The Call to Adopt: Christians and Adoption.

I’ve heard these phrases often:
“We always felt called to adopt.”
“We never felt compelled to have our own children, so we chose to adopt.”
“Adoption was laid on our hearts.”
“We prayed about it and decided we would adopt.”
“We prayed for this child.”
“Adoption was God’s plan for our family.” etc. etc. etc.

Each of these comments prompt me to ask this question: If you knew you were called to adopt your children, if this was your prayer, then is it remotely possible that you misunderstood what the Lord was saying? And if you misunderstood, then how is it so many are misunderstanding what He is trying to say?

I am asking.

I know so many women that have struggled with the pain of infertility, even so, is it possible that maybe, just maybe, the desire of your heart is louder than the voice of the Lord? See, I don’t believe we are entitled to everything we want in this life. I think sometimes God says “No.”

For anyone that has ever attended an evangelical church, you know that adoption is as common as coffee in the atrium. The evangelical church is the largest lobby group for adoption today. Adoption has become a popular choice by both the pastoral staff and members of their congregation. Dare I say “trendy”? But, let’s go back to Scripture. How was adoption cited in the Bible? Other than Mordecai and Esther (a kinship adoption) I’m unaware of any adoption. Moses was- sort of- adopted but his mother nursed him and helped raise him, and there was no happy ending there considering his estrangement from the Israelites and subsequent flight into the desert. If we look more closely at a few of the verses that might be interpreted as reason to adopt, we find that there is a huge discrepancy between the verses pertaining to spiritual adoption into the family of Christ and adoption as it’s known today.

James 1:27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after the orphans and widows in their distress and keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

Psalm 68:5 A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.

Psalm 82:3 Defend the weak and the fatherless, uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed.

Matthew 18:5 Anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf is welcoming me.

Now, here’s the thing. I am trying to find the verse or verses that tell us to adopt another woman’s child and raise them as our own. I need to find it, but I can’t. If I found it, then I would understand why so many believe this to be something ‘the Lord has called them to do..’ I want to have grace for these decisions, including the decision I made 27 years ago. I was told this was God’s Will. I was told this (adoption) was the consequence for my sin. What I do see, over and over, however, is that we are to care for the orphans and widows. CARE FOR THEM. Do we see the difference? Imagine if the church made their ministry about keeping families together, rather than tearing them apart. Imagine if the tens of thousands of dollars paid to adopt a baby went to preserving a family instead? That IS the heart of Christ! Does He make mistakes? If he doesn’t then we must see that He had a plan when He allowed a pregnancy to occur. He had already chosen who He wanted to be the mother of that child. Was adoption a sin because we weren’t following the plan he had already put into place? Certainly a “calling” would have a clear scriptural reference.

(1 John 4) We are to search every spirit. We are to be like the Bereans searching scripture daily. This needs to apply to adoption as well. The church takes it as just so, but it never existed for 2,000 years until the last century.

Exodus 20:17 You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife or his male servant or his female servant, or his ox or his donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.

Coveting. This is a dangerous thing. And, if you profess to be a Christian then you strive to be like Christ. I have seen pages and pages of prospective adoptive parents requesting “prayers for the birthmother; that she will please make the right decision and give them their baby” (click here). The truth is, this isn’t their baby. It belongs to the mother that birthed the child and that’s where God intended this child to be. There’s no denying that they are praying that the “birthmother” will give them what they’ve longed and prayed for; what they believe is rightfully theirs. I’m trying very hard to understand why they feel this child belongs to them, via domestic adoption or international. Either one.

Matthew 6:2 When you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.

Virtue signaling. It seems adoption has become more of an appearance thing and less of a God thing. It’s a heart issue, for sure. Adoptive parents stand out as virtuous, yet the scripture clearly states we aren’t to brag about our giving, yet, the child is the embodiment of their charity.

Does God definitively ordain the adoption of a poor and/or isolated women’s babies? Does God consecrate the paper orphan? If the answer is no, then the church is in a major crisis. If the answer is yes, then many of us are in a crisis of faith.

Proverbs 31:8-9 Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless and see that they get justice.

As long as we have adoption I will continue to be a voice for the voiceless, the infants that never asked to be removed from their mothers, be it forcibly or by subtle coercion. They never asked to be adopted and I’m certain every single infant would choose to remain with their own mother.

Written with help and support from Velvet Bocephus.

Photo credit: Anne Heffron

 

 

Adoptees and Saying Goodbye

I hate saying goodbye. It might be a move, a death, a break up, or an unhealthy friendship. Sometimes it’s just that a vacation is over, yet, for many adoptees it’s so much more than a goodbye; it’s a visceral response that is really uncomfortable. Even if we no longer want the person around, the thought of them not there anymore might induce something akin to terror. I’ve faced this. The logical reasoning is present, just not being applied. We would rather keep people in our lives simply to avoid being triggered, even when it has little to do with the person you’re saying goodbye to, but more to do with the feelings that go along with it. We revert back to infancy; the image of being left alone, the fear of not being heard, of being left behind.

After talking with other adoptees and therapists I understand that I’m not insane. It’s yet another glorious side effect of adoption trauma. I have, on more than one occasion, stood outside of myself watching the chaos unfold. Reasonable Me is pleading with Unreasonable Me, begging her to come to her senses as she has a melt down in the corner; her eyes are wild and she’s inconsolable, demanding that I leave her alone. There’s no logic with this woman, but what I now understand is that Unreasonable Me is actually Infant Me and she is terrified of feeling abandoned.

A wise friend gave me great advice a few years ago and I’m still trying to make it stick: Most relationships have a life cycle, they last for only a season. Wisdom is knowing when to withdraw or when to let it ebb and flow. It’s not always the death of a relationship, but sometimes it just grows old and slows down. Most relationships have imbalance; one person investing more than the other. It’s the rare relationships that remain equal that will live forever.

For many adoptees, and certainly for Unreasonable Me, this notion of a friendship life cycle brings uncertainty. We hold on tightly to those we love, sometimes in desperation, hoping they never leave. This reeks havoc on our self esteem. There has to be a way to gracefully navigate through these uncomfortable places. We need tools and we need to understand why before we can learn how. I want to learn how to climb over these massive rocks that were set in my path so I can look back and say I DID IT.

 

 

Listen.

People often ask me how I function being both adoptee and a mother of loss. The truth is, life was easier before. I could never connect the dots. Missing my daughter made sense but missing my mother was an elusive ghost. I didn’t have a name for it. How could I miss someone I never knew? Why would I long for her if I already had a wonderful family?   But, I did.

I was the master of distraction, constantly running, especially when I felt my momentum start to betray me. I surrounded myself with people and movement and noise. Sometimes I would work out twice a day. Keep moving. If I didn’t have an activity, I had a project to keep me occupied. Keep going. If I kept the volume of life loud enough then I couldn’t hear the persistent sound of despair.

I spent my 30’s searching for a diagnosis as an explanation but no doctor would give me one. My older brother worked for Mayo and one year at Christmas he thought it would be nice to give me the Mayo Clinic Family Health Book. This book is HUGE, bigger than the Bible. It contains every physical ailment and mental illness known to man- with photos. Upon receiving this nightmare of a gift I started diagnosing myself with new disorders/illnesses and on several different occasions, drove myself to the emergency room. I was never given more than a couple bags of saline and a prescription for Xanax (which I never filled but probably should’ve). I knew they were missing something. But really, how do ER doctors diagnose adoption trauma? I had ALL the symptoms, I just didn’t know it had a name.

I had no idea there were thousands of other adoptees and mothers that felt this way. An army of grief: they had lost their mothers or their children. I had lost both. It wasn’t until I found community, support, and my mother that I finally began to mend. And that didn’t happen until I was 45 years old. If I’d had the information back then that I have now everything would’ve made sense, not just for me, but also for the family that raised me.

Today my overwhelming concern is for young adoptees and their parents. Teenage adoptees attempt suicide four times greater than non adoptees (Academy of Pediatrics). Adopted and foster teens /adults are the highest minority of people to be over represented in mental health facilities and prisons. Every time I hear of another adoptee suicide it sends panic through me. It’s avoidable! The trauma occurs at separation. If we support family preservation and view adoption as a last resort then we will lower these alarming numbers. Adoptive parents need to understand this prior to adopting a child. They need to be educated about adoption related issues in order to help their children survive.

 
This week we learned that we lost sweet Jane. She was a beautiful, 14 year old Korean adoptee. She could no longer numb her pain so she took her life. It sent a ripple throughout our community even though none of us were surprised. We shake our heads in solidarity and think, ‘What did they really expect?‘ We must listen, for the children.

(photo by Anne Heffron)

Spring

FullSizeRender (2)

I just hung up the phone with my New York mom. She’s such a gift, so well adjusted and comfortable in her own skin. She pours her energy into me and I devour it with an insatiable hunger. This is the nourishment I’ve been deprived of my entire life and she willingly provides it. My jeans finally fit again. They’ve always been my emotional barometer; the scale is too cruel and insensitive. I breathe in her health, her biology, her love. Our cells remember our mothers. We’re pulled to one another from across countries, time and space. We need our family.

During my search, along with my new understanding of adoption trauma and unethical adoption practices, I was thrown into an abyss. I’ve leaned hard into my tribe. We all look the same, covered in wounds only visible to us. I’ve found women that relentlessly climb towards healing through advocacy and education. They refuse to get stuck in their loss, turning their sights towards something bigger than their own pain. This is where I intend to hang out, holding their hands. It’s a sisterhood (with a few brothers thrown in) of tattered, limping soldiers determined to see change. The more important these new friendships have become the more I’ve seen relationships with childhood friends and a few family members change, becoming fluid, morphing into different shapes. Some are no longer recognizable and that’s okay. It’s necessary. I can hardly sit with some of them anymore because being asked to explain is futile and frustrating, not being asked at all is maddening. I’ve voluntarily let them go.

In Arizona we don’t experience the new shoots that come up in the Spring. It’s too hot and the ground is too hard and dry. One of the things I miss most about living in the Midwest is the new growth pushing its way through the dirt, all the rain bringing bright, colorful flowers to the landscape. This is like that. Beauty from ashes. New life.

I’m so excited to see what the next season brings.

Mother.

I found my family one year ago and during that time I’ve watched the sharp edges of my life turn into something softer and forgiving. How do we function in a truly healthy way if we don’t know who we are or where we came from? I lived the first 46 years wildly careening through it, not realizing the mistakes along the way until they were 100 yards behind me. I was fire, with an undercurrent of raging fear; fear of rejection, fear of security, fear of intimacy, fear of abandonment. I tested love and commitment, not believing anyone would stay. My marriage felt it, my children felt it, and the family that raised me felt it. Finding my family was like seeing my children for the first time after their birth, taking in every cell, memorizing them, yet already completely knowing them. It was deeply rooted familiarity. It was peace. Knowing my mother is seeing my reflection for the very first time.

 

Yesterday was her birthday. She had me one week before turning 20. I had my daughter and relinquished at nearly the exact the same age. This synchronicity is fascinating, how history repeats itself, often in the most tragic ways. I believe our shared experience, as unfortunate as it is, has helped us understand each other and give so much grace. She can hardly speak of that season, yet I keep asking her questions. I’ll hug her and tell her that I understand, because I DO. I see her gradually unfold, climbing out of herself, the place she’s most comfortable. I think she’s SO brave for going back to that painful time, not because she wants to, but because she loves me. She’ll talk herself through it, saying, “I can do this. I can do this. What do you want to know?” And she tells me the stories I’ve waited to hear. The story about my father. The story about when she carried me and how she felt during that time. The story about my birth, and that she never saw me. That she never held me. And, I listen. I can handle it, all of it, because we have each other. And with this gift comes the freedom to love and heal. Together.

“Adoption—A thousand reasons to be angry”

Adoption Detective | A True Story by Judith Land

“Empathy is heartbreaking for the virtuous adoptive parent who has given all the love and care and hugs they can to a child that continues to struggle with anger management issues. Separation of a child from its mother increases the risk of various deep-rooted forms of psychopathology based on attachment theory; problems that may continue to manifest themselves in adolescence and continue through to adulthood.” Judith Land

Anger | Adoption Detective | Judith Land“Our self-image sets the boundaries of individual accomplishment and determines what we become. A belief in a positive self-image is the cornerstone of all the positive changes that take place in a person. Anger clouds our judgment and causes us to respond wildly based on our emotions. Anger is a negative emotion that is toxic to the body that interferes with its harmonious functioning and balances by negatively affecting our heart, immune system, digestion and hormone production. If you’re an adoptee who has experienced…

View original post 622 more words

Honoring My Friend

Thanksgiving Day. So many unexpected blessings this year. As I prepared for our day of gluttony and joy, the excitement for my family’s favorite holiday came to a stand still as the calls started pouring in. Everything went quiet, the unthinkable. We lost another one, but this time it was my friend.

We grew up together, attending the same schools, moving in different circles. I wish we had known each other then, before our lives intersected just over two years ago. She found me during one of those moments. To understand the ‘moments’, one would have to walk in her shoes. She knew I had lived a life quite parallel to hers, and she was grieving, the kind of grieving that can only be understood by mothers that have lost their children to adoption. The haunting that never disappears, even though our agency promised us it would. The kind of grieving that can only be understood by someone else that lost their mothers at birth. There are many adoptee’s on this earth, and there are many mothers that have lost children, but there aren’t many that are unfortunate enough to be both. Finding one another was a gift because no one else understands what it means.

She wanted to find her son. So, I found him. I had a photo of his home, his address, and helped her compose the letter. But, the fear of his possible rejection paralyzed her. God bless her, she just couldn’t do it. She missed him every day. The world sees these experiences as beautiful, brave, and selfless. But, it’s killing us. I’ve watched members of Our Tribe dropping out of the race, giving up from the exhaustion. http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2013/09/04/peds.2012-3251 

Until the lens everyone insists on using, shifts to the trauma left in the wake of adoption, we will continue to lose our own to the claws that keep pulling us under. To lose our first family uproots and disconnects us. Untethered, we are no longer part of something primal. We don’t belong. So, we make our way, fighting through the lies we are forced to live. The lie that family is interchangeable. The lie that biology doesn’t matter. The lie that we are resilient enough. The lie that we should be grateful for something we never asked for; no one asked our permission, but I’m 100% certain that every infant would choose to stay with their mother. No one asked Tracy if she wanted to spend several years in the foster system, and no one ever asked Tracy if she wanted to be separated from her biological siblings and family at such a young age. Right then, at that very moment, something broke in her. From that point forward, everything was a major accomplishment, and I’m so proud of her.
I see a pattern when we lose someone we love in such a confusing, senseless manner. I see words being used to help us understand the loss; how and why this happened. What could we have done differently? What did we miss? Strewn across the screen- ‘depression’, ‘mental illness’, ‘selfish’, ‘demons’..etc. But, for Tracy, it was none of them, sometimes it was some of them, but mostly, it was avoidable. Of course she had those battles to fight! It’s so unfair and I’m angry. I’m angry that I’m not shocked, and I’m angry that her precious children have to add this chapter to their story. I’m so sad that her grandson, the joy of her life, won’t feel her warm hugs. She was a wonderful mother. She loved her husband. She was such an encouraging, loyal friend. Her pain gave her great empathy for others. She was so loved and she will be terribly missed. I love you, Tracy. Thank you for finding me. I’m so sorry.