Love is

“My child was born from my heart.” “My child is home where he belongs.” “My child was meant to be mine.” “My child is a gift from God.”

You’ve heard phrases like this before, I’m sure. Perhaps you have said them, or say them now. Words of great love – but of denial, and of division, too.

I know how easy it is to ascribe something bigger than life to the fact that my children are with my family now. I’ve felt that kind of emotional, even mystical connection to my children – the sense that their presence in our family was “meant to be.” And yes, I have thanked God that I’ve been privileged to be their mom.

These are my emotions, though, no more than that - certainly not representative of the experiences of those who have lost their children and families through adoption. Admitting that my love is just one aspect of this paradoxical experience doesn’t diminish it in any way – if anything, it strengthens it, as honesty does everything it touches.

I’m finding, though, that there are some adoptive parents, and apparently in greater numbers than I would have thought, who find it impossible to think and talk about adoption except through the prism of emotion and “love.” As Nicole and Joy point out in two recent posts, this creates an impossible situation, for the experience of adoption will always be one of multiple emotions. As Joy says, "Life isn't a binary system." In other words, adoption emotions aren't "either-or."

Why, then, do so many adoptive parents find it impossible to accept the fact that loss and pain are a part of the adoption experience?

There are many explanations. One that tends to get overlooked is that adoptive parent are trained to help our children feel like equal members of our families. We’re taught to look for the similarities, focus on the ways in which we and our children are alike, and to downplay our differences. To make our children feel home where they belong.

Another is fear – fear that society may invalidate our families. The subtle and sometimes not-so-subtle discrimination that adoptive families experience (or perceive they experience) rankles. We fight it where we can, in our laws, in our communities, and one way is to proclaim – loudly and often - that our families were meant to be.

Perhaps it’s because of lingering sorrow that our children weren’t born of our bodies. We can never change that, so what’s the next best thing to do? Downplay the importance of the physical connection, and remind our children over and over that they were born in our heart.

For people of faith, though, there’s a trump card – God. I am a person of faith, but my faith finds it odd that one would proclaim God’s hand in something that benefits me at the expense of another. I would have no faith at all if I believed that God intended for my children’s parents to live in poverty and shame, or for my children to lose their families and homelands. Like all children in the world, mine were meant to be with the families that bore them. Circumstances and human reactions to them have led to a different outcome. It doesn't dimish my love to say this. And I can still admit that they were gifts – but to the world, not to me.

Of all the words I’ve ever read, these are the ones that have helped me understand what an adoptive parent’s love should look like. They come from my faith. And they are wise beyond my comprehension.

Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, it is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love rejoices with the truth. And the truth of adoption is that it is a paradoxical experience, where pain and loss and love and joy intertwine and grow together. To accept this truth is the greatest expression of love an adoptive parent can give to their child.


Anonymous said…
really beautiful Margie

Anonymous said…
For all the hundreds--maybe thousands of times I've heard these verses used, seldom has the emphasis been on rejoicing in the truth; and when it was, it was never in this precise sense of the truth. Of course this is part of love: telling the truth about the losses that love seeks not to cover over, but to bear witness to.
--sster of boomerific
Heather said…
Amen. Well said.
Anonymous said…
Very very well said -- I like the scripture and I like the emphasis on paradoxical. I fell better armed. It does not diminish our joy and love that our daughter is ours to recognize that she will feel pain and loss and that her first family surely does. She is still a blessing -- just her, who she is and how she radiates her being.
Michelle said…
Another great post, love it!
suz said…
amazing. you and i were writing about a similar topic (i havent posted it yet) with very different, but similar views. Maybe I will get to finishing it tonight.
abebech said…
Margie, you are fantastic. Thanks for such a beautiful and important post, speaking words I just couldn't find.
Mommavia said…
This is the kind of thing that waiting adoptive parents need to read!

In a Bible study last fall we were talking about the way God answers prayer. The book said there were 3 ways: 1) Answers them 2) Delays answering them 3) Doesn't answer them. I don't believe that...I believe that God always answers prayers. And just because the result isn't what you expceted isn't the positive answer to some one elses prayer. I explained the the group that I prayed for a baby, but through that prayer another woman, a man, and that child expereinced great loss and grief. For my family to be made, another family had to suffer. And yet, God answered my prayer.
cavatica said…
Beautiful post. Thanks!
suz said…
do so many adoptive parents find it impossible to accept the fact that loss and pain are a part of the adoption experience?

I am going to suggest that those adoptive parents who refuse to see the loss and pain in others involved in adoption have very deeply denied their own loss and pain.

Looking at someone elses (presumably the mother of the child to obtained) is like looking into a mirror of their own pain. The adoptive parents I have seen who have been able to grasp the pain of adoption are those that adequately dealt with their own loss of their own child before adopting, they attended therapy, and grabbed the infertility beast by the horns. They welcomed in the pain and as Jung would say they owned their Shadow.

Adoptive parents who cannot handle their own loss and pain surely cannot handle someone elses.
Possum said…
Great post Margie.
I'm really glad that you are here.
Poss. xx

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