To the Mom Who Doesn’t Love Her Adopted Child

What happens when adoption is way harder than you expected? Below is an edited version of an email I recently wrote to a mom, who, like all new adoptive parents, was asking “is this going to get any better?”

Oh my goodness, the first thing you need to know is that you are completely normal. Right before we brought home our Nora, I remember a beautifully honest friend of mine sitting me down to talk with me about some of their unexpected adoption challenges and every single thing she mentioned happened with us as well. And even despite her warnings, I still felt overwhelmed by all that I went through when Nora came home.

I thought I’d be dealing with Nora’s adjustment into our family, but the harder part was dealing with MY adjustments adding her to our family.

I had zero natural affections for her and found myself getting surprisingly angry with her over petty things (and I never got angry with our biological daughter in the same way). I was appalled at how my heart was feeling towards our daughter we had labored to bring home and looked forward to meeting for years.

Honestly, I think disappointment is the first hurdle. You have so much time to build up this vision of your life with your new addition; and if you already have biological children, you probably expect many of the same joys you’ve experienced with your other children to happen again with your new child. When life with your adopted child is hard, just hard, for days and weeks and months – you have to get through the loss of your expectations and learn to adjust and accept the reality of your situation. Thankfully, once you submit to what always was God’s plan for your family, you’ll be given a new vision and a deeper hope for how God will use and bless your life with this child.

Adoption, like marriage, is a beautiful gift with the unexpected bonus of exposing some of our darkest sins.

As good a person as you think you are, your heart really doesn’t want to constantly serve another – especially when there is little or no personal gain from your efforts. If your little one doesn’t show gratitude or affection yet (which I wouldn’t expect at all early on), the challenge to love “the unlovable” is basically impossible apart from the power of Christ. That maternal instinct God gives mothers is an incredible force for good – and something I’ve never had with our adopted daughter like I have with my other kids.

When Nora joined our family, I expected to have hard days – I just didn’t expects months of them back-to-back. And during those days, my heart got ugly. Really ugly. I went from disappointed to barely surviving to bitter and defeated. My sinful response to adoption was shocking most of all to myself. I never would have expected to struggle internally with feelings of such anger and frustration.

The good news in all of this is the other part – the sanctification part. Just because I wasn’t aware of the depths of my sin potential doesn’t mean it wasn’t always lurking in my heart. And after realizing my desperate need for Christ to save me again from even greater sins, my faith was forced to grow. Talk openly about your struggles to people who love Jesus because you need them to remind you of the gospel. You might already know it, but now you need it more than ever.

Remember that Christ knows how to love the unlovable. He came to die for the undesirable. He didn’t rely on a feeling of affection – He fully trusted in the will of His Father. And the Holy Spirit’s sanctifying work in your own heart is going to make you more like Christ.

His goodness, not our worthiness, motivated His sacrifice. And in Christ’s goodness, you will find all the motivation you need to love your child well.

Furthermore, this experience of adoption, Lord-willing, is going to lead you to cherish your own salvation far more than ever before. You will see how undeserving your own soul was to be saved. You’ll be challenged to love your Father better and appreciate His sacrifice more now that you feel the pangs of rejection and rebellion from your own child.

You’ll know the miraculous power of Christ’s mercy and love now that you know the natural reaction is repulsion and frustration – not affection – for the sinner in front of you. And, I have great hope, that you’ll experience seeing your heart change over time as God even grants you increasing measures of affection for your child – which in contrast to this struggle, you’ll know is His doing and not your own.

We imagine that our needy, adoptive child is a victim worthy of love. The reality is they are a sinner worthy of wrath. We imagine that adoptive parents are good people worthy of praise. The reality is we too are scoundrels made up of a mix of righteous and prideful motives. It’s hard when these realities hit you, but it’s the best place for Christ to continue His sanctifying work.

He has, and is, certainly doing that work in my heart. After 2 1/2 years with Nora home it’s still hard – but totally worth it. I wish my sin was easier to eradicate, but God is using the blessing of adoption to faithfully root it out of me. Loving Nora is easier, and deeper, than I thought it could get. And I see huge strides of slow but steady progress in our relationship.

Most of all I’m thankful that adoption made it impossible for me to have a complacent relationship with ChristI give up my time with Him, and I fall right back into chaos. He is what makes our adoptive family work – and I’m so thankful for the challenge of adoption that makes me know my need for Christ.

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Gotcha Day

Two years ago, I held my daughter Nora for the first time. I’d waited 3 years to have her in my arms. I thought the thousands of hours leading up to that day somehow meant I knew this little girl inside and out. But no matter how many times I’d read her profile, stared at her pictures, or dreamed of her smiles – I had no idea how beautiful she would be.

Nora Divine, you are one of my most precious gifts and I intend to cherish you the rest of my days. Here in honor of our 2nd Gotcha Day celebration, is a poem I wrote for you a few months after you joined our family. We love you sweet one!

 

Forever Home

You’ve been barely here 4 months
yet we can’t recount the ways
your life has livened ours
since you finally joined our fray.

We’ve upped our tickle quotas
as you’ve asked with your coy giggles.
And we do a lot more dancing
when you lead with silly wiggles.

We’ve probably tripled daily hugs
and now cuddles last much longer.
And watching you and sissy play
has made our smiles stronger.

But amid these many joys
let’s constantly remember
the families that gave love away
to put our love together.

See, you were a long time coming
And the waiting wasn’t sweet.
We started with our planning
years before your first heartbeat.

There were massive funds to raise
and reams of forms to file.
Then we had to wait through legal tasks
we knew would take a while.

Along the way, we hit some bumps
that made the process stall.
At times we even thought, it seemed,
you might not come at all.

Those days our hearts were heavy
and often fell into despair,
but those also were the moments
when God showed abundant care.

He sent us friends and families
whose hearts were full of hope.
They reminded us of Jesus
and the encouragement that He spoke.

They retold of OUR adoption
and the pains Christ had embraced
to make us sons and daughters
saved by His selfless grace.

Then once again the wait for you
became a joy-filled pain.
We trusted God could see our hurts
yet work them for His gain.

And so He did, in countless ways –
more than we’ll even know.
But of the many we could share
this one we’d like to show:

When you were just a baby
God already had planned
to use well over 60 families
to get you in our hands.

Each time a new fee needed paid
a friend would pay the dues.
It was as if He used these bills
to show more love to you.

This pattern went for 3 whole years
right up to the last step.
God even paid our travel fees
through families we’d not met!

And so your long adoption
just extended out our faith
as time and time again God showed
the measures of His grace.

Someday we hope you’ll treasure
the love that did surround
both your young life and our frail hopes
til’ we met you safe and sound.

Hold dear the gifts and patient love
that brought you home at last.
And be assured your Savior’s love
is all the more steadfast.

He planned your journey to our home
on His appointed date.
In hope, we’ll point your path to God
where your forever home awaits.

 

Mama and Nora - Gotcha Day 2015

Mama and Nora – Gotcha Day 2015