Lately, in the adoption community, there seems to have been a great deal of noise about the negatives of adoption, why it’s traumatic by adult adoptees, why it’s wrong or coercive. How they were robbed of normalcy and treated as less by a system of oppression. I don’t seek to quiet their voices because their stories are valid and it is likely, to some degree, that there is a level of truth in all of them.
My perception however is different. Some biological families claim they are only continued victims of an oppressive society. I will not say that that is wholeheartedly untrue but in my experience it is not totally accurate. The sad thing is that oftentimes sweet lies are much easier to swallow than bitter truth. I would like to add what may just be another voice into the conversation of adoption; yes there is trauma and there is heartache.
To me adoption is good, because I get to look into the smiling eyes of my children knowing that they are safe and they are loved; they are no longer orphans. They are no longer in a dangerous situation where their lives could be at stake because the adults that were supposed to protect them could not do that. We will always feel the loss for my children. We will always grieve the fact that their birth parents could not make safe choices; we will always grieve the fact that a family had to be broken for ours to be created, but we will always be grateful for the family that we have.
It is good because I get to sit and read stories for an hour every night while the girls take turns braiding my hair and sitting on my lap before they settle down to sleep. It is good because instead of movie posters and store-bought wall art, my walls are plastered with pictures of them and their crayon and watercolor artwork. Instead of being sterile, cavernous, and empty, my house is filled to bursting with laughter, stuffed animals, dress-up clothes, art supplies, dogs, children, and little girl dresses. It is good because of Friday night movie night with junk food. It is good because of Saturday morning breakfast of pancakes and bacon while we watch cartoons. It is good for early morning wake-ups and late-night chats. It is good because of little girls twirling in their fancy church dresses for their Daddy to proudly admire and Mama to ooh and ahh over. For the “Tickle me again!” and the “One more story” and the “Can I sit in your lap” and the almost too hard hugs around my neck goodnight. It is good for the sloppy kisses on my cheek and the “I know you love me mom, you tell me all the time” and the eye rolls that go along with it. It is good for the “Play with me mommy!” the “Chase us on the playground” the “OOOH look at the cute baby animals!” squeal. It is good for the “Ooh I’m scared” squeak as she turns to me to protect her during the scary part of the movie. It is good for the unexpected tears during all of the shows and movies that used to simply seem cheesy and overdramatic. The heartstrings tugged during a story about an orphaned or neglected child that just hits differently than it used to pre-adoption.
My beautiful 7-year-old daughter is aware that she is loved. She understands that no matter what she does I will love her. I won’t give her away or give her back if she’s “bad.” I won’t love her less if she disobeys. It took a solid three years to get there after her living the first four years of her life, before we adopted her, in six different foster homes. She got used to the cycle of “disobey, scream loudly, get sent away” pretty quickly. Attachment came hard. Her hugs and I love you’s don’t come as easily to me as my other daughters but they do come. The smile that I hardly ever saw in the beginning now lights up her sweet face the second she sees me in the pickup line. Adoption is good because without it she could be in an unsafe situation with people who don’t care about her as much as we do. She may not have known the joy of waking up on Christmas morning to cinnamon buns, hot cocoa, and the story of Christmas before tearing into a pile of gifts thoughtfully picked out for her. She may not have been top of her class for reading, with her teacher raving about how much she enjoys having my sweet girl in her classroom.
Why is adoption good? My sweet son who was tormented for nine years of his life is getting the help he needs to heal. He is addressing issues at 15 that would make grown men weep and break. He is stronger, more resilient, and healing from hurts that never should have happened. Because we were able to adopt him, he was taken out of the destruction that was ruining him. He still has a long way to go. His road will probably be long and difficult, but he is getting help and I am proud of him.
My other son is getting the education that his quick brain has needed but didn’t get until he was 8. He is being challenged in school instead of ignored. He is surrounded by people who see his value even when he doesn’t. He is learning self-control and self-love in an environment that helps him grow. He is becoming a young man who is compassionate about others and loves his little sisters fiercely.
My 6-year-olds assume that adoption is a natural part of life. When they were a bit younger they were horrified to learn my sisters were not adopted. They were sad that no one had adopted them. We had to explain the difference between biological and adopted families and how different families can be formed. It was a really fun conversation actually. I love that it is so natural to them to just assume if someone is in a loving family they are adopted.
My two youngest girls are four months apart. They are best friends in a way I never was with my biological siblings. This isn’t to say this has anything to do with adoptive vs. biological sisters. I was just kind of rotten to my sister and she was rotten back. But my girls hold hands while they sit on the couch and watch cartoons. They cuddle in bed when they feel afraid. They share little girl secrets, build Minecraft cities for hours together, bounce on the trampoline, swing on the swings, make-up stories, and sing songs together. Yes, they also fight like it is their paid job and they are looking to earn overtime some days but they also love more fiercely than you can imagine. Without adoption, this relationship would not exist. My youngest would be all alone as the baby of the family with her big brothers 10 and 11 years older than her. Big brothers love them all but there is something special about sisters close in age playing and growing up together and I’m so glad they get that.
Why is adoption good? For 14 years my sweet husband and I were childless. We wanted to have a family but biological children weren’t an option for us. Adoption had never been a second choice or an alternate plan for us. We even discussed adoption before we were engaged. The day we adopted our first three children that we had fostered for almost two years was one of the happiest days of our lives. An empty place in our hearts and home were filled in. We learned how to be more forgiving, more patient, more loving, gentler, kinder, and how to process grief and trauma alongside children who were neglected and abused. We grew as a couple and grew as a family. Every idea I had about how I would parent flew out the window and graciously I was reminded again and again that my plans are often hollow. My life is fuller because of these kids. Yes, they can be expensive, exhausting, and sometimes irrational. Turns out so am I at times. I am now better for having realized this and while I get to raise these humans. I am a better, more sympathetic listener (though I must admit, one more Minecraft story might send me over the edge).
There are hundreds of thousands of stories like mine. Moms and Dads desperately wishing for a little one to set out Christmas gifts for. Women who cannot even leave the house on Mother’s Day without weeping openly at every “Happy Mother’s Day” sign they see in front of stores and restaurants. Men who wish they could experience a “Happy Father’s Day.” You can look at Adoption.com profiles and you can see couples who have been dreaming for years of children that just haven’t come. Children that may be in less than ideal situations can be placed with a family who can cherish and love those children throughout life.
Adoption is good because it can put children in families where they are wanted and protected. Families where they may have prepared and dreamed for years. You can look at Adoption.com profiles and see that I’m not exaggerating. It can be good because sometimes life finds us in unexpected places; sometimes there may be a mother who finds herself pregnant with her 5th baby and she can barely pay for her 4th. She may be desperate; she may be afraid; she may be too far along for an abortion and she doesn’t know what she’s going to do. What could be her greatest despair, biggest source of anxiety, the cause of weeping and worrying may simultaneously be the answer to a family’s desperate hope and prayer can be good because it can allow life to continue.
It can allow a mother to place her baby that she loved dearly in the arms of another because she feels in a heart that it is the best choice. Maybe she never wanted to be a mother; maybe she was too young; perhaps she had unprotected sex one time and doesn’t want to carry that reminder with her for the next 18-20 years in her home and under her roof. I cannot say if that is a selfish choice or a desperate one or simply a choice that people get to make. While we live in a world where everyone usually experiences unexpected things in life, such as giving birth, this does not have to be the undoing of an entire family, does not have to be broken apart because of medical debts, or because of health issues, or because of poverty. And while these aren’t things that should exist but do, in this imperfect world adoption can be one of the solutions.
It can be good because of a tiny baby into the arms of a mom who are has been imagining this day for 20 years. It can be a sweet birth mother wrapping that baby in her arms and kisses and a special blanket knowing the baby, even though her heart may be broken, will grow up knowing that she is not loved by just one mother, she is loved by two.
Yes it can be a more difficult journey than perhaps a typical biological family can experience. You can go to Adoption.com and poke around in forums and you can find stories of families who are struggling with behaviors they weren’t expecting. Even the best adoption can come with a sense of loss for most of the participants. Attachment can be more difficult, families that don’t “match” can draw unwanted questions in the grocery store, or perhaps some other issue. Older children may struggle with past trauma. It can still be 100% worth it to know that in many situations an adoptive family’s struggle may be a better situation than the situation many of the children would have grown up in.
However, biological children can have problems too. Despite a “perfect” upbringing, a child can turn to drugs or develop a mental illness or get in trouble with the law. Child-rearing can be a bit of a gamble no matter the situation. Why not take a chance on a child that needs a home? Bottom line: Adoption can be good and I am so glad that it is a part of my life.