Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Worth the Wait

The following is a part of a series of posts that will take you on a (very personal) journey with me through the story of our family. If you are just now tuning in, take a minute to start back at the beginning and catch up: 

Post 1: A Journey
Post 2: Love Awakened
Post 3: Hope Deferred

While God has still not chosen to bless us with another biological child, He has blessed our family with a breathtakingly beautiful little Ethiopian boy that we named Sammy. There are times that Sammy’s belly laugh can stop me in my tracks as I remember God’s promise: those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. He may be the most joyful child I’ve ever met.

When Andy and I had been married about one month, we went to Thailand for a couple of weeks and worked with an orphanage. It took about two minutes for both of us to be head over heels in love with these children and we started scheming how we could bring a couple home with us. From that point on there was no question in our minds: We knew one day we would adopt. But “one day” is rather elusive. We had no idea when that would be and if we had not gone through this struggle with infertility when we did, we may have waited years. We may have missed Sammy. And the thought of missing him is more than I can bear. 

Not long after Caedmon turned 3, an adoption agency that I had done a little research on hosted a introductory seminar in our area. I mentioned it to Andy and he thought we should go. I was a little surprised because, while Andy was 100% bought in to the idea of adoption, he wasn’t convinced that this was the right timing. We had only been in California for about a year and had just “given birth” to a new church. We kinda had a lot of other things going on in our lives, but I was (cautiously) excited that he was willing to at least learn more about this agency.

After attending the seminar I casually said to Andy on the drive home, “So, what’d ya think?” His response could not have shocked me more. He said, “I think we should do it.” 

“Really?! Now?! You’re ready?!” Yes.

When we got home, I went back to our office to pull something off our was the already completed application to the adoption agency that I had filled out weeks prior. It was just awaiting Andy’s signature. He laughed so hard when I handed it to him.  

To say that I was excited would be a huge understatement. I felt like I had just found out that I was pregnant. In many ways, I did! As soon as we said, “Yes!” to adoption we began our “paperwork pregnancy”. We were expecting. 

Nine months later (ironic timing), on July 6, 2010, Andy and I were anxiously standing at the bottom of some steps outside of an orphanage in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Right around the corner was our son who we were waiting to meet for the first time. As 21 month old “Wondimu” toddled out tightly squeezing the finger of his caregiver, my heart leapt into my throat and that same joy that I felt when Caedmon was first placed in my arms was mine again. 

It would be impossible for me to sum up in one post all that God has taught me through our adoption experience. In fact, much of my blog is devoted to sharing that journey with you. But today, I will share a few highlights.

Many people wonder (and a few have been brave enough to ask), “Is it different?” Is adopting a child different than having one biologically? Do you feel differently about the adopted child than you do your biological child? 

(Sidebar- It’s important to note that adoptive families never refer to kids born biologically as “kids of our own”. i.e. “We had a child of our own and then we adopted one.” No. Both Caedmon and Sammy are very much “kids of our own”.)

Back to the question... The answer is yes, it is different. And yet at the same time no, not at all. 

When we brought Sammy into our family, I fully anticipated having all of the same emotions for him that I felt for Caedmon when he joined our family. I was absolutely smitten with Sammy from photos that I had received and was enthralled with him during our week in Ethiopia. I had been longing for him for three and a half years. My dream was finally coming true!

Needless to say, I was completely blindsided by the reality that the bonding process was not immediate in either direction. I anticipated that Sammy may have some trauma to work through and it would take time for him to understand that we are his forever family. But I was confident that I would feel nothing but love and compassion for him. Ha. I discovered I’m not that noble. 

At first, it felt like I was taking care of a friend’s child or, at best, my nephew. I cared about him, but he was a bit of a stranger to me. Not only was there a lack of familiarity, but there were all kinds of negative behaviors that made loving him much more of a choice than an emotion in those first months. Waking up 4 or more times a night, refusing affection, biting, a strange combination of wanting to be constantly held but only on his terms, and sibling issues. Ah, the sibling issues. It was a hard time.

There were so many nights that I cried myself to sleep feeling like a horrible mother. I wondered if I would ever be able to love Sammy the way that he deserved to be loved. Would he ever feel like my son? I knew we were 100% committed to providing for Sammy for the rest of his life, but I wasn’t satisfied with a relationship based on bathing and clothing and feeding. I wanted to love him from the depths of my soul with an unstoppable love. 

It took time. Some weeks felt like we made a ton of progress. But then we’d have a major regression or I would notice some behavior that reminded me of just how far we still had to go.  

It took memory making. It took countless nights of snuggling on the couch while we read the Bible together. It took family vacations and Christmases together. It took singing songs and kissing boo boos and making playdough creations together. It took prayer. 

If you’ve ever met Sammy, you probably have no idea why in the world I would ever struggle to love him the way a mother should love a child. He is truly the most lovable and endearing child you’ll ever meet. I don’t really understand it either. I just know that I have a different expectation of my level of love for my own kids than I expect to feel about any other kids. So as much as I “loved” those children in the orphanage in Thailand and wanted to take them all home with me, the reality is my love for them was not that of a mother’s love. It was a fairy tale love. A happily ever after love. 

Adoption is not about that kind of love. It is not for the joy of beautiful, multi-ethnic Christmas cards. It’s not because I love international missions. It’s not to feel like a superhero by rescuing a child from the throes of poverty. It is not even because adoption is a picture of what God has done for us through Christ. 

As magical and lovely as all of that sounds, adoption requires a fierce love. A “I’m-never-going-to-stop-loving-you-no-matter-what-you-do” kind of love. A love that is willing to potty train and discipline and do bedtime routine every. single. night. A love that can take stinky breath and stinky booties and stinky attitudes. A love that desires what is best for that child no matter what inconvenience or sacrifice is required of myself. That is the love of parenting. You can’t say you love adoption without also loving parenting. 

Do you know why, ultimately, we adopted and why we would like to adopt again in the future? Sure, I’m proud of our beautiful Christmas cards and international mission trips have changed my life. It does feel good to know that we have given a one-time orphan a family and a chance to become all that God has created him to be. And I have, honestly, learned a lot about my relationship with God when I consider the parallels of our adoption process with Sammy.

But the real reason that we are committed to adoption is because the Bible is pretty clear that we (the Church) are to look after widows and orphans in their distress. And because the Bible teaches that we are to love our neighbor as ourselves and it just so happens that a lot of our neighbors in this world are without families. I am NOT one of those people that thinks every single family should adopt. Adoption is a calling. It is one of the (many) ways that we can look after orphans in their distress. But, I AM definitely one of those people that believes every family should consider adoption...because if you haven’t honestly considered it as a possibility for your family, then you can’t honestly say that you know God is not calling you to it. 

One other thing I’ve learned through adoption: love grows. Given time and commitment and a few rounds of glow stick parties, love grows. It may grow slowly at first, but once those roots start to get firmly planted into the rich soil of a devoted family, growth takes place at exponential rates. It’s uncontainable. 

I no longer wonder whether I’ll ever be able to love Sammy the way a mother loves a child. I already do. I marvel at him and laugh at him and get mad at him and play with him and train him the exact same way that I do Caedmon. There is no difference. The only variations come as a result of the fact that, I guess in some ways, we have a unique love relationship with every precious individual in our lives. 

When I look in Sammy’s sparkling coffee colored eyes, I think to myself, “You were worth the wait.” Even if it required me to cry myself to sleep and for my heart to be wrecked with unanswered questions for month after month that grew into year after year. I would do it all over again. I would go through the pain and disappointment of infertility and the struggles with attachment and bonding of adoption. I wouldn’t hesitate just so that I could see him tiptoe out of his bedroom in the morning with his monkey pajamas and soggy pull-up and come bounding into my arms and hear him say, “Mommy.” So worth it. 


Maureen Tanai said...

I also had to learn to trust God but with different circumstances. During high-school I got sick, and tried so hard to catch up on missed credits. Nothing seemed to work out. I couldn't take classes at summer school because I didn't fail the class. Taking classes at a college never worked out for some strange reason. I pushed and pushed (at the time I thought it was perseverance). "Be still and know that He is God" is what comes to mind now. I found out around 4 years later when I couldn't graduate in 2004 due to lack of around 20 elective credits, that if I hadn't struggled, I wouldn't have spent 2005 in the same graduating class as my brother. I had so many wonderful senior activity memories with my brother. Lather that year in November 2005, he was murdered as an innocent by-stander. I am so thankful that God gave me such a special gift of time with my brother that year. God really gives us the best He can for us. I wondered what God must have thought during those 4-so years I lacked faith and wisdom. Probably it's the same I feel when my 2 year old, Simon screams and hollers when he wants something, and he won't bother to stop and hear me say how I'm in the process of accomplishing it for him. I got a revelation that I had been acting childish, and not child-like. It was such a profound thing. Sometimes God teaches us amazing things about ourselves through children, even where we stand on the patience meter! hehe. ;)

Tine said...

I am crying with every post...thank you Stacie, for sharing your journey with us. ❤

Chris and Karen said...

Thank you for sharing your journey, Stacie. As an adoptive mom, I identify so much with the struggles and feelings of infertility. I now do thank God for infertility as I can now mourn with those who mourn, and I can celebrate and bond quickly with those who have also adopted. May He use your words to bless and encourage others.-Karen, mom to Johanna & Ellie

Anonymous said...

thank you, Stacie, and Karen, too. I hope - and sometimes am overcome with doubt - that God has a future full of children for my husband and me.
i am encouraged to see how His plan has worked out so beautifully for others, after the struggles.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Stacie. I lost a child, but you are correct. If God gave me a choice, knowing I would lose my child in the end, I would still do it all over again. I still hold the memory of every smile, every cry and the times she held out her arms for me to pick her up.