By Adrian Collins
I wanted to be the courageous birth mom. I wanted to be the attentive adoptive mom for my son. I wanted to be the always loving mom for my three biological children. I wanted to prove myself worthy for the daughter I placed for adoption…and years later re-adopted into the family. And I wanted to do it all without breaking a sweat. Thoughts of perfection swirled in my mind until I hit a breaking point. I was striving for something that didn’t exist. Parenting is difficult enough without the added stress I put on myself to be perfect at it. And when parenting is layered with the complexities of adoption, the result can feel overwhelming. Adoption begins with a loss—one that I know well—and where trauma is present, perfection cannot thrive. But grace can.
What I’ve learned from my adoption journey is this: Adoption Is Imperfect.
Adoption is a collection of imperfections that God uses to mold and shape us into the parents that we are meant to become. While adoption may not be perfect, it teaches compassion, patience, understanding, forgiveness, and the ability to love when things get difficult. While I may never become the perfect parent, I can be a grace-filled one. Grace is the counter-agent to perfection.
AN IMPERFECT START
I learned I was pregnant my junior year of college. I’d always dreamed of being a mom one day. As a college student, I didn’t feel I could provide the kind of life my baby deserved. My boyfriend and I were in a serious relationship but had no plans for marriage. I didn’t have a job or source of steady income. I didn’t want my daughter’s life at home to begin with hardship and insecurity. After months of agonizing, I made the heart wrenching decision to make an adoption plan for my baby girl.
Leaving the hospital without my daughter was the single hardest thing I’ve ever done. By the time I stood before a judge to give up all parental rights, my breast milk had dried up and I was left holding a load of guilt for giving her away. Despite marrying the birth father to my daughter and later having three biological sons, feelings of loss lingered. Adoption is an unnatural start to a family. Although many blessings are tied to adoption, one cannot erase the simple truth: a birth mom and child are permanently separated. It’s an imperfect beginning.
THERE ARE NO GUARANTEES
This concept has, and will be, the hardest for me to accept. When I made an adoption plan for my daughter years ago, I dreamed of a beautiful life for her. One filled with stability, happiness and unconditional love. I’d hoped that one day her adoptive parents would be supportive of a relationship between their daughter and us—her birth family. What happens when things don’t turn out as planned? When my daughter turned eighteen and I discovered her relationship had been severed with her adoptive parents, I was crushed. I had two choices to make: I could take a step back and watch things unfold from a distance, or I could move in closer. While I couldn’t take care of her as an infant, I would grasp at the chance to take care of her as an adult. “We can re-adopt you,” my husband and I told her. While I couldn’t erase her deepest wounds or years of separation, I could open my arms, love her unconditionally and tell her, “I’m here.” Later, we stood before a judge to re-adopt the daughter I’d once placed for adoption.
There are no guarantees that everything will turn out as planned. An adoption may be interrupted. Adoptive parents may not fulfill their promises. An adoptee may deal with feelings of rejection or abandonment. The adoptive mom may struggle to attach with an adopted child. A birth mom may carry guilt and shame for years. That’s where grace come into play.
I’ve learned to hold things loosely. To let go of the notion of perfection and instead cling to hope and faith when things feel like they are falling from my grasp. When people and circumstances falter, we must adhere to grace.
After I’d made an adoption plan for my daughter and later given birth to three boys, I was approached by a family friend who’d encountered an unexpected pregnancy and asked if I’d be willing to adopt her baby boy. Since my husband and I had been talking about expanding our family, I immediately said yes. I thought I could handle all the responsibilities that came with adoption because I knew what it was like to give a child away. When the birthmother handed the baby to me at the hospital, questions of doubt began. Will I love him the same as my other children? What if I fail? I tried to push away the negative thoughts and be the best adoptive mom I could.
For weeks when I held my adopted newborn, memories of loss and grief as a birth mom permeated my thoughts and I struggled to attach. The overwhelm was paralyzing. The lack of immediate attachment made me feel like a complete failure as a mother. I fell on my knees and asked God to teach me how to love, and how to give myself grace when I felt I couldn’t measure up. Over time, I let go of guilt and shame..and held my adopted son closer.
AN IMPERFECT LOVE
I’ve embraced the notion that I was not called to be a perfect parent. Adoption isn’t perfect. Our children’s aren’t perfect. Every one of my five children came with different demands I can’t always meet. I don’t have all the answers. I may not love my children perfectly. But I was called to love them nonetheless. When adoption gets hard, grace is there to hold us up.