Monday, February 3, 2014

The Best Gift An Adoptive Mom Can Give



As any crisis-survivor might tell you, holidays have a way of bringing all the low-rolling bubbles up to the surface. Our house happens to be filled with survivors.

Two years ago, my son spent his 7th birthday hyperventilating in the shower over all the questions that might never be answered about his past and his future. The cupcakes were eaten and our day had been big-time fun, but the sun set on his heartbreak and he asked to take a late-night shower. We agreed, never guessing he was smart enough to know that behind the curtain, his tears could blend quietly down the drain pipe.

Being 7 and all, he couldn't switch it off with the water.

I have seen a baby grieve, and even a pre-schooler. Silas's tears brought Cory and I to the edges of who we are, his pain was pulsing, palpable. Just below the surface of our life together as a family is a current of unjustness, of loss and pain.  It has become a quiet part of our experience. We've been changed.

But until that night with Calvin, I have never seen a child grieve like a full-grown man.

As a mama, bearing the full weight of disarming every heartache and evaporating each tear of my children, I was painfully aware of my limitations in casting away this particular pain. I fell raw into the riptide, allowing myself to believe, for a moment, that I was part of the problem, that I had inadvertently played a role in carving out this place inside my son that throbbed while I sat with wringing hands.

But then the room stopped spinning and the world stood right. Light seeped past the edges of the night and I knew I could help. I knew that I, fully his mother, held a key to unlocking part of his hurt. Not only did I hold the key, I was the only one who could ever hold it.

What he needed from me that night and every single day before and since, is the promise that he never has to choose. He doesn't have to parcel love for his first mom from his love for me. It's not a pie that needs to be portioned or a scales that needs to lean perpetually in my favor.

He can love her with every ounce of his heart. He can daydream about how tall she is and if her eyes slant just like his, or if they're moonier, like his brother's. He can conjure up the most beautiful Korean there ever was and claim her as his own.

He can wonder why she let him go while I catch his doubts and all his worries like clean drops of rain, filling the bucket, carrying it with us as we grow. I'm his mom, and I've got this.

I look him in the face and promise she loves him, that she'll never forget him, and he can always do the same for her.

I can wish for a future that finds us one day in the same room with her, knowing there are no guarantees, but allowing him see that I want this, too.

The best gift I have to offer my brown little humans, and even the not-so-little one, is that I'm not afraid or threatened by their instinctual, beautiful love and curiosity for the woman who loved them enough to deny her own heartbreak and nudge her baby into its future, her unfailing if fragile motherly instincts whispering her child's worth and greatness in the pauses of an impossible decision.

Calvin tells me all the time that he wants to live in South Korea one day. And though he's just 8, the kid is convincing.

I reserve the right to cry my eyes out and shake my fists at the sky if and when he boards that plane. But I hope I won't. I hope I'll send him out with all my love, denying my own heartbreak, and nudge him into his future.

Just as I used to stalk the mailbox for Robert's letters from prison, I'll pace around waiting to hear from Calvin, from Ruby, from Silas. I have no idea where this world will take them, but I feel like we might be raising some movers-and-shakers, and I hope I'm right. I hope I can match the bravery of their childhood by just a fraction, remembering love means so much more than proximity or skin-tone.

Come what may, I'll keep being their Mom, the woman in the world that cheers for them the loudest. And the one who reminds them often of the woman somewhere out in our world cheering for them in the way only she can.


*I share this story with my son's permission. He wants all the moms to know that "it helps kids to talk about it, even when they're little." :)

56 comments:

  1. I love this, we are just starting the adoption process so moments like this will be part of my future I pray I can handle it with this amount of grace!

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  2. This was oh so beautiful. I love Calvin's permission statement for you to print it here on the blog.

    Love, hugs and prayers to all of you ~ FlowerLady

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  3. Thank you for sharing! And a bigger thank you for getting your son's permission before sharing! While I am not looking forward to the days when the pain comes from my kids, we do know it's coming! It sounds like your little dude is growing into a strong man who knows how much you love him!

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  4. So beautiful Shannan!! I love how you can be so dang funny in one post and then hit right to the heart in the next! Your words are a gift <3

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  5. Oh my...what a beautiful post. So painful to read about a little grieving like a big...I've never thought about it before. Grief is hard enough as a big. I can only imagine their little hearts trying to sort it all out. And his permission is darling. What sweet babies you have.

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  6. This is not easy, but it's beautiful. The hurt and the heartbreak are heavy but I'm believing that God gave her to us to walk this road together. When she says, in a wistful tone, "I cant wait to move to Florida and be close to my family someday", I'm choosing not to be crushed but instead look at her with love and tell her we are on her team and we are with her and no matter what she's got our hearts. Forever. We want wholeness for her and only He can bring that. I'm awed that He brought us together and chose me to help lead her to Him to let Him put her pieces together. This is not small, it's huge.

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  7. This just breaks my heart for our littles who have lost so much so early on. My daughter is 9 but doesn't talk much about her feelings and doesn't recognize where the anger or hurt even comes from. Her anger can come spilling out so fiercely at times and I feel like it's all part of her loss, but coming from so early on in her life that she doesn't remember her past, it can be hard to put into words or recognizable loss, but it's still there. I'm glad your son can put some words to what he's feeling and talk about it with you. I hope my daughter will get there herself when she's ready.

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  8. Your written words are such a gift to me. My Isa grieves for her firstmom more than I ever imagined a 7 year old would. My words fail but I hold her and say, "I'm sorry." and "You'll always miss her." I have all these thoughts flying around in my head that you always seem to be able to put into beautiful, written form. I can refer family and friends to your posts and say, "Read this. This is what I am thinking or experiencing that I can never manage to communicate well."

    Would you be okay with me posting a link to this for our family blog?

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  9. This just broke me. As I stood in the living room, staring blankly through the windows, sobbing, I thought of all the pain there is to go around. Pain I'm responsible for. And of course, this is something I've anticipated since day one. It haunts me, the knowing of all the pain I've caused. I know that this was not, not, NOT your intention with this post! It's just a true part of it, and something I keep very close to my heart. It's something I want to be very sensitive towards now, and in the future when questions arise.

    I love you and your family so much! <3 <3 <3 <3 <3

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    1. Lady, you're responsible for so much BEAUTY.
      My little girl is processing things very differently then her brothers, and I KNOW it's because she's so often reminded of the love her birth Mama has for her. It may not stay "simple" for her forever, but she seems to have settled into a place of relative ease, knowing she's love by a lot of awesome folks. She doesn't have all those questions. She's got some answers. I grieve that the boys won't have that.
      Do you feel my love today? Every day? All the time?
      It's right here.
      xo

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    2. I was already in tears, had already posted this to facebook and now I'm crying even more, but feel more joy in hope after reading this from you two. Our little 4 year old has just started showing some outward signs of grief. But I am hopeful. He knows his birthmom. She knows him. He already has a few answers and I'm already thankful that the source of his answers is "nearby" if and when the heartache breaks free. Shoshana, I only know you're Ruby's birth mother because of what Shannon has posted here, but thank you! Thank you for keeping yourself open to her. My bets are in her favor that the family you "nudged" her into and the deep love and courage you've had to display and keep on displaying are gonna make her one heck of a force to be reckoned with one day. As an adoptive mom, I'm beyond thankful that my son has been granted the lavish grace of a similar situation. Grace to both of you and thanks for writing this Shannon!

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  10. Killin me, girl. I'm so on board with all of this. I don't even know your 3 in real life, or their birth moms, but I am thankful on behalf of all of them that they got you!

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  11. I thought I was holding it together, until I read the last line from Calvin, and... I lost it :) Thank you for sharing so much. You're such a good mama to your little people :)

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  12. This happens with step parents also. I really hate that term though.

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    1. Yes! SO true.
      Thanks for this reminder.

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    2. I was thinking this too and I also hate the term. We don't use step and half in this family. We are just a family.

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  13. Bless his heart. And his old, old soul. And bless your heart. Those kids of yours are so lucky to have you on their side. I can't begin to imagine what it must feel like to deal with these issues and I can only hope I'd handle it as beautifully as you.

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  14. Great words of wisdom. So many adoptive parents don't want open adoptions. They don't want any trails leading back to the birth mother. After reading this they may feel how important it is to their adopted child to know about the birthparents or the country they came from. You are doing a great job.

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  15. My baby boy is only 2, we are blessed to have him in our family through adoption. I know that there are many questions coming... thank you for the encouragement this is to me to do hard things well. You are truly doing this for me: And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds... Hebrews 10:24 We also plan, Lord willing, to travel to China this fall and bring home our 8 year old daughter. I will tuck this post away in my heart and pull it out again after she is home. Thank you!!

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  16. Our oldest is just 5. And he doesn't yet articulate thoughts about his adoption in those terms. However, he often talks in vague ways about loss. Dreams about it. Responds to music with comments like, "Please turn this song off. It makes me sad. It makes me think of something that has gone away and I will never get it back." I ache for him. And I pray that through the years I will be able to help him grieve and navigate his emotions in healthy way. Thank you for these thoughts. I will return to them.

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  17. I love this more than I can put into words. As a grown child of adoption I feel as if I am reliving my childhood through a completely different lens, thanks to your posts. What an amazing mother you are - thank you for sharing your experience with all of us.

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  18. I can relate to this on two fronts: the adoptee - crying into the shower. Yea. And I, too, am the momma who wants (so hard) to love birth mom so my kiddos can love her without abandon. Yea. Both are VERY hard places to be. This was not written without extreme courage (and probably some tears, seeing how many I've shed just reading and re-reading it to make sure I soak it all in). Wow. Thank you for sharing.

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  19. my goodness. his tender spirit
    and OH YES ma'am you are indeed raising some movers & shakers!!
    awesome post

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  20. such sweet words. i just want to hug that sweet Calvin!! so precious. thank you for being his mommy. you're doing great!! and kudos to all of you being parents to those who need love!! blessings and hugs!

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  21. So precious! What an amazing Mamma those children have in you! And what a blessing that they know how truly and deeply they are treasured and loved! (:

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  22. I needed to hear these words....thank you x

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  23. Holy. That's what this is. Acknowledgement of the holy place we inhabit as adoptive mamas, of the privilege we have of holding space for those deep hurts. This is beautiful.

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  24. My husband's aunt adopted her two children when they were 6 and 7 (now in their 30's) and she is an incredible example of this. Her children's biological father got in touch with them several years ago and she welcomed him into the family, had him and his wife over for Christmas and other family get togethers, and this year mourned alongside her children when he passed away. I found her attitude so incredibly inspiring and I am sure it was very meaningful to her children too.

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  25. Beautifully said. Thank you for sharing your heart and family. I understand those moments and it is encouraging to hear others speak of the too. Thank you.

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  26. The spirit of The Lord is upon you, my friend. Every word reveals a character and a love that simply is not of this world. It's possible for Him to work through us in that wonderful way, but the heart must be willing. Thank you for your willing, precious heart. <3

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  27. undone.
    so glad for calvin. for you. for love.
    thank you for this XO

    (ready to hug you next month-and i'm not even a "hugger")

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  28. thank you for this. it spoke to my heart in ways you don't even know. i echo hannah above - can't wait to meet you next month!

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  29. What a beautiful post...especially to Moms.

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  30. While not an adoptive mother myself, I worked for Child Protective Services for 20 years doing adoptions. Your heart, my dear, is so true. However, in my career, most adoptive parents never get here. They feel threatened by the "biological" parents and feel they will lose their child to those thoughts or dreams. I believe, like you, that it's just the opposite! Who does not wonder about life, especially if you don't know what happened in most of it? Your children are blessed to have you as their mother, to love them and be there for them no matter what, and support and cherish their birth family and birth story. It makes them who they are, it's part of who they are, just like their story with you. Thanks for sharing your wisdom which may turn hearts!

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  31. oh that undid me. I was never prepared for the pain mine has begun to feel as he gets old enough to understand, I can do better. thank you dear.

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  32. i'm crying the ugly cry inside because of your calvin. he is something else. i love his heart and your heart!

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  33. When I checked my messages, the last thing I expected to hear was the returned call from an adoption locator service. My 16 yo son called them to try and locate his birth parents. He struggles daily with his place in our family, but never speaks of it to us. He is constantly preparing for the time he will leave us. It truly is heartbreaking because I know how ugly his story will be. Praise God for his gift of our precious children. I hope I can be as brave as you when the time comes for him to fly the coop.

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  34. *tears*
    I adore your sweet Calvin to.the.ends.
    The best gift. YES. xoxoxo

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  35. Thank you. Even with our open adoption there is and will be pain and grief and will be some really hard questions and hard truths ahead. It staggers me as he takes it all in bit by bit, my brave and tender 6 year old. There is also incredible beauty and love and grace. Thank you for putting it to words.

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  36. "The best gift I have to offer my brown little humans, and even the not-so-little one, is that I'm not afraid or threatened by their instinctual, beautiful love and curiosity for the woman who loved them enough to deny her own heartbreak and nudge her baby into its future, her unfailing if fragile motherly instincts whispering her child's worth and greatness in the pauses of an impossible decision."

    lots of tears over this one.
    explains all that my heart feels on a daily basis.
    lydia says the same thing…she wants to move to china.

    we're going to take her when she's older…is it crazy that I hope and pray that Jesus crosses our paths with her birth mom when we visit? it would be an absolute miracle.

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  37. When someone does the thing that they were put on this earth to do...it is blow-your-socks-off awesome. Keep on blowing our socks off. Don't ever stop doing what you were put on this earth to do. Thank you so very much. -Vicki

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  38. Can I share this? I am the mama of three of mine and two of his. One of his came with a little red suitcase of heavier baggage. She didn't unpack it all at once. Not even a little at a time. She's held onto it some days and ignored it others. She's grown up, graduated, gone to college, and now is about to finish grad school and then get married.
    Of all my children she is the hardest to let go...but I will. I must. I am encouraged by your words here today.
    I also have another daughter that has taken life by the tail and swung it around until it just won't make any more waves...and she is leaving soon too...and taking my little grandbaby with her. Heartbroken. I will be heartbroken for TWO YEARS. She will allow no contact.
    But today, I have found courage in your words.
    Life is lived and it is complicated and we all need to cry our eyes out at times. Today was mine...tomorrow will be too...but I will come here again and remember the brave little boy that cried his eyes out just to hear his mama say it's ok and that he can still dream.
    Thank you Shannan. God is using you out here too.

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    1. Thanks so much for this heartfelt comment. I'd be honored if you shared!
      xo

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  39. well geez.... this was so beautiful. so hard. so aching. and so right. you are my favorite. it's true. you have taught me more than you can know about LIVING a life that is ALL IN.
    love you miss flowerpatch.

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  40. Having been adopted myself as an infant I experienced the opposite of you in my adoptive parents. My Dad never speaks of my birthfamily and my mom completely freaks out when trying to talk about them. She told me when I was around 20 that my kids - which I wasn't even married yet! - would never call my birthmom, "Grandma". Just one of the many examples of her insecurity and need for control that seriously ruined me for a part of my life. You'd think adults would be able to get it together for their kiddos. But, alas, I grew up and learned the hard way that it's not that simple. I can see how incredibly lost they are and carrying around their own baggage. Thankful for His love and gifts of grace, understanding, and complete comfort.

    Nothing is easy with adoption and I certainly wish that my parents would've made it easier by doing the hard things when I needed them to throughout my growing up years. But God has spoken straight to my heart three simple words that healed me from 22 years of pain. What freedom there is in His healing and His words. I would've needed to hear them no matter what my parents had done differently. I just encourage you to keep loving! And to keep showing your littles that it is indeed okay for them to love their birthmamas. Many years later, a God-fearing husband and 4 beautiful gifts from my own womb and I cannot even express the joy found in Him and the relationships with ALL of my family/families that He has gifted me. We are praying for our next little one whose story is being written by Him right now. We don't know the beginning, middle or end yet but we know with certainty that God has another child (or children) not of my womb out there somewhere. When the time comes for us to face those hard and raw moments with them may we do so with as much love as you!!

    With thanks!

    Be encouraged!

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  41. Oh - and my children DO call my birthmom "Grandma"! We wouldn't have it any other way!

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