Older Child Adoption Not For the Faint of Heart – Updated Thoughts

30 Oct

I got an email from a sweet woman who is considering adoption from China. She isn’t in process yet, but she is doing her due homework.  If she and her husband move forward, they will be looking to add a child age 5-7 to their family.  She came across this post where I wrote that I was against the phrase, “Older child adoption isn’t for the faint of heart”.  (Here’s the post)  She wanted to know, now that we’ve been “in the thick of it” for a while, do we feel like that phrase has good meaning behind it.

In a nutshell? No.

And let me tell you, this is coming from someone who brought home a child who she thought was a perfectly healthy child who had a rocky start to life and turned out that we brought home a child with cancer and lots of other medical issues that could arise in the future.

I still don’t like that phrase.

Let me explain.  Quite a few people don’t think of adoption the same as giving birth to a child when it comes to permanence in the family – loving the child as much as the biological siblings. Disruption occurs for many different reasons (and I’m *totally* not judging, just saying) and others who change their minds before the child even comes home.

I am so sensitive to the fact that people I know have disrupted.  It happens despite no one wanting it to end that way.

When we gave birth to Logan, things were pretty easy. We were young, we were naive, we of course knew it all. He was a great baby – so easy-going – because we were good parents.  How could it be any other reason?  Easy good kid=great top-notch parents.  Yep! I probably even judged your screaming 4-year-old at the grocery store candy isle because I knew my child, when he was 4, would never behave like that.  How could he? I was his great mama.

Then God gave us Miles.  BAM! Like a brick hitting the side of our head, we were thrown into the life of a not-so-easy kid.  Well, make that a HARD kid.  OK, an I.N.S.A.N.E.L.Y. hard kid.  A kid who cried constantly, didn’t sleep, puked everywhere, SOOOO hard to parent kid.

Our “we’re great parents” theory was dashed.  We weren’t good parents.  We had an easy-going son, period.  And a totally not-so-easy-going son.  And life.was.hard.  So hard.  He was miserable pretty much every single moment for a while there.  I don’t think, up to that point, that I had ever been so stressed.

But, as you do when life throws you a curve-ball, we adjusted.  We stopped going out, we caught our breaks when we could, we supported each other as spouses and we spent one-on-one time with Logan when it was possible.  Did our relationship change with Logan when Miles came? Of course. It had to.  Just like it does whenever a new child enters the family. But praise be to Jesus that that kid was easy-going.   And by age 4 or so (yes, age 4!), Miles wasn’t so hard anymore.  He had mellowed out a bit.  We got comfortable again.  Life got easy again. It was a hard 4 years. Some ugly.  Some so very sweet. I love my Miles fiercely because he challenged me to be more.

When I think of the hardness of those 4 years, I think of our sweet Cora and her introduction to our family.  Adjustment. Just like any child joining a family via birth or adoption.  Why must they be considered any different? When a child has been raised in an institution, there are many institutional behaviors.  They are hard. Frustrating. Heart-breaking.  There is hardness.  There are sweet moments. Many sweet moments. Many hard moments. Relationships with children change, their roles as siblings change and their relationships with each other change.  That doesn’t have to mean anything negative – it just means change.

We got home from Korea and we adjusted. We are still adjusting. I think we’ll always be adjusting to what lies in front of us. We are definitely a different family than we were 6 months ago and even 1 1/2 years ago when we started this process. But when Miles was with our family for 6 months, we looked back and saw we were an entirely different family than we were 6 months before as well. I bet you’d say the same with your family as well.

There are things in our future that aren’t even a twinkle of what’s happening right now.  We’re not at a point of racial acknowledgements from friends at school, having two moms hasn’t gone past the fact that she grew in another mom’s belly – different from her brothers.  She looks in the mirror and sees that we’re the same.  I know there will be a time when those hard moments grow us and stretch us and move us.  I know they are coming.  They are not here now.

Now our hard is newness. Newness of family (she asked a little boy at the field trip today if he had a mommy and a daddy. He looked at her like she was crazy. She’s not crazy. That’s her reality.) Newness of parents, newness of a house, newness of food, newness of a language, newness of grandparents, newness of rules, newness of releasing control of everything (adoptive moms, can I get an amen from all of you who struggle with hair washing?), newness of bedrooms, newness of birthday parties and holidays and playdates. Newness of pretty much everything.

Our hard = newness.

Newness of a sister, newness of a younger sibling when someone WAS the youngest sibling for 7 years, newness of everyone telling your parents how cute she is while you sit there wondering if you’re cute, too, newness of three children versus two, newness of food challenges, language barriers, newness of evolving into a parent of a child with more personality than my little finger, newness of hair, of nails, of skin, newness of medical issues, of scary words and scary prognosis. Newness of language and culture and expectations of so many people. Newness of changes in relationships (new family rules) lost relationships ( 😦 Where did they go?) and new relationships.(Thank you Jesus!)

(Dare I say Miles’ transition was harder. At least initially? Ask me in 2 years. That’s meant to encourage.)

Ah, but it won’t always be new!

I’m wondering what it is going to be like in 4 years when Cora is 9 and Miles is 11 and Logan is 15 and these newness stages are a long distant memory.  When we can think back as we did with Miles’ early life and think, “OH my gosh, we made it. HOW did we make it? Remember that time when we didn’t think we could make it?”

But it will be a memory.  It will have been a season.
I believe we’re going to make it.

God doesn’t promise that there will be no hard times in life – He promises that He will be with us IN those hard times.
He’s totally with us in these hard times and He’ll totally be with us when we look back and high-five each other in memory of hard times.

So, what do I think of “Not for the faint of heart” now that I’ve survived the coming home, the initial craaaaazy adjustment and come to terms with the medical realities that lie ahead?
I will never say it to a pre-adoptive parent.

We are all capable. Through God.

Is adoption scary? Yes! I mean, the process can be a nightmare, let’s be real here.
Is getting pregnant scary? Yes! Cause who knows what can go wrong!?
Is getting married scary? Yes! Have you seen those divorce rates lately?

Life is scary.

This is what I will say to you if you tell me you’re considering adopting older.

  • Read.  Get your hands on every little book mentioned in adoption forums or by your social worker or that look semi-good on Amazon. You will gain info from each of them.  Fill your kindle and go to town.
  • Don’t think that because you’ve parented already that you know it all.  We (you know, awesome parents!) fell for this one.  We were forced kicking and screaming into watching an 8 hr (I think?) video series full of horror stories and we.hated.it.  But in there we learned how jumping on a trampoline has been proven to heal the brain of trauma and how those horror stories *can* have positive outcomes.  We learned tons of tidbits in between the not-so-fun-to-watch stuff and we used them. Most importantly, we learned about rad and attachment issues, ways to bond, what to do to help your child regress to bring forth bonding, etc…
  • Find an adoption community. (In person and online.) The in person people will be flesh-and-blood people living life right in your back yard.  They get it! The code words of waiting, the heartbreak of holidays without your child and the joy adoption is.  They get it. Go find them! The online community will be there for your, “OMG! Is this normal? How do I handle this? Please tell me it’s going to be OK!”
  • Pray. Cause He’s going to get you through it. There is a lot to pray about.
  • GO!  Get your booty on Rainbow kids and find your baby! Cause you can do it.  How do I know? Cause I did it!

If you tell me you’re scared, I’ll tell you I was, too! If you tell me you’re thinking about quitting the process, I’ll tell you that I thought that, too.  And if you tell me you’re struggling, I’ll tell you I struggled, too. I’d do my best to encourage you and I’d pray for you and I’d root you on!

I’m not going to lie, it’s not rainbows and cupcakes and sunshine but there ARE rainbows and cupcakes and sunshine if you look for them.  And when people start talking faint of heart business, as I said back in March before we traveled, it gets me shaking in my boots. I am the farthest from strong in the world. I cry over a sliver. I cry at parent-teacher conferences.  I swear I feel it when my kids get hurt.  I am an emotional mess.  When I hear that phrase, I doubt myself. Even now that I’m home.

So I think that’s why this line bugs me so much. I find myself doubting myself though we’ve done so much adjusting.  It almost made me drop out of adoption altogether. It is a phrase that MOVES you. Either to man up and be tough or to shy away and think, “definitely not me. I’m in the wrong party tonight. I’m supposed to be with the other timid moms who cry too much.”

Ah, but us timid moms…we must dig deep. It’s in us.

Because let’s again be real here. PARENTING is hard.  So what if your biological child gets diagnosed with autism. Hard.  What if your biological child gets cancer. Hard.  What if your biological child winds up to be nothing like you and you find it so hard to relate with her on anything at all. Hard. What if she gets pregnant at 15? Hard.  Having a biological child is not a golden ticket to easy life.

Yeah, I know there are people who disagree with me.  But as for someone who doesn’t fit the quota of parents who are not ‘not’ faint of heart, I did it. You can do it. I believe in you.

Psalm 121

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
    where does my help come from?
 My help comes from the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth.

 He will not let your foot slip—
    he who watches over you will not slumber;
 indeed, he who watches over Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord watches over you—
    the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
 the sun will not harm you by day,
    nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all harm—
    he will watch over your life;
 the Lord will watch over your coming and going
    both now and forevermore.


5 Responses to “Older Child Adoption Not For the Faint of Heart – Updated Thoughts”

  1. Jenn Galstad October 31, 2012 at 2:04 pm #

    This is an amazing blog! I wish I could translate this in Korean for the MPAK Korea families and other prospective adoptive parents in Korea. 🙂 can I have a permission?

    Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts again because your blog almost read my mind 🙂

    • Jenn October 31, 2012 at 2:16 pm #

      Sorry for typos in my previous reply, but the point is I really mean it. There are so many prospective parents who are scared especially in Korea….and thanks for sharing your thoughts because this blog truly got me to add some more thoughts onto my own “loss” before and after my adoption.

    • Jen October 31, 2012 at 2:54 pm #

      Definitely, Jenn! I would be absolutely honored!! Feel free to do what you would like with it. Let me know if you do. 🙂 And you are in my thoughts every day. There will be a time when you are 6 months out and you will see how far you’ve gone and how your sweet baby girls have started to heal. They will heal! (And you will heal, too!) Blessed to know you and call you a friend.

  2. Nora November 10, 2012 at 8:04 pm #

    Love this post Jen. You are so wonderful.

  3. Mandy November 18, 2012 at 3:25 pm #

    This is a really helpful, heartfelt, sincere post. Thank you so much for writing it! –Mandy

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