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The Privilege of Adoption

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“A child born to another woman calls me mommy. The magnitude of that tragedy and the depth of that privilege are not lost on me” -Jody Landers

This quote is fairly popular in my adoption circle. This social media world allows us to surround ourselves with those of like minds, and I have found adoptive parents from around the world to add to my circle who are also advocates for open adoption. I also very purposefully fill my feed with the voices of adoptees. All of us know the profound loss inherent to adoption. And still this quote is too pretty to fully encompass the deep gratefulness and humility I carry as an adoptive parent.

I could choose anger that my child had to experience certain things due to choices made by his first parents.I could even choose to be angry that *I* have to deal with those things, but that would entirely miss the heart of adoption for me. The truth is that I am blessed with a beautiful, intelligent, athletic, compassionate child that often speaks words straight from the heart of God and enriches my life on a daily basis. If I have to work a little harder than other parents at things like security and identity, so be it. Other than financially, it really isn’t much of a sacrifice to take him to his birth country (in just a few weeks) to do all that I can to help him develop a solid identity and confidence. It’s a beautiful place and I am privileged to visit. I am the lucky one.

There is nothing I did to earn the privilege to spend precious daily moments with this beautiful child. His first mother carried him in pregnancy and suffered through childbirth. It is only by the grace of God that I am the one parenting and she is not, that I am the one in the position to parent. How did I get to be the mom that was gifted tickets to an amusement park? How did I get to be the mom that he drug onto nearly every roller coaster (something this late 30s heart has no interest in, especially those drops)? While I kept my eyes closed for most of the roller coasters, my heart was open and grateful for every moment. I am the lucky one. Wouldn't his first mother have loved to spend this time with him? There is nothing about me that earned this privilege.

I know a lot about child development, psychology, adoption therapy, and “kids from hard places”. I have two degrees (and no student loans); I have had organizations pay for me to receive major trainings, and I have earned enough to pay for a few myself. I am still no Karyn Purvis. I have yelled at my kid. I know better. I have the smarts. I have the training. I am still human. It is such an obvious statement of fact ‘I am human’ and it carries so much weight and guilt.

My family did not have extra income when I was young, but I had grandparents that filled in the spaces and parents that taught me the difference between need and want. I was always the smart one, an over achiever, the first-born girl that followed all the rules. I worked hard, but I know some of my opportunities were the work of God - nothing else can explain that serendipity.

A wise friend once told me (in a not unkind way) ‘you just believe you can make things happen’. She wasn’t wrong, and she also recognized how that has caused pain for me when I thought I was smart enough to fix things that were beyond my control. Because despite every opportunity, I have had my failures and mistakes. I hate them, loathe them. Yet it is through my failures that I look forward to embracing my son’s first mother in a few weeks. The humility I have learned is beautiful. I can hold no anger for her. I know whatever relationship she allows us to have will benefit our son. There is so much about his early life that I would be privileged to learn from her.

My heart aches for her. I don’t know why I have the privilege of raising this child and she does not. Logistically, yes, I know, but existentially this privilege rocks me to the core. And truly I can not know all the reasons that contributed to this outcome. Existentially I know that I am the privileged one, I am the lucky one, I did not earn this, I do not deserve him. I am so blessed, so privileged, and so very thankful.

Because I did not carry him, because I did not labor in his birth, because I do not deserve him… I do try so hard to let him know that he is adored. I will never be able to communicate the depth of my love and adoration for this child. It breaks my heart every day that he can’t know, that he might question himself and his place in this world. Someday I hope that he reads this and knows that I watch him sleeping - that I adore him on so many levels - that some days I hate that it is my job to teach him all things because it gets in the way of telling him just how amazing he is just as he is right now. His 10 year old self could use some refinement, but my 30 something old self could use some refinement as well. I work every day to be worthy of the privilege. He is growing me, challenging me, making me better. But truly he deserves the best of me - the me I am working to be.

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