Pro-life for All: Adoption

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For many years, I longed to give life. It wasn’t that I merely coveted the title of “mother” or felt obligated to take the next step following marriage. No, the yearning ran far deeper than external pressures or an internal ticking clock. I was an image bearer who wanted to bear image bearers. But I couldn’t, not when I wanted to, and the ache of it drove me to question God’s goodness. Why would the Creator of the universe withhold life from his child?

The answer came slowly, a trickle of awareness that sprang the day my husband and I attended a domestic adoption seminar. During a panel discussion, we heard adoptees and birth mothers share their experiences. The birth mothers explained how they had wanted to carry their babies and provide for them, but faced circumstances that would have made parenting extremely difficult. The adoptees described how they cared for their adoptive parents and also wanted to know their biological parents. As I listened to their stories, I could feel the sorrow that lingered for those who lacked contact with the children they birthed and the mothers who brought them into the world.

A revelation dawned on me then: I wasn’t the only person in the room who suffered. These adoptees and birth mothers also yearned for more ways to give and receive love. All of us experienced loss at some level; all of us wanted relationships that, at some point, seemed out of reach.

We needed a Shepherd to walk us through grief and usher us into new life.

Read full article at Morning by Morning.

[Photo courtesy Daniel Hjalmarsson on Unsplash]

How a Birth Mother’s Choice Is an Illustration of the Gospel

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It’s an odd experience, shaking hands with the mother of your son before you get a chance to hold him. My pulse was racing when my husband and I sat down in the adoption agency office to chat with the woman who was changing our lives at great cost to her own.

“Good to meet you,” she’d said, smiling warmly in a way that would become familiar, reflected in our son’s cheerful face. Later, I tried to consider the anxiety she might’ve felt walking into that room. She had more reasons to be scared than I did, but she didn’t act flustered. Maybe she’d bathed in the same inexplicable peace that had washed over me halfway through our meeting. All at once, I sensed this moment as a God-ordained melding of families birthed from different brands of labor pains.

My husband and I had embarked on the adoption path after years of struggling to conceive. In the midst of our grief, God reawakened our desire to adopt, an idea he had planted early in marriage before we discovered our fertility issues. We set out expectant and hopeful, yet wary of the potential for further heartache.

Though my husband and I chose adoption as a way to grow our family, the choice of who would become our child rested on the will of another woman. This mother faced the shock of an unexpected pregnancy, endured the labor and delivery process, and carried the weight of an agonizing decision about how to care for her child. Whereas we were left wondering when and how we’d have a baby, she had to ponder if she’d take her baby home or place him in someone else’s arms.

Read full article at ERLC.

[Photo courtesy Aditya Romansa on Unsplash]

Why Adoption Isn’t Plan A or B

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Love, marriage, baby carriage—that’s the predictable course many couples follow to fulfill the cultural mandate in Genesis to “be fruitful and multiply.” Because procreation is a natural biological process that God designed, we expect our bodies to work as intended and assume the sequence will progress in the usual way.

But reproductive ability isn’t guaranteed. Our world is fallen, and sin affected the entire process of childbearing. Some couples can’t get pregnant; some miscarry or lose their babies in the womb. Their roads to parenthood meander and extend, with some diverging from the typical biological route.

When my husband and I began pursuing domestic infant adoption after several years of infertility, we mourned the loss of bearing children, but also rejoiced at the prospect of adding a child to our family through adoption. God sparked the desire to adopt early in our marriage, before we had problems trying to conceive. We didn’t view adoption as a second-rate method to grow our family, but rather appreciated it as a beautiful, redemptive way to bring us a child.

Though we received support from family and friends, we heard occasional comments insinuating that adoption was Plan B. The remarks implied that biological pregnancy was the preferred method for growing a family, and construed adoption as a subpar option left to those who otherwise couldn’t have children. A few couples we knew who were also facing infertility refused to consider adoption because they couldn’t imagine raising children that weren’t their biological offspring.

Deeper insight into the adoption process can help clarify the misperception that adoption is inferior to “having your own kids.” As parents who welcomed our first child through adoption, we jump at the opportunity to explain how God unfolded his plan for giving us this undeserved gift.

Read full article at ERLC.

[Photo courtesy Bonnie Kittle on Unsplash]

Surrendering ‘Supposed to’

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Guest post by Christy Britton

Through this past year of writing more and contributing to different websites, God has given me an unforeseen blessing of forming friendships with other writers. (Yes, as surprising as it seems, it’s possible to develop genuine relationships through social media channels pervaded by fake or misleading content.) One of my dearest friends is Christy Britton, whom I consider a faith and writing mentor. She is also a boy mom to four biological sons and shares my love for adoption, a passion which led her to pursue adopting a young girl in Uganda.

Her story breaks my heart. Things didn’t go as she’d hoped. The plan that was supposed to bring another child into the family never came to fruition. Yet even in deep pain and loss, she kept loving her daughter and her heavenly father who had brought them together as a family. She continues to grieve with open arms, submitting her shattered expectations to our good and holy God.

It’s a tremendous honor to share her story through her own words, and to honor the life of her daughter, Gracious. I pray this will accomplish what I know is her desire: to uplift others who are hurting, and encourage us all to turn our sorrows over to our Savior.

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“It wasn’t supposed to be this way.”

Have you ever said these words? Thought them? I suspect I’m not the only one. We all experience circumstances not of our choosing, situations that don’t go the way we want or expect.

Our supposed to’s may seem harmless, but they can easily become idols. If we’re clinging to our supposed to’s, we’re not clinging to Christ. When we prefer our own plans, we reject his. When we think we know better, we deny his wisdom and authority. We’re back to the garden. Like Eve, we think God is withholding something good from us, and we doubt his goodness.

There is tension between our wills and what our good father wills for us. There are gaps between our desires and his. In this tension is a sweet invitation to trust God. In each gap is an opportunity to release our grip on what we want and reach for what he offers.

I’m learning to let go of my own supposed to. Honestly, it’s a work in progress with much work to be done. I had a plan for my life. A good one that would have brought glory to God. I thought it was what God wanted for me, too. I was mistaken.

A trade-off
As an orphan advocate with 127 Worldwide, a nonprofit that partners with local leaders around the world caring for orphans and widows, I get to travel to Africa. Three years ago, I met Gracious, a little girl living in Uganda,  and immediately fell in love with her. My husband and I began to care for her as best we could from afar. We visited her, prayed for her, and made sure all her physical needs were met. After much prayer and wise counsel, we felt God stirring us to pursue her adoption.

While the adoption process was difficult and costly, we made our best effort to bring our girl home. After 18 months of paperwork, we were preparing to relocate to Uganda for the required one-year residency to complete her adoption. However, right before our scheduled flight, we received the news that our daughter had passed away.

She wasn’t supposed to die. She was supposed to be a Britton.

I’m supposed to be in Uganda right now. I’m supposed to be caring for my daughter.

These are my supposed to’s.

I wake up each morning with the temptation to give into the bitterness that comes from not getting my way. I wake up each morning to the reality that the plans I had will never come to fruition. Each morning begins with a dull pain that reminds me of what was supposed to be.

But do you know what else each morning begins with? New mercies (Lamentations 3:23). God is with me in each of these starts to my day offering fresh mercy. He holds his hand out to me.

Taking his hand forces me to release my grip on my supposed to’s. Holding onto him means letting go of the comfort and familiarity of my plans. God gives me himself, on his terms. He invites me to trade my supposed to’s for him.  

As beloved as I’ve built up my supposed to’s in my mind, he is better still. As good and holy as my plans are, his plans are better still.

Better vision
What about you? Do you live with the tension between what you think should be and what is? What “supposed to” do you need to release?

Maybe you, too, are missing the child you were supposed to raise. Perhaps you’re not in the job you’re supposed to have. Maybe you don’t look the way you’re supposed to look. You weren’t supposed to be sick; your best friend wasn’t supposed to move away; your marriage wasn’t supposed to be this hard.

These supposed to’s we hold onto must be let go in favor of something better – God’s will for our lives. He wholly offers himself to us, but wholly on his terms. He gives us a vision of himself, so we will turn our eyes away from lesser things.

Our father is not careless in what he withholds; he is purposeful. We may not understand the why, but we can trust the who.

Our God is for us (Romans 8:31). He is with us (Matthew 28:20). His plans are for our good (Jeremiah 29:11). He promises that we will share in his glory when we share in his sufferings. He offers life through his Son when we die to ourselves. Death is painful, and we should not expect to die to our wills without hurting.

What we can expect is that our temporary affliction is preparing for us eternal glory beyond all comparison (2 Corinthians 4:17). My affliction exists in the form of grief, in an unfulfilled longing. My day can easily get derailed at the sight of the empty chair at the dinner table. But I cling to the promise that afflictions don’t last forever. In heaven, all my longings will be satisfied in my Savior.

Take his hand
I want to want God more than I want anything else, including my supposed to’s. I look to Christ for motivation. His prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane before his crucifixion demonstrates the tension between what he wanted and what his father wanted.

“Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done” (Luke 22:42).

Love caused him to release his own desires and submit to his father’s. Love for us. We were supposed to suffer God’s wrath. We were supposed to pay the penalty for our sins. But Christ died on the cross in our place. He paid the debt for our supposed to’s.

Jesus surrendered his will to the father so that we could be adopted into his family. As his children, will we not surrender our own wills to him? Will we refuse to let go of our precious plans? Our father who gave up his own beloved Son to secure our redemption can surely be trusted with the way our lives are supposed to go.

I don’t know what your supposed to’s are. But I do know that you can release and entrust them to a good father.

When you wake up and feel crushed under the weight of unfulfilled longings, reach for Christ. Take his hand and accept the new mercies he holds out to you. Live in this mercy. Ask him to transform your desires into longings for him. Allow your earthly disappointments to lead you to your father who always satisfies.

This is how your life is supposed to be lived.

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Christy Britton is a wife and homeschool mom of four biological sons. She is an orphan advocate for 127 Worldwide. She and her husband are covenant members at Imago Dei Church in Raleigh, NC. She loves reading, discipleship, Cajun food, spending time in Africa, hospitality, and LSU football. She writes for several blogs, including her own, www.beneedywell.com.

Why We Need to Fight for the Families in Our Communities

Our oldest son came to our family through adoption and, as a gift we don’t take for granted, enjoys a strong and affectionate relationship with his birth mother.

To the best of his 7-year-old capacity, he understands that she made a difficult decision to offer him the greatest care possible through a secure family environment, which she didn’t think she could provide at that time. Though he can’t wrap his head around all the reasons, he grasps the love that motivated her actions, and likewise loves her for giving him life and for bringing him into ours.

This deep bond is something we’ve encouraged since our son was born, recognizing that openness in adoption (though not always possible and varying in degrees) can promote healthy attachment. The downside is the sadness that comes when you live far away from one another.

If a child who is securely attached to his parents experiences grief because he’s geographically separated from his birth mother, imagine the psychological damage inflicted on a child forcibly separated from her parents by strangers in a foreign land.

Read full article at ERLC.

How my love for my son who is adopted and my son who is biological is the same, yet different

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Only one person has had the chutzpah to ask me if I love my son whom we adopted less than I love my son whom I carried and birthed.

She didn’t phrase it that bluntly, of course. And I knew she was inquiring out of genuine curiosity, as she was contemplating adoption after having two biological children. It was good for me to recognize her naiveté; otherwise, I might’ve snapped back something less than cordial in response to what is, in fact, a thoughtful and weighty question.

This mama asked me what I think countless people wonder, but don’t have either the courage or guilelessness to speak to my face:

“I know you love both your boys. But do you, you know, feel differently about them? Do you feel as close to Calvin as you do to Linus, since Linus is the one you actually gave birth to?”

Somehow, by the grace of God most likely, this didn’t shock or fluster me. I simply stated that yes, I love them both tremendously. No, I don’t feel differently about them because they’re both my children. Yes, I feel close to both of them and believe we’re securely attached through the bonding that takes place over time not just in the womb, but also in and throughout the hours of feeding them, changing their diapers, reading to them, tickling their feet, kissing their wounds, holding them in my arms however long it takes for them to feel safe.

This incident occurred about four years ago, and I don’t think I’d answer any other way if someone else would dare ask me the same question today.

Yet this concept of different feelings lodged in my head, where it was treated to days of rumination as I considered how I truly felt about each of my sons.

And when I sifted through my sentiments toward either one, and realized how all of it is so precious beyond what I could’ve ever imagined to experience, I felt moved to share how my love for Calvin and for Linus manifests in both similar and unique ways because of the two different and surprising ways God brought them into my life.

My love for both sons

My oldest son, Calvin, was the sudden surge of light at the end of a long, dark tunnel of struggling to grow our family.

After years of aching over my empty womb and paying a good fortune on fertility treatments that amounted to nothing but tears, I had almost given up my lifelong desire to be a mother.

Then, only two months after enduring the devastation of a failed IVF cycle, we got the call from the adoption agency that changed our lives.

I was a mom. I had a baby – the most adorable, perfect, happy little boy – and he was my son, from the moment I first held him.

This baby filled my heart with joy, relief, and overwhelming gratitude. Those words people spoke with good intention but in reality drove a dagger right through me – “everything happens for a reason” – actually made sense now.

I see him today – a lively, smart-as-a-whip 6-year-old – and I burst with affection for my cheerful little mister. He looks so much like his kind-hearted birthmother, and takes after her nurturing, creative personality. His appearance and character remind me of her love, her sacrifice, and the fact that he belongs to two families who care for him immensely.

He is a long-awaited miracle, the fulfillment of oft-uttered prayers, a testament to God’s faithfulness and delight in astonishing His children with blessings beyond expectation.

He is the baby I’d longed for, delivered to me via another remarkable woman’s womb, and I love him dearly.

My youngest son, Linus, was the realization of a dream that had nearly died.

When Calvin turned 1, we began talking about our options to expand our family again, and cautiously proceeded with finding a new doctor and re-starting the whole miserable process of fertility testing and evaluation.

Then came the day I was stunned to find two pink lines I had never seen before, and I have never seen since.

I was pregnant. I had a baby growing inside my body, and I loved him the moment I discovered that blessed little plus sign.

From hearing the thrum of his heartbeat to feeling him tumble around my belly, I got to experience the sensations of my son developing within me, as well as endure the fatigue and pain of carrying and delivering a baby.

I see him today – a sweet, social, wears-his-heart-on-his-sleeve 4-year-old, and I smile with amusement at my expressive little bud. He looks like me, as well as my husband, and displays some aspects of both our personalities. This combination of physical traits resulting from the mixture of our genes reminds me that nothing is impossible with Him who loves me.

He is a long-awaited miracle, the fulfillment of oft-uttered prayers, a testament to God’s faithfulness and delight in astonishing His children with blessings beyond expectation.

He is the baby I’d longed for, delivered to me via my womb, and I love him dearly.

My love for both my boys is equally deep and wonderfully multifaceted. I feel close to both because I’m their mom, and they’re my sons. Neither relationship is greater than the other, but each has its exceptional qualities.

My son who is adopted made me a mother, gave me a fuller life and larger extended family through his birthmother, and demonstrated God’s redemption of my broken heart.

My son who is biological made me a mother of two, granted me the amazing experience of pregnancy, and demonstrated God’s redemption of my broken body.

Both my babies are undeserved blessings, and I will forever thank God for the vast and varied joy they bring into my life.

A tribute to Tummy Mommy

 

Due to the craziness of life I’ve been pretty terrible at keeping this blog updated. It isn’t for lack of timely topics about which I could wax eloquent: the Susan G. Komen/Planned Parenthood debacle, the Obamacare birth control mandate, and the reported demise of Khloe and Lamar’s marriage partly due to their struggles with infertility – if you think that’s the only thing driving them apart, apparently you don’t keep up with his insanely annoying in-laws.

What finally motivated me to get off my literary butt and write something was the celebration of a special day that for a few years brought me sadness and heartache. I thought about sharing a very Emo poem I wrote one Mother’s Day awhile back, but decided to save that for another time when I was feeling more pensive and melancholy. Instead of singing that same old song about my pain and suffering, I wanted to talk a little about an important person who has significantly shaped my life and blessed me with one of the greatest gifts I’ve ever been given.

Since adopting Calvin, I’ve fortunately not received many comments or questions about me being his “real” mother. This has always struck me as a silly thing to say, when you think about what “real” means. And I’m not talking about a full-blown Matrix-style ontological discussion; I just think it should be obvious in many cases that the adoptive mother is a real mother, and not some random woman posing as the child’s maternal caregiver. Of course, what people are really asking is if the adoptive mom is the biological mother, and for lack of understanding about the appropriate terminology, refer to the latter as the “real” mother.

Calvin is very blessed to have two women who love him extravagantly. As his adoptive mom, I get the incredible joy of caring for and nurturing him every day, fulfilling the traditional role of being a mother. His birthmother, or Tummy Mommy as we call her when with Calvin, does not get the opportunity to see him or take care of him on a daily basis, but her love for him is no less real or important. She carried Calvin for nine months and made a difficult decision to place him with an adoptive family because she loved him and thought that was the best plan to give him a full and happy life. And because of her decision, she gave me and Colin a much fuller and happier life.

Many people ask me what it’s like when we go visit our birthmother and her family, which we try to do 3-4 times a year. In all honesty, I kinda freaked out the first few times, but always before we saw her. In anticipation of our visits, I would worry that she would be jealous of me getting to take care of Calvin, or I would be jealous of her having a biological connection with him, which I believe is important even if the birthmother is living a terrible lifestyle and/or making poor choices (totally not the case with ours). And, because our adoption situation entailed a waiting period before parental rights were terminated, I was afraid that she might change her mind, even though she gave no indication of doing so.

However, by the grace of God, my fears were relieved every time we met up with her and her family, so much so that I was able to truly enjoy spending time with them and seeing them interact with Calvin. And now that we’ve hung out together several times, I look forward to seeing her and her family, and want them to hold Calvin and play with him as much as possible to make the most of our visits. Seeing the joy on her face as Calvin smiles and laughs with her makes me so happy, because I know what a wonderful little guy he is and how being with him makes my heart full, and I’m glad she gets to experience that, too.

This sharing of joy can be difficult to understand for those who have not adopted, or who do not have open, healthy relationships with their birthmothers, and frankly I didn’t get it either until we adopted Calvin. I have to give his birthmother much credit for being so mature about our interactions and for showing us a great deal of respect. The first day we met her, before we even got to see Calvin at the hospital, she referred to us as Mommy and Daddy. She clearly expressed her desires to have an open relationship with us and Calvin, and completely accepted the level of openness and communication guidelines we stated at our initial meeting. That first meeting at the adoption agency with her and her mom was quite incredible, because although everyone was understandably nervous at first, we hit it off right away, and it soon felt like we were old friends hanging out, shooting the breeze talking about sports. Colin joked that her family of Saints fans must’ve really liked us, as they picked our profile – which proudly displayed a picture of us in Seahawks gear – right after the Hawks beat the Saints in the playoffs.

And since then, we’ve felt more and more comfortable spending time with our birthmother and her family. We ask how they’re doing; they ask what’s going on in our lives. It’s cheesy to say, but it does feel like we’re one big extended family. They give Calvin toys and clothes, and she often gives me or Colin a special little gift that she knows we’ll like – for example, she knows I love frogs and did a frog-themed nursery for Calvin, so she got me some frog-shaped soap bars along with antibac lotion from Bath & Body Works, one of my favorite shops.

I know this friendly, close relationship is not the case in other adoptions. Sometimes the birthmother and/or father cannot and/or should not have an open relationship with their children, and that’s OK. I’m a proponent of open adoption but don’t think it should be a requirement, and also understand that there are infinite shades of openness depending on the comfort level of the individuals involved. I’m thankful that we do have a good relationship with Calvin’s birthmother and her family, and that he will grow up knowing that many people love him.

Beyond our mutual love for Calvin, I admire and appreciate his birthmother for modeling God’s love in an amazing way. Most people, when talking about adoption and Christianity, emphasize the adoptive family’s role and the way they demonstrate how God adopted us sinners into His family of redeemed saints. This is true, and one of the reasons why I think adoption is so beautiful. However, people don’t often acknowledge the role of the birthmother, and how her sacrificial love for her child mirrors the Father’s love in sending His Son to die for us, and Christ’s love in willingly choosing to suffer death in order to give us life. Calvin’s biological mother, the one who brought him into existence and sustained him for nine months of growth and development, chose to give her son to someone else because she loved him and wanted to protect him more than she loved and wanted to protect herself. It is such a stunning picture of our Savior’s sacrifice that it brings to mind a refrain from an oldie but a goodie, When I Survey the Wondrous Cross: “love so amazing, so divine.”

I have many, many women to be thankful for on Mother’s Day: my own mom, who never tires of caring for and faithfully serving others; my grandmothers, who lived full lives honoring Christ and are now home with Him; my mother-in-law, who provides continual encouragement; and my grandma-in-law, who makes me feel like an important part of the Hesse family and tells great stories that I get to hear more than a few times. 🙂 And I am forever grateful for the mother who made it possible for me to be a mother. I thank her for the gift of our son.