Kudos, (Adoptive) Mom!

By Gabi Kelley

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Being a mom is tough.

Come on, let’s say it together in solidarity – being a mom is tough! There are all these dreams and visions of mommy bliss, but the crashing reality of teething and tantrums and too little sleep tends to blindside us and make us cry some of those big crocodile tears we had maybe thought were only for the weak (and clearly, that wasn’t going to be you…until it was).

So kudos to you, mom. Because you’re still in this, even with all the unexpected crazy days (like those days when you tried 4 times to at least not look crazy, but your toddler contravened your attempts to get 5 minutes alone to simply brush your hair).

Seriously, to all moms – kudos.

But there’s one particular set of moms I want to extra-kudo today (you know, sometimes there are people who need a bit of an extra tight hug, or just one extra high-five or “you’re doing great” to get them through the day). And those are the adoptive moms.

Hi, adoptive moms. I’m Gabi, and I have a 5-year-old son from Ethiopia and a 2-year-old biological daughter. Our son came first, nearly 4 years ago at the age of 16 months. As you know, people consider the “adoption journey” to be comprised of the moments between deciding to adopt and the adoption being finalized. But you and I both know that was the easy part, and the journey, in fact, is proving to be much more treacherous, vulnerable, and fraught with uncertainty on this side of the “finalization.” If no one has ever told you that this is normal, let me cyber-look you in the eyes and hold your hand and tell you emphatically, this is totally normal, and it’s ok to admit how challenging it has been.

Like me, you probably didn’t expect it to be quite this hard. Like me, you probably bought in (at least to a degree) to the idea that unconditional love, safety, and needs being met would be enough to make your adopted child feel and act the same as a biological child. But you and I both know this isn’t always the case. And you know what – that’s ok. It’s ok to admit it and it’s ok to face it. In fact, I’d go so far as to say, it’s necessary for your mental and emotional well-being to both admit and face it.

The fact is, the mess of adoption is real, the grief your child has experienced is real, and even if he experienced his trauma very young, something in him is responding out of fear and self-protection. His response is so very often a shoving against the things you thought could fix anything – your affection, your direction, your very act of parenting. And that response can cause a heartache in you that goes deeper than your bones.

Adoptive mom, you know all this already. But maybe you needed to hear it from someone outside of your own house, if just so you can realize you are not crazy. And you need to hear this, too – you’re doing great, mama. I’m sorry it’s been so hard. I’m sorry the heartache has sometimes made you cry. I’m sorry it has caused you to look in your mirror at yourself and ask, “Why are you messing up so badly?” I’m sorry it has made you second-guess your ability to be a mom. So let me say it again – you’re doing great, mama. Nobody is perfect, but you’re absolutely doing your best. And your kid? The one you love with all your heart but sometimes feel will be the undoing of you? He’s going to be ok. And you’re going to be ok. And do you know what the very best news of all is?

You are not alone. I don’t just mean that in the mom-blog-solidarity sense, either. I mean it in the sense that the Creator of the Universe (who also happens to love you more intensely and intimately than anyone else) knows exactly what you’re going through. In fact, this is the JESUS life, and aren’t we lucky to live it? Adoption has been at the center of God’s heart from the beginning of time. Adoption is redemption, which has been God’s plan from the instigation of creation. Because of the fall, we are born of the flesh and do not share the DNA of God. But when we believe the message about Jesus Christ we are literally adopted by God, and become his legitimate children who share all the rights of heirs. Check this out:

So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, ‘Abba, Father.’ For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children.
— Romans 8:15-16

This scripture is meaningful to anyone who is a believer, but as an adoptive mom, I cannot read it or meditate on it without tears filling my eyes. I’ve received God’s Spirit, I call Him Daddy, and He joins my spirit to affirm that I am His CHILD. I don’t know about you guys, but for me, this absolutely blows my mind. I know how much and how often I mess up. The trauma of my inborn original sin still haunts me all the time, even though I’ve been a Christian since I was a kid. I know God loves me, but I act out of self-protection and shame more than I’d like to admit. The older I get, the more I realize the ways I’ve pushed God away because of fear. I mean, could someone really love me as much as He says He does?

Guess what. The answer is YES. Yes, He does.

And oh, adoptive mamas, we get the incredible honor of displaying this truth in our very lives. We don’t know how long it might take our children to really believe to the depths of their souls that they are ours, they belong here, and they have full rights as our children. I’m certain that when I believe the lies that the enemy throws my way, when he succeeds at convincing me that I am not fully a child of God, or that I’m not loved as much as the Scriptures say, the heart of Christ aches. For millennia He has ached for us to understand this revelation, so when we give into the lies, when we don’t trust Him when He is completely trustworthy, He hurts – He hurts for us and He aches for us to know the truth.

We get to feel this hurt with Him as we raise up our beloved children, these ones who have been grafted in, but who we are committed to and love just as much as the ones that were born of our bodies. We hurt when their reflexive response is to push away, to not trust, to kick against the belonging that is rightfully theirs--fully theirs. We get to experience this hurt with Christ, sharing with Him in His suffering (see Phil. 3:19 and 1 Peter 4:12-13). This is our honor. To share in His sufferings is to become more like Him. To become more like Him is to become more perfected in love. To become more perfected in love is to know true humility. And all of this put together is to be given the privilege of laying our lives down for those who do not yet know or understand this love – and this starts first and foremost with our children.

I’m praying for you. Will you pray for me, too? We get such a chance to know Jesus and to sacrificially love our precious children who have known too much pain in their young lives. Sacrificial love hurts, and we need the grace and encouragement of Jesus and our sisters.

So let me say again: kudos, mama. You’re doing it. It’s messy and hard and beautiful and crazy. There are days when you want to cry your eyes out (go ahead do it) and days when the sunbeams come shining through and you want to dance for joy. Soak it all in. Lay it all down. Pray it all through. You were chosen for this. You were made for this. And your Daddy is very proud of you.