“See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us,
that we would be called children of God; and such we are.”
1 John 3:1
When I was young, I only knew one adoptive family. Looking back, I can’t remember much about their story, but for some reason I gained the impression that the parents adopted their son only because they’d been unable to conceive a child. Based on what I’d heard, I saw no reason to celebrate adoption. I drew the unfortunate conclusion that adoption was what you did when you finally realized you couldn’t do what you really wanted.
I don’t think I was alone in my thinking. Not too many years ago, the word “adoption” seemed inseparably linked with secrecy and shame. Thankfully, the church and even our culture have both experienced a dramatic shift in their perspectives on adoption, and the number of those who look negatively upon the idea continues to dwindle.
Do You Get It?
In spite of the positive progress made in recent years, every once in while I’m reminded that many Christians still just don’t “get it.” That’s where this post comes in.
As an adoptive mom, I’ve been sharing my adoption journey with all of you over the past few months in large part to help more people see the beauty of adoption and understand the unique joys and trials that adoptive families often experience. Toward that end, I want to explain 10 things that we as adoptive moms wish you understood about us…
1. We are fundamentally opposed to the idea that adoption is second-best.
Although you may find a rare exception somewhere, the vast majority of us are thrilled that God chose to bring our children to us through the process of adoption. If I could go back in time about 7 years and choose to conceive and give birth to a biological child instead of waiting a few more years and then going through this 2 1/2 year process to bring Evangelle home, I wouldn’t even consider it.
Adoption was always God’s perfect plan for me. Anything else would be second-best.
2. Our children are our real children.
Adoptive moms are not little girls playing house and merely pretending that they have children. The children God has given us through adoption are our real children. When a mom has been doubly blessed with the privilege of both adopting children and bearing biological children, she will tell you that they are all equally her children. As a result, asking questions like, “But don’t you want to have children of your own someday?” or “Which ones are your real children?” is offensive and hurtful.
3. They don’t necessarily dream of being pregnant.
This point follows closely on the last one. Although some adoptive moms may still long to experience pregnancy and childbirth, not all do. Take me for instance—any desire to conceive and give birth to a child was long ago replaced by my desire to adopt. I don’t want to be fertile; I want to be a mom. God has graciously answered my prayer for motherhood through the miracle of adoption.
So, please, do adoptive moms a favor and realize that not all of us are secretly pining for pregnancy.
4. Our fertility (or lack thereof) really is a private matter.
While having my hair cut by a total stranger this week, the subject of traveling to Ethiopia to bring Evangelle home came up in conversation. Although the woman said nice things about our adoption, I was more than a little bit shocked when she asked, “So, you just can’t have kids or what?” and then went on to promote the difference that Vitamin B-12 can have on attempts to conceive.
I don’t think I need to say more on this, because I think it should be painfully obvious how inappropriate and impolite it is to question someone on such personal matters.
5. We are moms.
Although there are certain experiences that may be unique to adoptive mothers, we’re still moms just like all the other women with children. I was recently part of a Bible study where the leaders decided to put all of the adoptive moms in one group. While I appreciated the good intent that I know was behind their decision, I was surprised they assumed that we would all need or want to be together.
In my mind, it would be similar to grouping women according to whether their children entered the world through C-sections or natural deliveries. Sure, the moms might have some things in common with those in their group, but should their fellowship be based on their commonalities alone? Personally, I think it would be more beneficial not to make assumptions or decisions about women based on the fact that they have or have not adopted. We’re mainly just moms!
6. The process of adoption is more emotionally, physically, and financially exhausting than most people would ever imagine.
I have friends who waited 4 years to bring their daughter home from China.
4 years! Some of you probably have horror stories about your labor and delivery, but I have yet to meet anyone who was in labor for that length of time!
At least with pregnancy, you know your pain will be limited to approximately 40 weeks of time. With adoption, you just never know how long it will take or how many times you’ll be disappointed. The payments are outrageous, the paperwork seems endless, and the pain can be overwhelming. If you know someone who’s adopting, even if she looks like she’s doing fine, just ask. She’s probably hurting more than you’d imagine and would welcome a listening ear.
7. It hurts when people ignore our adoptions.
You may be unfamiliar with or unsure of the process of adoption, but that doesn’t mean it’s ok to act like it’s not happening. I’ve been in conversations with people who know me and are fully aware of our adoption, yet don’t ask one thing about it. As you might imagine, that hurts. If you’re not sure what to say, just try, “So how is your adoption going?” and things will probably get easier from there. :)
8. Some comments and questions are better left unsaid.
“So are you trying to be like Brad and Angelina?”
“You don’t see animals adopting outside their own kind.”
“Can’t someone else take care of the child?”
“You can’t save all the orphans, you know.”
“What’s wrong with American babies?”
(Yes, these are actual statements and questions that my friends and I have received!) As always, you’ll never go wrong by comparing your comment to Ephesians 4:29 before speaking!
9. Your encouragement, support, and prayers mean the world to us.
Throughout the last several months, I’ve been repeatedly amazed by the compassion that so many of you have shown me. On numerous occasions, the Lord has used your prayers and sweet words of encouragement to reverse my course when I was sinking into despair. When we know that you love, care, and are excited about our children coming home, it strengthens us to continue on in obedience to God’s call. You play a vital role in the adoption process.
10. If you’re a Christian, you’re adopted too!
Adoption is a divine, not human, invention. The only way any sinner can enter God’s family is through the process of adoption (Rom. 8:14-16; Gal. 4:4-6). If you’ve been saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, then you are an adopted child of God.
So when it comes to the topics of physical and spiritual adoption, Christians, of all people, should be the ones who really “get it.” Other people may adopt, but no one else on the face of the planet has reason to celebrate adoption like
I hope this post has helped you to learn some ways that you can better support the adoptive moms around you. We’re nothing special, just moms who love our babies like many of you do. Thanks for understanding.
Photo: roli seeger