I was having a conversation over coffee the other day with a woman interested in my business that eventually turned towards our adoptive family life. She was asked to speak at a local event about her foster care and adoption experience and was asking me what I thought she should say. We talked about all the "usual" topics that surround adoptions but we both resolved that it all felt so fake.
You see, talking about adoption is so very different than living it. It's true, some families have beautiful stories of taking a baby in and raising them as their own and living none the wiser. However, those seem to be the only stories we hear about in public settings. Meanwhile, other families have harder stories that right now feel almost too heavy to share with anyone else. When that is the case, sharing the truth is considered discouraging to others and a "downer" for everyone's romantic view of adoption. Even now as I type this I am tempted to wrap a pretty bow on it for you, to keep you comfortable, by saying these harder, heavier stories are beautiful too but that's the problem. Even though it's true, and we believe it, it's not reality right now. From what I've learned so far, trying to paint a picture that doesn't actually depict your here and now, only causes more tension and heartache. So I apologize, I can't do that.
Now my story isn't all bleak. But our daily life IS, and will always be, in the trenches. There are still so many triggers, so many gaps, and so many unknowns to the process that keep "life together", ever so fragile. Having a child who's heart is like a landmine you are trying to navigate without setting off in negative ways can be taxing on one's energy and exhaustive for their perseverance. Some days, we just can't. We don't have it in us to do it well. Our nerves are shot and we just want to be "normal." Other days, we are able to avoid all detonation and give a big sigh of relief when we lay our heads down for the night. But the story begins again the next day and we try all over again.
I've said it before and I will say it again, adoption has taught me more about God's love than I would have ever known without it. Like marriage, adoption is a unique vantage point for unconditional love, grace and compassion. But also like marriage, it's hard and not everyone should do it. I know my family was called to this and we are doing well in light of the obstacles we have all had to face. But there is still no denying life would be way less complicated without adoption being a part of it.
Again, I am tempted to soften the blow of that statement for you b/c inside I fear you are jumping to conclusions like, "Is she saying they wish their daughter wasn't their daughter?" Quick answer, no! But I don't owe you that explanation. I think it's safe to say that if anyone had the option of doing life the less complicated way or a more complicated way, we would all choose the easier path. Difficulty level doesn't determine worth but it does test endurance and adoptive families are tired. That is our reality.
I say all of this to offer a peek into our world and hopefully help others to understand that there is a great amount of guilt that we adoptive parents carry when we are living the hard and heavy days outside of the line of sight of the general public. We make weird decisions for our family b/c we know it will help us avoid triggers for one child. We request odd things of leaders and teachers so that we can have more success at home when they return to us. We have to restructure typical situations to fit special needs and provide predictable outcomes whenever possible for our children to feel safe. We make it up as we go b/c no day is like the one before or after it. We are chameleons and know it looks odd from the outside but it's the best we can do. Still, we are made to feel like it's not enough until it feels beautiful and romantic to others.
Instead, I ask you to make room for adoptive families to be different. One family may be thriving and another may be barely surviving and yet BOTH are true. If you give us a platform to share our experience, please don't set expectations of keeping people comfortable, it's too much work and we are already all tapped out. We love to be a resource but we can only lock arms with others when we are honest about our journey's. Release adoption from the box you think it fits into and give families space to share their hearts and souls from their realities. That is truly the gift that goes both ways! Make way for it and we will all be better served.