Life is interesting.
When I set out to write Hidden in the Heart, I’ll be honest, it was mostly for myself. I needed to write that story, and once the characters took life and started on their own journeys, I was pretty excited.
And here I am, three weeks out from the book’s release, and I’m a little scared. Still excited, because I see where this is leading, but it’s scary.
I’ve already had a couple of letters from readers who want to know about adoption. The thing is, I’m not an expert. I’m happy to share my own experiences, but that’s exactly what they are. My own. And you’ll find the same in Hidden in the Heart – what Claire goes through is pretty similar to what I went through. But no two lives are the same. I want to be clear on that. My experience may not even come close to somebody else’s. Many adoptees never have the desire to search. But I did.
So while I encourage questions and dialogue and promise to answer as honestly as I can, please keep in mind that I am just one person, and I cannot and do not speak for all.
That said, here’s a recent question from a reader considering adoption –
… Having been adopted yourself, is there any advice as a parent that you can give me before I start this journey?
This reader also indicated that, based on my story, she had concerns that growing up adopted might be hard on the child.
Yes, for me, it was hard. But I would never discourage anyone from adopting and I would never say adoption is a bad thing. It’s not. It can be a beautiful thing. As long as the parents approach it from the right direction, with the right heart.
What I’m about to say is probably going to ruffle some feathers. But I’m being honest, so I pray you’ll allow me to say this as kindly as I can without jumping down my throat.
My biggest concern with adoption in our present culture is that it’s become the ‘in thing’.
Celebrities are doing it. Politicians are doing it. Christians from every denomination are doing it. We’ve gone from nobody talking about it to everybody talking about. I’m not sure which is the lesser of the two evils.
There are many types of adoption today. International adoption. Open Adoption. Even Adult Adoptions, and I’m not even going to address that one…but let’s talk about a few things you might encounter as adoptive parents.
Probably the first thing you’re going to need to address as your child gets older is physical appearance. Are you planning to adopt at home or abroad? Okay, I’ll be blunt, will your kid look like you or not?
Oh, that’s not important.
No, it’s not. Maybe not to you. But if your child is the only black or Asian child for miles around, it’s bound to come up.
I was raised in your typical WASP family, but I knew I didn’t look like my parents. At first glance of course you couldn’t tell. But if you ever stopped to examine our physical features, eye color…you’d know. If you think kids don’t notice these things, think again.
Obviously if you’re adopting a child of a different race, they’re going to figure out pretty quickly that they didn’t come from you. You’ll need to know well in advance how you plan to handle this. You’re also probably not going to have a lot of information to give your child when the time comes and they want to know where they came from. That’s going to be hard.
Regardless of how loving a home you provide, growing up adopted makes a child different. They know it. They feel it. And somehow they learn to live with it. No matter the circumstances of the relinquishment, there may always be an underlying sense of abandonment. Rejection. Being the child nobody wanted.
As parents, you can explain it as best you can, put a pretty bow on it and tell them how much you love them, how blessed you all were that God brought you together, and while all that may be true, you cannot change the fact that for whatever reason, your child’s biological parents were unwilling or unable to keep them.
If I could explain this in scientific, psychological terms that actually make sense, I would. But I can’t. I can only say that for me, that’s how I felt. I knew my parents loved me. I had the best childhood, I was loved, loved, loved…but the whispers in the night still came. I still dealt with irrational fears that my parents would leave and not come back. I had low-self esteem. Trust issues. Angry outbursts that came out of left field. Okay, so maybe none of this has anything to do with being adopted. Maybe I’m just nuts. Fair enough. 🙂 But once I decided to address these issues, I started reading books on adoption. I talked to other adoptees. And guess what? I wasn’t so nuts after all.
When an adopted child wants to know ‘where they really came from,’ please know that it is in no way a reflection on the way you’ve raised or are raising your child. If they trust you enough to ask, be as honest as you can, and know you’re still Mom and Dad. That won’t change.
Educate yourself. If you are considering or planning on adopting, do your homework. Don’t just read books on parenting. Talk to grown up adoptees. Ask questions. Seek out other adoptive parents and ask them the tough questions. Most of all, be willing and prepared to talk to your child at any time about their adoption. Let the conversation flow naturally. Things are very different today than they were when I grew up. You have the resources, the information and the ability to choose when and how to use it.
I was able to process my feelings, to put the pieces of my childhood puzzle together in a way that made sense, and at the end of it all, while I had answers, ultimately my peace came in knowing who I am in Christ. If you plan to raise your child in a Christian home, that should be your ultimate prayer for them. (Adopted or not).
I have the utmost respect for anyone who accepts the call of becoming an adoptive parent. As I’ve said, maybe your journey will be different. Maybe your child won’t ever experience any of the things I’ve talked about. Maybe you’ll contact me in twenty years and tell me I was wrong. But it never hurts to be prepared. Raising children in these present times is challenging enough as is.
With all that said, and I know I’ve said a lot, at the end of the day, I feel blessed to have been adopted. I recently watched the movie October Baby
. One of the last lines in that movie stuck. As Hannah heads off to college, she runs back to her father and hugs him, and says, “Thank you. Thank you for wanting me.”
That’s what it’s all about.
What do you think? Agree, disagree? Let’s talk.