Monday, February 2, 2015

All the Courage We Can Muster

Four Februaries ago, I lost my first son. 

It wasn’t a miscarriage or a stillbirth, not a terminal illness or a tragic accident. Perhaps then I would have at least known how to speak of the loss, whom to relate to about our grief. Instead, I found myself lost, alone, shutting down and hiding the pain, dismayed by the incessant, overwhelming sadness. 

Makham was our foster son, brought to us at six months old from the orphanage where he had been abandoned at birth. We watched him turn from a chubby, dull baby into a handsome, joyful little boy. We watched the miracle of language acquisition unfolding in a young mind, learned the grueling schedule of caring for a baby 24 hours a day and discovered the joy of being called mommy and daddy - all at the hands of Makham. We watched him learn to crawl, threw his first birthday party and caught him after he took his first steps...

In some ways, four Februaries ago seems worlds away - a different country, a different career, a different me. But in others, it seems like it was just yesterday, as vivid memories flood my mind - our first day welcoming Makham, our first vacation into the mountains with him, playing peekaboo behind the couch, reading Brown Bear, Brown Bear for the hundredth time, cuddling with his favorite blanket. And then, that final memory, forever engrained in my soul: watching him reach for me when we drove away.

When we waved goodbye that last day, we waived goodbye to our idealistic visions of the future, to our narrow visions of God and prayer, to our dreams of adoption, to our role as parents.

The following months became a whirlwind of sadness, despair and confusion. We had no idea how to cope, how to process the grief, how to live in light of our loss. And so, after a time, we saw no other choice but to avoid it. We moved on with life and tucked that painful piece of the puzzle tightly into our past. We let go of the dream to care for orphans and began building our family biologically.  


Last January I finally woke up and realized, the dream had never died. The passion to care for orphans, although silenced for years by fear and grief, remained at the core of my existence. I finally saw that caring for orphans, and adoption specifically, were deeply woven into the reality of my truest self. I found myself unable to fathom living the rest of my life out of alignment with this deep value, out of alignment with the truth of who I am. 

I found myself unable to live authentically, wholeheartedly, without fitting this piece of adoption back into our puzzle. 

And so - still with fear, still with uncertainty and doubt and a knowing that loss could come again - there I was asking my husband to step back into the adoption world with me. Back into that world of crazy bureaucracy and inefficient systems and developing governments. Back into that world of waiting games and miscommunications and hopes for tomorrow. Back into that game of possible heartache, and immeasurable joy. 

He, having remained awake to the call, bravely agreed. We submitted our adoption application last March and spent the rest of the Spring gathering paperwork, attending meetings and tracking down the million and one documents necessary for a home study. I was mostly open with others about this new step of faith, but also regularly struggled to engage emotionally about the vulnerable journey we were on. It was one thing to have enough courage to walk ahead, but something different altogether to have enough courage to talk openly to others about the uncertainty of it all. 

I found myself unsteadily trying to balance on a teeter-totter, one side loaded with fear and the other loaded with courage. One day fear won and I tottered into silence and disengagement. The next day courage won and I teetered toward hope and openness. Today, still, I teeter-totter, back and forth, back and forth.

By mid-summer, we received a phone call about a newborn referral. We were surprised, but thrilled, both with the speed of the referral and the age of the baby. But after only a few days of excitement and celebration, reality hit hard and we found ourselves in the midst of messy legal issues and uncontrollable government decisions. The real world of adoption seemed ready to show its true colors to us yet again.

We grappled with these daunting realities, wondered anew if it was all worth it. Wondered if we weren’t risking to much, daring too greatly. 

In the end, we choose alignment with our deepest passions, fidelity with our truest selves. 

We chose to accept the referral and thus began the rocky, slow road of bringing him home.


I do not know what it would feel like to lose this referral. I have tried to stay detached and yet, we have invested every penny of our savings and much of our retirement into him. We have spent endless hours of meetings and phone calls and trainings and filing paperwork in order to bring him home. We have collected monthly photos of him, introducing him through images to our friends, to our family and to our children. 

Despite all my guarding and all my “knowing better”, he is already a part of us.

He is our son and my children’s brother. 

He is our life’s financial investment and a year of primary focus and time. 

He is the fruit of all the courage we could muster. 


Richard Rohr, in his book Everything Belongs, wrote this: 

"There is a unique truth that our lives alone can reflect. The most courageous thing we will ever do is to bear humbly the mystery of our own reality." 

Be courageous today, friend. We need your unique truth. 

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  1. Glad you're sharing your journey back into adoption!

  2. Thanks for reading, Julie! Can't wait til it's your turn ;)

  3. Your writing goes so deep. I'm in awe of the courage it must have taken to be so gut-wrenchingly vulnerable. Someday I hope to write my story the same way. (I'm Wendy and I'm currently taking your 30 Day Writing Challenge.)

    1. Thank you, Wendy! It is gut-wrenching, but also incredibly healing. :)

  4. I found your blog today through Anna's blog, and just wanted to take a minute to let you know how much this post meant to me. We are in the process of adopting from Ethiopia and the journey has been long and bumpy. We have 4 kids age 15-20 and everyone wants to know WHY we would choose to do this at this stage of our lives. So I identified when you wrote about finding yourself unable to fathom living the rest of your life out of alignment with this deep value, out of alignment with the truth of who you are. YES. Exactly that. We have been in the process for 16 months, and likely have another two years left which leaves way too much time for doubt and fear to creep in. But it's words like yours that give me hope and reassurance. I know it was not an accident that I read this today. Thank you!

    1. Dearest, Ria! Thank you so much for reaching out and connecting with me today. I'm so thankful my words found you right where you are. Just today, we had our own bit of adoption news that summons both joy and great angst. Life is so uncertain, there is so much waiting and risk, and yet...and yet, how can we not love in every way we feel compelled to? I am so proud of you for choosing to honor that Love inside of you! Blessings to you on your journey. :)


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