I am not an expert on adoption. I am not an expert on foster care. The only thing I can even remotely claim to be an expert on is being me and, frankly, sometimes I don't even do that too well.
But I am an adoptive mom. And I am a licensed foster care provider. I guess that gives me some standing as maybe knowing something about the whole process. Well, our whole process., whatever that's worth.
And it was. All of a sudden, there was Oli. Within months, we were welcoming Mani. The hits on my sitemeter confirmed what I already knew about us hopeful adoptive folks: we hunger for glimpses of what our hearts desire, and drink in each placement, referral, and finalization with gusto knowing that there, with the grace of God, we go also.
Nowadays, I am the giver of information more often than the seeker, even though not even a year sits between the issuing of my boys' new birth certificates. I get emails on a fairly regular basis from people just starting out on their journey. They want tips on agencies. They want my thoughts on the process. They want fundraising ideas.
But most of all, they want to know this:
If you knew then what you know now, would you still do it?
The answer is yes. With my whole heart. Yes. I can no more imagine waking up in the morning and having Oli and/or Mani erased from my life and my heart than I can imagine growing wings and flying. Yes. These are my boys. My sons. The ones that God intended for my family from the beginning of time. It was worth it. All of it. Completely, utterly worth it.
Folks who are smart ask deeper questions, things that are both uncomfortable and yet, on a heart level, more telling. The other day, I received this one:
You have said that Oliver has some pretty intense special needs. Can I ask if you ever regret adopting him? Be honest.
Be honest? Sure.
Have you ever heard that saying, "Love the sinner, hate the sin"? I admit that I never really got it. Yeah, yeah ... you can separate a person from their actions, but then what? What's left? The whole idea seemed somehow trite and, well, religious to me. Not Christ-like, but religious--simply a little saying thrown out to excuse that bitter taste in one's mouth.
Then we met Oli.
The very first moment I laid eyes on the little boy who was meant to be mine, I felt a knee in the gut. Why? Because it was obvious--so terribly, glaringly obvious--that he had been alcohol-exposed. Behind his beautiful blue eyes and written all over his sweet, pale face were the landmarks of FASD. I knew it. Mr. Blandings knew it. Our social worker, who had held our hands through the "shalts" and "shalt nots" of our placement preferences, knew it.
As we walked away from our initial meeting, the feel of Oli's little body still fresh in my arms and the reluctant, heart-broken smile of his aunt still frozen in my mind, our social worker asked, point-blank, "So ... he has FASD. Are you guys still interested?"
We said yes, of course. Even though we knew what we were signing on for. Even though we had read enough to be not just scared, but terrified. Even though we had checked all of the red boxes that declared us unwilling to say yes to a child exposed to alcohol. We said yes.
From that day forward, I have learned what it means to "love the sinner, hate the sin." I adore Oli. Love him in ways that only a vulnerable, innocent little one can bring out in a Momma, to be honest. He has my heart in ways that the others don't need to. He is fragile. He is sweet. He loves to be loved.
But the FASD? The FASD I hate. I hate that someone weighed her own fleeting pleasure against my son's future mental health on a scale and decided to pick up a drink. I hate that my boy chews board books, can't keep his siblings' names straight, is unable to have playdates in the homes of others without major stress on everyone's part. I hate that I watch Mani and Seven like a hawk, fearing that FASD will overrule the bits of reason that shine through and cause someone real harm.
I love Oliver. I hate FASD.
So do I regret adopting him? No. No, I don't. Because while Oli has FASD, he is not FASD. They are separate, and emotionally, I keep them that way. It's a struggle. And I know that it always will be. But I cannot for a moment think that God didn't bring Oli to us. So no, I don't regret adopting him. I celebrate it with all of my heart.
Do you ever wish that you could go back and have your family the way it used to be again?
The day before we picked Oli up for good, I sat at my desk for my mid-afternoon writing time. The house was silent. Jo was in her bedroom, sleeping off her post-tonsillectomy pain meds. Atticus and Logan were also in their room, quietly reading or playing with Lincoln Logs or whatever they did to keep themselves occupied. I looked at the clock as I hit send on this post, and I nearly burst into tears. Two hours. I had been sitting, sipping tea, enjoying my warm fuzzy slippers, warm in my little happy place for two hours. Oh, how I loved that time. Loved it. Craved it. Needed it. It was my daily respite from the busy-ness of life.
And I knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I was giving it up. I was going back to the land of nap times and cranky toddlers and "he's getting into my stuff!" Could I really do this? Did I really want to do this?
There was also the realization that we were permanently, for better or for worse, shifting the sibling dynamic in our home. And asking Logan not to be the baby anymore. And ...
The list went on and on. I was nearly crippled with doubt for the better part of an afternoon. Happily, just before dinner time, I pulled myself together and revisited my prayer journal. I poured over my petitions for the past few years and remembered what it was that had called me--us--to adoption in the first place. And I found peace.
Since then, I can honestly say that I have never longed for "the good old days." Part of that, I guess, is the realization that regardless of the number of people in our family, or who those people are, we can never go back to those days. Even without Oli and Mani, Jo, Atticus, and Logan would not be themselves at 5, 7, and 9 today. They would be themselves at 13, almost 11 and almost 9. Different without the influences and experience of the past few years but no, not who they once were, regardless.
So what about you? Are you an adoptive parent who fields curious questions? Are you a hopeful adoptive parent who wants to know what it might feel like on the other side? Feel free to share in the comment section of via email.