you never know what you're going to get [adoption]

IMG_0896-13 I was laying in the chair with the bib draped over me like I do every six months, because I like so few people in this world, have dental coverage. Something I still don't know how to not take for granted. I see this woman, this hygienist, two times a year and yet it feels like I have known her for years; she has been married twice, has two girls going to OSU, has a lot of strong opinions, is kind and thoughtful. Not once have our conversations lacked weight and meaning, every single time I have laid my self down to be subjected to her pointy tools and bright lights, we share significant words while I do my best to ignore the cold utensils tearing apart the vulnerable parts of my face. We talked about backpacking and tics and adoption and gay marriage and sex changes. It was quite the day for heavy topics.

She asked me if I am currently and still working as doula, she asked what inspiring things I have to share about my life this time. She says my life is exciting, and I scoffed because I feel like my life is a life like any others: ordinary and here, breathing and stepping one step at a time, time flying too fast for anyone's liking. I told her that I am not doing much, just building my photography business, cleaning some houses, and writing a lot. She told me I should write a book and I grinned at her while the silver, cold-jabbers clanked around the ivory that is my teeth. It hit me that she doesn't yet know that we are adopting. So I updated her on this new aspect of our journey, this door that has been opened, never to close, no matter what the outcome. It is now here, a part of us.

Immediately, she tells me horror stories from Oprah, about two adoptive families who "couldn't return their kids and didn't know what to do, because they were causing havoc and trying to burn down the house. I mean, you just never know what you're going to get and what their genetics are and what have you; what if they try to kill you?" My stomach plummeted below the raised seat-bed I was laying in, because the words, "couldn't return" never sits easily in my soul. Like these children, these babies, these lives are a product to enjoy and if they aren't satisfactory, I should be able to return them like shampoo or bleach, or my cheeseless cheese-burger. I swallowed as best I could with my mouth pried open as she shared another story about her friends marriage crumbling, ending in divorce, certainly because of the children they adopted. While the words were being spewed carelessly, my heart was surprisingly calm and prayerful, knowing that she has no idea the reality of what adoption is. Neither do I, not really; I have not truly yet adopted a life, this is an entire new avenue that I thought I knew what to expect. I wasn't't so much mad at her [and the many others who have hinting at] these accusations and assumptions, as I was sad that these are real thoughts and realities for some.

She pulled out the instrument that was being used to rip my gums to shreds and she asked, "I probably shouldn't have shared those things with you, you probably didn't know such horrible things could happen and are going to back out." I smiled as gently as I could and I said, "Actually, lots of people have horror stories that they like to share. And they don't horrify me or worry me. I figure that my biological child will have just as much, if not more, reason to rebel against me and burn my house down than my adopted child. Once this baby is placed in our arms and the papers are signed, this baby will be just as much mine as if I carried him; because right now, I am carrying him in my heart, woven in and throughout, knowing our babies are somewhere growing and waiting for me too. If my adopted child runs away, I am not going to point my finger at him and blame his unknown genetics."

And I wondered silently: would I know what I was going to get if this baby was growing in my womb? I would be confident in his or her race, but do we ever know what our children will be like? Is our standard of love so conditional that we will not risk loving and welcoming babies who need homes into our hearts? Where is our standard of what and who is "worth loving" coming from?

The conversation that unfolded there in the dentist office only continued the thoughts that have been ruminating in my mind: adoption is not for the faint of heart, adoptive parents are brave and strong even though they don't feel like it, adoptive families are ordinary people. Which means that ordinary people adopt, which means that you can adopt, which means you are brave and strong even if you don't feel like it.

In our Adoption FB group, there have been a few too many failed adoptions in the last week. So. Many. Failed. Adoptions. A failed adoption is similar to a miscarriage, in my small and humble, insignificant opinion: you plan for this baby, you have loved this baby since before you knew he or she existed, your life has wrapped around and intertwined itself, bending around this new life, this fresh life. Your nursery is decorated, your pregnancy-calculator begins and you count down the months until you meet this bundle of squish, and you think of the next holiday following, you imagine family events and walking around with this baby strapped close. A failed adoption is like a miscarriage in that it is tragic, it is a loss, it is painful and grief is involved. Adoption is tragic and beautiful, folded up into one. It is not a flip of a coin, it is not purchasing shampoo or a turkey taco, it is not buying something with the expectation that it will satisfy you and if it doesn't, you can return it. Adopting babies and children is a very conscious decision to enter into a new sort of pain.

Every now and then I see this type of post in our Adoption FB group: Let's talk about cocaine exposure. If you have a baby that was exposed to cocaine prenatally, what has been your experience? What did just after birth look like and how has it impacted your little one in an ongoing way?

These adoptive parents, we (it still blows my mind that I am in this category), walk through the door of adoption knowing that it isn't the same as conceiving, carrying, and raising babies with your genetics and your face and your medical history. We know that we may be in the NICU for two days to eight weeks, watching our babies heal and recover, wean from drug overdose. We grieve not having the choice to nourish them in the womb, but we love them as if we did. I realize I still haven't held a baby and looked into his or her eyes and known she was mine, but I know that when I do, when that moment comes, I won't think "you better behave and satisfy me, or I will return you." They are our babies, not our shampoo.

I saw this in our adoption FB group as well:

"My friends. Adoption is redemption. It's costly, exhausting, expensive, and outrageous.  Buying back lives cost so much. When God set out to redeem us, it killed Him." -Derek Loux

I don't know where you are at in the way of adoption. I don't know if you think we are ludicrous or normal or simply just beginning to see the unfolding of what adoption can be. I feel like that is where we are at: the prologue of adoption, barely understanding what this will mean and look like, how this will change us, but so ready for God to continue working in and through us. No matter how painful and how unexpected and how different it may appear. We don't know "what we are going to get" but I give you my word, that whoever we get, we will love with all of our selves, we will treasure and kiss and nourish as though he or she carries our blood. Whatever babies are placed under our care while on this earth, we will love them and share with them who Jesus is, that they are worth loving, worth harsh opinions and judgements, and that their birth momma loves them indescribably. No matter what we get.

God is so patient with us, with me. I am grateful in the fibers of my being that He has adopted me, adopted me as His own. He chose to step into the tragic beautiful mess that is adoption, that is choosing broken and messed up humans. People who don't glorify Him well, who don't follow all the rules, who point fingers and Him and yell and blame Him for all of the mess that they have created, who don't listen to His loving instructions. I am one of those people. And I am so, so thankful that He has not returned me.