With Fear and Trembling: Considering Adoption

This past year I’ve come to a realization that I like my life the way it is.  I see that way that I am fulfilled in school, in ministry, in teaching, in friendships, in marriage.  I like the freedom that I experience now.  Today, at least, I’m not resentful of the absence of children from my life.

I’m not typically a quitter.  My sister and her friends tend to joke about how if they don’t know something, they’ll ask me. I’ll either know the answer.  Or being bothered by not knowing, I’ll research the answer for them.  I’m relentless about that.  I will press into a mental problem doggedly until I find a solution.  Sadly, I can’t find a solution for infertility.  I am forced to acknowledge that fertility is a bit of a mystery to me.  When it comes to trying to get pregnant, I am quitting.

Though not resentful (today anyway), I still crave motherhood.  I long to have a child in my arms, getting to experience the sleepless nights,  first steps, temper tantrums, and toilet training.  And yes, I recognize that I may come to change my opinion on some of those things if they ever become part of my daily grind.  I’ve spent enough time with children to know that this is not a glamorous or easy thing.  I still hunger for it.

And I’m finding, through my experiences with children in the past 18 months, that there’s more capacity in me to love than I imagined.  I’ve found space within me that is ready to attach to a child regardless of biological connection.

I am increasingly driven by the idea that God blesses us so that our blessings may spill over onto others — thereby multiplying blessing all around.  We have space in our home, in our hearts, and an excellent support system.  This abundance invites eager sharing.

So, we’ve begun talking more seriously about adoption again. We had done this years ago – even to the point of filling out applications; then I found I was pregnant, and well, then, like usual, I miscarried.  Adoption conversation tabled until now. Don’t get too excited or eager on our behalf!  We’re just beginning to talk about it again and just wrap our heads around the notion.  We’ve got a long way to go before any excitement happens!

I think I’ve been afraid to start this conversation for so long because I didn’t know how.  There’s so many options to pick from, and there’s drawbacks to each one.  And each road holds the reality of serious heartbreak along the way. Domestic private adoption – either through an agency or attorney, international adoption, or foster-to-adopt? Which one sings to us?  Which leaves us with the heebie-jeebies? Which can we realistically afford? Where do we even start with this whole thing? It is overwhelming.

There’s a couple of idealized versions of biological parenthood that feed my fears about adoption.  I’m working to root them out now as well.  I figure that regardless of what J and I decide about adoption having healthy and realistic view of parenthood in general will be useful.  You Can Adopt: An Adoptive Families Guide lays a few of them out fairly clearly:  “Before you adopt, understand that it means loving your child for who he or she really is, not as your own small replica.”  And “There is only one good reason to adopt, just as there is only one good reason to bear a child: your desire to be a parent is greater than your fear.”

I always wanted to adopt. Back when J and I were dating, I was emphatic about wanting to adopt and/or do foster care.  I just wanted to do it after I had biological children.  I had this idea that resembled my biological children being test subjects for my parenting skills before we adopted.  I  feared damaging a child who’d already been through trauma(s) with my lack of parenting skills.  I feared how I might handle learning disabilities or medical disabilities; do I have enough patience or wisdom for this?

And seeing all this in print before me makes me feel a teensy bit silly.  Either way, I am responsible for being the best parent possible to whatever kids we have.  Why am I more terrified of parenting a child that I adopt versus one that I might birth? Either way, he or she is his or her own person – not an extension of me.  I am responsible for them, but at the same time, they are responsible for their own actions. And even with a biological child, I wouldn’t know what I might face. Disabilities, medical conditions or behavioral issues are a reality whether or not a child is related to me biologically. You face the situations life throws at you as they come up.  Realistically speaking — either way,  we’re going to make mistakes. We are humans.  Mistakes are part of that package.  I just hope that they’re not huge ones.

So here we are — trying to tiptoe into the waters with fear and trembling.   Inching forward — slowly, thoughtfully, carefully.

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