We received some aggravating news about our son’s pending adoption last week. While I waited outside the dressing room for my husband to try on some drip/dry pants to bring with us to Africa, I checked our email on my phone and found out that the U.S. Embassy in the Democratic Republic of Congo has added a step to the process thereby adding 3-6 months to our wait. It made me sick. In fact, I think I covered at least three of the five stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance) before we left the parking lot.
Denial: My first reaction was “Maybe it doesn’t apply to us…Maybe we’re far enough into this that we can still go next month and get him…” As I logged onto Facebook and scrolled through fellow adoptive parents comments, I started thinking, “Maybe this information is wrong. Most of these other parents from other agencies aren’t aware of this change…” I nearly had myself convinced that iPhones don’t even get email and my phone is actually just a fancy calculator. Then Brent left the dressing room with his chosen purchases. Despite my effort to convince myself that the email was sent to us in error, I showed it to him anyway.
Anger: When Brent saw the email he deflated. This man who I have seen cry only twice in the almost twenty years I’ve known him, teared up ever so slightly. It wasn’t much but I noticed it and it was effective. That shook me up and brought me back to reality. It also pushed me to the second stage of grief and I got mad. We discussed it briefly and Brent asked if he should go ahead and get the pants. I said, “Sure” in my best 10 year-old with a bad attitude imitation, so we went to the counter to pay. The hipster REI employee was over-the-top friendly as he tried to talk us into the $20 membership plan. He was like “Man, you’re gonna looooove these pants.” I almost asked him to take off her nerdy/chic glasses so I could punch him in the face. Anger was my only friend at that moment.
Bargaining: As we walked to the parking lot, we sullenly discussed where we should go to eat lunch. Choosing a place to eat a) without our kids, and b) in Nashville would normally be a fairly pleasant task but beginning Jauary1st, I had pledged to fast from sweets until we brought our son home…that was assuming he’d be home in March. Upon entering the van, I told the Lord that I would continue with my fast—even though that’s the same as promising that I won’t eat another cupcake for six months and we were about to go eat at a place that is half bakery, half restaurant—if He would just try to speed things up. Bargaining with God is about as effective as bargaining with a two-year old—they’re both much smarter than me and it never works.
We pretty much stayed at Stage Four (Depression) for the rest of the day. Always one to overanalyze everything, I started asking myself why this latest setback was having such a negative effect on me. I decided I could attribute my utter hopelessness to two main factors:
Imagine that it’s late October and you’re eagerly anticipating Christmas just a few short months away. You get a call that Christmas is being postponed and they’ll let you know when the new date is but it’s probably going to replace Valentine’s Day. You think, “Hmmm…that makes it really hard to plan. Do I go ahead and put up the tree and the stockings? Maybe not. Constantly seeing the decorations might make our wait even harder to bear.” February rolls around and the Holiday Police—unseen people with tons of authority and no real reason to make Christmas easier for your family—say that they’ve discussed it and the decision has been made to move Christmas to May. They’re going to combine Mother’s Day and Father’s Day in June, which makes a lot of sense to them and only them. You say, “Wait a minute this is MY Christmas that I want to celebrate with MY family! I should be the one to make this decision!” But the Holiday Police ignore you and continue to make changes and empty promises until you begin to wonder if Christmas will ever come. That’s how it feels to wait on an adoption. The other, infinitely more important reason for our frustration is that our SON is in AFRICA. It’s not a faceless, nameless child who is living in a land mercilessly damaged by wars and famines; it’s our boy. I never knew my heart could form an attachment this strong to a child who I’ve never heard or touched or held. It doesn’t make any sense. There’s nothing logical about it. The first time I held my biological son was minutes after he had exited my body—a place he had holed up in for nine months. He looked like his sisters and his dad, so I was obviously in love instantly. My new son shares no genes with me. I’ve never cradled him in my arms during late night feedings when the rest of the house is sleeping. But somehow God has sewn us together with an invisible thread and that connection makes knowing he is so far away so painful. Maybe it’s because I’ve prayed for him every day for longer than he’s been alive. Those prayers have tightened and tangled those invisible threads, strengthening them but often leaving miniscule cuts and rope burn. Nothing about love is logical but neither are the other great virtues—faith and hope. But logic is highly overrated. Faith can move mountains (I Corinthians 13:2), hope can give us confident patience (Romans 15:4), and love can buy us eternal life (John 3:16). I will choose to suffer this illogical love for our son as I cling to a hope and a faith that defy reason.