Welcome back to the Welcome Home series! You are in for a treat today!! This post is written by a sweet mama who truly sees what is beautiful in motherhood and adoption! It is, as she says, both beautiful and messy! I have read Shelby’s words many times and wept through them each time! I am SO EXCITED to share this small portion of a family’s journey with you and I so hope that it ignites a passion in you to make a difference in the lives of children through the miracle of adoption, foster, and orphan care!
The Miracle of Adoption is a Never Ending Journey
That word stirs up a multitude of emotions in my heart and soul. In my life, it is a culmination of what began as a little girl’s wish and became a seed planted in my heart that at times I truly despaired would ever have a chance to grow. God’s ways are not usually ours though, and it did grow. It came to its first climax in 2010 in the NICU of a large metropolitan hospital across the country from our home and then again in 2016 across the world in Zhengzhou, Henan, China. While every good story has a climax, and ours is certainly a very good story, after that begins the resolution, which can go on and on and on. That is the part of the story that never truly ends this side of Heaven, and that is where we are currently living.
Fellow adoptive mom Shannon Dingle calls it the “messy middle.” It is that place in life where you are not sure you will ever have all the answers, in fact you have concluded that you are not even always sure what the question is. God always shows up, but He doesn’t always fix it, and we realize that apart from His grace we are completely incapable of living this life He has called us to. That is where I live day to day, in a place that is beautiful and gloriously messy at the very same time.
The Miracle of Adoption has Perfect Timing
Let me tell you about my boys and how they came to be part of us.
The desire to adopt was planted in my heart when I was just ten years old. I wish I could say the initial thought was a spiritual one, but the truth is that I was on vacation with my family one summer when I saw a couple with a beautiful almond eyed toddler adopted from Korea. I remember watching her parents swinging her between them and hearing her giggle and thinking she was the most beautiful child I had ever laid eyes on – and I immediately thought that I wanted to adopt a dark eyed princess when I grew up. I know now that those are the types of seeds that God plants even in the hearts of the very young. That couple will never know it, but their smiles of adoration towards their little girl influenced my young heart, and it is never far from my mind what an impact the way we interact with our children can truly have on those watching. Their interaction with her changed the course of my life.
Many years later, I found myself despairing that adoption would ever happen for me. After years of nagging my husband, I finally decided that my ten-year-old self must have been mistaken. All the Gotcha Day videos I had sobbed through were for someone else’s family. My husband was in favor of adoption but he kept saying he did not feel the timing was right for us. Our four older children were growing up, and I just could not figure out what God was doing. I decided to give up my dream. I laid it on the alter, told God it was ok, and I tried to move on. It was like a death. Twenty-five years after the seed was planted, I felt like it had been wrenched from my heart and thrown into the garbage.
This is when He does His best work. When we willingly exchange our stubborn wills for His. Literally days after I felt the weight of grief lift from my heart, my husband said words to me I will never forget. He said, “It’s time.”
A mere twenty- eight days later, I found myself in the NICU of a large metropolitan hospital across the country from where we lived at the time, staring into the bassinet of a tiny baby boy, born 4 weeks premature to a birth mom who said he was “the only thing she had ever gotten right in her life” and who wanted him to have a large family who loved to travel and read. So, though we were told that matching our already large family would take time and though domestic adoption was nowhere on my radar – that’s how God works.
Motherhood Through the Miracle of Adoption
I have given birth – both by c-section and the “normal” way. I have had an epidural and I have had natural childbirth. I have heard the words “uh oh, there’s another one!” (Yep, just like on tv). All of those things are a roller coaster of emotions. Having a child, no matter how it happens, is a miracle – the most common, every day miracle there is. It is a stunning tapestry of emotion, and it rips your heart right out so that you can wear it on your sleeve for the rest of your life.
But, there is something different about adoption. Notice I did not say better or worse, just different. When I walked into that hospital and looked down at Patrick for the first time, lying quietly sound asleep in the bassinet – all five pounds of him – something different happened to me. Something extremely difficult to put into words.
Most mommies just instinctively know they will love their babies. They envision what they are going to look like, smell like, and be like. You carry them under your heart for 9 months and you feel them move inside of you. You feel them kick and you fall in love. You long to meet this little person that you and God have grown, and at the same time you panic towards the end because you like them right where they are – tucked under your heart, safe and always right there with you. Adoption doesn’t give you all of those things. It gives you other things, other ways of falling in love.
Your paperwork time is your “pregnancy” and sometimes, like with Patrick, it is quick and you hardly catch your breath before you are handed a new bundle. Sometimes, like what happened to us five years later when my husband uttered those same long awaited words, “It’s time again,” the wait is a little more intense.
Jeremiah came to us from China. His picture rolled across our agency’s Facebook page and our then 13 year old son said, “Look.” Somehow, something just spoke to us. Maybe the smile, maybe the precious chubby cheeks – maybe the almond eyes and black hair. I called, they sent the file, we said yes. Pretty much in the space of time it just took you to read that.
Then began the “pregnancy.” The paper process was excruciating. I won’t lie. I have given birth four times, in every manner you can conceive of. I have adopted domestically. And there is not much that compares to the international process. It is brutal. The sheer amount of documents that must be notarized, certified, authenticated. The acronyms – LOI, PA, USCIS approval, TA….. What does all that mean, you ask? It means that instead of hours over the toilet with morning sickness, it is hours in the car with your files of documents. Going to the courthouse, going to the notary, going to the UPS store. The young man at the UPS store we use literally hugged me one day and said, “I hope you are almost done, you look really tired.” Bless him. I was, but every second was worth it a thousand times over. I would start again today.
The best way to describe Jeremiah’s Gotcha Day was that it was the exact opposite of the quiet, sterile hospital room where I first laid eyes on Patrick. It was semi-controlled chaos. It was a community delivery room where we watched 13 other families see their new children for the first time. It was a plethora of emotion and reactions, and all I could think was that this must be how Heaven will be. Some people grinned and rushed forward when they saw their new little one – that was me. Some people smiled shyly and waited for the child to make a move. Some people fell to their knees, literally overcome as they praised God that the wait was finally finally over. It was an experience like nothing I could ever have dreamed up. It changed our entire family like nothing else could have.
“Beautiful and Gloriously Messy”
So, how are we today? What does living in the “messy middle” look like for our family? Well, trauma is no joke. Grief is no joke. We have amazing moments and we have moments that leave us all in tears and gasping for breath. Jeremiah and Patrick have inside of them a courage that I so wish I could fully describe to you. Their full stories are not mine to tell though, so there is so very much about both of them that no one knows. No one. As much as I am an over sharer in many ways – my boys’ histories, medical issues, and emotional struggles will always remain under wraps, unless there comes a day that they decide to share them. Suffice it to say though that both of them, like all children who are adopted, are survivers. They have overcome obstacles from the moment of conception that most of us can not even fathom. They are heroes. Even though they may have been considered “hard placements,” even though their medical predictions were frightening, even though we had no idea what we were getting into. Even though. These two boys, born to other women – one across the country and one across the world from me – were foreordained before the creation of the world to have a chance at LIFE. They are rocking that chance.
Every day I get to look into their eyes and hear their laughter. I get to see them learn and grow and overcome. I am almost crushed with the realization that God allows me to be a part of His redemptive plan. I get to see the gospel in my living room. I GET to, and I don’t deserve it one bit. The grace of a God that uses people like me is overwhelming. Adoption is the single hardest thing I have ever or will ever endeavor, but the rewards are so much greater. My prayer every day is that my boys continue to grow in courage and wisdom – that they trust the God who brought them to us and that as they grow up and question their pasts and their stories, that the two things they will never ever question are our love and God’s infinite grace.
Wasn’t that amazing?! If you were as blessed by this post and would like to hear more from Shelby, check out her blog! Though not currently active, you can read much more about this sweet family here!
For a look at some other absolutely AMAZING stories in our Welcome Home Series, check out:
Do you have an amazing story about adoption, foster, or orphan care that you would like to share? Know someone who does? Let me know! I would love to explore that with you!