The process of adopting is full of intense and sudden emotions. On our journey to find the next child that will come into our family, there are countless children who need homes that won’t become mine. Some I may see on a website. Others I hear about locally. Still others I will never see a picture of or know their names, but they are still there. Waiting, like me.
This is hard. Devastating. Confusing. It could be a passing conversation with a friend or acquaintance about a child who needs a home. It may be a call from a case worker saying “maybe”, but there is no guarantee. The circumstances may not fit for one reason or another. And then there are times when you just need to slow it down a step to catch your breath, and then the door closes. Thoughtful inaction can lead to missed opportunity. Sometimes, the inaction may not be on my part. I may be waiting for someone else to do their job, to fulfill their role. And then a deadline is missed. An opportunity is lost. A child becomes someone else’s. There are also variables we have to consider as parents to our son. Adding a new family member is a life-altering process for everyone involved, and it requires a layer of sensitivity and care when other children are present. For these reasons and others, there are many children who cross my path (and thousands who don’t) that are not and will not be mine.
How do I make sense of this? How do I go “all-in” and deal with these continual disappointments? How can I keep envisioning possible children in our family only to be let down and skeptical of the whole process? I am sure people in my position have different ways of coping with this aspect of adoption. For me, it comes down to an anchor that I have to lean into if I am going to put myself through this.
I AM NOT IN CONTROL.
There is nothing groundbreaking about this notion, but it is comforting and relieving in the midst of so much uncertainty. I have to trust that life is not arbitrary and random. That if all of life really boiled down to luck or chance or even hard work, then I would be obsessed with doing everything just right and filled with fear and doubt and pressure to make the best move all the time. “If only I had called that case worker back an hour before” or “What if we missed our child because we went out of town and delayed our home study paperwork by a week?” That’s enough to make a person (me) crazy.
There are certainly things I can do and need to do in this process, so I focus on those things. I make phone calls, send emails, research things online, seek wisdom and counsel from others, continue working on being a good parent to my son and a thoughtful wife to my husband. I pray. I do what I can do, then I let go of the rest.
I have to remind myself constantly that there is something bigger at work than my own agendas and plans. Sometimes, I feel called to be diligent and relentless and, other times, I feel the need to slow down and trust. It’s hard to discern the difference, which is where community is paramount for me. I need those who know and love me to anchor me, too. I need people to remind me that my child is out there; that I am not forgotten and neither is she. That I am not waiting alone.
And when I feel my Savior Complex kick in when I think about all of the children who need permanent families in this country, I hold on to my anchor once again. I AM NOT IN CONTROL. I cannot right all the wrongs in this world, and adopting children is not the only way to seek out justice and show love. Instead, I can be faithful to fulfill my own life purpose, which I strongly believe involves adopting more kids. But not 20. Not 200. Not 100,000.
In order to make peace with the children out there that don’t become mine, I have to hold on to this. I want a family. And for now, my husband and I have made peace with some parameters for what it needs to look like to bring more children into our family. We try to be open to what falls into those parameters, and we push the parameters a little here and there. We continually check in with ourselves and each other to make sure the parameters are not too tight because of fear or too loose out of desperation. We want to be thoughtful, hopeful and wise.
In the meantime, as I scroll through pictures on websites or hear stories of children needing homes, I will whisper each name in a breath prayer up to God, and I will honor their story even for just a moment. Because they are valuable and worthy of love. And eventually, it will be my child I whisper a breath prayer for… And the next chapter will begin.