What It Means to Say Yes to Adoption


I was 26 years old when I said yes to adoption, when a much older woman opened wide in pain and groaned my first son into existence.  I was on the other side of the planet when their world fell apart, with no way of knowing history would be rewritten while I buttered my toast.  But I'd said yes to adoption because I loved them both and because it was what I knew at the time of showing it.

Years later, my green edges have browned a bit and I know that adoption isn't the final answer to the orphan crisis.  I know a lot more about addressing the disease rather than treating the symptoms, and I know there are a million ways to fight for a cure.  Sometimes adoption is the best way, sometimes not.  International adoption is a particularly fragile bird, one that puts high ethical hopes in desperate men.

If you came to me today and you told me you wanted to adopt, I'd say to learn a helluva lot more than I did first.  But I would never stop cheering you on.

Because I would remember the longing of looking my baby in the eye for the very first time; longing to know him, longing to be known by him.  And then I would remember looking into his eyes last night before cracking open chapter 9 of Mary Poppins.  I would think of those pools of chocolate trust and I would tell you that the journey has saved my life.

And I would want that for you, too.

There is this cliche that makes adoptive parents cringe and roll our eyes at each other, and it's the popular sentiment of our nobility.  It's the "God bless you for taking in that poor child"s and the "you're such a good person"s and even the "he's so lucky to have you"s. I think honestly, people feel really positively about it all and just don't know what to say.  But I'm sure you can see why it's uncomfortable.  It makes the child something to be pitied and me the hero.

And for many, many, many adoptive parents, adoption itself has been the primary force in our lives to shatter any myth that we might be a hero.  When you say those well-intentioned phrases to us, we feel like utter liars.  Because we have been brutally confronted with the reality that we have more hate within us than we ever could have imagined.  We have stared down darkness in our very own mirrors, so if you look at us and see saints, we feel like the most shameful of phonies.

These past 5 years since becoming a parent, I have met parts of myself that lay dormant before.  I am more selfish, more impatient, more cold, more sarcastic, more egocentric than I ever believed.  Yes, some of that has been the result of secondary trauma and I recognize that clearly.  But some of it's just Shannon, under stress.  And since I had never before been under that kind of stress... well, ignorance is bliss.  (I wonder how many of us would make the very choices we're so quick to judge in others, were we also carrying the load on their backs?)

But on the other hand.

On the other hand, I have found in myself a tenacity that I didn't know was there.  I have been relieved to confirm that love is not a fuzzy feeling to me.  My claim to love has been tested and tried, and turns out, it is ironclad.  I've been proud to find that I will, in fact, fight for love.  That I won't let it wither and die.

And who is this person who keeps stepping up to the plate every single time?  Who is this person who never stops researching, never stops knocking on doors that slam in her face?  Who is this person who relentlessly fights for what her baby needs?  For years.  Where is that schlep who could barely take care of herself?  If you parent a kid who needs an advocate, you suddenly become an advocate.

(A freaking bad ass advocate.)

I have met some of the very best people of my life because of adoption.  People I would take a bullet for because they've taught me how to pull lead from my chest and keep breathing.  People who can commune with the brokenness of others, because they're not scared of the brokenness in themselves.  If you doubt that goodness still exists in the world, get together with a group of adoptive families. Not because they're "good", but because they're broken yet they hope.  They're trampled down yet they laugh at themselves.  For every foster and adoptive family that has entered our lives, we have been made exponentially the better for it.  They've taught us much about laughter.  And community.

Six years after saying yes to adoption, I say yes to it again and again every day.  The beautiful thing about adoption is that even with all of the pain and the mess, it's not about a word or a concept, it's about a child.  And through it all, loving this child has been the easy part.

*Kathryn Krueger Photography*

Someday, the light will shine like a sun through my skin & they will say, 'what have you done with your life?' & though there are many moments I think I'll remember, in the end, I will be proud to say, I was one of us.

(Brian Andreas, Storypeople)