Do You Love Them the Same?

One of the most common questions about adoption is will I be able to love them the same? The implied but often unspoken completion of the inquiry is ‘the same as a child you have birthed’.

When I thought of writing about this subject I hesitated. I said out loud to myself, “Easy, Stephanie.”. This is after all, a tender subject. As a mom who never completed a birthing experience I may be a bit one-sided. I won’t argue that point. There are plenty of moms who have experienced both who can speak from their own experiences. I can only speak from mine.

Rather than try to do what I can’t, I will stick to what I know. I will share what it is like to love a child who wasn’t carried in my womb, a child born to a different woman with a different ethnicity, a different medical and biological back ground. I will try to express how I love a child that possibly has memories I don’t share and experiences that I am not a part of or possibly aware of. I will in the end admit to you that no, I do not love them the same. I can not possibly love them the same. I do not love them the same as you love your child. You can not love your child the same as I love my child. Each love is unique and each parent/child relationship is different.

I have adopted three children that came to me as infants. They were two days old, two weeks old and two months old when they became our foster children. By the time we were able to adopt them I loved them so desperately I’m not sure I can describe it. You see, I couldn’t help but love them from the moment they were placed in my arms as I fed them and changed their diapers and rocked them to sleep. They were innocent, helpless, beautiful babies. Yet, as time passed and as my love grew deeper, it also grew desperate. In the recesses of my mind the clock ticked reminding me that as foster children my time as their mom was temporary. In each case, it was years before we could adopt and those were years of a desperate love. When we adopted and that relationship became forever, the exuberant love of ecstatic jubilation we experienced, I can’t fully describe. The relief, the gratitude! Oh what a love!

I’m not sure many people can relate to that level of love. Perhaps if your child had a life-threatening illness that caused that same ominous clock to tick, wondering if your time with them was limited, then you can relate and you can say that you loved your child with the same desperation. Otherwise, I doubt it.

I have four children that would be considered older child-adoptions. One was 3-1/2, one was 6, one was 7, one was 8 years old. I would not love them the same. How could I? I had lost years of opportunities to bond. I had been robbed of first steps and first words and first lost teeth and first boo-boos and first of so many things. They had been robbed of healthy loving relationships that would have them achieving milestones on time and developing emotionally as they should.

All four of these children came to us as foster children but, they came with adoption as the plan. The commitment was made to make them a part of our family forever before we knew them at all or knew them well. This love was different. This was a risky love. A love of hope. A determined love. It’s a good thing it was a determined love for determination was required. Love requires trust. They had learned (especially by 6,7 &8) that many adults weren’t trustworthy. As foster parents of 45 we had learned that many children aren’t trustworthy. They had learned that adults may betray you, abuse you and abandon you. We had learned that kids might lie profusely to you, reject you and refuse your efforts.

So, here we were, having to unlearn and relearn about trust and love. If we had not been determined we would have likely given up on each other. But, we had this element that wasn’t present with our other three adoptions. We had chosen each other. They wanted us and we wanted them. There were grief issues and loss issues and attachment issues. There were trust issues and honesty issues and manipulation issues. We had to forgive a lot. We had to forgive people from the past and we had to forgive each other and we had to forgive ourselves. But, we shared a special love, a determined love that held us together when we felt like we were falling apart. No, I don’t love them the same. But, I also don’t love them less. Can you understand?

I’m not sure you can relate unless you have been there. Perhaps if you have loved a child simply because you chose to and turned your whole life upside down to love them with no guarantee they would love you back, you can relate. Perhaps if you made yourself vulnerable by committing to what seemed an impossible and flawed love only to see it flourish and grow and blossom into a love like you’ve never seen or realized was possible, perhaps then, you can understand this determined love. Otherwise, I doubt it.

Can I tell you something? Not every adoptive parent loves their children like I love mine. Not every birth parent loves their children like you do yours. No matter, how wonderful their love is, it is not the same as mine or yours.

If you are considering adoption and looking for some guarantees, let me give you a few. Love is risky. Love makes you vulnerable to extraordinary pain. Love will turn your life upside down. Love will cost you plenty. Love is also the most powerful force in the universe. Love makes the impossible possible. Love gives you opportunity to experience extraordinary joy. Love will give your life meaning and purpose. Love will reward you with benefits that are beyond measure.

Do I love them the same? No, not the same as you. Not the same as each other, not the same from day to day. Our love is growing and increasing and being stretched to the limits every single day. It is a love of desperation and commitment and determination. It is not easy to love. However, this I know, it is easier to love than not to. Love is not to be compared or put on a scale or graded. Love is to be embraced and celebrated and lavished in extraordinary, risky ways onto those we choose to love. Whether it is a child that was formed in your body or a child formed in your heart, love is a choice and the choice is yours but, it is not the same.

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The Age of Mom

We spent the first decade of our marriage trying to achieve pregnancy. We became foster parents in our early 30’s. Much to our delight we had the opportunity to adopt after having fostered 3 years. Over the next decade we had adopted seven children. Two were individual adoptions, one was a sibling group of two and another a sibling group of three. All of our children came to us as foster children before they became our forever children. Several were older-child adoptions.

Somewhere along the way, I decided I would not be more than 40 years older than any of my children. I’m not sure where that age came from. Our youngest child slipped in under the wire as he was born the month before I turned 41. I hope you all know that I would have never truly let my age be the determining factor but, it was indeed a consideration.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this new trend of older parenting and what it means to those of us who have by birth or adoption, children later in life. There are some advantages and some disadvantages. The problem with considering those is if we aren’t careful we can develop this sort of grading system that while trying to make ourselves feel capable may make another parent feel incapable.

One obvious advantage for me was that I’ve mellowed a lot. I’ve lived longer and experienced more. I’ve learned a bit about what really matters and what doesn’t matter much in the long run. However, this does not mean for one moment that a young mom can’t make wise choices. She certainly can.

We don’t have to dismiss the abilities of those who are what we aren’t in order to validate ourselves. If you are a young momma, don’t assume an older momma can’t be spontaneous and fun. If you are an older momma, don’t assume that a younger momma can’t be sensible and responsible.

Here is what I believe with all my heart and soul. I became a mother exactly when I was suppose to and so did you. God had/has a plan for my life and for my children’s. He has one for you and yours as well. We can’t be spending our time trying to figure out which age is/was best to parent, we are too busy parenting. Instead we should be each others greatest cheerleaders and strongest supporters. Celebrate each other and draw strength from the differences that could divide us.

A couple of years ago I implemented a program into the women’s ministry of the church we attended. My theme was ‘Ages and Stages – We can Relate’. I still feel so strongly about this concept. Too often in society as well as in our churches, we are divided into age groups and separated from those who can truly relate to what we are facing.

The younger moms in my circle of friends challenge me to try new things and are a valuable resource in my life. Sometimes I think just being in their presence energizes me. I hope that I am a valuable resource in their lives as well as I’m able to share my experiences from walking just before them down the same path. Parenting is a journey like no other, no matter what age you are. Knowing we are not alone gives us courage.

In my life, the next decade of discoveries and adventures has begun. While many of my friends who are my age are seeing their babies starting college (as are my oldest two), my babies are still in elementary school. Some days they remind me of how old I am with their constant activity and limitless energy but, most days, they keep me young as I am blessed to view the world through their eager eyes and joyful hearts.

My life may not look just like another’s but, that is okay. This morning I was thinking about the fact that I may have grandchildren while I’m still raising my youngest. Bring it on, I declared on Twitter, after all, what would I do without children in my life?

I’m praying for each and everyone of you that reads this blog today. May God bless your efforts and may He be enough when you are worried you may not be. May God give you strength in your bodies if your are tired because you are pregnant or potty training or wrangling teenagers. May God give you wisdom and creative ideas to do what needs doing today. May God give you friends that aren’t just like you to give you new perspectives. May God help you celebrate your season of life at this very age and stage. May you admit when you need help and ask for it. May that help come from unexpected sources so you are reminded that God is your source. May you smile and laugh often. May you refuse to compare yourself to other moms who appear to have it together when you are falling apart. May you make a memory today that will warm your heart and give you hope on days when you will need that reminding. Amen

Poured Out

The words written here ministered to me this morning and I wanted to share them with you that are reading. Are you pouring out into the lives of others? Are you feeling depleted? One often leads to the other. It is important for me to remind myself that when I’m at the end of myself, my time, my resources and my energy, I’m able to tap into the Lord’s, which are limitless Be encouraged.

Stephanie Rodda

Poured Out

This morning I came across this journal entry that I wrote in January of this year. This is one of those spiritual truths that is so deeply rooted into my very being that it influences the way I live my life.

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“And if you pour out that with which you sustain your own life for the hungry and satisfy the need of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in darkness, and your obscurity and gloom become like the noonday.” (Isaiah 58:10 AMP)

What is important to you, what do you need desperately to survive and sustain your own life? Are you willing to pour it out to meet the need of another? Perhaps even ‘the least of these’?

There is no more precious commodity in my life right now than time. I’m practically bankrupt when it comes to moments in the day. And although I must…

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A Guaranteed Opportunity

Today I had the opportunity to discuss adoption with a panel of resident experts. I call them experts because they have lived it. They were each adopted. I call them resident because we all reside under one roof. They are my children.

We were driving together (my youngest six) and I. So I had a captive audience for about 45 minutes. I took advantage to hear their thoughts and encourage comments. I told them that I was writing more and more about adoption and I’d really like to hear what they wished people knew about adoption. I was mesmerized by what they shared from their hearts. I could hardly wait until I could sit down and blog about our conversation.

Here, are some of the insightful, thought-provoking points that were made.

1- We all agreed that adoption is not a magic word for a happy family. There are failed adoptions, bad adoptions and adoptions that go wrong. Some adoptive parents are bad parents, selfish parents and ill-equipped parents. Some adoptive children are just as selfish and perhaps uncooperative, sabotaging the relationship at every turn.

2- We all agreed that adoptive families who thrive (rather than just survive) are families where there is mutual respect and acceptance and second chances and lots of love. There must be commitment and laughter and forgiveness from both parents and children. They need to trust each other. They need to feel safe with each other.

3- Then we all agreed that none of what we had agreed on that defined a successful adoptive family or a disaster of a family had anything to do with adoption. We were like, hey, adoption doesn’t guarantee anything and neither does being born into a family. Guarantees that are assumed or expected without the dedication required is really a myth.

How about go back and look at our #1 & #2 and remove any reference to adoption by replacing it with birth families instead. Here is how it would read.

1- We all agreed that birth is not a magic word for a happy family. There are failed birth families, bad birth families and birth families that go wrong. Some birth parents are bad parents, selfish parents and ill-equipped parents. Some birth children are just as selfish and perhaps uncooperative, sabotaging the relationship at every turn.

2- We all agreed that birth families who thrive (rather than just survive) are families where there is mutual respect and acceptance and second chances and lots of love. There must be commitment and laughter and forgiveness from both parents and children. They need to trust each other. They need to feel safe with each other.

See what I mean? Family isn’t about guarantees. Instead it is about opportunities. Opportunities to love and take risks by making yourself vulnerable. Opportunities to grow together and help make each other better. Opportunities to encourage and challenge and hold each other accountable.

Quotes from our panel of experts –

One expert said that they think grown-ups think a lot more about adoption than the kids they’ve adopted do. “We are thinking of more important things like getting our driver’s permit or getting a date.”

One expert said that they wished more people would give adoption a chance. “I think they’d like it if they tried it.”

One expert said it was nice to know he was chosen. “You don’t accidentally get adopted.”

One expert said all kids deserve a family. “I’m glad I am adopted. That’s how God made our family.”

One expert said that adopted or not, kids have to do their part to make a family work. “If you make up your mind you want it to work, the hardest part is over.”

The last expert said that being adopted meant having a mom and dad that loved you no matter what. “You just keep trying and never give up!”

There you have it folks. The experts have spoken.

Another

This passage is a very familiar one to most of us. The message of the passage is new each time I read it. Not different, but new as in another.

And that is exactly what we see in this verse – another.

Here’s the thing I feel so sure I need to share today. You are the clay. He is the potter. Even while in His hands the clay was marred. That is you. That is me. Imperfect. Marred.

I know you know this. But, here is a firm reminder. The potter did not throw the clay away. He re-formed it. He formed it again as HE PLEASED. He made it another.

But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him. (Jeremiah 18:4 NIV)

The clay simply submitted. It could not fix itself nor form itself. It’s part, our part, is to allow the Master Artisan have His way shaping us. Even when it means starting again. Even when it means a flaw has been revealed. Even when it hurts.

The process may seem slow. The direction may seem to be a detour. The end result may be different that what you had thought sure was best. Instead, you end up at a place in a position, with an opportunity that He thought was best. Then, much to your amazement you realize you agree.