Today I was doing some “spring cleaning.” You know, trashing old mail, picking out clothes to be donated, throwing away expired food etc.. One of my biggest spring cleaning tasks is actually deleting pictures and videos from my phone. I have a decent amount of storage on my phone, but I use the camera so much it gets close to filling up every now and again, so that was what I was doing when I came across some old pictures of Ruth.
Those pictures took me straight back to Nigeria and those incredibly difficult days of initial bonding. Guys, adoption is HARD. Have I said that before?? Just in case, I’m gonna spell it out pretty clearly here. Learning to love Ruth, seeing my selfishness, feeling like a child myself when I’m supposed to be the parent who has it all together- it’s SO HARD. I knew Ruth would reject me, but I wasn’t prepared for it and I let her very natural reactions to my love wound me. I took them personally and it affected my relationship with her. Maybe not in a way that she could tell, but it was glaringly apparent to me. Why would I recoil at the neediness of my daughter when that’s all I wanted for the past 12 months? I signed up for this. I knew what was coming. And yet, I didn’t.
Adoption is commonly romanticized by societies who value it (I make this distinction because many societies in the world do not value adoption at all). I put myself on the list of those guilty for perpetuating that vision, and I believe that does a disservice to waiting families. I never took pictures during our hard moments- nobody wants to see a crying child? But there were so many hard moments I wish I could have captured to share. It’s so easy to love a child you haven’t met yet. But that child is going to get hard to love. I don’t say this to place blame on the child at all- obviously they did not choose to lose their family! There are so many issues created when a child is not in a loving home- and because we are human, sometimes those issues make it difficult for us to love.
Adoption, more than anything, is showing me that love is a choice. It’s a commitment. It’s an ongoing process. Ruth and I still have a ways to go in our mother-daughter relationship, but I know we are going to continue growing closer to each other because I am committed to her. Eventually, the feelings of affection will just be there. But it is going to take more work. Love is a choice for Ruth as well, and I believe that she still has moments when she chooses us only because we are her only option. But someday, and maybe that day has already come, she will choose us, too.
Allen and I have had over three years to bond. We are all he’s ever known, he has always felt safe and never a worry in the world. Ruth has not had that environment- until now. She has been with us for only four months. Think about that. She has only been with her forever family for four months, and in her new home for a little over two months. And yet, she’s thriving! We know her brain is wired differently because of that trauma she experienced early in life, and she is still remarkable. She is the strongest and bravest person I have ever met. She has been plucked from the only culture she’s every known and planted somewhere completely foreign. She really didn’t have a choice, and that in itself would scare the pants off of most of us adults. But she is sleeping full nights in her very own big girl bed and going to school and classes at church without so much as a blink. You can say it’s the love of a family, and I’m sure that’s part of it, but I know most of it is because of how God made her- resilient.
Ruth, you are truly special. You are teaching me so much, and I pray that God makes me into the mother you deserve.