Friday, June 15, 2012

The Things We've Handed Down

Don't know much about you
Don't know who you are
We've been doing fine without you
But, we could only go so far
Don't know why you chose us
Were you watching from above
Is there someone there that knows us
Said we'd give you all our love..

                As Father’s Day approaches, I think about our adoption journey and how we arrived where we are now. I think about my struggle with infertility, the elation over two blue lines, and the crushing blow three days later when the doctor said I was not pregnant. The truth is that I probably had been, maybe just a few days along, but for whatever reason it just didn’t happen. Once we had gone as far with fertility treatments as we were able and willing to go, the talk turned to adoption. I have two adopted siblings and I always figured that I would adopt at some point, even if I was able to have a child. My husband wasn’t quite there yet. Then one day, we got a call from my doctor, who, along with his wife, often works to help unwed mothers place their babies. A baby had become available, but we would have to act right away, for within 24 hours the child would be given over to foster care. At the last minute, the mother had decided she didn’t want him.

                Now we were faced with an on-the-spot decision. At that time, we were living in a tiny one-bedroom cottage. I was teaching and I had to continue teaching because we needed the money. Where would we put a baby? What would we do about child care? Furthermore, my husband wasn’t even sure he was ready for this step. We hadn’t talked about it much. We hadn’t prayed about it. But in the car on his way home that day, my husband did pray, and he very clearly heard God’s voice. The words were very simple. “I adopted you.” Now it was obvious-we were supposed to adopt. The question of whether or not this was our baby still remained. We went down on our knees  and asked God to give us some sign. Within five minutes, the phone rang. It was my doctor, and he said that another couple who had been waiting for a baby for three years had said they wanted the baby. They were all prepared for him and everything was in order, but he still wanted us to have first choice since he had contacted us first. We looked at each other. That was our sign-this was not our child and not our time. So, with tears, we told Dr.M. to let the other couple have the baby.

                The purpose in all of this was not difficult to see. Even though this was someone else’s baby, it had brought my husband to his epiphany regarding adoption, and after that we began pursuing it more earnestly. In the time between, we were able to buy a house and I got a job making more money. Things began falling into place, although it took an additional four years. We began to see that a baby was not God’s plan for us. Of all the insane things, we came to realize that God probably wanted us to adopt, not only older children, but several at once- a sibling group. This excited the social workers and caused raised eyebrows in some other people. I was actually told that I must be crazy. Then when we had our home study, the social worker commented that our house was big enough for six or eight kids, which freaked me out a little. Ultimately, we were approved for up to four.

                I remember so well the first day that they arrived, and I cannot explain in any logical way how we knew these were our kids the minute they walked in the door. After two weekend visits, my husband called the social worker and said we had had enough back and forth-we needed them and they needed us and we wanted to take them permanently. And so they came to stay on a Friday afternoon. On Saturday we went to buy clothes and school supplies. It was raining, just a light drizzle, and we were all very quiet. We were all stunned, I think, by the momentous thing that was happening. I had stuck a tape in the car stereo. It was called “Hand in Hand” and was a selection of songs about parenthood. Mark Cohn’s “The Things We’ve Handed Down” came on and I started crying.

“Will you laugh just like your mother
Will you sigh like your old man
Will some things skip a generation
Like I've heard they often can
Are you a poet or a dancer
A devil or a clown
Or a strange new combination of
The things we've handed down...”

                I thought about how long and how hard we had prayed for God to give us children, and there they were. We knew very little about them then; we only knew they were ours. Over time we began to see exactly how perfectly God had designed our family. Not only did they look like us (except for their striking blue eyes which I say they got from my father), they were like us. Their quirky sense of humor, their love for animals, their appreciation of music and art and literature, their out-of-the-box way of thinking. They had had to take the long way around, but they were finally home.

                My husband stepped into the father role as easily as though he had been doing it for years. I was less confident about my abilities as a mother and was especially nervous about balancing motherhood and work. I had a few guilt moments and meltdowns, but really, I need not have worried. Our kids had no desire for a helicopter mom; they wanted to learn the skills that would make them independent, even at the ages of eleven, eight, and five. They began helping with chores right away, with great enthusiasm (which has, I might add, waned over the years, but they still do what they are asked to do.) They each took responsibility for and bonded with a pet, and we added to our menagerie over the ensuing months and years. As the children matured, they became some of the most fun people to hang out with. We had a blast. We still do.

                We also have tough times and we are not model parents by any means. There are a lot of arguments because we all think we must have the last word or die trying. But we enjoy each other’s company and we talk about many things. Now that Ally is thirteen, she can watch most of the movies the rest of us watch and we can all read the same books and discuss them. My husband never misses an opportunity to teach something, but he does it in the most natural way. I, too, am always seizing those teachable moments, but somehow it seems more annoying when I do it. Still ,when filling out a survey in Bible class, my older daughter Raina listed me as her “life coach”, so something must be working. All three children have given testimony at various times regarding how God worked in their lives to put them in just the right family, and about how good it feels to know they were chosen.

                My husband has assured me many times that he is very fulfilled. I had a moment right before my hysterectomy six years ago , and he leaned down and whispered,  “I have everything I could want. Everything. I am very blessed.” The moment passed. He is an awesome husband and father. Our family is exactly the way God wanted it to be. It is as if we have had our children always. A lot of people don’t even know they are adopted until it comes up in conversation. Invariably, the response is, “Wow, they look just like you! I never would have known!” Perhaps God redesigned their DNA; I don’t know. But by His grace, we have handed things down after all.

“And these things that we have given you
They are not so easily found
But you can thank us later
For the things we've handed down.”

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