Sunday, March 31, 2019

Saying Yes to the Scary and the Unknown in International Adoption


This is a transparent and possibly uncomfortable post to read.  My views have been formed based on my personal experience and also from families who have shared intimate details of their journey with me.  In addition, my faith is the biggest guiding factor in how I shape my views and make decisions.  After completing four international, "special needs" adoptions, this is where I have landed in regards to accepting a referral.

I arrived at each of my daughters' referrals differently:  1) through a waiting child list  2) a call from my caseworker asking if I was ready to return to the India program  3) waiting the traditional way for THE CALL and 4) by default after losing a child I had prayed for and pursued for close to a year.  Furthermore, each of my daughters arrived at their respective orphanages in different ways and at different ages.  They each have a unique story.   Finally, they came home at various ages:  Almost 7 years old,  3.5 years old,  19 months,  and 4 years old.

If you read my book, then you know when I started on this adoption journey, all I could envision for myself was a healthy baby.  I was naive and selfish.  God used the closure of Nepal to begin the process of gently stripping away my desires and replacing them with his.  A paradigm shift happened and I clearly became aware that international adoption is not about my wants and desires; it's about providing a family and a home for a child that has none.  It seems obvious, but when you are in pursuit of motherhood or building your family or "answering the call" or whatever other reason that led you to adopt, it's easy for your vision to become cloudy and self-centered.

With each successive adoption, my idea of "special needs" has evolved.  What I once thought scary, terrifying, overwhelming, or a definite NO, has been replaced with a deeper understanding of God's grace and provision.

What I said YES to when I signed their referral papers:

Facial anomalies
Severe scarring
Older child
Failure to Thrive
Strong susceptibility for severe behavioral issues
Unilateral leg paralysis
Sickle Cell Anemia

The reality of my YES once they were home and received medical care:

Facial anomalies
Severe scarring
Older child
Failure to Thrive
Unilateral leg paralysis - HEALED
Sickle Cell Anemia - Turned out to be trait
Alpha Thalassemia
Brain damage
Unilateral hearing loss - severe
Active lymph node TB
Active ocular TB
Latent TB
Cerebral Palsy
Speech Delay
Septopreoptic holoprosencephaly
Hepatitis A
Cafe au lait spots
Metabolic disorder
Short stature
Precocious Puberty
Possible Peeling Skin Syndrome 
Disinhibited Social Engagement Disorder
Global delay

I may have forgotten a few things because it seems that something new is always being discovered :)   

We've seen ENT, Audiology, PT, OT, SLP, Hematology, Genetics, Endocrinology, Infectious Disease, Neurology, Ophthalmology, DDBP, Urology, Pediatric Gynecology, Developmental Pediatrics, Orthopedics, and a new referral for Pediatric Rehab.  I'm sure I missed a few here as well because... it's a lot of specialists to remember.

I am a single woman.  I started my journey knowing that I would be a single parent.  I don't have someone I can come home to and tap out.  I'm the sole-provider, the sole-decision maker, the sole-comforter, the sole-protector, the sole-weight carrier, the sole-everything.  In addition to all of that,  I also homeschool all of my girls.

I don't say all of these things for any type of recognition, or unsung hero crap.  Because nothing could be further from the truth.  I am a sinner and a broken person.  I am woefully inept.  I question my sanity and decisions daily.  I'm overwhelmed 95% of the time.  I cry in random places.  I cry when someone is nice to me.  I'm an expert worrier.  I worry about our finances.  I wonder if we will ever get out of this season of hard.  Will God keep me in the valley of absolute surrender and trust?  I worry about the health of my girls - there are some scary issues and all of it feels enormous.  I wonder if I'm meeting their needs.  Am I listening enough?  Am I playing enough?  Am I present enough?  Why did I flip out over the hangers on their floor?  Why do dirty dishes in the sink drive me to the brink of rage?  Because I am weak and I can't do it on my own.  No one can.  I need Jesus every single day of my life.  Without him, I can't even begin to imagine how terrible our life would be.

In John 16:33 he says:

"I have told you all this so that you will have peace of heart and mind.  Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows; but cheer up, for I have overcome the world."

He straight up tells me that life will be hard.  I will have sorrow.  I will have many trials and tribulations.  However, he also tells me to have joy because of what he has done on the cross - he has overcome the world.  He has overcome my problems, my sorrow, my troubles.

He clearly tells me in Matthew 16:24-25:

Then Jesus said to his disciples, "If anyone wants to become my follower, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.  For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it."

This life is not mine.  I was bought with a price - his life.  My purpose here is to be a vessel of God's love, through the unique gifts and talents he has bestowed upon me.  The only way I can do that is through his strength and community.  God's purposes are always eternal and he accomplishes them through relationships because he is a relational God.

The cross was a horrific death, and yet, he tells me to pick up my cross daily.  To surrender my will, my desires, my "self."  And when I do all of those things, I will find true life - life everlasting.  

So when I think about each of my girls and the needs they came home with, both known and unknown, I'm convinced that God used my YES to shift eternity for each of them.

Waiting potential adoptive parents say to me all the time that they want a child with minor needs.  I get it because I was once that person.  However, I want to shake them and tell them that just navigating trauma alone is a severe need.  Every single child who is adopted suffers a primal wound - the loss of birth family, and in the case of international adoption, language and culture too.  A significant part of their identity is missing and for the rest of their life, it will be a permanent question mark.   Everyone wants a quick process and minor needs, but that's not the majority of international adoption processes.

I am in a unique situation and my family is atypical - we are a transracial family, led by a single woman, with four internationally adopted girls.  We are the underdog.  By faith, I stepped into the abyss of the frightening unknown.  I came home with way more than I bargained for; yet, God has never left us.  He continues to provide every single thing we need - from shelter, food, and transportation to medical specialists of every kind.  He provides medicines, therapies, and procedures.  He provides a community of other adoptive parents that just get it.  I don't have to explain anything, they just know and in that knowing, provide comfort and encouragement.

Adoption is not easy.   The genesis is profound loss and therefore, should not be easy.  I learned through saying yes to things that terrified me that God would never forsake me and even more, he would never forsake my daughters.  He is passionate about caring for the orphans and the widows.  I've seen more miracles being on this adoption journey than I would bet most people ever see in their lifetime.  When you say YES to adoption, God is committed to seeing you through it.  I'm not saying he is committed to making it easy, because that would be a bald-faced lie; however, He will never leave.  Nothing, and I mean nothing, will separate me from his love.  No diagnosis, no sadness, no anger, no despair, no moments of distrust, no loneliness nor depression - nothing.  I know this because his word is true.  He promises in Romans 8:28 -

"That neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor ANYTHING ELSE in ALL CREATION, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus." 

Last year, I went through hell and back after losing Sparrow.  It was the darkest, saddest, most faith-shaking season I've ever experienced but through it all, he never left me.  He walked with me through my grief, my anger, my sorrow, my questioning, my depression, my unbelief, and most of all, my fear of ever trusting him again.  He was big enough for all of it.  He peeled back layers and exposed deep wounds still in need of healing.  He gently lanced the cysts filled with the puss of sin and unforgiveness.  He cleansed my spirit and bound up my wounds.  I learned an invaluable truth from that situation:  his grace and love are bigger than I can imagine.  They are all encompassing and readily available to me as I stumble through this life.  Because of this knowledge, I know that whatever unknown comes our way, he will provide everything we need and will walk with us every step of the way - the hard, the scary, the sad.

I can't fathom not having each of my girls home with me.  I can't even comprehend my life without them.  Were their needs beyond anything for which I was prepared?  Absolutely.  Have I been scared out of my mind since getting home?  Without a doubt.  But I would never, ever in a million years trade any of it.  I love my girls with everything that I am.  I'm not a perfect mom, but each and every day I strive to love them with the love of Christ.  We soldier on knowing that he will meet us exactly where we are.  He will never leave us.  And that is what makes saying YES worth everything.