We adopted three of our children. It is a miraculous, complicated, thrilling and terrifying way to become a family. Our children have been our teachers on this adventure. Their presence replaced our expectations with simple wonder. They have each had a hand in casting our tightly-wound bundle of assumptions into God’s glorious basket of possibilities.
Adoption means that your child is a wide-open adventure, unbounded by your DNA and history, by your looks and peculiarities. Whether your child is lovely or homely has nothing to do with you. So many things that were determined when sperm met egg are completely outside your influence, but it is yours to unwrap and nourish the gift of their design.
My daughter happens to be beautiful. A model, actually. She smiles brightly from my television screen; gazes pensively from the catalog cover on my coffee table. I love the way her innocent beauty captures the eye of the photographer, how her smile glows on page and screen.
I think of the voices she learned before hearing mine, of birth mom and the foster moms who loved her before she came home to us. How she so easily accepted us, snuggling and cooing as if no one had come before. Of all the ways her coming, although not changing my body, transformed my soul.
I remember her childhood sweetness, how she so freely loved us, pressing little gifts in our hands. How she doted on her siblings, organizing lessons and dress-up and puppet shows with them.
There was a time of braces and wispy hair, when she was all elbows and knees and butterfly earrings, grinning wide in her middle school yearbook pictures.
I loved her then as only a mother can, fierce and protective, knowing that the world she was soon to enter was harsh and often unkind.
There were tears of sorrow and joy when she left our nest; bated breath as she found her footing, her place, on an island far away.
She made a home there, found love and a career and a church family.
That sweet little girl is now a woman whose outer beauty needs no adornment; whose spirit still loves freely.
I hear her laugh on our video calls and marvel that my baby has become a woman of wisdom and strength, her goodness a blessing to those in her circle, her faith a soft light reaching through my phone’s small screen.
And now…now, my baby is having a baby of her own. A boy, his place already established in a circle of love before he even breathes air.
I think of the trauma of my children’s arrival in this world, of their birth mothers’ anxiety as they waited; of their grief in the giving over. I remember Ben’s dire diagnosis, how we entered the delivery room in excitement and left it in shock and fear.
I will always testify to the beauty of adoption, the miracle of it and the sacredness of being entrusted with a life birthed by another. But all adoptions come out of pain and grief; of the hollow realization that it is not supposed to be this way. Our children carry that wound in their stories, and it becomes theirs to live out the healing.
Now a little boy kicks and stretches in my daughter’s womb, a boy whose birth will not be mixed with sorrow and sacrifice, but purely joy. Even now he is tying our ragged ends together, his story beginning like stories should. We have booked our plane tickets to welcome him into our unique circle, into our arms and our hearts.
They have chosen a name befitting his heritage and his place. Even now, he is learning their voices as he grows, fearfully and wonderfully knit together. She sends me pictures of how his presence is changing her.
She doesn’t know yet, the desperate possessiveness of his weight in her arms, the fascination over fingers and softly curving cheek, the weary delight in such a gift given.
I will watch my child conform herself to this new life, much as I conformed myself to hers so many years ago; a sacred process, mother and child creating a place in each other through nights of tears and lullabys, of quiet wonder and murmured prayers.
I will watch and remember and give thanks that our ends are being tied up in her beginnings; and that this baby born by the sea will soon take the place that love has created for him, in their home and in our hearts.