Our latest family post is shared from a CAS mom’s personal blog, The Miller Five. Ashley blogs about her family, parenting, her Uganda adoption, her faith, her photography, and more. Ashley also serves on the Board of Directors of a Ugandan nonprofit, Fields of Dreams, which brings hope to vulnerable children through soccer and education.
Seven Things I’ve Learned from Adoption
There are so many lessons that I have learned throughout our adoption process, but here are seven aspects that stick out. Some of them are questions I have been asked, and some that I have asked of myself. Nonetheless, they are repeated themes that are most frequently brought up in conversation.
Do you think you can love your adopted child the same way you love your biological child? I’d like to quickly address the word “same.” I don’t know if any of us love our children the same. With all three of my children I have a different relationship. Yes, it’s the same maternal love; but I love different aspects of my children and relate to each of them so differently. So, I think most often people are asking if you can love them as you love your biological children – that maternal instinct. Friend, I confess. I worried and prayed over this aspect often. I’d lie awake at night in bed and wrestle with this thought over and over in my head. I had sweet friends that would let me text them around the clock and they would pray fervently over this. And I’m so glad to say, yes! You absolutely can love that child the same way you can love a child you birthed. In our case, our son was a baby when we met him. So it grew quickly and naturally. That mama instinct kicked in immediately. Bonding was something his little newborn heart longed for. Physical touch was huge for his low-thriving body. I will never forget how he stared right through us the first two or three days we bonded with him. But what happened on day five was nothing short of a miracle. God showing us just how much this little guy needed us. Everyday like clock-work at 1 p.m. we placed him in his crib. He didn’t make a peep. But on the fifth day, he screamed and cried tears. Zoe lost it; sobbed uncontrollably and begged to take him. Zion cried and had to leave the room. It was both heart-wrenching and life-giving all in the same breath. He loves us. He needs us. And we need him. Some of my fostering and adoptive parents of older children tell me that they too love their children with that maternal and paternal love. It’s not love that is lacking, but often the bonding takes longer. There are more layers to work through. A longer process for trust to be built. But it doesn’t limit the love one feels for his or her child.
Did you nest? Nesting is a maternal instinct, not a biological one. You all. I went crazy cleaning and doing projects all over our house. I climbed up a ladder 23 feet in the air to paint our foyer while an extension ladder was rigged across our staircase banister and my husband shook his head thinking “what (not who) did I marry” and held the bottom. I feverishly cleaned every nook and cranny of our home. All that pent-up energy waiting for our son felt just like nesting for our two previous children. It was a sweet sweet medicine for my heart, soul, and mind. To know that I could “mama” that babe just like the two previously.
So, what about his “real” parents? I take this one with a grain of salt because I know that I too used to ask poorly phrased questions with good intention. We are his real parents. Please learn new jargon when speaking with a fostering or adoptive parent. I recommend using the word “biological” or “birth” mother and father. We are the ONLY parents our child will know. In open adoptions and fostering situations, it is different. It’s a collective effort (we hope) to raise those children. Children can and often do feel love for both sets of parents just like a child from a split-home.
Are you going to tell your child that he’s adopted? Um….yes! For our family, our physical differences are apparent. Most experts say that children start recognizing physical differences around the ages of 3-5. Our differences are something that I love about our family. We literally run on a continuum of skin-color from light to olive to dark. It makes talking about our differences one of celebration rather than feeling the odd-man out. Biblically, we point to the fact that we all come from the same beginning, Adam and Eve (Genesis 1:26-27); so our heritage eventually all leads back to the same beginning. This binds us together rather than splitting us apart. I don’t care for the term “colorblind.” Each of us bear the image of our God, so when we try to look past those beautiful and unique qualities we each possess, we’re in essence dismissing some of His handiwork and who God is (Genesis 1: 26-27).
Are you going to tell your child his story? Yes we will tell him. I’ve been asked several times to blog on it, but have come to the conclusion of not putting his story out there. It is first and foremost his story. The last thing I want is for him to come across a piece of it via the world-wide-web instead of from the mouths of his dad and me. Those that are close to our family know our full story. That is enough for now. But I will absolutely never forget the first time I wrestled with this telling of his story. It was the first night I was alone and the two oldest and my husband headed back without me and the babe to the U.S.A.. Zeke was sleeping in the crib next to my bed. Suddenly, it hit me like a ton of bricks. What am I going to tell him every year on his birthday? We have a tradition of telling the children about the night they were born. They love it. Each one wait wide-eyed with baited breath to hear the exact same story before bed year after year. But for Zeke? I don’t know it. The heavies hung low in the thick Ugandan air like a weight around my heart. I remember curling up under the mosquito net, pulling out the flashlight, and diving into Rising Strong by Brené Brown. In it she talks about choosing to see the positive about persons or situations. And right there it hit me. Zeke’s story isn’t one of abandonment and loss. It’s one of courage and redemption. I choose to wholeheartedly believe that his birth parents placed him in just the right spot so that he’d have a fighting chance. Someone would take him in and care for him, and that is just what happened.
How did you handle the expense of adoption? Honestly, when we first went into this immediately after a big move and me stopping my photography business, I wasn’t sure. So we researched and put it out there. Collectively, we did it. You all were amazing! You all helped us raise the agency costs of international adoption. We cut back in many areas of life. We sold things. We filled out grants. One thing I’m sure of: the Lord provides. He always does. He gives us exactly what we need. Sometimes he gives more. There are tons of resources and grants out there. The child is always worth more than the cost. Always. If that is something that is holding you back, pray. Pray and ask the Lord to help provide. Then, get over your fear of ask others to help. That was the most uncomfortable thing in the world for me to do, yet at the same time the most humbling.
I’m just too scared to adopt or foster because the children can have so many issues? Adoption is full of the unknown. It just is. But so is birthing and raising biological children!!! We aren’t given any guarantees in life with any of our children regardless of the way in which they were brought into our lives. So let that be assurance and peace for your souls, you who are questioning. It is the Lord who draws our children to him. Not us. I can’t will my child to act a certain way as much as I’d like to think I can. That, my friend, is a weight off my heavy “I-think-I-have-control-over-everything” heart, and it should be for yours too! Being scared of something should never be our reason for not engaging.
“C. S. Lewis captured this so beautifully in one of my favorite quotes of all time: ‘To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.’”
― Brené Brown, Rising Strong