The Ugly Side of Adoption

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I found this entry the other day while randomly flipping through an old journal:
“January 2, 2013
Today, sort of in passing and sort of without even realizing it, I prayed a prayer.
‘Do something great through me… No matter what it takes.’
I meant it when I prayed it, but my next thought was: ‘Uh-oh.’”
Dear Ashley from almost two years ago: that next thought was very appropriate.
You see we used to have the “ideal” family. I\’ll never forget when I was pregnant the second time and we found out we were having a girl and how perfect that was for us. We had our boy and now our girl to complete the balance. Two little picture-perfect blonde haired, blue-eyed beauties.
We always talked about bringing another child into the family down the road. Maybe adopt from Africa or Asia, a newborn who needed a home. We could do that in a few years, no problem.
I did not anticipate that later that same year we would move to a little town called Benjamin Constant and that shortly thereafter, when Raegan was just 4 months old, we would meet a little brown-eyed girl that would rewrite everything we knew about parenthood and ourselves. I will never forget the night I laid there in bed and told Richard I felt like we should pray about adopting her.
I had no idea–not the slightest clue–what I was praying for.
I remember discussing the challenges we knew we would face. The language barrier, the physical and mental delays, the criticism from the locals; we knew it would be difficult.
Those things now seem like child\’s play.
When you hear people talk about adoption, you hear about how beautiful it is, this Gospel picture. I say it myself. The idea of redeeming a child from pain and suffering and hopelessness is undeniably inviting. To be a part of bringing hope and life to a child is one of our callings as followers of Christ. Beautiful indeed.
What we do not hear a whole lot about, however, is the ugly side.
Without tragedy, there is no need for adoption. If something were not broken, there would be no need to fix it.
If it were not for the fact that something went terribly wrong, adoption would not be necessary. Be it death or abuse or abandonment, intentional or otherwise, there is a tragic reason this child is in need of a different family from the one that shares the same bloodline and facial features. There is a broken past with every single adopted child out there and it leaves a mark. Sometimes that mark is a faded scar that is barely noticeable to the untrained eye.
Other times, it is a gaping flesh wound that needs constant attention and care.
God chose to give us the latter.
And it has been ugly.
Because nothing prepares you for having to hold down that sought after child as she kicks and screams, “I want to go back to the street!!” And all because you are doing what no one else in her life ever has: you are loving her.
I will never forget googling “What if I don’t like my adopted daughter” and the relief I felt when articles actually popped up, announcing that these feeling of mine are actually common.
In August, she completed one year in our home—and the single hardest year of our life. I look back at the child who stepped into our home that Friday night. Her scalp was so full of infection that the doctors prescribed four different medications to heal it. Her teeth were little pieces of black and brown bone jutting from her infected gums. Her hair was brittle and orange in color from lack of nutrition. Her eyes were wild, pupils enlarged as she tried to understand what was happening, her body conditioned to remain in a constant state of fight or flight. She carried her small backpack full of dirty, hole-ridden clothing that a person would not even consider donating to Goodwill.
This isn’t what it should look like, a family bringing in another. It should be that her biological mother tucks her in at night, along with her 7 biological siblings, assuring them of love and care. They should laugh together and go on outings together and she should know the love of a family with siblings and parents that look like her, speak like her. She should know the value of discipline and should be taught consequence.
But we live in a fallen world where parents leave their own to roam the streets because they never knew any different themselves.
So our life as we knew it was destroyed that day. It was destroyed for the sake of redeeming this one. But we never knew what that would entail.
It has been painful.
No adoption is pain free. I am not referring to the hours spent at the courthouse or the paperwork that seems insurmountable. I do not mean the waiting game of home visits and Psychologist appointments.
Those are the easy parts, my friends.
The hard part is loving. And that is the part I never anticipated.
Shortly after our daughter moved in, the giddiness of having a new child wore off. It was like having a newborn to care for except that this newborn had been in survival mode for six and half years and thought she had a better idea than you of what she needed. The lies began and the manipulation commenced and suddenly, after just three months of having what now felt like a stranger in our home, we began to recoil.
“What have we done?” I would ask myself, remembering our “perfect” family of four.
I would scroll through my Facebook newsfeed and the pictures of perfect families would dance across my screen, almost taunting me. I would close the app feeling guilt, regret, confusion. Pain.
I often say if we had known what we were getting into before we got into it, we wouldn’t have gotten into it. And I know that is exactly why God does not often reveal His plans for us, because we would run away in fear of the trials that lie before us, not valuing the refining process that makes us a just a little more like Him.
Yesterday I looked at her as she sat across the table from me, unaware of my thoughts. Her hair is dark brown now and shines in the light. Her teeth, bright white and clean. We have had to buy her new shoes three times this year as her body catches up to the size it should be for her age. She is able to read now, something we had all but given up hope on as she didn’t know the difference between a letter and a number this time last year.
She is beautiful on the outside—a whitewashed wall.
Because you don’t raise yourself on the street for six and a half years with no consequence. So the lies and manipulation and disobedience flow so naturally to her that at times she doesn’t even perceive it. She resists our love. She has yet to grasp the fact that she no longer has to protect herself; she is safe here. So she hides behind the walls she built so long ago of self-preservation and self-focus and replaces each brick as we attempt to take them down.
There is a common perception out there that implies that adoption, because it is a concept based on the Gospel and because it is redeeming a child from their orphan status, is simple. Of course, we may be quick to admit that the process is complicated. The attorney and the judge and the biological parents or the orphanage and the paperwork and the waiting and the waiting and the waiting… that part is hard, but then—THEN—it’s smooth sailing.
“All we need is love.” Right?
Adoption is far from simple.
I see heart-warming adoption quotes on social media all the time, especially in this month of November that is National Adoption Awareness Month. In fact, not long ago I stumbled across my own “Adoption” board on my Pinterest that coincidentally I created about the same time that journal entry was written and couldn’t help but laugh out loud and what my picture of adoption looked like back then. Back before the long nights and tears and confusion and calling out to God.
Because once the Facebook pictures are posted and the excitement dies down over this new addition, you find yourself face to face alone with a reality that you did not stop to consider before:
Yes, the Gospel is a picture of adoption into the family of Christ. And the Gospel includes immense amounts of suffering. Without death, there is no redemption. Without pain, there is no joy in victory.
Over a year has passed now and mostly we are thankful that we have survived. In the beginning, all day, every day was consumed with teaching truth and consequence, faith and repentance, and trying to discern the truth from the lies. And now most days are still that way but they have become graciously spaced out to where sometimes we actually feel like a functioning family of five on some level or another.
Grace from Heaven.
Why do I say all this? Not for a pity party, I assure you. We are taught to rejoice in our sufferings because it is through them that we are formed more into the image of our Savior.
I say it, believe it or not, as an encouragement. I have read several blog posts and books this past year and the ones that encouraged me most were the ones that said something to this effect, ‘This adoption thing? It’s hard. You are going to fail at times. You are going to cry and ask ‘why?’, possibly often. You are going to feel overwhelmed. And guess what: sometimes you are going to struggle to love. But it is ok because you, on your own, can’t love anyway. It is impossible. But the good news is that through Christ, you can love unconditionally and without reciprocation. Hang in there. His mercy is new every day. And His grace is sufficient.’
So to my fellow adoptive parents, who find themselves overwhelmed and overcome and cringe when they see the idealized photos of adoption: do not give up. God has a purpose for this child and part of it is to refine you and teach you what unconditional love really looks like—messy. Another part—maybe the biggest—is to give you the slightest glimpse of the pain that Christ went through and the miracle it is that He can love us as He does. Oh, the miracle.
To those in the adoption process, do not let this discourage you, but also don’t write me off. There is a certain naivety in every new adoption. I know, I have been there and I believe that is also God’s grace measured out to us. Often God keeps us blinded to the realities of the trials we will face in order to grow our faith. It is necessary. “Oh, but you adopted an older child/out of birth order/foreign speaker. I’m adopting a newborn/young child/English speaker,” you may say. Irrelevant my friends. I know personal stories of children adopted from birth that have immense struggles. So listen to those who have gone before and prepare your hearts. Pray for God to prepare you in ways that you do not even realize that you need to be prepared.Pray for faith and endurance. Pray for peace and hope. You will need all of these as you embark on this journey.
For those who are reading this and have had a “smooth” attachment to your adopted child, hold your judgment. Instead of casting stones, throw up some prayers for those who adopted the more severely injured, those struggling to love, and those who dread another day. Be careful not to become self-righteous because your experience looks different. Rejoice that God chose to give you a child with less baggage in tow.
This adoption thing is ugly. It takes time for broken things to mend. It takes time for wounds to heal.
But you know what’s amazing about it all?

He gives beauty for ashes. And that, my friends, is beautiful indeed.





{UPDATE: You can read my follow up blog The Ugly Side of Me}




191 thoughts on “The Ugly Side of Adoption

  1. Because you purchased a child from overseas. You treated yourself to a thrill. You knew it was wrong, didn't give a damn and did it anyways.It's kind of awesome to see selfish baby buyers getting exactly what they deserve.(My three? Drug and alcohol exposed? Seriously neglected girlies, adopted from US foster care at ages 17, 8 and 6 years old? Were all college grads by age 22. Literally indistinguishable from my loved-from-the-second-she-was-conceived biological daughter.The fact that your girl has done so miserably is partly – not entirely, but a BIG partly — your fault. Low standards and excuses. My adopted kids THRIVED, despite the worst possible start to their lives. Anything's possible!).

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  2. I do foster care and have adopted a baby through the system. I also have 3 bioolgical children. I struggle to love the kids I foster. It takes time. It's as you described but also not knowing if I will keep them or if it will be temporary and co-parenting with not so nice and some nice people. I look at those around me doing foster care and don't see people struggling to love like I do. Thank you for sharing – it made me feel better to know I'm not the only one.

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  3. Hi, Katie. First, I assume that you have some personal experience with the broken adoption system and that is why you have put such a strong response on here. I'm sorry for whatever you have seen and experienced and I agree that the system is very corrupt and I pray that there are some insiders who work diligently to fight that corruption. Secondly, it doesn't seem fair to say that an adoptive parent \”deserves\” a child with emotional/physical/psychological issues and more than a biological parent. We all hope and pray that our children will be strong, healthy and well adjusted. That's a normal desire for any parent, adoptive or otherwise. We personally didn't \”pay\” anything for our child as we adopted domestically in Brazil and here it is \”free\”. So again, your logic that a parent would \”deserve\” a child with difficult circumstances to overcome doesn't hold any weight. I hope that you can see that, just like a parent who needs support for their special needs biological child may reach out and speak some hard truths about their family's circumstances, adoptive parents, too, are often in situations that are very overwhelming. I hope that you will be able to hear my words. I also hope that you will think about the hundreds of families out there who adopt out of love in their hearts with the deserve to truly save a child from orphan status. There are so many abandoned and abused children out there and we need to continue to fight for them, despite the corruption, difficulties, and trials it may bring. I hope you will think on these thoughts, Katie. Please choose your words kindly. There are real people on the other side of the computer screen and none of us know all of the other person's circumstances.

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  4. Hi, \”Anonymous\”. First I want to say that I am so thankful that your three girls are well adjusted adults. That is really awesome to hear!I'm not sure if you know the person you replied to or if this was intended for myself as the original poster. I assume the latter? If that's the case, I want to share with you that we actually live permanently here in Brazil where we adopted from and therefore adopted through the domestic system and didn't \”pay\” anything for her as here in Brazil domestic adoptions are free. I can relate to you as my daughter also come from a background with drugs and alcohol and had a very difficult start, raising herself on the street. I think I hear from your post that you feel international adoption is wrong? It's true that there is an overwhelming amount of corruption in the international adoption system. I have heard of bribing and people stealing newborns to \”sell\” to adoptive families. So tragic I don't have words. I pray that there are people on the \”inside\” who are fighting for justice and reform in this system. However, I think it's good to remember that there are hundreds, if not thousands, of adoptive families out there who are adopting internationally for all the right reasons and they love and cherish their adopted children just as they would or do their biological children. That is certainly the case for us. This post to express the difficulties that many adoptive parents face. I think it would be good to remember that parents long to have strong, healthy, well adapted children, that includes adopted children. So when we come face to face with the fact that our adopted child has a very real emotional/physical/psychological issue, it breaks our heart and can be very overwhelming, just like if it were a biological child. So if a biological parent were to write a post talking the hard truth of how challenging and often overwhelming it is for their family to face these distinct issues every day, would you have the same issue with that parent? Probably not. My thought is that we need to bring light to the fact that just because adoption is beautiful doesn't mean it is easy. Reactive Attachment Disorder, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and many others are very real things that can wreak havoc on the lives of the children, but also the families. I hope that you will learn to have compassion for those whose children are struggling as well as for the parents who feel overwhelmed because they want so badly for their adopted children to FEEL the immense love they have for them. Also, it would be good to remember that, while it is easy to post an \”anonymous\” comment on a blog post and move on, there are real people on the other side of the screen and we should speak in a respectful way, even if our opinions differ greatly. We never know all the circumstances of anyone's situation but our own.

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  5. Amazing! If you would have added a few \”natural\”\” children, like 6 then make the adopted child a boy, you would be writing our story. He's built a wall. For the first 2 years from 5-7 he almost wouldn't talk to us. He use to be so angry that he would literally shake. We would hold him tight until he began to cry. He wants a family, but can't understand what he did that his mother didn't want him and told him so. He didn't do anything. He's a fine young man and we see God working in him. We pray for the day he sees God in this adoption as a blessing.

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  6. My husband and I felt called to adopt through foster care. The one thing we put down as unwilling to accept is a child with Reactive Attachment Disorder. Guess what we got?? (You don't have to guess.) I am glad to know I am not the only one who doesn't feel what I \”should\” feel for my daughter. I love her as best I can and pray for God to fill in the gaps. Thank you for sharing this.

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  7. And this can happen with a biological child as well…Parent to one biological and five adopted. Thankful for God's mercy and grace.

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  8. Life on this earth is not meant to be fair, peaceful or \”normal.\” That said, adoption for both parents and adoptees are like a 500 piece puzzle with some of the pieces to the puzzle (picture) missing. We the parents and the adoptee(s) will probably never figure out the \”why\” their life is not normal. My wife and I live life with our biological child and adopted son one moment at a time, one hour at a time, one day at a time and we focus on Jesus who seldom had a normal peaceful moment on this broken earth. Albeit that is not easy, our only solace is that the answers will come in eternity.

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  9. A beautiful piece very well written. As a Mom of two adoptive girls, I share in your struggle, joy and insight. We have just celebrated our 1st year as a family of three and I am honestly so thankful that we have been able to make it. So heart warming to read our struggle so well described in your blog. Sending you continued strength and joy in your family.

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  10. I have tears in my eyes as I read his blog! For the past few years we have gone through things we never dreamed of! At the same time, God has molded us in ways that we never would have dreamed of. I am glad He is showing us so much! I love my girls with all my heart! I am so blessed to have them in my life!

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  11. I just had a conversation with my first adopted daughter (15) who is positive her life is horrible. She's not on drugs, still thinks boys are icky, and all we have is homework battles. The lies the manipulation is not totally a thing of the past but we have gotten to a point of where she tells me about it before we catch her at it 🙂 Healing a broken heart and calming a Freeze brain (we din't get fight or flight we got checked out freeze mode) has been a hard journey but hard things are always worth doing. Thanks for the encouragement I totally needed it tonight.

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  12. \”$ = Humans = Trade in humans = Slavery I think we can all agree on that….\” please, I think not. Most do not view their adopted kids as property.Understand that for most people adoption is another way to help others, just as we send cash to various charities. Although we set some limits for what diseases or conditions we would accept we were careful not to pick any of our three adopted kids from a lineup. We took the first ones available that fit our general criteria, and with one, not even that.As for the \”30 day return\” policy…I would have thought that crazy 10 years ago but my experience has taught me that it is possible for someone to take on a child with problems far beyond their ability to handle. Terrible to have to return a child, but I understand why it happened to one of ours before she came to us, and it was the right thing for that single mom to do, and good that she recognized the need on the day she met her. As for the large cash required…who better to pay this than the adoptive parent? It signals a real commitment, for one thing. But besides that, these agencies have real costs that have to be covered somehow. Medical bills have to be paid, airline flights covered, lots of paperwork, etc. etc. Sure, I'm sure in some cases people are skimming but all of the people I have seen have just been ordinary people doing their job. When in Russia, I saw the local city adoption lawyer doing an outstanding job, God bless her. What a great woman. And I have seen others.Anyway, yes, we must pay cash to cover costs, but it is not a purchase any more than paying the hospital is purchasing a baby during delivery.Most of us are just struggling along trying to do our best to help, to do the right thing, to share a little love in our very imperfect way.Blessings on all adopted, adopting and those thinking of it. Pax

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  13. As a grown, older sibling of 3 adopted children. The book 'the primal wound' was essential to helping understand, and cope with, my youngest brothers behavior through the years. He struggled with behavior, ADHD, academics, not social or sports- but authority. He was on the wrong road, and my folks had to send him to a school, for everyone's benefit. Of course that bread even more anger, as a teen- but he was able to come home and by the grace of God- graduate from High School. He held the torch of anger toward all of us, and especially our mother, as I can only imagine- but be heartbreaking. He went off to support himself, get married, have a child of his own, and to have that marriage fail. He seemed to start changing at that time, and on his last visit home, he told my mom, he loved her- he hadn't done that in at least 20 years! That is Gods love, grace, spirit working in him. He also apologized to my sister – who their relationship had been strained by past physical aggression and fueled by anger so deep within. They both cried, when I heard about it, I cried too. I share this story, Ben's story, because, I never stopped loving him- but our families love wasn't enough. God needed time, maturity, wisdom. It may not happen for all, and I'm not saying he's perfect- but our families gaping wound can begin to heal. It wasn't easy. As my older brother and I would sometimes wonder why my parents took on the three little children- said through a silent glance at the dinner table. Bens story is far from unique, but I hope it can provide hope. If your struggling with an ODD, ADHD child with \”the primal wound\”, God has done it with Ben, he can do it again!I will pray for you all!Ps: Ben is loving brother, uncle and Father and I look forward to our next chapter in this book of life!

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  14. I would love to talk with you further for a project I have in seminary. I'm in the process of forming a discussion group that includes adoptees, first parents, and adoptive parents who feel that society has created walls to separate them from the larger society (which I'm sure your views have!!). I'm in the process of formulating 5-10 questions as a starting point for the discussion and have to try to find ways to apply the gospels in this situation. Please PM me on FaceBook (Anne M. Winslow) if you wish to help me, as well as any other parents who have similar feelings. Anyone else wishing to join in our discussion is welcome. I will share my paper with anyone who participates. Thanks again for your courage and honesty!!

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  15. As a person who worked in the field of child development and with children who had many emotional hurtles, I think those of you who have adopted children, have done an incredible and honorable act. I also know that its unbelievably difficult at times. You will be tested and tested and then tested again, because the most basic trust of a human being has been damaged/broken. Its what comes naturally to anyone of us who has lost or been betrayed by someone very, very close to us. When this happens to a child, the child has all those adult feelings of being betrayed, given up on, rejected, but doesnt have the adult mental development yet to have any clue in how to deal with these painful, enormous feelings. So you get the childs way to handle these feelings, the only way a child knows how to deal with these feelings and that is to act out, test you, reject you first, go back to what seemed normal (even if it was horrible conditions). The main thing I would like to say to you who have adopted a child carrying a lot of pain, is that its ultimately not about you ! I know, I know… it feels like its about you as a parent and the child probably tells or screams at you, but its really really not about you as a parent, if you are a patient, fair and a loving parent.

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  16. Thirty years ago we adopted a five year old. We had bio kids ages nine and four at the time. Seven years laterWe had another child, When our adopted one was 21 we helped find birth relatives and she left the area to live in their area and otherthan being asked for money we don't hear from her anymore.Ironically she had one child when she left who was three at the time and he recently moved back to our area to live with his birth dad. Adoption is complicated…period!!!!!

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  17. I saw this article shared by an acquaintance in my newsfeed. I've finally had the chance to read it, I've also read many of the comments above. I am an adoptee, and for all sorts of uneasy feelings this article does not sit well with me. I do think your feelings are valid and important and express a lot of struggle and honesty. Theoretically that's all very beautiful. But the stated feelings in this article also wreak of the savior complex, a \”suffering for Jesus\” mentality. There is a broad paint stroke of presumption in your words that, because all children in the adoption system are wounded and currently unwanted (for one reason or another), they are in need of a savior… someone like you or a family like yours who can take them in and give them things their current environment could never give them. Perhaps this is true. But it's not the truthfulness of the matter that sort of pains me with your words — it's the mentality in which you think it. I would hope to God that my the only parents I know (my adopted parents) would never think of me or the adoption of me in such the way of \”I can save this child\” as your words express. If indeed they have 'saved me' from a lifetime of poverty or abuse or growing up in another country that is not this one, then okay. But I hope that they did not \”embark on their adoption journey\” to be my Jesus or otherwise. This also means I am (as the adoptee) forced to fulfill the role of sinner in the Jesus story, or victim in the abuse story, or carelessness in the unplanned pregnancy story. I am none of those things to my parents. And thank God, because I don't want to be any of those things. A parent can sometimes accidentally and with loving intentions force their children into roles or ideals. This is yet another. I very much so appreciate your honesty on this subject. I can see and know personally many who have struggled with their own adoption experiences. I think your words have helped many of them. Praise God! But they have, in the process, also in-dignified the children in which you write about — us adoptees. I think you should keep writing on this subject when you can and have the words. I would just please ask to consider the mentality in which you write and think and that let it not express a feeling of making yourself out to be what you might very well not be… a shining knight in white armour. I also want to say that if this entire article were written from the heart's vantage point opposite of the savior complex, I would think it beautiful.

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  18. I'm sorry, but this is just so rude I couldn't not comment. Do you know there's someone on the other side reading your ugly words? Telling her not to take it personally because YOU DON'T KNOW HER then going on to telling her she needs parenting classes and basically calling her self-centered makes no sense. I'm 100% sure she didnt adopt to make herself feel better, just like she didnt give up a comfy life in the States and moved to the middle-of-nowhere in Brazil to make herself feel better. I'm pretty sure this woman has \”considered everything she's willing to sacrifice to save another as Jesus has saved her\” and the answer to that was EVERYTHING. Since she gave up a nice lifestyle to be away from her family and friends, to struggle with language barriers and many other things JUST to see people come to the Lord. In the future, please choose your words wisely as there's someone on the other side of the screen reading and being affected by the rudeness you write.

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  19. The pain that people go through that results in the need to be adopted is catastrophic. There's no way around it. Losing a parent is utterly wrenching, no matter when or how it happens. It's not supposed to happen. Losing my father when I was 40 gave me more empathy for my adopted children than any other experience of my life. And I was an adult, supposedly with more coping skills than a baby, exposed to trauma they can't even share with others. It's a gaping wound. As we've deliberately chosen to go near two precious kids with gaping wounds, we've been splattered with blood, we've been kicked as they writhe in pain. It's not their fault, it's certainly not what they chose. But almost daily, as an adoptive mom, I have to choose to stay near them as they kick and scream. It's only the love of Jesus flowing through me that gives me that strength, and even joy in the journey. I thank you for sharing so honestly and from the heart.

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  20. To Anonymous Adoptee who posted on November 17, 2014 at 1:10 PM…I’m glad you posted your point of view. As adoptive parents we we need to hear from the child’s perspective. I’m sorry if any of the comments caused you pain. As for me and my husband, we were able to have biological children and did so. After our three were born, we made a choice to adopt. We very much felt called by God to do this. The Bible tells us that to take care of widows and orphans is pure and undefiled religion in the sight of the Lord. We adopted a sibling group from central America and they arrived broken. Now they are young adults and have gone from poor choice to poor choice. Their stories are not over yet but we sit on the sidelines now, prayer is our only weapon: and watch as they now destroy the lives of their children—our grandchildren. There is nothing more (humanly speaking) we could have done for them. That does not make us knights in shining armor, but humble servants of our Lord and Savior. The majority of the comments left here by adoptive parents are raw and honest, and we are desperately hurting. That is what it’s like from our point of view and what the article was about. The rest of the world including the church does not support us, so when we find each other we cling for dear life to others that are going through deep waters of these trials.

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  21. With our first adoption everything was great. Our daughter blended with us beautifully. With our second adoption, our youngest daughter it has been very hard. And I have finally let go of the fairy tale ending. There is still a ending just not what I thought it would be. We love our girls and we will never give up on them. What you wrote in your blog about God not showing us \”His plans for us, because we would run away in fear of the trials that lie before us\” is so true. And we to say that God has a purpose for this child. Teaching us does makes so much sense. Reading that God keeps us blinded to the realities of the trials we will face in order to grow our faith is something that I needed to hear. So Thank you for your post and God Bless you.Anne

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  22. (in reply to your great response \”Nov 18 at 10:19 AM\”)Thanks for your reply. I should clarify… my entire response posted was a specific response to the author's words and expressed mentality, not the comments beneath (although I did state that, yes, I read those too). After reading this blog post (re: my \”pains me\” comments in response) I felt uneasy and sort of ill in the bottom of my stomach to know that a parent (this parent, the author) would think herself as the redeemer of her once-orphaned-child's lost hope and past of abandonment. I felt mostly for her adopter daughter. I felt possibly what it might be like for that adopted daughter to grow up. With an adopted mother whose mentality is that she \”saved me\”. The thing is that when you assume yourself someone else's savior, you force that someone into a pre-conceived and subsequent role to yourself — complete with expectations (known to you or not) of how that someone else should fulfill their own role since you fulfill yours so well. Adopted children, all children, face already the expectations of their parents. Current and future expectations set upon us from our parents shape our identity (and confuse our identity) *just as much* as our broken, or distant, or different-to-your-own past. So for the mother who dreamed of the perfect orphaned child to complete their family but instead got the 'sour apple' instead of the sweet, we *know* that you think of us as the sour apple.As Christians, you might adopt a child because you feel it's an example of the Gospel (as the author of this blog puts it). But as people, as parents, don't you adopt a child not *just* because you can be an orphan's redeemer? <This is what sits uncomfortably with me. That I could be my mother's "Gospel" pet project of sorts — her way to redeem someone of their lost and broken and torturous past… I feel uneasy and pained by that kind of mentality. I'd want to know my adopted parents adopted me because they prayed for a child and this is how God gave them one. Not because they were enlightened by the idea that by adopting a child they enact their own Gospel play. Maybe the above is the author's feelings. If so, I regret that I've read her blog post in another light. (Perhaps it was her repetitive use of the word \”redemption\”). As an aside, I think your shared feelings are beautifully honest whole *not* in-dignifying your children at all. What you've said is: We adopted. We take care of our children, adopted and not, because that's what the Lord teaches us. We are servants of God's children, so to say. // This is not what the author of this blog worded, which on multiple occasions, place her in a savior role vs a servant role as you've expressed.Thank you for your reply. To even know that it was read and considered is a sort of starting point. As you've pointed out, this is important. For us to know each other's feelings and hopefully show one another the areas in which our feelings are miscommunicated or set unfair expectations or are spot on and comforting. As an ending thought to my reply (I didn't mean to make it so long), imagine if adopted children were writing about how extremely misinformed and misguided their adopted parent's thoughts and ways are. That they don't understand us. That they force us into roles or with expectations that are ridiculous. Imagine maybe if I had wrote this original blog post and expressed an utter disappointment with my adopted parents. Wouldn't you feel somewhat (even if you understood) hurt? Pained by my words that were not aimed to hurt you but indefinitely have? Forums and discussions and blogs and coffee dates for adopted parents who want to find comfort in one another is beautiful. But we should not find comfort in mentalities that ultimate hurt those we have the mentality about. With imagination we can find numerous examples of how this kind of comfort is extremely damaging to all.

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  23. formerly, not a great supporter of genetics in human behavior, I am now. thank you for these honest posts. just wish I had had support like this when raising my daughter. thank you and keep the honesty coming….

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  24. wonderful and honest post. I also wish there were more pre-adoption information and support available. not to discourage potential adoptive parents, but to educate and provide insights as to available resources for them should they perceive their experience as a challenge.

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  25. To Anonymous Adoptee who posted on November 17, 2014 at 1:10 PM…You know what, you’re right. I would be hurt…and? I would not understand if my children posted online about how horrible I am. I know that I’d be hurt because at least once a week my daughter tweets about how awful her life is and how cheated she was. I finally un-followed her when I couldn’t bear to see one more quotation such as “Family are not those who raised you but those who are there for you no matter what.” Yet I have never posted anything negative about my kids that identifies them. Even in my post above I give a different continent than where they really came from. You have given me a lot to think about. However; I do appreciate knowing that other parents struggle, that I am not alone as the world would like me to believe. How to balance it all? I’m not sure. We need to be mindful of our children’s privacy, these little ones will be adults, all too soon. The internet never forgets.

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  26. Hi, Anonymous! Thank you for your comments on my blog. I love hearing the perspective of adoptees and I hope that we can continue an open dialogue. The reality is that I DON’T understand the struggles that adopted children face and that is one of the reasons for my original post. It is difficult for me to respond in a timely manner because of where we live (the Amazon Jungle in Brazil) and the limited internet access, but I have read all the comments on my post. I appreciate your honesty and the tone which you conveyed your thoughts.First, I want to say that I’m sorry that the overwhelming theme to you in my post was that I think of myself a Savior to my child. That really does make me sad as that has never been my feelings towards my daughter, nor our desire to adopt her in the first place. Yes, as Christ-followers we are called to care for the orphan and the widow, but NOT to be their Savior. Only Christ can do that. We are to care for them out of genuine, unconditional love for them. It is only natural to have compassion for their suffering. The day that my now daughter showed up on my front porch, I immediately felt love for her. It’s hard to describe. There was nothing loveable about her and we have kids show up on our porch ALL the time (we live in a very poverty stricken area). But this little girl was different. She began to come over every day and I fell more and more in love with her, as did my husband. I felt early on the little voice in me saying that this girl was someone special for our family. That went on for months. It was only after we got to know more and more of her story that we realized that she was in need of a family to care for her. That was a hard decision for us for various reasons (we are foreigners and live in an area where they think “white people” come to steal their children and sell their organs, so we knew we were opening ourselves up to a lot of criticism.) But this little girl was worth all the risk. When I say that we are “suffering” for Christ sake, I don’t mean it in a “God complex” sort of way. Jesus Himself said that “in this world you will have trouble” and that we are to “rejoice in our sufferings”. My point is that raising a child with psychological and emotional special needs is HARD. And the principle reason it is hard is because no one wants to see their child suffer. So I didn’t long to adopt our daughter to be her Savior and to have a pretty addition to our family. We adopted her because we genuinely love her as our own flesh and blood and THEREFORE to see her suffering and rejecting our love and fighting against us is hard because WE know that she no longer has to fight. But SHE doesn’t. And we don’t know how to properly communicate that. That only serves to prove to us further that we are not her savior. We could never open her eyes to the reality of the hope and peace she can have in Christ. HOWEVER, Christ CAN and we believe WILL use us to help her see that by demonstrating unconditional love, no matter how many times she rejects it. Just like He did for us, despite the fact we often reject it. Honestly, I wish my daughter WOULD tell me her feelings. She only recently (in the last week) started sharing with me that a little girl in her class at school has been very mean to her. I almost cried I was so happy when she told me! Not because her classmate was mean, but because she TOLD me about it!! It opened up a good dialogue about how we feel and how we should treat others, etc. So if she would tell me, “Mom, I don’t like you. I don’t like when you do this. I don’t like feeling this way.” I would be SO happy! Because then I would be one step closer to knowing what she needs and how I can be a better mom to her. I have hope that one day we will get there. Until then, I just pray and trust that God will open her eyes to the reality that she DOES have a family that loves her dearly now. So, I hope that helps clarify at least a little bit of my perspective. Thanks again for speaking out and sharing your thoughts, too.

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  27. Anonymous November 12, 2014 at 5:54 PMI'm really sorry to hear that. You're right. The church \”do-gooders\” are what Jesus called the Pharisees. We are all broken sinners and there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ, He is our only hope. I hope that you can see that one day.

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  28. Ashley, I think you are a brave and loving mother–this is without a shadow of a doubt. I did feel when I read your original post that perhaps your best intentioned feelings were somewhat hidden by your actual words that did ring of the savior complex. Actually, I had hoped that. Like you, I think, I want to believe that all a mother really wants for her child is to feel love, to be loved, to know love, to give love. I think that this true. I just think that sometimes mothers (or any guardian or any friend or really anyone in our lives) can sometimes accidentally want more than that. Sometimes we don't really know it until we look back. I've done this to people in my life. Surely, you have too. When I was a teenager, I resented my (adopted) parents horribly. There wasn't one person that knew our family that did not know this. Like the child I was (and maybe your child, or other children) I constantly acted out because of this resentment I carried. (Which, I have to clearly say here I don't believe had anything to do with the adoption part of our lives… I think I was really just an angsty teen trying to understand myself in life.) Even then I *knew* in the bottom of my heart that all my parents ever wanted was whatever I was seeking — if I sought love, they only wanted to give it to me. If I sought help, they wanted to be there. If I sought safety, of course they always provided that. And I didn't come with the broken past (as I know of) that so many adopted children do.So I say all this because children at any age are forming themselves, struggling with their own identity, just trying to make sense of their own feelings and what's okay to feel and what's not. This is precisely the reason why children can be broken at such a young age — because already they feel, they perceive, they understand. And it affects them (us, as people) forever. For me, while I was desperately trying to understand myself growing up and where I belonged in the world (not in a \”family\” sort of way), I felt a constant presence from my parents that I couldn't be what they wanted me to be–which was probably just easy to love, or easy to get along with. But I took that in wildly deformed ways (as children do, right?) and decided I wasn't good enough for them or I was crazy because I couldn't be like them or I'll never have friends if I can't even get my family to love me for being me.Now, of course, I'm older now. I've grown up. I've learned. I've become more mature. I can see my mistakes in hindsight and try harder to catch them before they happen now. My mother is my best friend, truly. I talk to my dad daily. And still sometimes the whole family recounts about how \”remember when she was a teenager and she was so mean?\” And I want to tell them all, still, to just shut up! That they didn't know the inner struggle I was going through. I was mean, but I was hurt. Who or what was I hurt by? I don't know. Does it matter? Because even if I could put my finger on it, I can tell you that my mother would not have been able to fix it. Sometimes God helped. But I think, too, that only I could really fix it (or rather, decide to fix it)—to find comfort in my own skin, to decide that God made me able to feel so deeply, and that is okay. (Later in life you learn to not let these parts of your life hurt others in the process of feeling them, but as a child you don’t know). I could see as a teenager that my mother only loved me. She wanted to point me in the right direction when I was lost — just back to our family who loved me. But I resisted it all. I didn't want someone to hold me hand (literally, and metaphorically speaking). To be honest, I didn't know what I wanted.

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  29. (continued from above)Maybe other children feel this way, adopted children and non adopted children. Sometimes we don't understand ourselves, but we perceive and understand that our parents are disappointed in this. And it hurts us even more. It adds to the clouded mess that seems to be the path ahead of us. I have cousins now that are teenagers, and I can see sometimes glimpses of their inner struggle to form their own identity and be okay with this identity. Their parents, our family, we love them so much. I would, we would, do anything for them. But this kind of love doesn’t make our desperation to understand ourself any easier. For me, I think maybe what I needed more than open arms and lots of long talks and crying was an absolute feeling of acceptance. I know this sounds strange because OF COURSE you accept your child. But I think the disappointment was just so heavy that it buried any feeling of acceptance far beneath it. There are two things I am thinking about at this moment. One is a sort of cardinal rule of life, I think, that I try to follow in my own words but also give others the benefit of a doubt when their words were constructed in a way that is quite hurtful or rude, etc: Let your heart be the loudest of all your words. // Which I take to mean that I let my heart do the talking, there will be far less scrutiny and far less words really. Because usually the heart’s words are more simple than our brain’s. And to your boss, to your mom, to your child, to your spouse, your heart will always sound better than your mouth. Does that make sense?The second thing I saw literally yesterday online was this: You cannot hate others without hating a little bit of yourself. // Nobody likes to be mean or be a disappointment or just be a really hard child to love. This sounds harsh, but it’s true: We hate ourselves for that. That we can’t just be what mom wants, or what Jesus wants, or what I want. This is why the shaping of our identity throws us off path so much. But there is, I think, a lot of self hatred involved too. I still dislike myself greatly when I can’t be what I want to be — better at my job, or a better wife, or… or…or. Although I forget ALL THE TIME, I want to be kind to others because there are hard things, and there are hard feelings, and there is a lot of hatred in the world against us (us being humanity). Add atop that a self hatred. Life just got that much harder. Then add mental illness, or mean friends, or poverty, or a broken past, or… any number of other hard things… life can seem unbearable. Back to how I started this response, I think you are a very loving mother. You cannot feel such hurt without also possessing so much love. Same, too, of your daughter I think. Or of any of us.

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  30. Dear \”Nov 19 at 2:45 AM\”,Maybe it's not balance that's what needed? I don't know for you, for me balance does not help me. Balance gives each thing in my life equal weight or a spot on the emotional/mental shelf. Rather, some things mean more or hurt more so they are given more — a higher spot on the shelf, I guess. You've also given me much to think about. This sounds oh so very cliche but I really do mean this: I think I'll pray for softness for your family. Soft hearts. Soft walls rather than brick ones built between you and your children. I'm praying for this specifically because this is what has helped me in life. When I was so very far from my family and parents (read my below response to Ashley about that) I think it was by the grace of God that I could give up being \”hard\” and tough. It's literally what sort of brought me back, I guess you could say. I know children or adults who \”come back\”. This is possible 🙂 I sincerely hope and pray it does for you, too. There has been a lot of talk in this blog post and all the comments about how every child deserves a loving family. But every parent also deserves the love of their children.

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  31. Anonymous,Thank you for sharing these things with me. It has given me a lot to think about. Many of the struggles you mention are, as you mention, common to all of us. I think perhaps for my daughter at least they are just intensified by her past. And how she feels so \”different\” from her now \”family\”. I don't realize or even think about those things until things like the other day when I was dropping her off at school and had to talk to her teacher and she said, \”All my friends will see that your eyes are BLUE!\” It occurred to me that she, daily, \”sees\” herself as different. Her to siblings have blonde hair and blue eyes and she has brown hair and brown eyes. Because we live in a place where just about everyone has brown hair and brown eyes, our biological kids really stand out and get a lot of attention when we go out in public. She usually doesn't except when people say things like, \”Is she yours, too?\” It makes me so frustrated and I usually just hug her close to me and say, \”Yep! She's ours. This is our daughter.\” But she still feels it. We've talked about it, but I honestly don't know how to really get her to not let it bother her deep inside. We try to just avoid situations like that but it happens often.Your comment about letting your \”heart be the loudest of your words\”, that really struck a cord with me. Just yesterday I was thinking about how we often spend many days \”correcting\” her behavior and discussing the \”whys\” of our various actions. But very rarely do I just sit and tell her how much I love her. And how far she has come. And how proud I am of her. And how thankful I am that she is a part of our family. And how beautiful she is. I need that to be the loudest voice. I hope other people will read this exchange. I hope you will continue to speak out honestly about your struggles and how you have overcome many of them. We (adoptive parents) need (and long to) hear from you. It helps us understand a little bit better what might be going on in our adopted children's mind and hearts. I guess this is why the Bible says \”Love covers a multitude of sins.\” Love really is the answer. But for us as imperfect humans, love is no easy task. Thanks again for sharing. Pray for us adoptive parents that we can love unconditionally and, as you said, accept unconditionally. Pray for our children to really, truly be able to accept and understand it. I'll pray for you that you will have courage to continue to share your story.

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  32. I have done a very similar google search, \”Help I don't like my child.\” I've learned to be very careful to keep on the mask with most friends. The truth is, even Christian friends want me to pretend it's the fairy tale. I'm very fortunate. She doesn't have RAD. She has FASD, and she will never have a mature mind. If I didn't absolutely know that Christ called us to this role, I would be utterly hopeless. As it stands, I'm very content just to be real….at least with the few who will let me.

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  33. That's why I would say it isn't the \”ugly\” side….it is the most beautiful side of all. Had we \”stopped\” with our easy adopted children, I would never have discovered how to love truly. I would never have discovered a big part of God's mission for my life.

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  34. I do the same at times \”counting down the days until they turn 18\”. But what then? They will still be our children. They will still need support and guidance. I would like to hear from those with adult children about how that relationship looks.

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  35. We adopted over 13 years ago. Two girls, 4 & 6. Raising the 6 yr old has been the hardest thing we've ever done. The lies continue to this day. Some of that original hurt cannot be undone despite years of love, help & devotion.This last week she became our prodigal daughter at 19 & has chosen to turn her back on our family. I'm exhausted & devastated. I don't understand God's plan in any of this. I'm broken hearted. I don't think adoption is portrayed truthfully in our society. It is more than tough & we raised 2 bio sons first. I've loved these girls to death. The younger one has been fairly easy. The older one has wreaked havoc on our lives & home.

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