Today is National Adoption Day, and I am bombarded by beautiful families all over Facebook celebrating the creation of their families in this most special and amazing way. And I am torn in two. I am just as convinced today as I was 18 months ago that adoption is THE puzzle piece we've been missing. But my heart breaks. My heart breaks yet AGAIN for the hole that still undermines our whole. And every time my heart breaks, a little piece of me crumbles, and I'm not sure if I can ever get it back. So on this National Adoption Day, please do celebrate with us, but know that those smiling families are at the end of the longest struggle of their lives. Know that they cannot possibly be the same people they were when they began their journey. Know that for as many beautiful families that we can see, there are those of us still waiting, still in the middle, still trying to understand and cling to last shreds of hope, still hurting. Know what lies in between and behind the scenes.
"Let's say screw it and just get five dogs.” Wry, sarcastic, defeatist, dripping with pessimism and between-the-lines desperation.
“The waiting is the hardest part.” Too obvious. Too empty. A between-the-lines dismissal because I have no better justification.
“You should just lie a little bit and SAY you’re going to homeschool your kid.” Well-meaning, surface-level understanding, joking (but not joking) and between-the-lines pity.
“Hang in there.” “Hopefully soon!” Generic encouragement. Over-used lip service and between-the-lines…what? Indifference? Annoyance? Doubt?
“There is no reason Jeff and I don’t have a child yet.” Baffled exasperation. Overt. Nothing in between the lines here.
Fact: Every one of these statements has been spoken (or e-mailed) to us (or by us) recently in response to some non-development in our current, ongoing saga. Every one of these statements has floated around in my head since first uttered. One of these statements comes with the best of intentions, weighted with the desire to show us they’re on our side. Some are merely poisonous exhaust. And others, I have a feeling, are expressed to couples like us far too often.
By all accounts, we have a warm, loving home that contains a beautiful nursery sitting dormant. A place so carefully plotted, designed, executed. A bittersweet room I am drawn to yet want to avoid. A stagnant shrine to the light at the end of the tunnel that never seems to draw closer or grow brighter.
By all accounts, we have an amazing support network of friends and family who still wait with baited breath.
By all accounts, we are intelligent, thoughtful, generous – and grateful – people.
By all previous accounts, we are the family someone will snatch up right away – the family that won’t have to wait very long. The couple who will be great parents.
Fact: All accounts cannot account for our misfitting every opportunity that has come along. (“There is no reason Jeff and I do not have a child yet” – Me, frustrated and weak.)
We cannot afford to spend an additional $40,000 before we even have a child to care for. Kids are expensive, right?
We live in the real world where we both hold down full-time jobs. One of us does not have the ability to be a stay-at-home parent. Neither of us is qualified to homeschool our child.
We plan to encourage our child to explore their own spirituality rather than choose a religion for them before they are even born. We have been told our open-mindedness is wrong.
We don’t have any children yet to be sibling to our adopted child. We fully intend to adopt a second child because we highly value the sibling relationship. But we have to start somewhere.
We have scrimped and borrowed and precisely plotted and accepted amazing charity from amazing people. Yes, we can make $32,000 work. But no, we are not a same-sex couple who already has a child. (“Hopefully soon!” – Our agency.)
Fact: If I have to swallow my tongue and be the picture of grace, humility, and patience much longer…if I have to continue to explain and justify our values and lifestyle…I might just finally implode. Because Limbo is slowly, but greedily devouring my spirit. (“Waiting IS the hardest part.” – I keep telling myself this.)
Why can’t we just paint a rosy picture? Why can’t we fib a little? Why can’t we put ourselves in the most advantageous position possible? Why not look out for Number 1 for a change? After all, we’ve earned it, right? Why not just tell them what they want to hear? (“You could just lie a little bit.” – Multiple friends and family members.)
How can I explain it?
This is the very origin of our family. How can we bridge the void that currently exists between us, who struggle with this great emptiness and need, and her, the woman who singularly possesses the ability to cure us, if we begin with dishonesty?
The degree to which we will maintain a relationship with this question-mark person over the course of our lives is unknown at this point, but there is no denying we will forever impact each other. No other parties will ever share our mutual experience, bond, understanding.
And the sake of our child’s healthy identity will rely on his or her ability to comprehend and accept his or her origin. And that may very well rely on our ability to maintain an open relationship with our child’s birth family.
How can we expect to do this– how can we approach this person later on down the line with yet another need only she can fulfill – if we set aside our integrity in the very beginning?
Fact: This is not about us. This is not about our child’s birth family. At its rawest, most essential truth, this is about our child. What must always come first is what is best for our child. And it is something we, as good parents, must think about now. Just as any good parent takes prenatal precautions to positively influence their unborn child. This is your pregnant daughter, sister, wife, friend cutting out caffeine and alcohol and raw foods.
Fact: It doesn’t mean it doesn’t still sting like hell every time we come up short. Every time we make a concession only to be told it’s the one thing we can’t change or won’t compromise that misfits us with that birth mother. It doesn’t mean my fire doesn’t ash over a little bit more every time I catch myself trying to defend a stranger’s wholesale rejection of us as an appropriate family. Integrity sucks sometimes – it is physically painful sometimes.
“Let’s say screw it and just get five dogs.” The text message I sent my husband after our latest let-down. (“Hang in there!”)
Fact: Four years is a lifetime. I am tired.