Nikki and I met several years ago as professionals in the world of adoption. We quickly learned we not only shared a passion for families, but also for good coffee, good conversation, and good Mexican food. Over the years our friendship has gone deep and I've had the privilege of literally watching her family grow; from marrying Brian two years ago to bringing home their daughter a few months ago. I'm thrilled to be able to share Nikki's thoughts today on their "unexpected adoption" and the unexpected fear that came along with it...
We all know these people. The married couple that got pregnant on their wedding night. The teenage girl who got pregnant after her first time. The 41-year-old single mother who thought her fertile years were behind her. Unplanned pregnancy. Unexpected pregnancy. Loved babies, but certainly not in their mommas’ plans. Without a doubt though, certainly wanted by God and certainly all in His perfect plan. These situations are common. We talk about them, pray for these mommas and their babies, and use this terminology in our daily lexicon.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve never heard about an unexpected adoption. I certainly never thought I would coin that term because I would be living it. You see, we had been married all of five minutes when I happened upon a particular child’s photo on a waiting child site. I’ve looked at literally hundreds of waiting children’s photos through my decade of working in international adoption and I’ve never felt such a feeling about one child. For days, I couldn’t get this girl off my mind. I told my husband about her and after a short time, he too felt the connection. We scrambled, got a special dispensation from China to adopt before we would meet their marriage length requirement, and made it official before we really realized what happened. Let me be clear: I absolutely did not plan for this. I don’t think anyone really thinks of near newlyweds being the perfect candidates to adopt a 10-year-old with special needs, and certainly not I. If I was the social worker doing my home study, I’m not sure I would have approved it because I would have thought the couple had no grasp on reality. This adoption was a complete surprise to us.
But here we are, four months into our “unexpected adoption” and couldn’t imagine our lives in any other way. (insert knowing smirk here) Isn’t that what they all say?
If I would have been asked to write a blog about being in limbo before now, I would have laughed and said that I knew no more about being in adoption limbo than I knew about doing my taxes. But, it’s been long enough now, and I can separate myself out from the situation enough to see that I had limbo. Oh, I was so limbo, but I didn’t know it. You see, I fooled myself into thinking that I wasn’t in limbo because our adoption went lightening speed and things certainly have to be long to be considered limboesque right?
My adoption limbo wasn’t demonstrated through the passage of time, like it is for so many adoptive families. My limbo was fear. My limbo was saying out loud that I was trusting in Him, when really there were so many nights I sat up by myself, alone, worrying, ruminating, guessing, and second guessing the insanity of what we were doing. I wasn’t trusting. I was scared beyond measure. And fear isn’t trusting in my Creator.
I was afraid of literally everything. I was suspicious of everything we had surrounding our daughter’s adoption paperwork. I was certain she had been ripped from her bio family for nefarious purposes and I was merely a cog in the wheel of corruption that is international adoption. I was certain she was really 16 years old and was thinking she was coming here just for school. I felt my heart ache for the fact that we would never be able to bond with her, and that she would never make an attachment with us. I worried that she would be too much for us, that we would never be able to have a second child. I had visions of me blocking the knife drawer for fear of what would happen if I didn’t. And on and on and on it went. Day after day, night after night with the worrying, silently, alone.
So I buried myself in grants and fundraisers. I wrote my heart and tried to convince myself in what I was writing. I wrote about how we felt called by God to parent this child. I wrote about how my job as an adoption social worker had prepared me to parent this child well. I talked with others and shared what my heart once felt for this situation, hoping I would convince myself again of the dreamer, the girl who followed her Lord on a wing and a prayer but had since succumbed to fear and doubt and then shame.
The day before we left for China, the post-adoption coordinator from our adoption agency called to see how we were doing. I literally told her this was the craziest thing, that nobody should have approved this adoption, and that I wasn’t certain I was going to get on that plane the next day.
And then I blinked and I became a mom. In a horrible elevator on a cold and dark Sunday afternoon in Guiyang, I met my child. As 30 seconds of motherhood turned into 5 minutes and then 20 minutes in a freezing cold stairwell outside the provincial Civil Affairs office, I wiped tears, a snotty nose, gave my baby water, and learned how to crack chestnuts with my teeth to give my baby food to meet her most basic primal needs. As I was standing there, trying to figure out how to comfort her (and trying to keep it together myself) as the child sobbed with abandon, I knew that I didn’t get to be scared anymore. I had given that luxury up. I was a mom now and I could do it. A peace came over me and I felt confirmation that I wasn’t doing it alone. I saw everything slow down and then stop for Him to say, “don’t you see my plan now?”
It’s been four months now. I think back on that fear, doubt, and all that wasted time I spent worrying this time last year. It sickens me to think of what would have happened if I acted on that fear. Two days ago we went to the doctor and found out at one week post-op that the child we adopted thinking she would be blind, in fact, isn’t actually. Yesterday I watched my child dance in the yard with a neighbor girl and a princess dress, correction, two princess dresses. This morning I cuddled a little girl on the couch for more time than I should have and I didn’t care that we were late for school and work. I’ve learned that parenting is hard, but it’s a whole lot easier than I went into it thinking it would be because now I’m parenting with faith, not fear.
Nikki has been working as an adoption social worker for the past 10 years. The consummate single gal was married in 2012 and started an adoption process to adopt a 10-year-old with special needs from China soon after. Nikki loves writing home studies and preparing families for the realities of adoption. You can find Nikki and Susan every Wednesday in their own corner of Panera working together on all things adoption and sipping coffee. For more of Nikki's adoption story, visit her blog: Peace. Love. Adoption.