Lately I’ve spent some time thinking about my upcoming adoption. I have been reading some good books about China and I have seen two wonderful documentaries on adoptive girls from China: Somewhere Between and Wo Ai Ni (I love you mommy).
In Somewhere Between there is a scene in which an adoptive mother of two girls is in a hair salon and a well-intentioned older woman (upon hearing they were adopted) said “Well aren’t you lucky? Welcome to the United States little girl. The best place to live.”
Here’s what she doesn’t understand about adoption. There is a profound sense of loss for many adoptive children. They feel something is missing.
When I was telling my Ethiopian adopted son about how the adoptive girls from China were going back in a long-shot attempt to find their birth parents, Mesfin stopped me in mid sentence. When I asked him what was wrong, he replied, “Don’t you understand, mom? If I go back to find my mother I have only two things that could happen. I’ll find out she’s dead or I’ll find her and no longer be able to talk to her. Either way, it’s devestating.”
He’s 9. That’s a heavy thing to carry for a 9 year old.
Mesfin is happy, and he loves me, and he feels blessed beyond measure. He does not spend every waking moment thinking of his life in Ethipia. Trust me, he’s become an American! But there is a hole in his heart that will never be filled. He loved a mother and a sister once, they loved him, and he will never see them again.
Even for Iris, who has spent her entire life in an orphanage, she is leaving all the people, culture, food, smells, sights, sounds, and understanding of the world to come live with two strangers. There will be a loss for her as well. The documentary Wo Ai Ni follows an 8 year old girl who is adopted by two Americans and as I watched the tears fall from her face and I could see her fear of what was to come, I hurt too.
Yes, I’m nitpicking a word – lucky. It is just a word and in many ways they are lucky. Because all children are better being loved and cared for by a family on foreign soil then spending forever in an orphange. There is no doubt about that.
But I long for the day when there will be no international adoptions because Jesus has redeemed this world and made it His again. No mother will ever have to give her child up for adoption and spend a lifetime yearning for the child they never got to raise. No one will get HIV and be so fearful of an early death that they have to leave their child on the steps of an orphanage.
And some day I pray I will get to meet the mothers that came first. The ones that are never forgotten by their babies, even if it is only remembered in the heart.