Adoption is not for the faint of heart – Why that sentence rubs me the wrong way

9 Mar

The first time I heard this sentence in a personal way was the very first meeting with my social worker.

“You know, adoption isn’t for the faint of heart!”  (And when we told her we wanted to adopt an “older child”….well, let’s just say, we were left feeling pretty faint.)

Since that day, I have heard or seen it everywhere – sometimes to me, sometimes to another adoptive friend – in blogs all over the internet.  I have a bit of a problem with this sentence, and seeing it’s my blog, I’m going to just lay it out.

I just do not find this sentence at all encouraging to pre-adoptive parents. But it is typically said BY adoptive parents to other people who are considering adoption or in the process of adopting as a sense of, what I think is meant to be encouragement.

I wondered why this bugged me so much, so I sent an email to another mom who adopted from the orphanage that Cora lives in.  This woman is a blessing in the world with a heart for Christ so obvious.  I told her my feelings on this sentence and she wrote back to me with an idea that I had never considered before.  But before I share her thoughts, I’ll share mine.

When I hear that sentence, “Adoption is not for the faint of heart”, I think it is a bit…hmmm…how to say what I’m thinking.  “I adopted, and that means that I wasn’t faint hearted.  Are YOU faint hearted? Are you as strong as I am? Cause if you aren’t, adoption isn’t for you. Do you have in you what I have in me?”

And if you’re like me, you might start wondering, “Am I faint hearted?  Maybe I am! Maybe they are right and maybe I am making a big mistake because who knows if I really can do this!  I probably can’t.”

The woman I emailed said that she put much thought to the sentence and how it was being used to me and she thought that it was being used in this way to me because I AM part of the club.  I proved I’m not faint hearted and that was the people’s way of sharing that club with me.

I think it’s safe to assume that many people in the adoption world who have brought home children would like to see more children come home; more children having the opportunity to have forever families.  So the “faint hearted” thing, while it may be said by someone who truly means well, I’m afraid it isn’t doing what it could be doing – encouraging people to dig deep down and find the strength to adopt.

{ Side Note: I’m going to break in her and say I am SO SO SO SO sensitive and emotional. I think I have the emotions of four people in my one body. That might explain my feelings on the matter. }

What did I do in the beginning of my adoption path, before I got matched with Cora, when I heard the sentence above?  Let it brush off my back.  Because I was positive that this was what I was supposed to do. Wait, I lied.  Initially, it affected me so much that I changed our original plans of adopting a child age 3-4 years and went for a 5-9 month at age referral program even though I knew that that wasn’t what God had placed on my heart. But once God started yelling in my ear, “Wrong way! Turn around!” I got back on path.

What did I do when heard this when I had Cora’s file in hand?  Got nervous. Very nervous. They knew more than me, so maybe what they were doing was trying to warn me.  Was this a bad idea? It was.  We should stop this now.  Let’s not do this.

In fact, Dave and I sat together and decided either we were going to accept Cora’s file or we were going to back out of adoption completely because we had so much positive and detailed information that if we weren’t comfortable saying yes, we knew we never would be. Where we faint hearted?

So, when we DID say yes, what did I do initially when I heard that sentence?  Looked the other way. As soon as I saw it on forums, on blogs or in books, I would fearfully look away.  Was I faint hearted!? WHAT IF I’M FAINT HEARTED!?! OMGosh, I AM faint hearted!!

But the reality is, we all are in some ways, aren’t we?  For more than just adoption? For life, right? And I don’t want to lightly compare giving birth to adopting, because there are so many things that make it different (and so many things that make it the same…), but can we just agree on one thing, parenting is not for the faint hearted. But to me, saying that leaves one very important thing out: encouragement.  (Now is probably the time to admit that I was a cheerleader in high school.)

Ideally, I think there should be more than a one-liner that people say to other people other than, “Adoption is not for the faint hearted”.  Because that is said all.of.the.time.  Something like, “Wow! I’m so happy for you. We know how hard the process can be, so if you need to talk, let me know!” from those who have adopted. Or maybe, “Fantastic.  You can do this! Even when things seem hard, you can do this!”  Even, “Welcome to the club!”

I know, I’m saying this all while my child is still in her orphanage.  And if you did any reading on older child adoption, which Cora is filed under, you would be worried about your faint heart.  Heck, I am!  I still wonder if I’m faint hearted because the people who say that are all adoptive parents, so they have already proved their “un-faint heart” status.  I have only lived through a year of waiting and paperwork. (Oh, the waiting…)  I still might be faint hearted.

And when I think that I might still not pass muster as strong enough, it leaves me to think about the people who maybe gave up due to the fear of not being strong enough.  Instead of encouragement, perhaps they didn’t feel strong enough to join “the club”.  Some might say that that is good! Because if they weren’t set completely on adopting…if giving up was even an option, they definitely WERE faint hearted.  But I don’t think so. Maybe sometimes, but not all of the time.

Maybe what they needed was an adoption mentor who took their hand and listened to their doubt and reminded them how strong they were and that if they REALLY did want to add to their family via adoption, they could do it! And showed them what they think would be a good list of emergency numbers on hand.  (Social worker, therapist, books on attachment, etc…)  Of course, we don’t all have in-life friends who have adopted.  What a great idea for social workers to think about.  A mentor program. Even so, there are many online support systems in place for adoptive families.  Many culture groups that pre-adoptive families can reach out to, etc…

I still wonder today if I’m faint hearted.  I think I know the answer, and it’s not what you probably would like me to say.  I think I AM faint hearted. I don’t think I am, I definitely am.  Heck, I cried at the dog kennel when I took my dog on a tour thinking about leaving him there. No, not in my car. Literally while I was on tour.  That tells you how weak I am. Just one tiny example.

But I have my faith, my husband and friends on hand and I have an attachment therapist right in my small town.  I have doctors already lined up and school systems set in place.  I have a support system, though sometimes I wish it were larger, it is there. And I AM strong! I have survived many things in life, some that could have taken my life.  I AM strong.  But I AM faint of heart.  I know I am.

Can I just say, if you think you are faint hearted…if you hear that sentence and you think, ‘What if they are talking about me???”  Can I suggest you turn away from processing that sentence and start walking the path anyway?  If adoption is not for you, you will know. There will come a time when you just know! And let me tell you that in my opinion, being faint of heart doesn’t disqualify you from putting on your big girl panties and answering the call you have been given.

And for the record, if you think you can do it, I, TOO, think you can do it! You can do it and even if it is hard, it’s going to be amazing. And when the hard times come, be prepared ahead the best you can, seek out help, do what you need to do, but YOU CAN DO IT! I believe you can.

If you disagree with me, please feel free to leave a comment, but remember, I’m faint of heart so please be nice. 😉



6 Responses to “Adoption is not for the faint of heart – Why that sentence rubs me the wrong way”

  1. John Deb Gerhardt Hayes March 9, 2012 at 5:54 am #

    Jen, well thought out and well said! I too am faint hearted and cling to the promise that Christ’s strength is perfect in my weakness.
    Deb TGBTG

  2. Lori Davis March 9, 2012 at 2:47 pm #

    Love you!

  3. Addie March 9, 2012 at 4:59 pm #

    I say it to anyone who asks about the adoption b/c its true… adoption is hard – I think ours was harder than most too.

    I dont say it to be mean or to deter people from adopting… I say it b/c if you havent adopted before then you seem to have this rosy picture of adoption being so much easier than pregnancy with less emotional turmoil – this rosy faced picture of a baby being placed in your arms and everyone lives happily ever after. Its just not true – I say it so people will know that weve been through the ringer, but in a way that wont scare them off, so that they know that we still need love and support and encouragement…. pretty much, weve had none.

    So dont take offense to it, its just the truth – and you know it better than most… its for all those out there who dont get it yet, but hopefully will.

  4. stephanie March 10, 2012 at 3:37 am #

    Oh, Jen…I seriously can’t wait to meet in person because we are soooo similar.

    I understand your point.

    The beauty of recognizing that you (or any of us) are faint-hearted is that it reminds us that this whole adoption thing is GOD-LEAD. He’s in charge, and He calls ALL kinds of people to parent adopted children. Not just one kind — the strong. He uses ALL kinds. In our weakness HIS POWER is made obvious.

    And…can I repost this on “We Are Grafted In” — the online Christian adoption website? I think it would get some good discussion going. You raise some good points!

    From one sensitive girl to another…

    • Jen March 10, 2012 at 3:47 am #

      Yes, Stephanie! Go for it! And our KBCA play day is SO on this summer! What a joyous day that will be! I can hardly wait!!

  5. donnaptak March 13, 2012 at 2:47 pm #

    Faint of Heart does not always mean that people aren’t happy you are adopting! When you are telling people you are adopting, you’re basically inviting their (unsolicited) opinion. It’s like people who tell you they are adopting pitbulls. “Why in the world would you get a pitbull?” And they kindly respond “Oh but my pitbull is a NICE pitbull!. I’m going to love it and hug it and train him great!” Then you get “Really? My neighbor’s pitbull attacked and killed my friend’s dog! I would NEVER own a pitbull”… blah blah blah. Whoa… that kind of puts you in the defense doesn’t it? But that’s what you get when you tell somebody you are adopting a pitbull! Am I comparing an adopted child with a pitbull? No. I am comparing the REACTION. The human need for realistic people to interject with their stories and opinions.

    I’m sure everybody hopes it does go great for you, but they are trying to inform you to be prepared that not everything may go without a hitch! If you’re the type where every little snafuu is going to throw you over the edge, then well.. you get it. So it’s not a personal insult when people say that, it’s simply somebody snapping their fingers in front of your face and saying, hey….

    Be prepared for delays.
    Be prepared that your country may be shut down when you’re “this close”.
    Be prepared somebody may slip in and adopt “your” child even after you arrive in the country.
    Be prepared your agency may be shut down and take your deposit with them.
    Be prepared that everything you read in the books on how your adopted child may be, may be your child!
    Be prepared to not give up and have a Plan B, or Plan C!

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