Two years ago, we did what, at the time, seemed like the bravest, craziest, scariest thing. We left our seven children in the care of various people, flew across the world to a strange land, and claimed an unknown orphan as our own.
We look at that act now and think, “Duh. Of course we did. How else could we have gotten our Bo?”
Funny thing about the unknown. It always looks bigger than reality. It makes me wonder what things I have missed out on, dismissed out of hand because they looked too big, too scary. How many times have I let fear win and missed the “duh”? But, this time, I didn’t. I tear up just thinking about all the times I almost walked away.
It didn’t make any sense. We already had seven children, two of them still in diapers. We were packed into this tiny house like sardines as it was, with no financial plans or means to move anytime soon. I’m not terribly organized and it was a lot of paperwork to pull together and a lot of deadlines to meet. It was also a lot of money we didn’t have.
Through all of that, the one moment where I felt the most vulnerable to throwing in the towel was in Chicago O’Hare, ten minutes before boarding our flight to Frankfurt where we would board the plane to our final destination, Belgrade. After a terribly bumpy flight from Indy and a ridiculously long layover, I sat in the tiny waiting area listening to my fellow passengers speak languages foreign to me, and became suddenly aware of how foolish this all seemed. I felt very small and afraid. I checked Facebook one more time and saw my dear friend, Melody, had commented this:
“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” Isaiah 43:2
It was a balm to my soul and just what I needed to get me on that plane. Oh, I’m so glad I did!
While I loved him instantly upon meeting him, it was a protective, only-because-he’s-mine kind of love. I was worried about his health from his noisy wheezing, and I was so grieved for everything he’d already lost and was about to lose by becoming ours. While great gain, adoption is loss, first. We were delighted that we were able to be his Plan B, but I was heartbroken that he needed one.
He bonded to UpcycleDaddy very quickly. I think the tall, bald, gentle giant made him feel safe. I had less to offer given that I became ill with kidney stones and infection soon after we gained custody and hospitalized upon our return home. He didn’t sleep for the entire twenty-four hours of travel to Chicago, and finally slumped over on the small plane to Indy, completely missing the triumphant homecoming, two years ago today.
Sometimes, adoption is spoken of in fairy tale terms with rescues and heroes and happily ever afters.
I bought into that. The need of the orphan spoke to me. It speaks to me still, truth be told. I cannot abide by children without – without the love, support, care of a mother, without medical intervention, without anyone on their side.
Reading blogs of other families who’ve walked a similar road set me up for some expectations. I saw how those former-orphans, now beloved sons and daughters seemed to thrive with the love of a family, making great strides. I saw the milestones and firsts celebrated in cyberland.
And I wanted that.
I wrote this last year to a fellow adoptive mom whose journey more closely mirrored my own:
Although I fell in love with our little guy instantly, I had high hopes that with the love of family and some therapy, he would make great gains. He has not. He still functions very much as a young toddler at four-years-old. I foolishly thought we could love him out of behaviors that are deeply ingrained and written somewhere in his brain. I follow the adoption journey of others and see the joyful pronouncements on Facebook of all the firsts and gains and, in trying moments, I have whispered in the dark, “We got a broken one.”
I did not have the grief or depression after Eon’s birth and Down syndrome diagnosis that you dealt with after [her daughter’s]. So imagine my surprise when all that hit after bringing home a child that I chose. This is not the child I imagined. He was what I expected initially, but I thought I could change him. Sigh. It always boils down to expectations, does it not?
I know from what you’ve shared that your adoption journey has been similar in some ways…moments of sweet breakthrough, followed by dark distance. No one has said the word, “autism” aloud, but I think it’s just a matter of time. Autism was the one thing I knew I couldn’t handle. Ha! I know you understand all this. I would go back tomorrow and bring him home again. But it has been far from the journey I anticipated it to be.
My expectations colored everything. They interfered with my ability to love the child I was given as I so desperately tried to push him to be the child I imagined.
It was, as is so much of my life, all about me.
I did so many things wrong over the last two years, I am amazed God ever allowed me to be his mother, in the first place. He deserved better. But slowly, He’s changed me. He’s helping me get over myself. Two years of very little sleep has taught me sacrifice. The first year, caring for a child that returned loving care with bruising pinches and pulled hair taught me the beauty of loving without expectation. Accepting the autism diagnosis that we finally did get, taught me how much prejudice I had toward disabilities that were outside my realm and that all lives have intrinsic value, no matter what labels are attached to them. Watching him struggle and then graciously accept unpleasant medical interventions, is teaching me acceptance of my own circumstances and to relinquish control to the One who knows better.
When people speak of adoption being redemption, I always thought they were referring to the child. But God’s cool like that. He knew which one of us really needed rescue.
He helped me let go of the orphan child of my imagination and embrace Bo. I literally taught him to embrace me back and to snuggle and now it’s our favorite thing. He has truly become the child of my heart. And I love him with all of it, not the fantasy, not the ideal, not the expectation, but my Bo. (And I can say that with certainty as I had to interrupt the writing of this post to clean up a ginormous craptastrophe he painted while I thought he was napping, and still I wrote flowery words. Our life is so glam.)
There is no fairy tale or happily ever after in our story. There is only redemption (mine), beauty from ashes, and love.
And grace. It was grace that propelled me forward in the face of unbelievable fear and grace that changed my heart through my unimagined boy.
He’s my greatest “duh” and I can’t imagine life without him. He’s shown me that even when life goes against all expectations, there is grace for that.