Waiting...and celebrating

An adoptive parent's reflections on what it means to celebrate.

We have just received a letter from our local family court, inviting us to attend what used to be called the celebration hearing. It’s now been strangely re-named to something else. I’m sure there’s a reason for this, but it’s not a reason I know.

This event marks the point when my husband and I will be given our son’s adoption certificate, and probably a whole bundle of other paperwork. Given this is our first adoption, I’m sketchy on the details, but from what I’ve heard, this informal visit to the courtroom will be a happy occasion for us and all involved and we get to take lots of photos to commemorate this significant day in our little boy’s life.

By the time this day rolls around, it will have been more than a year since our son came home, and given that we filed our paperwork very quickly after the ten-week threshold (the length of time a child has to live with prospective adoptive parents before they can request to make it official), it has been quite a wait.

This is after a very long wait to get to our initial approval panel, and then another even longer one to find our son and be officially matched with him.

All in all, it will have been nearly four years since we made the decision to adopt.

As I look back now on all the waiting, I can justify our wait for panel and our wait for a match (which I wrote about here) because I know that those months meant that we were eventually brought together with our little boy, who is actually the most incredible child I have ever met. I am daily overjoyed and overwhelmed that I have the ridiculous privilege of being his mummy.

Not that knowing this negates in any way the stress and emotion of that period of waiting. It was agonising at times. It was frustrating, it was exhausting, and there were points when it was very tempting to give up and walk away. If you’re in that waiting place, knowing that God has called you to foster or adopt but being limited by circumstances way beyond your control, my heart goes out to you. It is so hard.

But, honestly? This last bit of waiting has been harder.

There’s a whole heap of reasons why this bit has gone on so long, some of them clerical, some of them personal. It’s never been about his placement with us, and amazingly, he is really settled and has been blissfully unaware of these months of waiting – thankfully.

All the way through, I have longed for the day when we would eventually be told that the waiting is over. It came a couple of weeks ago, when we got a phone call from our lovely social worker explaining that the paperwork was signed and we would soon get a letter inviting us to collect it from court. And yet, even though we had been aching to receive that call, when it came, I struggled to find it in me to celebrate.

I felt relief, certainly, and my love for my son is as all-consuming as it ever was, but the happiness was tinged with sadness, pain, and a little bit of guilt.

Later that day I chatted with my wonderful best friend (who also happens to be an amazing foster carer), and she asked me about how I was feeling. I struggled to sum it up but she got it. Because the thing is, with fostering and adoption there is no such thing as an unqualified celebration.

Because our joy was – and is – someone else’s loss.

And it’s not just the loss of birth family members I’ve never met, even though that’s important, but it’s my son’s loss as well. As much as I am ecstatic that I get to be his forever and always, and I wholly believe that God has brought our family together, this was never meant to be his Plan A.

I’m honestly ok with this idea. Of course I don’t feel good about it, because it emphasises his loss and the separation and trauma he has experienced, and will continue to experience throughout his life. But I’m ok with it for me.

I would love to live in a world where adoptive parents and foster carers were no longer needed, but unfortunately I don’t, and I think part of being an adoptive parent or a foster carer is reconciling ourselves with the fact we are starting from and operating within a broken situation. Trying to restore something, trying to put some of the pieces back together.

But, ultimately, there will always be loss and there will always be separation.

This is why it’s really hard to hear people say my son is so lucky. I absolutely understand the sentiment and I appreciate the kind intentions with which it is said, but it’s just not true. No child should have to experience such a trauma. They all deserve a perfect Plan A.

I remember grappling with this on Mother’s Day and I so appreciated this article that captured some of that emotion. I adored my card covered in scribbled felt tip, and I was very happy that the day neatly coincided with the release of a much-awaited DVD that I gladly added to my collection, but I was also relieved that for us the weekend happened to contain an important family birthday and the focus was much more on that.

So perhaps I do understand why it’s no longer called a celebration hearing*.

Although, we will of course be celebrating and thanking God that our son has a secure and settled future, and that we have the immense privilege of sharing this with him.

But amidst this precious time there will remain a shard of sadness, because it’s always there. And even though we are done with this period of waiting and all the associated anxieties, that doesn’t mean the road ahead will be without concern. All we can do is keep walking along it, holding his hand, hoping and praying and doing whatever we can to help him find his way onward.

[*I don’t at all actually, it’s just a neat way of linking back to my opening paragraph.]

Written by an adoptive parent



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