Saturday, January 25, 2014

"They're So Lucky" and Other Fallacies

This post has been on my heart for some time. People say some frustrating things to adoptive families, and while I understand that many times they don't mean exactly what we hear, sometimes they make us pause and think about lecturing on poverty and orphan issues and scripture. Most of the time I am able to give some grace and avoid the harsh words that well up inside of me, but I'm going to take a moment and address a few of my personal trigger points.

* "They're so lucky!" said with beaming smiles directed at my boys, usually after someone finds out that they were originally from Ethiopia. Right, because now they're part of a middle-class family in the "promised land" of America, rather than living a VERY hard hand-to-mouth existence in a third-world country. I get what they're saying. Yet somehow that statement negates the horror and the pain and the trauma that my children have experienced. Let's say that you know a family where one of the parents dies suddenly while the children are very young. Would you EVER look at the remaining members of the family and comment, "You're so lucky!"?? Probably not....because you can see the hard place that they're walking through, and commenting on the fact that at least they're still living would seem incredibly insensitive. My boys lost a very young age. They lost the only family members they had ever known, their beautiful country, their language and their cultural heritage. Sure we try to keep some of this alive for them, but the losses are real, and heart-wrenching, and painful. Both of my boys fondly remember very loving mothers, and their hearts know that just because they've been provided with another family and all of the trappings of a life in America, the pain of that loss doesn't go away. They've endured hardship that no child should ever have to face, and to call that "lucky" just feels so wrong to me.

*"You were always God's Plan A for them!" Just. Don't. This is simply not true. Adoption is a beautiful thing, and I'm so incredibly thankful for it, but adoption only exists because we live in a broken world. It was never God's first plan in any sense of the word. God's original plan is that every child would be born to a loving family that could afford to feed them and care for them. God's Plan A was the Garden of Eden, but we messed that up a long time ago. In fact, sin ruined everything, and it is only because of sin that adoption is necessary. God's mighty hand involved? Absolutely! I see adoption as His redemption of a hard situation. It's similar to salvation in so many ways, and one of those ways is the fact that neither adoption nor salvation would exist in a perfect world. In a perfect world, we wouldn't have disobeyed God in the first place, and salvation wouldn't have happened because God never would've had to sacrifice His only son on our behalf. Adoption wouldn't be necessary either, because no family would be experiencing poverty or disease or the heartache of broken or sinful relationships. God did not make a mistake and accidentally cause my children to be born to women on the other side of the world, all the while intending them for me. They ARE my children today, but they are also the children of beautiful Ethiopian women, and I will not cheapen the pain of the loss of those first mothers by saying that Yikealo and Sintayehu were "always" meant to be with us.

*"Now, do you have any children of your own?" Yes, we do....two of them....and their names are Yikealo and Sintayehu. I realize that what you meant to ask was if we have "biological" children, but please do not refer to MY children as if they are not MY OWN. Because they much as if I had carried them inside my own body. I am the one who teaches them, who feeds them, who gets up with them in the night when they've had a bad dream, who spends every day loving them and caring for them. I would give my life for them. I am their mother, and the fact that they each have another woman that they also refer to as "Mommy" does not lessen our relationship. You see, adoption counts. If it didn't, then we would have no hope of Heaven. God is our ADOPTIVE Father, and He refers to us as His children. It is because of adoption that we are allowed to call Him "Abba" (Daddy or Papa). If adoption was a lesser relationship, then why in the world would God have sent His ONLY BEGOTTEN SON to rescue the rest of us? How could we refer to Jesus as our Brother? Adoption makes a family....a real, completely valid family.

*"I just don't think I could ever love an adopted child as much as I love my own kids." Ummmm....yeah. So, you're saying that you're incapable of loving someone that you didn't carry inside your womb? What about your parents? Siblings? Grandparents? Oh, maybe you're saying that you can't really love anyone who is not related to you by blood? So, what exactly does that mean for your spouse? Or what about the close friends with whom you share everything? Are you honestly trying to start a "I love my kids more than you love yours" argument? Why would you say something like that? Granted, I can't really comment on how it feels to love a biological child, but sometimes when I look at my boys I feel like my heart is going to explode from being too full. I can't imagine my life without them, and I will do anything to let them know how much I love them. Since I firmly believe that all true love comes from God anyway, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that He is able to create the deepest feelings of devotion between a parent and a child, no matter how their family was formed. Remember, adoption counts.

*"So the women over there must not love their children that much, huh?" SERIOUSLY?? To make things even worse, variations of this question have been asked IN FRONT OF my kids! Are you kidding me? How dare you sit in your ivory-tower-existence and make judgements about how much someone loves her child just because she chooses an adoption plan! She is living a life that you can't even imagine. She grieves her losses every single day, and oh yeah....she's also got a debilitating disease, or she's lost the husband that she dearly loved to a horrific accident, and she's got no education and has very few job prospects. I thank God that we've been able to have contact with both of our boys' birth mothers, and the first thing that they want their children to know is how much they are loved.

Almost two year ago, when we were in Ethiopia for Sintayehu's court case, we met with a man who had just interviewed Yikealo's birth mom. We had just left Sintayehu at Hannah's Hope earlier that day, and had no idea when we'd be able to return for him. I was grieving at the thought of not seeing my son for several months, and all of a sudden we were looking at photos of Yikealo's first mother, who hadn't seen her son in 3 years. We learned some hard things about how difficult her life is, and that night was probably the most emotionally overwhelming of my life so far. Later on the plane, I remember sobbing....for hours....while paging through photograph after photograph. I started listening to music, and the first song that played summed my feeling up so well.

"Why this happened I cannot explain,
Why write the script with such heartache and pain?
Could there not have been an easier way?
Watching life through this glass so faded,
I cannot see the bigger picture taking place....
Oh to understand one day!

And my heart will fly
When I finally see You face to face
And my tears will fly away, away.

Won't be long 'til we all go home
With all things revealed,
And on that day we'll finally know,
Oh, as we are fully known.

And what appears as incomplete,
Is still completely Yours,
And one day we'll see as we've been seen, and we'll soar.
(Mercy Me)

I will probably never hear that song again without crying. It's so true. The script of my boys' lives has been written with unimaginable heartache and pain, but also with unimaginable beauty. They are deeply, deeply loved....each of them by two different families in two different countries.

A few weeks ago, the boys and I were doing some shopping when Sintayehu spotted this figurine. He pointed excitedly and said, "Look! It's me and my Mommy Alem!! Mom, PLEASE get it for me? Please??" How could I resist that? She now sits on our bookcase between the photos of the boys with their beloved first mamas. On the hard days, when Sintay's been fussy and frustrating and acting out, I will often find him sitting down in a chair, clutching her to him and petting her softly with that far-away look in his eyes. We talk about Mommy Alem, and how much she loves him, and how much we love him too. I tell him that I'm so sorry that he lost his first mama, but that I'm so glad that I get the chance to be his mama too. I tell him that it's okay to be sad, it's okay to be angry, and it's okay to cry. Having a new family doesn't erase the pain, but hopefully we are giving him a safe, loving place to express it.


  1. Absolutely beautiful. And I couldn't agree more.

  2. I love the framed photos. I will be copying this immediately. We are very blessed to know Tess' birth mother and many other people who love Tess in the Marshall Islands. I view any information we have of Tess' biological family as a gift. Many of the questions we have encountered can be very insensitive. I believe it is a matter of educating people of adoption and the joy and pain that go hand in hand.

  3. Beautiful post! Would you mind if I share this?