On Being and Not Being an Adoptive Mom

I’ve been trying to decide if I still consider myself an adoptive mom. I WAS an adoptive mom, but am I still?

In a strange way I was looking forward to helping Samuel navigate adoption issues as he grew up. I wasn’t happy that he had a life of loss, but I knew God could redeem his pain. I wanted to see that beauty unfold in my little boy. Samuel knew that he had a different birth mother than his siblings. One day that would have meant something to him. He would have mourned his past and hopefully learned that his story was not only one of loss, but a story of love and belonging and cherishing and worth.

I thought I would be the one to encourage him as he explored who he was, his gifts and weaknesses, without any blood family to give him clues. I hoped to take him back to China to discover his birth culture. In China he would have had opportunity to realize and grieve what he lost. I’m sure he would have wondered (with sadness or relief or that complicated mix of both) at how different his life could have been. I wanted to support him in a world that is often unkind in the face of issues like racial and culture identity. I wanted to pray for him and love him as he fought to overcome the emptiness I saw in his heart, the attachment challenges he faced. I expected all of these things to be ahead of both of us.

God healed the emptiness in Samuel’s heart in a way I never anticipated, somewhere behind the veil of heaven. Samuel is free of his life of loss. I am not.

While on vacation earlier this summer I noticed a little girl about Samuel’s age. She was energetic and spontaneous, working her way around the pool, engaging everyone she encountered. She climbed on people’s shoulders and flitted in and out of their games. She appeared to have a repaired cleft lip. And, as she was Asian and was with Caucasian parents, I wondered if she was adopted.

There are plenty of times when it’s not a good idea to introduce yourself to another family just because you think they have an adopted child like you. But sometimes it happens and is a good thing. Samuel was young enough that being adopted was still 100% positive to him. He liked meeting other kids that were adopted, or even better, from China. We talked with other adoptive families when we could.

As I watched this girl dance through the water, I realized with sadness that connection was shut to me. Maybe forever. Can you imagine the conversation? Yes, we adopted too! Gansu Province. Well, he’s not here. Well, it’s a sad story… Sorry, I didn’t mean to start crying…

Oh how we love the adoption community. It’s filled with the most amazing people. These are families who choose courageous things over fear, who love when their hearts are breaking, and who fight through so many obstacles for their children. We believe strongly in adoption advocacy and orphan ministry. Adoption has been on our hearts for years. We even talked about it on our third date. Who does that?

We will continue to love our adoption friends. The families we met in China and the ones who supported us as we brought Samuel home will always have a dear place in our hearts. But our connection is gone, and the relationships change. I had to remove myself from my adoption-related social media groups soon after Samuel’s death. I couldn’t engage with the community as they faced normal adoption road bumps, worried about surgeries, and rejoiced in the beauty of what they saw God doing in the hearts of their children. It was an in-your-face reminder of who I have lost.

I will always be Samuel’s mom. Always.

Some things fade into the past. I am no longer a mother of preschoolers, or a kindergarten mom. I think being an adoptive mom falls into the same category. I think I am no longer an adoptive mom.

Such sadness. Death destroys many things. I was hoping to keep that title, that privilege, all my life, not all of his.

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