Loss And Grief In Adoption
“Did you know that November is Adoption Month? If your life hasn’t been touched by adoption, you probably don’t.
God has been laying on my heart for some time to share more about my personal experiences with adoption (and to be more obedient when he calls me to things. Sometimes I like to pretend I didn’t hear him…or let fear get the best of me and flat out say no. That’s a different topic for a different day though…LOL)
We have always been very open with our story, but sometimes it’s easy to share only the parts that get tied up with a pretty bow. I think we need to talk more about the fact that adoption is shrouded in loss and grief. A LOT of loss and grief. It is amazing and beautiful, and I can’t imagine my life without it, but it comes with great expense to everyone involved.
A friend and adoptive mom of 3 posted a graphic recently with a quote from Reverend Keith C Griffith, ‘Adoption is the only trauma in the world where the victims are expected by the whole society to be grateful.’ I believe this quote was originally used more in reference to children adopted internationally, from foster care and older child adoption, however, I feel that it is also relevant to my experience as a birth mother, my birth daughter, and her parents, too.
The loss is obvious for the birth parents. A birth parent is literally placing their baby in the arms of another couple, sometimes without even getting to hold their child before placement. In closed adoptions, they will often never know where their child is or even what name they were given. In open adoptions, the contact can range from letters and pictures to having a full-blown relationship with their child, siblings, parents, grandparents, and aunts, and uncles. No matter how open this relationship is, it is still very difficult for a birth parent to wonder ‘what if’ and be broken-hearted at missing things like first teeth, first steps, and first days of school.
Often the loss of the adoptive parents is overlooked because people only see the joy of adding to their family. Many people looking to adopt are doing so because they are unable to have children of their own, for a multitude of reasons. Loss for an adoptive parent may come from negative pregnancy tests, miscarriages, failed infertility treatments, loss of privacy in having to share the most intimate details of their lives, and losses with family, friends, and doctors. Maybe it’s secondary infertility where they have tried for another baby for years and either can’t get pregnant or have dealt with multiple pregnancy losses. Even parents that adopt after having their own children experience grief. The grief of having to leave other children in the orphanages when they brought their children home or the grief that comes from knowing and dealing with the trauma of their child’s past.
Adopted children also experience grief and loss. Children that many of us look at and see them as ‘rescued’ are experiencing extreme grief in the loss of people, places, and things they love. Children who were adopted as infants and learn later that they were adopted often have many questions that can’t be answered. Many of these children will be left wondering ‘why’ for their entire lives. Adopted children may deal with abandonment, attachment disorders, and control issues.
I have been EXTREMELY blessed by adoption. I know our story is not the norm, it has been one of the most painful and beautiful stories God placed in my life.
I chose adoption because I wanted my precious baby girl to have so much more than I could give her.
One night, I was working the front desk at the Holiday Inn Express. I was wrestling with God about parenting this baby or placing her in the arms of another woman.
There have only been a couple of times in my life that I have audibly heard God’s voice, this was one.
Me: God, I don’t know what to do! I love her, and I want her more than anything in the world.
God: I love you both. This baby is not for you.
Plain. As. Day. I turned around to see who was behind me, but there was nobody there.
We had gotten a shipment of new magazines for the rooms that day. I was in the process of opening them and getting them ready to put out the next morning. I opened one, and this quote was at the top of the page:
‘Was it really a voice I heard? Or was it perhaps something inside me making a statement I did not hear with my ears but with my heart? Why should I want to follow this command? But as I ask, I already know the answer.’
I took that magazine home, and I still have that quote in an album.
When I met her parents, it was the morning after my senior prom.
I went in terrified and left feeling like I had known Tim and Sally my whole life, and I had a peace I didn’t know was possible.
Brooke was born just a few weeks later.
Before we were discharged from the hospital, we had a dedication ceremony. The paperwork was signed and the car seat was installed.
My grandma spoke about Moses’ mother sending him down the river in a basket to save him. She talked about how this was similar and even though it was difficult, it was right.
At the end of the ceremony, I stood up to give Brooke to Sally. She wouldn’t take her right away. We were both crying and could barely see through our tears. I kind of remember pressing Brooke into her arms, and at that moment we connected in a way that most people will never experience.
That pain I talked about before was shared and understood between two women, two mothers.
One entering motherhood and one leaving, hoping the door would stay open a crack.
Both wanted this baby more than anything on earth at that moment.
Both understood the pain of the other.
Both knew the cost.
Both knew the love.
Out of this moment was born one of the most treasured relationships of my life. Sally and I have a love and respect for each other that I can’t even describe. SHE is Brooke’s mom, and she always will be. She allowed me into their lives when she did not have to. It had to be scary at first, wondering how I would act, how my family would be if I would try to take Brooke back, but she opened that door wide and stood in it with open arms.
People ask us how we cultivated this relationship. We usually laugh because it came so naturally to us that it’s hard for us to explain.
Do you know what I think makes it so easy? We ALL love that girl that brought us together. We love her more than our control, our pride, and hanging onto that grief that can be blinding. We all have her and her best interests in mind. We all want to have the best and healthiest relationships with each other so we could show her what love looks like. We want to remind her where she came from and shine a light on where she’s going. She got the best things from each and every one of us in her crazy extended family. A family that was created out of grief, grace, messiness, honesty, loss, and most of all LOVE.
Grief comes from love. If we never had to love, we wouldn’t miss it.
Celebrate the awesome beauty, but don’t diminish the pain.”
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