Last week I posted some thoughts on the nature of adoption over on Deeper Family. As an adopted child and adoptive mother I’ve heard my share of uneducated and thoughtless comments regarding adoption. As a member of the company of the adopted, I felt the need to raise my voice and testify to another experience – my own.
I’m the well-adjusted adopted child who always knew she was adopted and celebrated being wanted by a loving family. Growing up adopted felt good, secure and natural. This isn’t a story you hear a lot in adoption conversations, actually. What makes the headlines are the adoptions gone wrong, the children who never bond or parents who cannot create a place of belonging for their new child. Blogs now abound with adoption stories, many are attesting to good adoptions that are, nonetheless, hard. And I read over and over the gentle advice given – that adoption isn’t natural, so be patient with this process. And as an adopted child, I bristle at the carelessness of those words. ‘Unnatural’ does not ring true to my own experience.
So I wrote that out last week and spoke up for those like me who’ve never felt second-best in their adoptive families. Maybe the post was more plea, a gentle beseeching that people use more care (and tact) when choosing words to talk about the intricacies and challenges of adoption. I remain convinced that we’re ready for better language around the sacrament of adoption. I also believe we must see adoption as part of the larger conversation about family formation; because all families wrestle with issues of identity, bonding, character development and such. Each family can point to the sacramental and the struggle, the holiness and the hardship, no family can throw the first stone if we’re honest. I’m trying to reframe the conversation, to find better words and educate others along the way.
The responses I got in the comment section at Deeper Family were overwhelmingly supportive. Adoption isn’t unnatural, most agreed. But there were some very tender tellings, too. People shared about disrupted adoptions, challenges bonding with their adopted children and confessions that this has never felt natural for them. I felt brave sharing my story and I recognize their bravery sharing theirs with me. As the company of the adopted, we are all in this together.
One thing I learned in this conversation – adoption is not a monolithic experience. It is sacrament, yes. It imparts grace and goodness, yes. But it’s not the same for all of us, the lived reality is different for each of us who embrace children or are brought home by hopeful parents. Adoption’s a big tent: domestic or international, infants or older children, closed or open adoption, some families cross cultural, linguistic and even ethnic lines to embrace one another. The layers of complexity can hardly be calculated. Each homecoming represents a unique beginning. Each family will confront various adoption blessings and challenges; some will do it better than others. All will do it with love. In this way, adoptive families are just like any other family out there – no two are alike.
I want to talk about adoption more. I need to unpack my own experience and break it open for others so we can learn together. But I have been reminded by many kind people last week to tread softly on their experience of adoption. There are so many variations on the theme of adoption…