Friday, December 3, 2010
What About Their Baby Books?
“I just heard the baby’s heartbeat,” she whispered to me as she scooted in a few seats down from me in the prayer room. This mom-to-be just graduated from her first trimester and was bubbling over with these new data points on the one who would soon be her child.
As I processed those words, grief entered my heart.
I never heard Eden’s heartbeat. I didn’t see her when she was the size of a bean or a softball or even a six pound wonder waiting to be delivered. I didn’t hear her first hiccup or attend to the unspoiled cries of infancy. I didn’t get to pour prayers into her pre-natal development or celebrate the stages of her growth.
Earlier that day we watched a dear friend’s newborn. As I held her, Caleb crawled up beside me and studied her features. “Her fingers are so small, mommy. Were my fingers that small? What about Eden’s fingers?” I used this as an opportunity to talk about how his Ethiopian mommy saw him when he was that small and held him when he was newly born.
He was not visibly impacted by this, but I felt the weight of those words. Two years of his life are unknown to me. What parents can’t help but engross themselves with – the first roll, crawl, walk – is a void in his history.
So much of the year and a half that our children have been home has been about gains. We became a family. The joy of two zest-filled little ones has been seeping out of every corner of my life. They have only added to what we already had.
But what has become a staple -- life as a family of four -- has also created a safe space for all of us to begin assessing the losses. Eden wrestles with a fear of being abandoned again and Caleb’s little heart is especially tender. While they haven’t yet articulated grief over the years they weren’t in our home, the questions have started. Why couldn’t my Ethiopian mommy and daddy keep me? Why did it take so long for you to come get me? What about the other boys and girls who don’t have mommies and daddies?
And I’ve become familiar with a form of grief I didn’t anticipate. A sum total of 5 years of their lives is missing. The years which kids don’t remember (but parents memorialize) have no baby books to show for them. No locks of hair, no videos of their first steps, no knowledge of their first words. And this grieves my heart. I long for those years as if I was a parent whose child went missing for a period of time.
The only reconciliation for this grief is oftentimes the missing piece in adoption literature and research. It’s the ingredient that doesn’t show itself on double-blinded studies of children adopted post-infancy. The God of the universe promises redemption and restoration of all that is lost. His promise to Israel is also our promise: He will restore the years the locusts have eaten.
The grief that entered my heart today, at the thought of years I can’t tell stories about, is real. It’s a pain that, if at all possible, cuts even deeper than the wound of not-yet having biological children because it not only impacts me and Nate, but it touches our children. What sort of grid does a five year-old have for processing the black hole of their past? My heart hurts to anticipate when this reality will hurt her.
But what is becoming the lens through which I see our current adoption (and our future adoptions), must also be applied to this scenario.
God not only heals, but he restores. He closes up the wounds of the brokenhearted so that they are no longer.
There are two opportunities here. Eden and Caleb, and Nate and I, can come face to face with the God who penetrates those wounds; we can know Him deeper because of this. And we can walk as ones who have been healed, as if the wound was never there. It is a promise of God.
This may be a lifetime of discovery, but it’s available. What is often missed in the statistical references to adoption is the power of a God who heals. There is hope.
And so I pray to God for my children along the lines of Job, that He would not only heal those years, but restore to them twice as much as they had before. And I take my grief to His feet and say, Father, heal my heart. Heal their hearts. Use this wound to give them even more of you than they would have had if even their infant years had not been stolen.
And I wait with great anticipation, ready to memorialize His work.
Sara and her husband, Nate, are the proud parents of Eden & Caleb (pictured above) and have just begun another adoption journey. Make sure to visit her blog Every Bitter Thing Is Sweet