I have said it a million times and I'll say it again, adoption is beautiful, but it is always built on loss. There's no way around that. For a child to enter a family via adoption, they always have to first leave a family.
One of our sons was adopted at birth here in the US, and we have an open relationship with his birthmom. We have had an ongoing conversation with him about how he joined our family since he was born, and yet he still wonders why. He still asks me over and over again, “why didn't she want me?” He'll look at me with those big brown eyes as he's nestled in my lap and wonder aloud if she loved him.
I assure him over and over again that he has been loved since his first breath by her, by us, and most importantly by God. I assure him that it's okay to wonder these things, and it's okay to feel these things. I want him to feel safe and loved and able to express thoughts and feelings that don't even make sense to him as a nine year old.
You see my son is in a family that loves him dearly and it's all he's ever known and yet he still has experienced great loss. Jillian Lauren has a new book called EVERYTHING YOU EVER WANTED and early into the book there's a line that almost took my breath away because it describes my son so well. She writes this about her son, whom her and her husband adopted from Ethiopia, “To be so unwanted and so wanted at the same time can carve a fault line in you.” This fault line is hard to follow. It's hard to understand both the feelings of being unwanted and also being so wanted at one time. This is the line my son is trying to figure out, and I get to sit with him, hold his hand, and walk with him. Not truly understanding what he feels, but yet loving him, encouraging him, and allowing him the space to feel.
Most of us would think that the fact that our children are so wanted would erase the fact that at one time they were not wanted, but my friends it doesn't. Adoption is hard. It's complex and sometimes I think I'll die and never understand all the layers to it.
What I do believe about adoption is that there is room for both sorrow and joy. I'm willing to allow my kids to experience both of these emotions in our family and be okay with it. Just because they have a family now doesn't erase the sadness of what happened to them. The same is true of the joy. Just because there is sadness in the beginning of their story, doesn't mean they can't experience the joy of the family God has given them. We are opening our hands and holding space for both of these emotions.
I tell my kids all the time that God chose you for this family. Whether you joined this family through my own birth canal, or another woman birthed you and we adopted you, you were meant to be an Ivey. It might not erase some of the feelings, but it does give meaning to their lives.
Recently the Story Team at The Austin Stone released a story about a woman who placed her baby for adoption years ago and then is reunited with him and his parents for the first time. It's a film that shows the joy and sorrow that adoption represents. Before this film was shown the lead storyteller, Steven, said, “In order to tell an honest story, we have to be courageous & willing enough to tell the dark side of our story. When we see these stories, and we see the honest side of it, and the darkness of it, and we juxtapose that with the glory of Jesus and his salvation, it makes his glory even more brighter. It makes our story even more beautiful. God knows the end of the story. Jesus is the grand resolution.”
And that is why Romans 8:28 holds so much meaning to me when I think about the hard road my kids have walked and will walk in their lives. “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good.” I believe with all of my heart that God is in the hard stuff, that he's never taken by surprise when our children are placed for adoption. That he never wonders what went wrong with his plan. My comfort is in the fact that God has a plan for our children, and it just might involve sorrow and joy. And isn't that just like God. To allow us to experience sorrow so that the joy is so much greater.
The darkness will not prevail, because the light is so much greater.
Thank you for this beautiful post, so filled with the reminders of the joy and sorrow that fill adoption. Our family is hoping to maintain an open adoption with our daughter that we are adopting through the foster care system. We have met with the bio mom/grandmother a couple times already, and we have a couple of future dates planned. It has been hard to find resources for navigating these waters (which I can only imagine are TRICKY!). I would love to hear what this looks like for your family or learn about any resources that are helpful in terms of openness, setting boundaries, making this a healthy relationship, etc.
Thank you! We are adopting in 8 short weeks and I feel a lot of different emotions that seem to contradict each other all at the same time. Like so excited for my son to be born and for him to come home, but so sad that his birth mom can’t take care of him. And she loves him so, so much! Thank you for being open and honest and sharing your story.
Beautiful article! I’m a foster care case manager and I’m very picky about what I read on adoption and foster care. You have a great attitude/philosophy on the topic! Keep it up! ☺️
As an adopted person and adoptive parent, I appreciate your heart to share the both/and of joy and sorrow in adoption. We do so much for our child’s healing journey when we allow them the permission and space to feel both joy and sorrow about their story.
With humility and desire to share from an adopted person’s lens(I say this bc it’s the internet and you can’t tell emotion so I want to be clear that my heart is from one of gentleness) I struggle with AP’s making statements that use a word such as chose: “I tell my kids all the time that God chose you for this family. Whether you joined this family through my own birth canal, or another woman birthed you and we adopted you, you were meant to be an Ivey.”
When we hear that as an adopted child, it can shape the view in which we see God because we grapple with questions such as – If God “chose” me for this family then does that mean he doesn’t care about my birth family? Was my birth mother just a vehicle for me to come to your family? If God ultimately chose to be an Ivey, then why did God make me go through the pain of leaving my birth family? Why couldn’t I have just been born an Ivey from the start?
Again, with a genuinely kind and wanting to engage in helpful, positive dialogue, the Adoption Christianese used by us as Christians with our adopted children in relationship to their story can cause an adoptee to internalize statements which affect how we perceive God.
I recently wrote about it in a post, “An Adoptees View of God Through Adoption Christianese” if you would like to understand further what I’m posing to you for consideration.
I appreciate the deep love you convey for your children and desire to minister to the heart of adoptive parents. We are all in this together!
Tara thank you so much for your comment and I can for sure hear your graciousness through your words. (B/C isn’t the internet a hard place to share our hearts on something we disagree on.) Thank you for taking the time to comment and share your thoughts. We have consciously decided to use the word “chosen” and you are not the first person that has said what you said to me.
Here are my thoughts as to why we chose it – and I’m saying with the most gentle heart too 😉 !!
We believe that God is sovereign over everything, and in so we believe that he is in the great stuff about our lives and also in the hardest things about our lives. I don’t think that what my kids went through was an accident, or somehow their lives detoured off the path that God had them on.
I wrote specifically about this phrase here: http://jamieivey.wpengine.com/2012/08/21/god-chose-you/ & here: http://dreamingbigdreams.net/2011/01/07/god-knew-you-would-be-an-ivey/
I think for us it’s a theological stance that we believe about God and we transfer that into every area of our lives.
Again thanks for the comment and open dialogue!
A friend recently recommended your podcast to me…I have been listening to a couple episodes a day, whenever I can fit it in. Little did she know that not long before that, God had put adoption on my heart. Just this morning I went to your website and watched the video of when you got to bring Amos home. I was sitting on my couch, legs crossed, laptop on my lap, with tears streaming down my face. I knew right then and there that, some day, years down the road, I will look back on this moment, and know that this is when my journey to adoption started. God is moving in me through your story, and I just want to say thank you!
Alicia – WOW huge! We have heard so many times about how God has used our adoption story over the years …. We are so grateful that God would use just normal people like us to show adoption to many people that might be wondering if this is something for their family. Thanks for your kind words, and for listening to my show as well!
Wow, you are willing to let your adopted children feel sorrow and joy? What a great Mom!
Do you really think if you didn’t allow it, they would not feel it?
Great post. My son was also adopted at birth and I know in the future he will ask me questions about why he didn’t stay with his grandparents like his brother did or why his birth mom didn’t parent him. I think people forget that the bond made in the womb is a lasting one and that they will mourn and have sorrow for that missing connection.
Oh I think they would absolutely feel it, but I think parents sometimes don’t give their kids proper space to be okay with feeling it.
This is such a beautiful article. Adoption is truly a special thing, but we see first-hand how no adoption journey is the same. It is important to remember that it is okay to FEEL. Thank you for this amazing article.