I struggled through Elliott’s adoption. Never before had I prayed so much for clarity about something. Never before had I begged God as much for confirmation. And never before had I been so sure. From the first moments of saying “YES!”, I knew I had a daughter on the other side of the world. From the moment we began the process, I ached for her. As we worked on our paperwork, I ached to see her face, to know who she was. As soon as I saw her face, I ached to get to her. There were days that I didn’t want to get off the couch. Days I couldn’t stop crying. Days I counted down our timeline over and over again. And no matter how I tried to distract or comfort myself (ie M&M’s), the ache stayed with me until we met her and then brought her home.
When we began the process of this adoption, of pursuing our Isaiah, I was convinced that it would not be as hard. I was convinced I would not let it be as hard. I am busier now than I was a year ago. I spend my days parenting bigger kids, chasing a two year old, and seeing therapy clients. It takes most of my energy to keep Elliott from causing mass destruction to herself and our home. I generally have more things to do in a day than time to do them and am perpetually behind. Three kids is harder than two. Surely the circumstances of my life would make it easier for me to focus on the here and now?
I would make myself do it better this time too. This time, I would not immerse myself in blogs, in online adoption groups, in timelines. I would keep living my life and surely not become obsessive about adoption. This time I would go through the motions of the adoption and reserve my excitement and my emotions for when I actually meet him. My emotions and my mind will stay focused on here, on my present, and I won’t become a single-minded weirdo. Basically, I’ll keep it together this time. I’ll stay detached.
I first started to notice that I wasn’t feeling right a few weeks ago. I couldn’t quite pinpoint what was wrong, except I felt…off. Frustrated, overwhelmed, discontent. I blamed it on the stress of parenting (summer ain’t easy, ya’ll) and tried to get away some to recharge. It didn’t get better though.
A few days ago I came face to face with the sheer volume of my emotions right now and finally sat quietly long enough to realize – that familiar ache was lurking under the surface. I felt incomplete. I felt desperate for a boy across the world. I felt terrified about how much more money we need to bring him home. I felt desperate to not have him spend a single extra second in an orphanage.
Part of me felt relieved. I was glad to know the why behind my dramatic emotions over the past few weeks. But to be honest, part of me felt very frustrated. Really? REALLY? We’re looking at a minimum of 7 months before we travel to bring our son home. 7 months of longing? 7 months of counting down days? Months and months of feeling that isolating feeling – where it’s hard to think or talk about anything else?
As I sat and thought through the ache of the wait for Elliott, I began to see what a gift those overwhelming feelings were for me throughout our journey. The ache for her that motivated me to fill out a million forms. That caused me to stay on top of hundreds of details in a process that normally would have overwhelmed me. The longing that spurred me on to ask for money, to humble myself to raise funds, to sacrifice our own finances in ways that were scary. The longing that allowed us to do crazy things like like long flights, weeks in China, sleepiness nights, the hard transition home, wearing her in a carrier for one million hours for the first months, holding her for every meal. It was the longing I had for her that pushed me forwards towards her as my heart needed time to get to know her and really fall in love with her.
Adoption is not natural. When we carry our babies for months and months, we are growing love and attachment all at the same time. Biology is on our side. When we give birth, we are aided by DNA (he has my nose!) and hormones to help us attach. And while adoption is beautiful and redemptive, it is WORK. We are learning to love and attach to a stranger child, often while giving them space to exhibit grief behaviors that make it seem like they hate us.
I’ve started to understand this week that this ache, this longing, this pain – it’s a tool for me. God has said walk forward. This journey is hard. And although I believe He is capable of pulling this off and bringing our boy home, something else keeps me going: I already have a son out there.
And so, even though I don’t like the pain, even though I wanted it to feel easier this time, I’ll push forward. Acknowledging that this ache I have is a gift that is going to make me go back to faith when it would be easier to give up.
Because I am already Isaiah’s mom.