Saying goodbye to what we expected

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“Are you really sure you want to do it all sooo… publicly?” a well meaning friend asked me in 2014. I was rocking my newborn son, full of the happy hormones that follow birth, full of optimism regarding the choice we had made to adopt a small one from Ethiopia. Full of the narrative that is told about adoption, especially from “those” places. Full of the idea that we would be saviors and deserved this child. Full of the denial and the privilege that allowed me to pretend that those feelings were all a normal part of being the hero… the adoptive parent… the good guy. “Well, of course! I live pretty publicly, this is no different. Maybe we can inspire someone!”

My friend, who had been there, done that, and experienced a deep reckoning of her own, sighed. She began a story that I dismissed. It created a rift in our friendship. I believed her to be anti adoption. I believed her to be less of a mother, if I am being honest. Just because she can’t handle it doesn’t mean that I can’t, I told myself. I believed her to be projecting feelings onto my family. I turned my back to her wisdom and took to blogs and social media and websites instead, that reassured me that we were “doing something great” and our little girl would be “so lucky.”

There are so many moments that brought me from there to here. I couldn’t possibly list them all, and at the time I felt silenced by what I was learning and feeling. Two instances stand out the most, though. First was the blog that I kept at the time being bombarded with racially driven comments in response to my naivete. I did the most white privileged thing and responded with things like “color doesn’t matter” and “we have many black friends” and “isn’t a family better than an orphanage, even if they’re white?” I took to social media and cried about how hurt I was. I stopped writing and I felt some kind of way about that. I felt that I deserved to share my heart without any push back. I wanted everyone that questioned me to understand the work I had done and the friends I had made. So much to unpack here, but the bottom line is that I was shown that I was not who I believed that I was, and I didn’t like it. So instead of hearing, I spoke over the voices.

Secondly, I started praying the following words: Lord, break my heart for what breaks yours.

And BOY DID HE. Oh man, He showed me the ugly. And it was not the ugly I was expecting. It wasn’t across an ocean or in another home, it was residing right in my heart. Racist? No. Beneficiary of racism and privilege and willful ignorance? Absolutely. Writing my own adoption story that starred me instead of the child I was supposed to be “in it” for? Yes.

I think back, often, to that initial question, asked while I happily flipped through my glossy adoption brochures. Even when the end result was that I grappled with my own selfishness and ignorance, I was happy that I did so publicly. It’s been a road paved with criticism, from both directions, name calling, soul searching, feeble attempts to explain when my voice was perceived differently than intended, silence when it was received precisely as it was intended and that was offensive to someone who believed we shared certain values. Learning to listen… actually listen. Speaking my truth and not needing it to be anyone else’s truth, but evaluating people’s place in my future if their truth isn’t okay with me. Learning that I don’t have to be everyone’s friend. Sometimes being liked isn’t congruent with maintaining one’s integrity.

While I worked my fingers to the bone, God handled my heart. In utter physical exhaustion, He planted seeds that grew best when I was too tired to fight against them.

Four years later, nothing is what we expected it to be. And that is okay. Because I am so thankful to say goodbye to who I was, I am also thankful to say goodbye to what that woman expected of the universe.

As He so often does, He gave us a fresh beginning. After a period of hibernation, inner growth, a fresh bloom. And once again, we have shared it publicly because there is no shame in accepting grace. There is no shame in saying “well, I didn’t know… and now I do.” There is no shame in not always being right. No shame in goodbyes… especially when they lead to fresh hellos.

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