November is National Adoption Month, and every adoption-related blog or Facebook page I follow seems to be posting about it. (Side note: if you're looking for two particularly stellar posts, check out this one from an adoptive mom, and this one from an adult adoptee).
I love seeing all these adoption-related articles and posts flying around the internet. But it also creates this intense struggle within me. Nothing has made me examine my thoughts on adoption, or my theology of adoption, so much as this process we are in. Obviously, as being actively involved in something causes your opinions to change or evolve around the reality as you live it.
Almost two years ago, I wrote a post about the conflicting emotions I have about foster care and adoption. I wrote "...in the months to come, I expect to grieve and I hope to celebrate. These things will happen hand-in-hand, in bittersweet moments. My heart will both break and rejoice as I welcome children into my home when they have just been ripped from theirs."
I look back on that and realize that is more true than I could ever have imagined. My feelings and thoughts about adoption, birth families, transracial parenting, openness are so hard to define and equally difficult to explain.
I love foster care and adoption with a broken love, because they are broken things. Angela Tucker calls it "a necessary solution to an unfortunate need."
I believe in first families, reconciliation, and orphan prevention as a first option. But I believe that protecting children from harm is equally important. Two number one priorities. This is something too large to cover in one post spanning all types of adoption, so I'll stick with foster care, because that is my reality.
There are a lot of things I hate (yes, hate) about the foster care system, but the priority for reunification is not one of them. In some cases, it is considered the goal long after it should not be. However, in many cases, these parents are raising their children in the only way they know how, the exact way they were treated by their own parents. The foster care system exists to come alongside and break that cycle. It certainly does not do it perfectly, but that is the goal.
The hard part is where to draw the line in the sand, set a deadline, and say it's too late. Because the truth is these children are growing up in the system – my children were growing up in the system – waiting. Waiting for the cycle to be broken so they could go back home. But it never was; it still isn't. So, adoption is the second option, and here we are.
My family is beautiful, but it's a beauty born out of brokenness.
So often, though, I think the story of adoption gets cut short here. They are adopted, the end. Happy Day. But that's not the end of the story. The story of my children and their first family is not over. We cannot act as though their birth families do not exist, or will not continue to exist in reality or in their minds. Not only would that not allow them to truly heal from what they have experienced, but it would invalidate who they are. My children would not be here without their birth parents, they would not be who they are without them.
The other day the boys and I were eating dinner and Little Man said, "I wish I had two moms." (This comment came out of some confusion about a friend of his who calls her grandmother and mother both some form of mom.) I was a little conflicted about what to say at first, but after a few seconds, I told him the absolute truth. "You do have to moms." I explained to him that he has a mom whose belly he grew inside of and he also has me who he lives with now.
Here's the thing, LM does not have memories of his birth mom like his older brothers do, so it would have been so easy to dismiss this statement in a light-hearted way "sorry kiddo, your stuck with just me!" But that's not the truth. And, while the truth is much more complicated than all I told him that day, I always want him to know about his birth mom. When he is old enough to understand more about his birth mom, he will hear more about her, from us and from his brothers. And some day, if he wants to meet her face to face, we will do everything we can to make that happen as well, while still considering his safety. The same is true for our older boys.
We will never be silent about their birth family, or try to stifle their feelings or memories of them. Because adopting our boys doesn't mean that we are their only family now, it means we are added to the family they already had, and that is the full story.