Love is a funny thing. Have you ever tried to describe it? Songwriters and poets have been working on a unified definition of love for a couple millennia and still we have nothing concrete that we can tell our children, “Hey, you are in love when…”
1 John 4:8 says…”God is love.”
Merriam-Webster has its own definition.
I love my wife. And yet, we know there are different forms of love, because the love I have for my children is so similar and yet so very different than the love I have for Marie. You intrinsically know what I’m saying, right? Go ahead, describe the love you feel right now for someone close to you. Words fail after the first few attempts. At best you may be able to come up with an incomplete definition.
And so it goes with love and adoption. I love ALL my kids. Differently, to be sure. Equally, absolutely. Perhaps, you must be a parent to truly understand. Let me tell you a story that perhaps you will relate to if you are a father or mother.
The Birth of Jacob
When Marie was pregnant with Jacob, our eldest and biological, we were told all the things we’d need to know to be great parents. I mean, doesn’t everyone offer their advice and wisdom to the new would-be parents? Of course. Advice and tidbits pour in from aunts, uncles, brothers and so on. Even people without kids! Intellectually I soaked it all in. Emotionally I had no idea what they were talking about.
“Sure I know love. I love my mom. I love my wife, etc.” I’d tell myself.
Still, when the nurse placed that brand-new boy in my arms I was overcome with an emotion, a “gut” feeling that cannot be fully explained with words. A life time of actions, maybe. It was the very beginning of a new experience of love for me.
The same can be said of Piper. It was not an “Aha” moment like Jake. The moment was more of expansion and excitement because I had a better idea of what I was now feeling!
For all that prelude this is what I’m trying to say; Most parents of adopted children love their “store-bought” children as much as their biological children. I honestly believe that. Similar to the difference between love you feel for your mom and the love you have for your wife. Different and yet equally strong.
Emma, and to some extent Brandon, had never really been completely convinced of that. I honestly, truly and to my soul believe that the first time Emma ever understood how much she was loved by Marie and myself was after she transitioned to her next life and was able to see our grief and pain and to know that the intensity of those emotions could only come from how deeply we loved her.
My bet is it warmed her heart. I can only imagine, standing there with those who preceded her and in God’s love (what a feeling that must be in His presence!) and to just feel the raw emotion that she is loved completely.
Adoption comes in many forms. Newborns can be adopted to the point that they don’t even know they were adopted. You can adopt a child you’ve known for years and maybe their home life just doesn’t fit them and so you open your home. And then there is adoption through a state foster care system, among other roads, to be sure.
We adopted Brandon and Emma through the State of Oklahoma’s foster care system. How do kids get here? Almost invariably there is a hard road before a state will affect removal of children from their biological parents as judges are usually loathe to do so. By the time we adopted Brandon(8) and Emma(5) they had seen things, experienced things in their early development that no child should be exposed to in our current culture. If you want to dive deep in to how the brain develops read here and here.
In short, most children are loved on and cared for before they hit five years old and so their brains are wired to know they are loved. However, if you train the brain over and over again during the very most formative years that adults are not to be trusted and to use whatever skills that are available to survive on your own, that is the lens your brain will “see through” for years and years to come.
Yes, you can re-wire your brain. Yes, it can take Herculean effort.
I can transparently tell you that I love all my kids emphatically. Just differently. With Emma, there was a connection that was so intense. Her “energy” and my “energy” were attracted to each other. I’m sure part of my ability to accept her even as her mental illness was stealing her away was due to the fact that I love studying human behavior and how the brain is so pre-wired to that exhibited behavior. Oh, I made mistakes along the way. Do not ever think I’m perfect. Still, I started each new day fresh and looking to help her to make Emma’s life better.
I know various people/couples that have reached out to me in the last couple of weeks who are considering adopting “older children” (greater than four years old) and what that may look like. I’m going to write on that in the very near future.
Here is what I want to tell you; Love and Adoption do go together. It will look and feel differently than that love you have with your biological children. That is okay. It is actually quite special. It isn’t a “better or lesser” love. It is just different, new and fresh.
Adoptive love, in our case, brought more pain and self-doubt. It also brought, and this is the true blessing, a chance for us to look inwardly and towards Heaven to change and develop ourselves in to the people we are today. That is to say, I’m proud of who I have become and the direction I’m heading. And that comes through the love, challenges and special circumstances of opening our home to little people with different DNA. I couldn’t be me today without those two in my life.