A Beautiful Mess
Updated: Feb 18
Adoption looks different for everyone. There isn't one story or one journey that looks the same, no matter which side you are standing on. The adopted child, the adoptive parents, the birth parents, the siblings; each have their own story and in that story resides hurt, loss, joy and redemption. My journey has been a mess of perspectives, and I'm still trying to iron it out, to untangle all the ways adoption has impacted my life.
Adoption has been a part of my life ever since my earliest memories. At just 2 years old, I clearly remember sitting at the airport with my mom, waiting for the arrival of my new baby cousin, Sara, from Korea. I remember her being put in my aunt's arms in that airport and being so excited. Not quite understanding adoption yet, but understanding there was something so precious and celebratory in that very moment. A memory which has stayed with me all these years. Through the years Sarah wasn't my "adopted" cousin, but just my cousin, college roommate and close friend.
Adoption didn't really come up again in my life until I was out of the house and starting my own family. My two older brothers were all friends in college and were on the college swim team. They became friends with Luke. Luke was adopted from Korea when he was 6 years old, but due to life situations and a story that is his own, he was estranged with his adoptive parents when my brothers and husband met him. His is a story that could only be written by God's transformative grace and love. My parents, and all of us, adopted Luke into our family some years back. There was clearly pain in his story as well as restoration, but the pain wasn't yet personal for me. I grew to know and love Luke as a brother over the next few years and now I truly feel as though I have three older brothers.
In late 2015, after arriving home with our daughter June, as a fairly new adoptive mom, my experience and perspective of the grief and suffering that comes with adoption became more acute and personal. I began to notice how the loss in adoption coincides with the celebration. I was (and still am) learning how to wade through the fear and grief she experiences. There is no band-aid or quick fix and it's a marathon of sheer determination and grit. My view of adoption became both clearer and yet more complicated at the same time. The sadness mixed with the joy so closely it became hard to separate them out. But God wasn't done teaching me yet.
A year ago, in late summer of 2018, through ancestry.com, we found out my dad had an adult son, Dan. This was a surprise to the entire family. My parents were visiting us in Hawaii at the time as we were preparing to leave for China to bring home our second daughter, Lucy. Life was super busy and I didn't have the time or space for the news of my half-brother to settle in before we were immersed in our own adoption process again. In order to focus on Lucy's adoption, in my mind, it was my parents' issue, and I disengaged from it. When we arrived home from China I focused all my efforts on transitioning our lives. That is, until a few months later, when there was talk about inviting Dan and his family to our next family reunion that summer. I struggled. I struggled for a number of reasons. One being I was in the middle of an incredibly hard season of attachment and grief with our new daughter and honestly, I felt I had enough of the messiness that came with adoption. I was jealous. Jealous my whole family was moving forward with this new found son/brother, jealous my dad was celebrating his love for another child, and jealous they all seemed to be experiencing the joy that I wasn't. I was still stuck in the hard of it and I just couldn't yet celebrate. I didn't want to. Now that I look back, both my daughter and I were adjusting those first few months and it was hard.
Months went by, a very hard season passed and I felt life at home was beginning to settle down. The grief and loss were slowly subsiding for our daughter and we were starting to discover the joy in adoption again. I finally felt ready to reach out to my new half-brother and get to know him as my family had already begun to do. Well, within the same week I wrote to Dan introducing myself, we found out, through a 23andMe test I received as a birthday gift, that my dad also had an adult daughter, from when he was much younger. Given my reaction with the discovery of Dan, one would think finding out about my new half-sister, Terri, would have been another difficult adjustment. But surprisingly, it wasn't. It was clear that God was giving me a new perspective and an unexpected peace in discovering I had a sister. It took me off guard, how there was excitement this time. He was showing me that in the hard of the past few months, while I was thick in the middle of trauma and grief, I was ignoring and forgetting the joy. In those months, I wasn't in a place where I could see how much of a blessing my new siblings could be. I, like my daughter, was struggling to see the love that surrounded me.
Our family reunion that summer was large! Both Dan and his family were there with my half-sister, Terri. I had always wanted a sister growing up in a family of all boys and now here she was, my sister, found in God's timing. Our time together really was a gift. It was a gift to see our family grow in ways none of us expected. A gift to see healing in our new daughter as it was the first time we saw her truly engage with others outside our immediate family. There was healing for my parents too, as well as my siblings. It was a time of finding answers and sharing stories. There was so much joy. And there was the realization for me that adoption has so many facets, so many perspectives, and in all of them there is both celebration and loss.
Adoption is not a happily ever after story. It is a complicated story of loss and pain living alongside so much beauty and joy. And like any story of redemption, it's a messy journey with God at the center of it all.