3 Joys and 3 Difficulties of Our Adoption

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By Brittany Salmon

I love this time of year, with its pumpkins, colorful leaves, crisp weather and the expectation of the Christmas season. But to add to my excitement, November is also National Adoption Month.

If you hang around our family for long, you’ll quickly learn that we are passionate about orphan care and prevention. We have been blessed to grow our family through the gift of adoption, and Lord willing will do so again. So it makes sense that the month we celebrate gratitude is also the month we celebrate adoption.

But adoption can be a difficult thing to discuss because everyone’s adoption story is different. Our son’s adoption was a transracial-domestic-open-infant-adoption. We have friends with foster-to-adopt stories, international adoption stories, adoption of older children, closed adoptions, semi-open adoptions, adoptions of children with varying medical and emotional needs. And if all of that lingo confuses you, it’s OKAY. It confused me too before I started studying up on adoption.

The point I’m getting at is that our experience differs from others, so I cannot speak to the experiences of the entire adoption community. But I wanted to share 6 things about adoption that our family has found to be true. So without further disclaimers, here are 3 things we celebrate and 3 difficulties we navigate as an adoptive family.

3 Things We Celebrate

1. Birth Parents

First and foremost, we love our son’s birth mother. She is one of the bravest people we know, and we celebrate her every chance we get. Any person who finds themselves with an unplanned pregnancy but chooses to love the child enough to give them the gift of life is a hero in our book.

And in our family, birth parents are celebrated regardless of their story because they are some of the most Christ-like people that walk the earth. Choosing life, choosing stigma, in the face of an abortion-prevalent culture is a brave hard thing.

2. God’s Sovereignty

We celebrate God’s sovereignty even in the midst of difficult aspects of our stories, knowing that God is working for our good and His glory. Adopted children and families will have to wrestle with the loss of an initial birth family and come to grips with God’s sovereign hand in those heartaches.

This is an incredibly difficult thing to do, and yet we choose to celebrate God’s sovereignty in both the highs and lows of life. We recognize the hand of God in placing each of us in our own families through a variety of means, and we choose to praise God for His provision and sustenance in both the joys and hardships that come with adoption.

3. Diversity

Our family looks different than most. We have twin identical blonde-haired, blue-eyed, pale-skinned girls and a loud, charismatic chocolate-skinned 20-month-old boy who doesn’t meet a stranger. Not all adoptive families look physically different, but some do, and most adoptive families want to honor and celebrate our children’s original culture regardless of skin similarities or differences.

I know of all-white and all-black adoptive families who make frequent pilgrimages to their child’s birth country or state. I know about interracial families who are intentional about exposing their children to their birth family’s heritage and story. And our family does the same. We celebrate our children’s differing abilities, cultures, backgrounds and personalities. Adoption has been such a blessing in that it has opened the door for us to see God’s good design in diversity and has given us the opportunity to openly celebrate and reflect His glory.

Adoption has taught us how to weep and praise at the same time.

3 Difficulties We Navigate

1. Co-mingling Emotions

One of the greatest things about adoption is that it has taught us how to weep and praise at the same time. I remember sitting in the hospital room thrilled to have met my new son, and yet my heart broke as one woman placed her baby into my arms entrusting me to raise Him in the ways of the Lord and to give Him a life that she could only dream about. Sure, joy existed; both of us mamas in the room were smiling and crying. But grief and sadness was also ever present.

Learning to embrace two conflicting emotions at once is a difficulty that must be taught and learned, as many of us don’t do this well. It is our responsibility as parents to teach our children that grieving the loss of their birth family doesn’t conflict with their joy about being a part of our family. It is our responsibility to teach our son that loving his birth mother doesn’t betray the mama who rocked him all those nights. His questions about his birth father don’t betray his earthly father, and his grief and questions don’t surprise his Heavenly Father either.

The co-mingling of joy and sorrow and questions and celebrations is a difficulty we navigate joyfully, leaning into God the author of our stories and wisdom from adoptive families who have gone before us.

2. Stigma

I could write an entire blogpost on the stigmas surrounding adoption, but for now I will just say this. Some of our most painful difficulties thus far have been navigating the topic of adoption outside our home. Whether it’s stigma due to the racial makeup of our family or adoption and orphan care, we have had our fair share of difficult conversations due to both the intentional and unintentional insensitivity of others.

As an adoptive mother can I take this opportunity to plead with you for just a moment? One way you can bless adoptive families is to have the conversation with your kids about families who look differently and are made differently than yours. Talk about race, talk about adoption and explain that diversity is God’s good design. One great resource to start is God’s Very Good Idea by Trillia Newbell. It doesn’t have anything to do with adoption, but it is a great place to start when discussing diversity and God’s design.

3. The Savior Complex

There is a savior complex that exists in the adoption world that is toxic for both the adoptive parents and the adopted child, as it makes the child a ministry project and the parents the heroes. Once a week someone usually says, “You’re such a good person for taking that poor child in.” I get that folks are trying to be supportive, and I’ve heard much worse — so I appreciate the good intentions behind those words. But addressing hurtful language, regardless of good intent, is one of the hardest difficulties to navigate as both a believer and an adoptive parent.

Hear me out, I am no one’s savior. I’m not my son’s hero, nor is he some poor child to be pitied. Our son’s story started out with loss, and he is not “lucky” to have us as parents. He is not anymore fortunate to have me as his mother than his sisters are. And if there is a hero in this story it is his birth mother, but truthfully she isn’t his savior either. We have one Savior who is the author of all our stories.

So we fight against the Savior Complex. We fight against elevating ourselves, against allowing others to elevate us and against the narrative that our son is some lucky orphaned child who is so fortunate to be saved by our goodness. This is difficult to navigate as the savior complex is so prevalent in not only our society, but it has slipped into our churches as well.  As David Platt has said, “It’s important to realize that we adopt not because we are rescuers. No, we adopt because we are rescued.”

Adoption is a blessing.

We love adoption and feel called to both the hardships and joys that it may bring, not because we are good people. No, we love adoption because we are broken sinners who have been changed by a love that knows no bound. We adopt because we believe that God loves the orphan and the widow. Because of His love and redemption in our own lives, He has softened our hearts towards these he loves, too. We adopt because we believe when Jesus famously prayed “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven…”, He was praying for redemptive stories that reflect His glory in heaven to be lived here on earth. After all, adoption is but a mere glimpse of our own glorious redemption stories.

So this November, we celebrate our son’s adoption story. We remember God’s sovereignty. And we keep sharing our family’s story, hoping that as we celebrate adoption and navigate both its joys and hardships, we reflect God’s redemptive story in our own lives not just our son’s.

Image Credit: Jenna Norman / Unsplash

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  • adoption
  • pro-life
  • race
Brittany Salmon

Brittany Salmon is a professor, writer, and Bible teacher who’s pursuing her doctorate from Southeastern Seminary. She lives in Abilene, Texas with her husband and four children, and she has an upcoming book on adoption titled, 'It Takes More than Love: A Christian Guide to Navigating the Complexities of Cross-Cultural Adoption.'

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