Adoption: Myth vs. Reality

country, musicI have a confession: I’m not a fan of country music. Now I know that may seem to be a silly and somewhat trivial thing to profess, but living in the land where country music reigns supreme, it’s kind of a big deal. So you may find it a little weird that a country song inspired this entire post. Stay with me, folks.

A few weeks ago as I was riding in the car, I just couldn’t fight back the tears that came when a certain country song came on that I hadn’t heard in years. I immediately felt the tears welling in my eyes upon the lyrics “How long do you want to be loved? Is forever enough, is forever enough?

So here’s my second confession. Years ago I would listen to that song daily as I endured the long, winding ¬†and excruciating wait to becoming a mom. The wait for Little Man was very drawn out and sometimes tortuous (that’s a whole ‘nother post, my peeps, that involves lawyers and international battles.) The song became a comfort to me, a little pick me up to get me through the wait. That song, you see, is a lullaby written to express a mother’s love for her child. Each day that I waited, I would listen to the words and conjure up images in my mind about how wonderful it would feel to finally become a mom. In my day dreaming state, I would hold my sweet precious baby, he would smile and coo at me, we would rock and sing together…..it would be divine. Life would be absolutely divine. I was building a wonderful fantasy in my mind of what motherhood would look like, of what it would feel like. I wanted it more than anything and my entire life revolved this beautiful dream of motherhood.

Months later the big day finally came. My baby was placed in my arms, only he wasn’t that much of a baby at 11 months of age. There were no smiles and cooing. In reality, my son could not stand to even be touched. After 11 months of laying in a crib for 23 hours out of the day with a complete lack of stimulation, the last thing my baby wanted was to be rocked. He would violently rip and scratch his flesh and pull his hair out if I tried. Banging his head against the wall or the ground was the only source of stimulation he was accustomed to. He was scared of me. In an instant, my fantasy that had taken years to build had crumbled down around me. My reality was that I was now a mom to a deeply traumatized little boy. There were no warm, fuzzy lullabies that would make this better. There were not many carefree moments to be found, much less to sing about. There were tears, grieving and profound trauma. It stung like a cold, hard slap to the face.

Oh, but Hiking Mama, you must have been prepared for this, right? Oh sure, I had read every adoption book, followed all the best adoption blogs and even gone through hours of agency training. But still, it’s so different when reality is sitting in your presence, screaming a deep, sad moan of pain and hurt. We all secretly hope that we will be the lucky one to have our fantasy come true. We all hope our baby is the lucky one that will have escaped the trauma of neglect and institutionalization.

Nearly four years later, I am happy to report that my sweet Little Man has come a long way from those first few months. We still deal with the trauma from his past, but it is very trivial as compared to when we first brought him home. After all of this, you would think I would have become some type of adoption expert. That’s what I had thought, too. But fast forward a bit and I’m sitting in a room in China, staring at a four-year old boy who is completely detached from his world. When we met Big Brother, it took days for him to even notice that we were anything more than a piece of furniture or some other inanimate object.

Trauma? Oh trauma was his middle name. And first. And last. He showed absolutely no emotion or hesitation to being ripped away from his current life by us “strangers.” Sleeping in a new bed with people he’d just met who didn’t even speak his language? OK. Whatever. Sure. He had been so hurt by this life that he had completely retreated inward. Life was just something that happened around him; he was merely surviving. There were no Hallmark moments between mother and child. We were in survival mode as we prepared for the long journey to bring him back to life.

Hearing this long forgotten song last night did something to me that I never expected. I have never really minded the fact that my grand fantasy of motherhood didn’t quite shape up as I had expected. There were no tears shed for a loss of my perceived dream of what motherhood would be like. The tears I shed were in honor of the beauty of this journey. As I thought back to those days of day dreams and fantasies, and then considered all that we had been through, I couldn’t help but think, “wow, what a beautiful journey it has been.”

And here’s the thing–had I know how difficult, how painful and how difficult (did I mention that already?) it would be, I don’t think I would have journeyed down this path. I would have been too scared and would have doubted my ability to parent children from hard places. And had I not, I would have missed out on something far more breathtaking and amazing than any fantasy could ever offer.

I have gone to the ends of the earth for my kids. I have fought like hell for their love with every fiber of my being. I have found a strength in me that I didn’t know existed. I have fought for their trust. I have given all of myself to them in order for a chance to receive their love in return. I have fought for them, prayed for them, rallied for them, defended them and supported them. I have often felt defeated, my heart has been broken countless times and my soul has been stretched too thin at times. But I have seen trauma overcome and obstacles melt away. I have seen miraculous progress coupled with sad regression. I have felt joy that makes my heart explode. I have felt pride that is as deep as the biggest ocean. I have seen the scars of trauma soften. I have seen tiny victories that are indeed monumental feats. I have seen my children rise from a darkness that not many of us can fathom. And in the light, they have given me a chance to see the world through a new set of eyes.

We are still a work in progress. A glorious, wonderful, beautiful work in progress. There’s no fantasy that can compare to something like that.

—-

“Lullaby”

They didn’t have you where I come from
Never knew the best was yet to come
Life began when I saw your face
And I hear your laugh like a serenade

How long do you want to be loved
Is forever enough, is forever enough
How long do you want to be loved
Is forever enough
Cause I’m never, never giving you up

I slip in bed when you’re asleep
To hold you close and feel your breath on me
Tomorrow there’ll be so much to do
So tonight I’ll drift in a dream with you

How long do you want to be loved
Is forever enough, is forever enough
How long do you want to be loved
Is forever enough
Cause I’m never, never giving you up

As you wander through this troubled world
In search of all things beautiful
You can close your eyes when you’re miles away
And hear my voice like a serenade

How long do you want to be loved
Is forever enough, is forever enough
How long do you want to be loved
Is forever enough
Cause I’m never, never giving you up

How long do you want to be loved
Is forever enough, is forever enough
How long do you want to be loved
Is forever enough
Cause I’m never, never giving you up
Is forever enough
Cause I’m never, never giving you up

8 thoughts on “Adoption: Myth vs. Reality

  1. latebloomershow

    Hike mama, you brought tears to my eyes. Our journey with our son (adopted at 3 1/2, now almost 17) is different, but I can relate. I congratulate and honor your journey. I can think of no better way to heal and bond than in deep connection with nature, which will build trust, awareness, respect. Thanks for the deeply felt and giving post.

    Reply
  2. cliffmama

    Wow, that was an incredible piece of writing there. I can’t imagine how difficult it has been for you. And you know, if all of us would only be satisfied with that dream of the cooing, perfect baby in our arms, no one would be there for all of those children who were denied the chance to be that perfect and loved little baby. May you be blessed for all of the love and patience you’ve given to your boys. My baby just turned 18 this month and a friend shared a perfect saying with me about parenthood. “The days are long, and the years are short”. So true, so true.

    Reply
  3. Love Many Trust Few

    A beautiful piece! It does my heart good to hear your story. Finding connection, finding love, healing the trauma – you really have seen your boys come to life. They couldn’t be where and who they are without you and your partner.

    Reply

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