“Adoption is hard.”
“Adoption is trauma.”
“Adoption is scary.”
“Adoption is worth it.”
“The KIDS are worth it.”
You hear it all. I am here to tell you, it’s all true. The good, the bad, the ugly—it’s all true.
The waiting, the failed placements, the “no” after “no” after “no”, feeling like you weren’t “good enough”, all of it can be just too much sometimes. Yet you keep pushing forward. You can’t give up on your family. In this adoption are all of your hopes and dreams (especially if this is your first child). You just can’t walk away.
You find it within yourself SOMEHOW to keep moving. People tell you that you are strong. They tell you that you are an “inspiration”. They don’t understand that when you are a mama in your heart, it’s SO very real. It’s as if your child is away from you and you can’t wrap your arms away from them. It feels like literally a piece of you is missing. There are few people outside of adoption that understand what that is exactly. You are just a mama waiting to fill that void.
One day someone places a child into your arms and it feels surreal. You start to believe in love at first sight. You KNOW that it exists. You breathe for the first time in maybe years. You can’t stop staring. You feel like it just can’t be happening, but it is. You feel happiness like you have never known.
Things shift. You remember that you having this child means that someone else has a breaking heart. Someone else had to lose a piece of them for you to feel this happy. Your emotions become all twisted and confused. Suddenly your happiness is replaced by confliction. You start to walk through the entire range of emotions. Happiness turns into confliction, confliction to sadness, sadness to guilt, guilt to outpouring love (for the birth family—the child is a given), outpouring love to peace.
Once you hit peace…it all starts to fall into place. Even when you know that you have reached this peace, you ALSO know that it doesn’t mean that the birth family has reached this place in their emotional journey. You find empathy.
Empathy is different than sympathy. Sympathy is being sorry for someone or something. You feel compassion for that person, but you don’t necessarily feel their feelings. Empathy is allowing yourself to feel FOR the other person. To really feel what they feel and understand what they feel for yourself.
Empathy is one of the most beautiful and endearing of human qualities. It allows us to know that others can relate to us. Empathy connects us in ways that no other emotion can connect us.
“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” ― Leo Buscaglia
Once you find empathy you find yourself on a different kind of emotional ride. Before it was a roller coaster, up and down, winding turns, the whole deal. Now it’s different. Now you start to realize that you feel all of these feelings simultaneously. Prior to adoption, you may have felt one or two (maybe) three of these emotions all at one time. For the first time in your life, you are feeling all of the emotions, all at ONCE.
For some people, this may be a slow process. It may be clear to them exactly which emotion that they are feeling and when. For me, it was insanely fast. I felt all of these emotions almost immediately.
I sat in the hospital room holding my newborn son, admiring every single ounce of him, memorizing each and every wrinkle, taking in his scent, holding him close to my heart as if he could feel my love coming straight through to him. Yet these emotions were coursing through me like a roller coaster. It was like nothing I had ever felt before.
Logan’s birth mom called us to her room at 3am the day after he was born. It was one of the longest walks of my life. I remember that fear like no other.
We walked in and to my surprise, she was smiling and had her arms reached out to me. She walked right by him and took me into her arms. SHE healed ME. Here she was in all of her heartache, holding me up. When you call ME strong, I will always remind you of this moment.
She told me then that he was ours and there was nothing that could make her break our hearts. She said she could see how I loved him. She knew that love. (She has five other children.) She just wanted to see that he was okay.
She made many trips to our room during that hospital stay. I could see that it was healing her. It helped me to see that she was now wanting at least a semi-open adoption. This is what we wanted for our son, and truth be known (at this point), for her. We were in love with her too. She was family. I don’t mean that we loved her like family. I mean she WAS family. She IS family.
No one really tells you about AFTERWARDS. We brought our sweet little boy home. We loved him, cared for him, enjoyed each and every moment. The guilt returned to me. I started going through ALL of these emotions AGAIN, one by one. I couldn’t stop thinking about his beautiful birth mom as she loved on her other kids, feeling (knowing) that one was missing.
I stayed there between happiness and heartache for some time. I had two weeks before I had to return to work and I was still struggling with all of this quite heavily. I needed more time. I wasn’t able to do it (I had a newborn adoption to pay for to boot, so FMLA was not an option for us). I ended up seeing a doctor for help. Not everyone hits this point as hard as I did, I know. But for me, I was not being able to function as a new mom, a wife, and hold it together for my job.
I don’t talk about this often. I talk about the happy pieces more than the pain. The truth is, the happiness is always bigger. I still feel sad for Logan’s birth mom sometimes. I know her heart aches every May 6th on the day he was born. I know that she remembers the day she signed her name to those papers and that day is also insanely difficult for her.
She always amazes me how she is a person of such few words, yet those words mean so much when she speaks them. She texted me the Sunday after he was born (the day we left the hospital) to say “Happy Mother’s Day” to me. I knew she meant it. It was so important to her that I know what being a mom truly was. She texted me often once we were home, and I her. It was part of our healing—the both of us.
But when Logan was six months old, she texted me with something I will never forget all of the days of my life. I honestly believe that this one little text healed me completely.
“I love y’all. The hardest decision of my life has been the best one I’ve ever made.”
SHE brought me to peace. She literally took me from overwhelming guilt to just being “mom”. I don’t even think she knows how much that one moment healed MY heart. And there it was. In the most unexpected of places.
We never know how much we need other people until we realize how much they help us through this life. She needed us and we needed her. All for the sake of one little boy that was unplanned, unexpected, and loved more than any other.
And this is where I say that throughout all of the chaos and all of the pain, through all of the trials you face, LOVE HEALS ALL.