Saturday, April 26, 2014

Adoption is “Brutiful”

*Originally posted on

It’s amazing to me that we’re almost at my son’s one year adoption anniversary and I still find myself looking at him with shock. “He can’t really be mine.” The thought runs through my head almost every day. I’m still flabbergasted that there will be no more last-minute phone calls from social workers who show up an hour later and whisk him away to god knows where. My heart continues to stop every time a number from Hartford pops up, even though I know all the papers have been signed.

People look at my family now and they’re like, “Oh my GOODNESS, aren’t you all just so BLESSED and so MULTICULTURAL!” He’s black, we’re white. It’s quite obvious that something went on in the making and gathering of our little tribe.

And it’s true—we are blessed. After six years of infertility, the loss of a pregnancy, seventeen months of foster care, adoption and a surprise baby girl thrown in the mix, we have our two precious kiddos and we are done. Our family is complete and we are so very grateful.

But what many lovely, caring, well-intentioned people don’t realize is that adoption isn’t the end. It’s the middle. We adoptive parents have endured the long, horrible months and years that lead up to the adoption day and now we must deal with the life after. With no rest and no time off to process what’s happened—what we’vesurvived.

Here’s what no one talks about when it comes to adoption. It’s beautiful, but it’s also brutal.

And it continues to be that forever.

I follow a wonderful, life-giving, universe altering, amazingly real blog called Momastery, that is written by a lovely woman named Glennon. Glennon has coined the term “brutiful” to encompass the idea that “the brutal ALWAYS transforms into the beautiful.” And I’d like to borrow her terminology today, because nothing else describes the reality of adoption so clearly.

Beautiful and brutal often coexist in life. This is why something like adoption looks so appealing on the surface level. It’s quite beautiful. But it’s also freaking hard.

How do I explain that for seventeen months I had to look down at my son and hold pieces of my heart back just so that I wouldn’t fall apart if the state took him away? How can I describe what it was like to rock him at night and whisper, “I’ve got you, you’re safe,” and not know if I was telling the truth? The phone could have rung in the morning and a car would have pulled up to my house and taken him away. I could not protect him then from the money hungry non-biological grandmother who was a convicted child-abuser with three adopted teenagers in her home—all with serious emotional and psychological problems. My son could have been taken from me at a moment’s notice and given to her. He might have been abused, molested, and neglected and I would have never known about it. I would have never seen him again.

Jake's way of coping with foster care was to be wholeheartedly optimistic. “Everything will be okay,” he’d tell me as we drifted further and further apart. Because the only way I could deal with the deep black hole of fear was to imagine the very worst. How can I put into words what meant to pack up my precious boy and hand him to a driver three times a week? I can’t adequately express how terrified, nauseous, and relieved I felt during those sometimes six hour visits (relieved to have a break). How can I describe the sound of his baby wails in the background of the phone call from a social worker who told me she’d just been in a car accident with him?

I was not his parent then, not in the eyes of the state. I was the person who drove to the hospital an hour away to pick him up. And yet at the very same time I was his mother. The person who sang to him in the car on the way home from the ER. The one who cuddled him and tucked him into bed. Brutal. Beautiful. Brutiful.

I have a hard time explaining even now what it means to be an adoptive mother; a second mother. I know my son will want to know his birth mother and I desperately hope that by the time he does, she is clean and healthy and that they can have a relationship. But until then, I am wholly his mother in all the glory and grit. And this is a difficult task when I’ve spent most of my time trying not to bond with him too much. I find myself floundering with this strong-willed, goofy two-year-old who pushes my buttons and makes me laugh. How do I connect with him when all he screams at me is “no”? How do I draw close when his developmental stage is right at “pushing away”?

Adoptive parents are just like every other parent out there. We’re tired. We’re overwhelmed. We sit on the bathroom floor and cry our eyeballs out because we just can’t figure out how to last one more minute with two beautiful gremlins who are driving us batshit crazy. But there’s this layer of guilt on top of that, this “I should be treasuring every moment” film that we see through because it took so long to call this crazy child ours.

There is no way to describe any of it other than brutiful. The word floated through my head yesterday afternoon during a rare moment of clarity, peace, and thankfulness. I had put the baby (almost toddler, yikes!) up for a nap and was making dinner when I realized it was VERY QUIET. If you are a parent of a wee one, you know that this kind of silence means your child is playing wonderfully hard or splashing his hands in the toilet and licking his fingers. I quickly zipped to the other side of the room and found my son standing there, staring at the speakers, listening intently to Switchfoot. (He looooovvveeesss Switchfoot, which proves that obsessive toddlers can ruin almost any kind of music.) I crouched down and softly pulled him into my lap. And then I began rocking him back and forth. We listened tofour songs. This is a child who never stops moving; who is all boy and all energy, all the time.

But in that moment, he was still and quiet with me. He let me hug him and rock him and I thought, “Okay. Life is never going to be simple. It’s going to be hard and messy. But it’s also going to be amazing.” And then I got to whisper to him, “I’m so lucky that God allowed me to be your mommy. I love you.”

To which he replied, “Yeah.”


To read the Momastery “Life is Freaking Brutiful” post click : HERE


  1. I'm sitting in the car reading as it's the only place our foster son (that we had hoped to adopt) naps- strapped in.

    We still get him every other weekend, but the brutal nature is what we are fighting- the investment and love toward him are more valuable than the pain it causes us every other week to realize he won't be ours.

    Thanks for sharing your heart and loving YOUR family. Live in your brutiful blessing ;)

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