the reasons it didn't make sense. Her diagnosis was daunting. We didn't really have enough money for our family as it was. We didn't meet requirements. And so on and so on. But the feeling of being tied to this child wouldn't go away. I started mentioning it to J. who, as usual, said if that is what I thought we should do, well let's do it. So I called my mother and told her my story. Her first words after I had poured out what was on my heart were, "What do you have to do to bring home this child?" That clinched it. We had to at least try.

Eighteen months ago, we brought home our 10th child, H., the little girl I first saw in a picture. She was meant to be our daughter. We now have an official diagnosis for her, Linear Nevus Sebaceous syndrome which is not quite as scary as the original diagnosis. There are a host of medical issues that she deals with, but we are managing. Through the changes and medical procedures and surgeries, she remains a smiling, good-natured child who is eager to please.

I know a lot of things now that I didn't know when we started down this crazy road. I know that trauma is a very real and painful thing and its effects are horrible to live with, both for the child and the parents. I know that children are resilient and can overcome horrible beginnings. I know that I am both stronger and weaker than I ever thought. I know I will never be the same again.

Over seven years ago, when it was just our five blond stair stepped children, I thought I had it all together. Now I know I don't and that's OK. Seven years ago I thought I understood my own sinfulness and God's great love for me. Now I see that my previous understanding was just the beginning and I have experienced God's love and care and grace in ways that I would have never been able to had my life remained safe and predictable. I have been fundamentally changed by my experience of adoption, and I understand so much more what it cost God to adopt me.

5 comments:

Melanie Freisinger said...

Elizabeth, this is absolutely beautiful and such a testament to God's grace, providence and goodness in all your lives. I was in tears at the end of your story. Thank you for sharing! Blessings on you all!

jan said...

Amen to comment above.... thanks for putting my sentiments to your pen :). xoxo, mom to 9 (6 from heart, 3 from belly :)

chris and shelley said...

God blesses those who say YES! What a testament your family is to trusting in His plans -- they're always greater than our own. Thanks for sharing your beautiful story. -Shelley

Erin said...

Thank you for sharing a part of your family's beautiful story! It is amazing the different ways God works in our lives. I look forward to reading more about your family over the coming months!

Joyful Journey Mom said...

I remember having two children and I thought that was "my number". Now we have 5. God's plans are amazing. Thank you for linking up with Adoption Talk, I hope you come back February 5th!

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