Saturday, July 21, 2012

Adoption is Lifelong Learning

Once upon a time, Pedro and I traveled to Michigan with our precious first baby to look for a place to live. We spent that weekend with longtime friends of his family. Some years later the wife brought up our visit in conversation and remarked, "I wasn't about to say anything at the time, but I could tell the two of you had NO IDEA what you were doing with that baby!" And you know what - she was right! :)

I think of that story as I reflect on the road of adoption we have traveled. 

The longer we journey on it, the more I realize how little we knew to begin with. I am grateful for grace, because otherwise there are a multitude of mistakes just begging to be "guilted" over! Starting out we never received any specialized training in adoption. We, like many others before us, simply believed love was enough. We had yet to learn about attachment issues and even just eleven years ago, most young mothers I knew didn't practice baby wearing. I wish they had, so that when Pedro and I attended a required two-week training conference when one of our babies was just two weeks old, it would have been natural for me to "sling" her during the sessions rather than place her in the nursery as we were instructed.

Unbelievably, it wasn't until we were hoping to adopt our fourth child while living in Texas that finally we were required to attend an adoptive parent training through a wonderful Christian agency in the Houston area. I even wrote upon our return about how the information we received allowed us to add more tools to our "adoptive parenting toolkit." Thankfully, that was only the beginning and God gradually opened our eyes and ears to books and blogs and websites and materials that continued to allow us to learn. 

(Side note: One of the sessions during the Houston adoptive parent training was on Lifebooks. I blogged about it after the fact, and am happy to say that we did eventually follow through on that recommendation! For Eva's 10th birthday last year and Isabel's 10th birthday this year, I wrote their stories in a readable, book-like format. For Isabel's I had the assistance of her birthmom so her Lifebook has two chapters - her story from each viewpoint, which makes it extra special. To my knowledge neither of the girls has shared her book with the other, as upon presenting it to each one I assured them that this was their story and theirs alone, to share or not to share as they felt comfortable.)

We still have a long ways to go, and in reality I know that parenting whether by birth or adoption is a lifelong learning process. I was reminded of this yesterday when my oldest hit me with the question first thing in the morning, "Mom, when are we going to see MY birthmom?" Hers is a closed adoption and soon we will be visiting with her sister's birth family in an open adoption. The difference in their experiences has always been a concern for us as we realize there is hurt for our oldest in the not knowing. Over the years we have tried unsuccessfully to obtain some information through the agency that handled her adoption, and we will try again when we travel to that area this year. 

But in the here and now we can only answer as honestly and empathize as compassionately as possible with our precious daughter, and continue to ask for wisdom of God. How thankful I am that He promises to give it to us "generously!" (James 1:5) For we need it so much.

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