“This just in: the competitive sport of adoption is heating up!”
What? You thought surely where people come together to save orphans there can be no petty bickering or judgment? You thought wrong. Turns out there are a few who adopt “better” than others.
There’s the “I adopted internationally therefore I paid more” group. The “I adopted domestically because American orphans should come first” group. How about the “I adopted a bi-racial, HIV positive, Down Syndrome baby and I win this competition hands down” group? Yep, the competition is tough.
I expected all kind of wary looks from people on the other side of adoption: those who don’t understand it, think adopted kids are less-than, or can’t possibly imagine adopting. What I never saw coming was the actual judgment I received when God gave me the perfectly healthy white baby with no labels.
Judgment from OTHER ADOPTIVE MOTHERS.
I should have seen it coming. When my best friend wanted to adopt internationally, she told me she got flack from families who thought she should adopt domestically. I was surprised, but I figured she must just know the wrong people.
As we were waiting on the list to be chosen by a birthmother, I just knew God had prepared me to be the mother of a black or bi-racial child. A boy. I named him Jeremiah. If it HAD to be a girl, her name would be Mia and I had hairstyles all picked out. The adoption agency was so surprised at how willing we were to receive just about any baby, they told us to get ready because we’d probably get a placement soon.
But God had other plans. We had to wait 18 months. And when I finally got the call, and our amazing social worker said the baby was white, all I said was: “Completely white?!”
Surprise! We ended up with a gorgeous, blue-eyed, brown-haired baby girl. Her birth mother had taken good care of herself and her unborn daughter. There were no drugs, alcohol, major medical issues. She was perfect. I honestly thought “Well, gee, God, are you telling me we couldn’t handle more than this?”
When you talk to adoptive parents, you will notice we all tend to get a little teary-eyed talking about our babies. There is something so incredibly tender and amazing about the love a woman has for a child God has given her through adoption. I think it’s the surprise of realizing we didn’t rescue our child, they rescued us. Becoming a mother opened my heart to a whole new world. Adopting made my heart pour that love back out into the world.
So when you meet someone who understands that tenderness you tend to start chattering away at each other with outright giddiness. You’re happy for them, they’re happy for you. We had been through the same adventure, felt the same amazing work of God, seen joy and heartache few do wrapped up in one child.
Sometimes, while in the middle of sharing giddiness with another mother, they would suddenly understand our adoption story was about a healthy white baby, and the giddiness would go away. They would see my daughter, and while holding their special needs child, or their bi-racial child, they would actually stop smiling. They would close up, stop sharing, and get a look on their face that said “Oh, you have no idea what adoption is like.”
Are some adoption stories harder than others? Yes! And if you heard me talk about my two sons, you’d see God gave me plenty of parenting challenges with my biological children. We all have to deal with our own tough situations. We all have trials that come after adoption that few understand and we don’t want to talk about, lest we ruin the shininess of our story. (That’s why I started this blog. I want to show all those trials, share all the truths, because God has made them beautiful).
Ok, I’m going to back up here. Full disclosure. I judged once.
While attending an adoption information class with a panel of adoptive parents, adult adoptees and birth mothers, there was this one couple. Between them sat their blue-eyed, blonde-haired little girl. She was adorable. They talked about how it took them five years to adopt, and the obstacles they went through sounded a lot like self-imposed obstacles because they were weeding out babies that didn’t fit their desires. So I figured I knew what their desires were. And I was pretty disgusted.
Now I know people look at me and my daughter and think the same thing! How would they know all the research I did on black hair, and books I read on how to help children with their identity in an interracial family? The research into mental illness, cleft palates, etc. All they see is my very white daughter and her adorable smile. And suddenly, I barely qualify in the adoption competition.
But adoption is not a contest.
Having been on both sides of the judgment meter, I’ve come to a conclusion: WE DON’T KNOW EVERYONE’S STORY. And does it matter? These children needed parents, and we stepped up. And there are so many more that still need parents. If we only adopt the tougher cases, aren’t we still abandoning children? Are we really martyring ourselves in order to adopt or are we saving orphans? And dang it, aren’t we the lucky ones for having them in our lives?
So let’s be supportive. Let’s open ourselves and share our stories without competing, judging, or shutting people out. Don’t assume you know another family’s story. Adoption is hard. Parenting is hard. Being an orphan is hard. Let’s not make it hard to be a member of the adoption community!
Adoption is not a competition. It’s Christ’s love in action.