I sat there holding my wife’s hand, the door opened and led by the hand of his older brother, our first adoptive son entered the room. He took each step without knowing, without thinking, resting in the hope that those he had come to know as family in his first year were doing their best, were protecting him, were sending him home.
I stood there in awe as this beautiful little boy conquered the distance between us and landed in our arms. My heart was full, my emotions responding like the explosion of a fireworks display. My son was home, the boy we had prayed for, the one we longed for, the champion who had risen above all th e challenges he had faced was about to cross the finish line and we were celebrating with tears, with joy and with an overwhelming sense that the enemy of orphanhood had been defeated.
One day they will arrive. Without celebration, applause, smiles or a hope. They enter the world by the hand of a hero who chose to give life and extend blessing to another family. But there is no time to celebrate, this is a time of great loss. Tears form and fall, not out of joy but from grief. Thoughts of regret, remorse, pain judgment fill her mind as she reluctantly releases her greatest gift to another. The grief, the poverty of mind, of situation and heart have led her to this day, a dark day, the darkest day. She holds only to a hope, a hope that flickers and settles her soul, gently encouraging her that he will be safe, he will survive, He will succeed, he will love and be greatly loved.
Two completely different different situations. The first was mine, the second could have been my youngest son’s birth mom. But at no time in either situation did he have a choice. We, the adults, made life and death decisions for his good, to give him a hope and a future. There is great hope, but let’s not fool ourselves, during the celebrations in our world, there was great pain and mourning in another. While we celebrated at this gift of adoption, others wrestled with the pain of the loss. The greatest was still to be felt, it was not yet known and maybe isn’t still, but one day my son, my champion, my world, will need to wrestle with this loss. The loss of a mom, the loss of a family and a life that was taken from him. He will need to inhabit the tension of these two extremes. He will need to learn to celebrate his adoption while at the same time, experience the loss. How will he navigate the fallout when these two worlds collide?
We spend so much time focusing on the gift of adoption, the grafting of a child into your heart and family. The forever family that has been created and the realisation of hope. All of this is so true and so beautiful. But like many, I have not given much thought to what was lost. As an adoptive parent, I tend to look past this dark time and we pour love out in the hope that it will never fail. I do hold to this, I believe that our love will never fail, it will establish a security, a trust and a hope that will rewire the emotions and replace the great loss with even greater joy. I fully believe that love can do this! But, I can’t ignore that there was loss, there was trauma and God’s best is that a child remain in a loving birth family. In an ideal world, there would be no adoption!
How do we navigate this tension, how do we celebrate and mourn at the same time? Recently there were some comments on social media between adoptees and adoptive parents that lead some to take offence from both sides. The sad reality is that adoptees have lost and we need to acknowledge this. But also, perhaps adoptive parents have lost and this must be acknowledged as well. Both sides can be hurting from their lived experiences, both sides selling from pain despite their best efforts to self correct and hold onto hope. We don’t know each others story and for some, this is a story of hope and beauty, but for others, it can only be described as horrific.
We need to learn from each other, we need to heal, we need to be given space to unpack and find healing. This can be so difficult as we can also be so sensitive and raw, just waiting to react to anything that is perceived as an attack.
My hope is that we can inhabit the tension created by the celebration and the loss. I believe we can share our stories, we can find healing and we can value each other through the process. But let’s not forget that our contexts can be worlds apart. Adoption occurred out of a desire to grow our family by extending ourselves to another, for other’s this story might be filled with pain, with loss, with shattered expectations and broken dreams. For some adoptees, there may be stories of hope, of joy, of pure celebration at the reality that they now belong. But for other’s, there may be questions, broken hearts, feelings of abandonment and confusion and a life lived feeling that they never belonged. We can’t ignore these realities, but we need to respect and honour the journeys we are on and perhaps we can one-day arrive at a place where the tension between celebration and loss remain, but we have discovered how to live handling each separately, while living whole.
We need each other, neither side is wrong but we can feel alone. Let’s work at trying to make sure that doesn’t happen.