*I’m doing a short series to highlight and process some things I’ve learned in our adoption process.  I’m calling it IMHO (In My Humble Opinion), because I’m not a professional, I’m not proposing my opinion is always the right one or the only one, and I’m even saving room for the possibility in the future that my mind could change again!  I especially want to write these things for friends who are considering adoption and have asked me about our experience, but anyone is welcome to read and comment.  (Please be gracious!)*

OK, I think this will be my last post in this series.  It’s hard mental work to process through all of this.  Someone commented the other day that they miss my funny blog posts.  I do too!  I want to do more of that.  But adoption issues have been a big part of my life lately, and adoption is many things, but “funny” isn’t at the top of the list. 

So, let’s cut to the chase and get the potentially offensive part out of the way.

IMHO, adoption is romanticized, maybe even a little more so by Christians.  

We really need to stop doing that.  But to be fair, adoption is just one of a long list of things that is often romanticized in our society.  Before I was married, I had an idea of what it was going to be like: my sweet husband giving me nightly shoulder massages; neither of us needing to watch television EVER because our delightful evening repartee would be so engaging; we’d spend our weekends walking farmers markets hand in hand and he would surprise me with huge bouquets of fresh flowers.  Weekly.  

Now, I’m still madly in love with my husband!  He has proved his love to me over and over again in 13 years, but he does it by unclogging a drain full of disgusting hair or cleaning up a child’s vomit at 2 am, not usually with fresh flower bouquets.  The reality is not WORSE than the dream, it’s just very different.

Parenting in GENERAL is hugely romanticized!  How many of us, when we are expecting (in whatever form that comes) picture ourselves in clean, white houses with lots of sunlight, holding our precious infant as the child coos back?  Or we picture precious Mommy/child dates at our favorite coffee shop, enjoying all the other customers’ looks of adoration as we sip with our little mini-me’s and charm the world.   Fast forward a few years and we haven’t slept for 4 years straight and our children happen to be the type that can clear a Starbucks in 20 seconds flat because of their wild behavior, and you’re not sure if the whining or the constant crumbs on your bare feet will kill you first?  (Did I mention the vomit?  And, really, all the bodily fluids in general.)  I’ve only met a very few parents who feel like parenting has lived up to the dream.  It’s not WORSE, it’s just very different.

I’m afraid that a picture has been painted of adoption that is not exactly accurate.  Perhaps I should personalize it, because I cannot speak for everyone.  I had a picture of adoption, what it was and what it meant for my child and my family, and it was not exactly accurate.  So much of this is tied up in what I’ve learned from adoptees and how it has shaped how I now view adoption as an act of obedience and not a noble rescue mission.    Before our son came home, I dreamed of the exciting and long-awaited airport arrival, of introducing him to all the people who already loved him and helped us in our adoption, and how fun it would be to have three kids happily playing in our sprinkler.  (Even though all of that came true and was incredible.)  I read lots of books and did all my required training, and had so many people tell us how wonderful it was that we were doing this.  And when the reality hit, it wasn’t WORSE, it was just very different.

But I’m afraid that the Church, generally speaking, has become such a great cheerleader for adoption, that in some cases, we may need to tone it down a bit with the pom-poms and streamers.   Before you bristle–lemme ‘splain. 

I believe Christians should be on the front lines of orphan care, foster care, ministry to the vulnerable and also adoption.  I want our churches to be full of more adoptive families.   But I don’t want churches (or para-church organizations/adoption agencies/current adoptive families) to promote adoption with emotional pleas to families who do not feel called to adopt OR who are not fully prepared to adopt.  (Disclaimer for my peeps: I’ve never felt like this happened at the church I attend.)  I cringe a little when statistics of orphans are used to recruit adoptive families, because although the statistics are true and mind-boggling, MOST of the true orphans in the world are not adoptable and never will be.  In many cases, especially internationally, it seems there are more parents interested in adopting healthy children than there are healthy, legally adoptable children.  (Foster children in the US and “special needs” children around the world are always in need of more loving families.)  I would love to see some of the passion and excitement for adoption be spread around to include families who definitely are not going to adopt, but could have such an amazing impact in the lives of children.

I pray that as we embrace adoption, we do so with eyes wide open to what adoption means—for the children and for the families.  I still cry with joy and cheer loudly when someone tells me they are adopting!  It is and will always be an amazing way to grow your family and to provide a permanent, loving home to a child!  I just want to be careful that as we’re cheerleading, we’re having difficult discussions about what it means to parent a child from a hard place.  While we’re working our way down a waiting list, our children are losing everything.  Or a birth mother is finding herself in crisis and making the most painful choice of her life.  Or our future son/daughter is being removed from another foster family. Yes, oh my word, yes, I want to get them home FAST!  But I don’t want it to be all sunshine and roses, because this flower has some thorns.

The person who is the most affected by adoption is the adoptee, and I don’t want to lose sight of that.  But I also have become passionate about adoptive parents being honest about their challenges, while still respecting their children’s privacy.  (I’m equally as passionate about ALL parents being more honest about ourchallenges!  Let’s get real, people.)  I know of several adoptive families who have had very few challenges while raising their adopted kiddos and helping them heal.  Praise the Lord!  But many, many more are surprised by how incredibly emotionally, physically and spiritually draining it is to be down in the trenches with a grieving child–that you just met and are learning to love.  Or that you met 4 years ago and his or her little heart still has not healed or attached.  But you know what: I still PRAISE THE LORD!  Because the kids and the parents are doing the hard work, day after day, year after year.  Because of adoption, they are not aging out of broken systems all over the world.  Instead they are struggling through in an imperfect, but loving HOME.  And I have heard story after story of how the only PERFECT PARENT (meaning God, in case that wasn’t clear) has done amazing work of restoration and redemption in the lives of not only the adopted kiddos, but their parents as well.

So, hear me please.  I LOVE ADOPTION.   Actually, I wish all children could be raised by loving, capable, biologically related parents.  But we live in a fallen world and since that is not our reality, I’m so grateful for adoption.  I love it so much that I want families to pursue it, prepare sufficiently for it, and then shout from the rooftops how God has performed a redeeming work in their lives.    Adoption is beautiful and powerful as it is–no need to pretend it’s anything else.