Reading back through a journal can be an abrasive revelation of the state of your heart.
In July of 2013 we’d completed all the tedious Dadoption paperwork, the thorough twelve evening fostering classes, background check and more. The day we were licensed was like a giant breath in with no thought of exhaling. Possibility was all I saw on the rosy horizon and my heart swelled with such noble prayers as this one:
July 16, 2013
“I pray that it [adoption] would be your will…that it would be a situation that accomplishes far more than just bringing a life or lives into our family…that you would accomplish justice through this adoption. And while I pray it happens soon, I trust your timing…”
Except I was still holding my breath, in case He hadn’t noticed. I didn’t really trust His timing; I trusted mine. I’d put in all the “hard work” and faith of preparing for adoption, and I thought God’s job was to now wave His wand and give me a baby. Now-ish. The waiting wasn’t part of my plan, and my excitement wore thin. Less than a month later, my enthusiasm gave way to cautious vulnerability:
August 4th, 2013
“…as I try to process waiting an unknown amount of time for an unknown child in an unknown situation I begin to think of pregnancy as the obviously easier option to increasing our family. Except it’s not an option…it is very hard- I keep seeing babies everywhere and my heart is so ready for another baby.”
My heart hadn’t changed, I was simply becoming more honest.
When you adopt through the foster care system, you get to choose ahead of time what characteristics of a child you are open to or medical issues you feel capable of dealing with. Are you open to a child of any race? What age range are you hoping for? Could you take in a child who has had sexual abuse, drug or alcohol exposure during pregnancy, a family history of mental illness? If the child is older, what behavioral issues are you comfortable handling?
We were open to a child (or very young sibling set) under three of any race with possible drug or alcohol exposure and minor medical issues, but we didn’t feel we could handle a severe medical issue. Still, we were counseled to draw our lines of preference a little wider than our comfort zone to stay as open as possible to a match.
Once licensed, you receive calls or emails about children who need homes as they come into care. As hard as it is to etch your preference in ink, it’s horrifying to have to say no to a little person with nothing theoretical about him. We had to say no to several children for a variety of reasons, but we believed it was better to know our limitations with two small children already in our home than to say yes out of guilt.
Yet as hard as it was to say no to a child, it felt just as hard to not be chosen for a child.
Even if you agree to take a child that comes into care, you still don’t know if you’ll be placed with that child. There are many other families in the state waiting as well, and every family that says “yes” to a child gets sorted through to determine the best placement for the child. If you’re among the final few families chosen, you’re part of the “teaming” process where social workers go through each detailed family profile to match the child with a family.
If you’re chosen, you still have an opportunity to decide that you can’t take the child after hearing their full story and history and sometimes meeting the child. After being chosen and officially agreeing to take the child, you begin the foster to adopt process.
I kept a notebook of all the children we said “yes” to. Little did I know we would agree to twenty-six children before actually being placed with a child. My prayers shifted again:
October 12, 2013
“I’m disappointed. I felt like we prayed with sincere and earnest hearts. I feel like we are being obedient to a calling. So it hurts when God does not seem to be answering our prayers.
January 14, 2014
“I don’t doubt God’s ability- I begin to doubt His willingness to help- that I’ve got to do more- be better- pray another “dumb” prayer cycle with other people- that God isn’t going to answer till I’ve done all that…
Was God unable to help me, or was He unwilling or…was it me?
I had trouble relaxing into God’s plan, into His purpose. If I could convince myself that it all still depended on me, then I could be in control again. Waiting was like a heavy weight pressing so hard on me that my fear, need for control and doubts were pressed out into the open.
Waiting comes in shades, you know. Sometimes we wait on what we know will inevitably come, like a holiday or the end of school. That waiting is bright and clear, illuminated by checked off calendar boxes and heralded by changing seasons. A wait to be placed with a child is the color charcoal, thick with fog. It’s the pain of unmet expectation amplified by uncertainty.
Waiting brought me to a point of honesty with God, of learning somehow to trust who He is outside of what my circumstances were. Looking back I know I needed that time of being stretched by waiting on God, but it didn’t see it in the middle. In fact, just days before we were placed, when our miracle was ripening, I pleaded with God yet again:
February 4, 2014
“God I’m losing hope. Nothing has landed yet…I know you are God- that you can do whatever you want- I know that none can know your ways or seek out your thoughts. Yet I stand here, begging you to give us another child. I don’t want to feel like giving up- don’t want to keep waiting with no promise- no hope and no answers- no action. I feel helpless and hopeless and I’m becoming despondent. Please fill me and hear me.”
Less than a week after that prayer my social worker called and asked me if I was sitting down. He told me we’d been chosen for a little newborn boy- an emergency placement child that needed to be taken home straight from the hospital…today. I frantically called my husband, crying, and told our two young children that they were getting a new brother. (Surprise!)
I’d have prepared a bit more if I’d known- maybe washed my hair at least. I’d have remembered to bring a camera, that’s for sure. And yet I would have missed out on a different kind of miracle from within the waiting.
The wait gave way to a whirlwind of formula, doctor visits and social workers. I’ll share more about the post-placement story later, but know this about adoption: If you feel overwhelmed by the uncertainty, you’re not alone. Maybe you’ve been praying longer, wrestling harder, and still don’t have your answer. Or maybe you’re like some friends I know whose joy was granted then put on hold again…indefinitely. I don’t want to pretend that every adoption story ends in cute blue booties or perfect pink ribbons.
The pain of waiting is that you don’t know what’s on the other end or when you’ll be able to exhale again. But I also believe that if you’re willing, you will learn something in the waiting that you could never experience in only chasing what you know you can achieve or create on your own.
I pray that God will sustain you through whatever your wait is, and teach you more about Himself and your own heart through the weight of the wait.
OTHER STORIES OF WAIT AND OBSTACLES…
Terry: (International Adoption- Korea)- Part of the home study is a full discloser on each parent. Writing is not hubby’s specialty, so we devised an alternative method- we videotaped the Q&A.
[Obstacle of waiting:] identifying why another child was brought over when mine was “next” and all papers were completed x2!!
A big situation developed when we pursued the second adoption. I had wanted a large family, adoption costs were high so hubby said no more after second one. I tried to adopt a sibling group or multiple birth baby from Korea. You pay once for USA fees and 2x Korean fees. I received a call after about 18 months of waiting. Not going to happen, would I accept a single child? I was about to turn 35 in January so said yes, a girl. It broke my heart as I did not believe 2 kids made a large family. We received a call in Feb that a baby was available, only was positive for Hep B. I only had 3 restrictions, “no Hep B, HIV or inoperable physical defects” . This baby was Hep B pos. I called a dear friend, MD who used to work in Korea for years. She advised me to pass on this baby, as child would have issues being placed in daycare (remember this is early 1990). It killed me to pass this baby on but we did. 3 days later, we received another call for a baby. This was E. I had problems connecting with her. I was so angry that she wasn’t 2+babies. She was quite demanding of physical attention (at 24 still is, lol) so much so I had to quit teaching Lamaze classes out of my home. It probably took me about 6 months to finally accept the finality of our family and fully connect with her. She is not the worse for wear.
FYI – D was never a clingy baby. He preferred to sit near, not on our laps.
God taught me to trust Him through this process. He showed me that He knows more than I do about what I need or can handle. E kept us busy as if we had a houseful!
Caroline: (foster-to-adopt)The process of getting calls was really intense and emotionally difficult. Sometimes we had to say no to children because we knew it wasn’t the right fit for our family, but it was very difficult to say no to a child in need of a home. Saying yes was also scary and exciting.
It was also very difficult as we fostered our daughter to accept the possibility that we could lose her if there were biological family members capable of caring for her. Living in uncertainty is very challenging.
Another challenging aspect of adopting through foster care is acknowledging the loss involved. We felt compassion for our baby’s birth mother who had to suffer through losing a child. We wanted to fully enjoy and appreciate our baby while also carrying the weight of the brokenness in the situation.
Lisa: (Private US Adoption) Honestly we were lucky and didn’t have any major obstacles. We had minor obstacles such as the wait time felt like an eternity. Our adoption agency, American Adoptions, was really good at keeping us informed and staying in touch with us through the process…it can be a long process. [A]t times you will feel all you are doing is paperwork and paperwork that tells all the small details about your life. The waiting can be hard and seem like it can take forever but in the long run the wait is totally worth it.
Pamela: (International Adoption- Ethiopia) We struggled with waiting almost a year to be match to a sibling group. Our first match was with twin boys who were said to have a deceased father but this was discovered not to be true. After that we were shortly later matched to a sibling group of a boy and girl whose mother was supposed to be deceased. That adoption went through and we brought them into our family only to learn that both their birth parents are alive.
We also had to advocate for adjusting school work and emotional support since our children were only labeled a ELL students. I initially homeschooled and then pushed in the classroom to help facilitate all the necessary adjustments. We also struggled with helping a child deal with sexual abuse trauma.
Briana: (Foster-to-Adopt) My husband was very against a 3rd child and adoption, for the fear of the unknown. I kept praying about it and trusting God had a plan and would change his heart. If one of you in a relationship feels that way I encourage you to not give up. My life and my husband’s life is forever blessed for the gift of our daughter. I thank God everyday that he made her miraculously come into our family and complete it.