Adoption: Remembering the Miracle
“Time and experience have taught me a priceless lesson: Any child you take for your own becomes your own if you give of yourself to that child. I have borne two children and had seven others by adoption, and they are all my children, equally beloved and precious.”
–Dale Evans, Singer, Actress
Most of us yearn for the opportunity to hold the title of mommy and daddy. This desire to conceive goes far beyond a chemical response to nurture someone or something—it’s simply deeper and more profound than trite explanations. In a sense, one may even see conception as a couple touching the divine. Is it any wonder, then, that when roadblocks threaten the dream of conception, a crisis ensues? Because of the grating nature of this crisis, a few couples resign themselves to a childless future. Many try their luck at medication or costly and often embarrassing medical interventions, sometimes requiring regimented, scheduled, and non-spontaneous sexual activity. At some point along this journey, a growing number of couples look to adopt. Interestingly, in my experience, most couples do not choose to adopt out of desperation to quench the insatiable thirst of parenthood. Quite the opposite, most couples choose this route because the orbit of their desire and love stretches far beyond biology. Yes, adoption…it is really about love. In fact, it’s more…it’s a miracle!
My wife and I adopted our first child when she was only a day old out of an adoption agency in Utah. Before she was born, we had the opportunity to meet her birth mother. She was a beaming brunette in full bloom with her belly stretching out her maternity clothes. This beautiful young woman experienced this unplanned pregnancy at a time when she wasn’t ready to parent. Given her difficult situation, she decided to go to an agency to consider pregnancy options. When adoption was brought up, she was given our couple profile and fell in love. So did we. This woman was an answer to many nights of praying and pleading that the miracle of parenthood would be ours. Two months later, a 7 lb. 11 oz. pink bundle was placed in our arms. All because of the sacrifice of a young woman—for the love of her child.
Many couples having gone through the emotional process of adoption can share similar stories. Unfortunately, many beautiful experiences can often dim over time. Causal factors can come in many forms—adoption plans falling through, difficulties with birth parents or families, a child exhibiting chronic health or behavioral issues as a result of genetics, past traumas or neglect; parents struggling with bonding to name only a few. Often the cause can be less complex but equally exhausting such as the day-to-day demands of parenting that can reduce the miracle to an ember from what once was a bonfire.
Adoptive couples need to remember the miracle of their child(ren)’s adoption and re-kindle this fire that may have lost its warmth midst the storms that life tends to throw at us. May I recommend a few ideas?
- Create a celebratory tradition around the child’s adoption anniversary. I love how creative many couples become when planning this annual festivity. Many times, couples go through photo albums, home videos, and display other sentimental items that are central to the adoption. I’ve known some who take their child out to eat or host a dinner with immediate or extended family. If there is a multicultural component to the child’s race, some couples make food, dress, and organize activities specific to the culture. Please note, if couples have biological children, consider celebrating a special day for them as well. My wife and I started a tradition for our biological children, celebrating the day when we first learned that Mom was pregnant with them. This helps all children feel included in the festivities.
- Tell and retell the child’s adoption story. By doing so, your son or daughter will always know the great love that surrounded the decision to place them for adoption. This often results in the child having less confusion concerning their adoption, more respect for their identity, and possess more appreciation to birth mothers and their decision made out of love.
- There’s nothing more life altering than realizing that a child may be struggling with medical, mental health, or developmental problems. These and other challenges are a major factor in parent burnout, caregiver fatigue, and chronic stress. To help couples remember the miracle of their adoption, please remember a few things. The more control you feel, the more empowered you become. How do we gain and sustain control? We act! Action is the antidote to despair and doubt. Action can come in many forms—we advocate on behalf of our children, we educate ourselves, we learn of community resource that can help, we surround ourselves by others who may have walked a similar path, etc. While never easy, taking an active, hands-on, can-do attitude to parenting (even in the most difficult of cases), emboldens the spirit and takes the edge off paralyzing stress. Please remember, though—nothing is better than a good shoulder to cry on as necessary.
These are only a few recommendations that can be implemented to remember and take strength from the miracle of adoption. As couples reflect upon the miracle of their children and take action, whether biological or adopted, the more they will find joy in the challenging but rewarding adventure of day-to-day parenting. Do you have any suggestions or special examples that you’d like to add? Please share!
By Matthew Barkdull, LMFT, MedFT