Thursday, August 9th, 2012

Had I but known . . . Help me!






Less than a month from now is the 40th anniversary of my becoming a mother. Had I but known that 40 years into mothering there would still be so many things I wish I knew. . . . There are so many things I thought I knew, but I didn’t really. There are so many things I hadn’t even thought about knowing, things waiting to bless me or to blindside me.

That’s my speaking topic, especially as it regards adoption, at Together for Adoption 2012 in Atlanta, September 14-15–what I didn’t know:

  • If we just love our child enough . . .
  • Some children are added by birth and some by adoption–it’s a simple as that  . . .
  • We will treat our adopted child just as we do the ones who were born to us . . .
  • We will never blame adoption for difficulties our child may have . . .
  • and . . . and . . . and . . .

I need your help. If you’re a parent by birth or by adoption or both, I need your help based on your experience. If you know someone who’s a parent by birth or adoption, I need your help based on your observations.

  • What do you wish you’d known as you launched into parenting, whether by adoption or by birth?
  • What have you learned or are you experiencing that’s very different than what you’d expected, whether happy or hard?
  • What were you totally ignorant about at the beginning that you’re learning by experience?
  • What unexpected things have blessed you?
  • What unexpected things have blindsided you?
Those are just sample questions. You get the idea.

Your comments will prime the pump of my own thoughts as I prepare, but I will in no way compromise your privacy. In fact, if it makes it easier, feel free to respond anonymously via the comments to this post, or by using the comment button above to send me an email.

(In the spirit of “What I didn’t know,” I’ll announce in the next couple of days a gift that I’ll send to 2 commenters, randomly chosen.)


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48 Responses to “Had I but known . . . Help me!”

  1. As a mother of four(by birth) with the fourth almost out of the nest, I wish I would have known to shut my mouth more and not play the Holy Spirit in the lives in my children. By loving God most of all I’ve come to know Him and trust Him 100% with my life and the lives of my children. I wish I would have known how to sweat the small stuff.

  2. Noel, no parent wants to hear this, but I wish I had understood the possibility that disability and serious illness would be a reality in the lives of my children. I wish I had understood that God was sovereign over those circumstances and that he had great, loving purpose in all the agony. I wish I had known that he truly would cause the circumstances to work for the good of my family and for his own glory. Every parent should have a theology of suffering, because they may really need one.

  3. In one sense I have no regrets because I trust in the sovereignty of God who allows us to make parenting mistakes and then uses those mistakes for this own purposes and above all for his ultimate glory.

    Having found biblical teaching of the reformed and gospel-centered kind in just the last few years I know that if I would have had this teaching early on I would have not been so naive about the doctrine of total depravity and would have placed a stronger ongoing emphasis on preaching the gospel at home from a young age.

    Daily family Bible devotions and worship would be another thing I would have started from the beginning even if the didn’t understand. Whereas I waited until the preteen years. I’ve learned that our traditions as an example are powerful and the Word of Gid itself is what our kids most need apart from saving grace. I write this as a single mom whereas many moms might defer to their husband with this.

    A life focus on serving other people wherever we go would be an additional change in focus. It is so easy for us to make our kids into idols and forget about others.

    Someone telling me that when our kids are very young they will express their need of us oh so clearly. Running into your arms, clinging to you and so on. When they transition into adulthood they may tell us without words that they don’t need us too much anymore. This can be really hard. .

    Above all I rest in the saving arms of God who can even use our sins and lack of being and doing so that He alone receives the glory when our kids profess Christ as their Savior and King. Hallelujah. :-). In the end all the saved will be together forever in awe of our indescribable God. It will be very very good.

  4. If I had known how much work it would require to do this well, I might not have gotten into motherhood. And yet, it is completely worth it.

    This is one of my favorite pieces of mothering advice: You can either treat your kids like credit cards, or like savings accounts. You can pacify them for your own instant gratification. After years of doing that, you will accumulate a great debt with regard to their character and be trying to overcome behaviors that seem to overwhelm you. OR, you can be painfully consistent with discipline and training and it will be returned to you over and over and they will be your joy!

    What was I ignorant about? EVERYTHING. Potty training, nutrition, teething, schedule, training them to be kind, to share, sleep training. I was clueless. The learning curve is enormous! I have learned to be a learner. Don’t think I know the answers. Someone has already lived this and I should ask and listen to their advice.

    Finally, I have learned to ask the Lord for help. Some days I found myself sitting on the lid of the toilet about once every hour thanking the Lord for getting me to that point of the day and asking for another hour of patience and grace. I have learned to ask Him to show me the solutions to the simplest problems: how to get them on the same nap schedule. And for the hardest things I feel I just cannot do: how to learn to put others needs above their own. And He always supplies everything I need….He’s the perfect parent.

  5. I have so much to share on this topic…but not enough energy to sit and type it all out at the end of the day. With 4 adopted kids and all having shown, or still dealing with, attachment disorder in various forms, the most encouraging thing to me is this, “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Rom. 5:6 While we were his enemies, he bought us with a price.

    Oh how I need to know that and live it! My adopted kids, particularly our daughter with RAD, truly set themselves as an enemy of our family. What an opportunity to love as Christ has loved me. It’s painfully hard. It’s stressful. It would be impossible without Christ. Through adoption, more than any other life experience, I have learned my utter dependence on Christ for every waking second. I would be a complete and total disaster as a parent without Him.

    I would be happy to sit and chat with you sometime about our experiences if you’d like, Noel. -Sarah

  6. Mom of four, ages 15 to 3. I can only say this…

    …Parenting is not about me…’s not about how well I do or how many good decisions I make. And it’s not about my kids…how well they behave or if they “turn out right”. It is all about God…His story, His plan, and the gift of Jesus and His payment for our debt.

    …knowing and understanding that before I became a parent would have helped me…but, again, it’s not about me. : ) God knows the process we all need to get where he wants us to be.

  7. What do you wish you’d known as you launched into parenting, whether by adoption or by birth?

    Birth – the importance of asking for help
    Adoption – the importance of looking ‘holistically’ at my son and his needs (diet, hydration, sensory, neurotransmitter, TBRI, Spiritual, Emotional etc.)

    What have you learned or are you experiencing that’s very different than what you’d expected, whether happy or hard?

    Birth – I did not understand the sacrifice we were asking from our son in our adoption

    What were you totally ignorant about at the beginning that you’re learning by experience?

    Adoption – The neurological needs

    What unexpected things have blessed you?

    Birth & Adoption – the wit and humor of my boys that keeps us laughing hysterically

    What unexpected things have blindsided you?

    Adoption – The seemingly lack of informed support & resources for adoption/sensory issues in our area

  8. I wish I would have known how much grief and pain would remain in a child’s heart.

    I have learned about the immense, unrelenting love of God toward me…becuase I have had to learn how to love my son that way…even when that love is never returned.

    I was totally ignorant that love isn’t enough. I was convinced we could love our son out of all his painful past.

    I have been unexpected blessed by the relationships between my bio kids and my adopted kids. I have been blessed by seeing my older children “get it” and even though it is very hard most days, they still love adoption.

  9. What incredible blessings would flow from the terrible pain of infertility. Four dearly loved children…three post birth adoption, one pre birth (embryo) adoption. Knowing God’s grace and compassion, patience and mercy. Seeing that He truly is a great Savior / Rescuer. And He really can be believed and trusted.
    May our great God give us all grace as we parent those entrusted to our care and nurture.

  10. I have 2 grown biological sons and adopted 2 daughters 7 years ago.

    I learned my children were given to me by God Alone and to be a good mother I have to stay dependent on God.
    The process of adoption shined a spot light on my need to be in control, and made a difference in my parenting.
    Now I pray more. ask and seek wisdom instead of doing what comes naturally.

  11. I adopted two children from Russia. I was 50 and they were 8 and 9. We had SO much fun together…not that it wasn’t work too. I don’t remember the work. All seemed well until my daughter hit around 12. At fifteen I realized she was a drug abuser and sent her to rehab. She has been to rehab five times. She was diagnosed with everything from attachment disorder to bi-polar to sociopath or personality disorder. (You get the idea.) She was an addict and not really any of those things but oh,the guilt I felt. I now have hope for my daughter but not expectations. I too have learned to keep my mouth shut and pray more. Venilate vertically. I have learned that these things happen in the ‘best’ of families. We live in a sin filled world.

    I wish I had known the result of sexual abuse a child doesn’t even remember. I wish that the Russian would not hide facts and adoption agencies would do a little more probing. My son talked about it and left it behind. He is well. My daughter didn’t remember but from what my son told me I am sure it happened to her too. (They are biological brother and sister.) All that said I LOVE my children SO MUCH and for all the hell, I would not give up the blessing of my children.

    I never thought I would be a mother. It is the hardest thing but the best thing I have ever done. They are now 18 and 19. They still have their challenges but I am so blessed. He carried me through. He will carry them through too because, just as I always tell them, He did not bring you across the ocean to me without a good reason. He has a plan.

  12. Adoption. Nervous breakdown. Family torn apart.
    -I’m hanging on by the very thread that God did intend for us to adopt, and that we didn’t go outside of his plan. I am trying to everyday hang onto this Sovereign plan of the one who loves me. This child who doesn’t want us, who doesn’t love us, who would take a different family every week-whomever meets his perceived “wants” per that week. Going to sleep not knowing if he will knife you in the middle of the night. Trusting God to put your head on the pillow. Trusting God that he will restore the time lost with the other five children who have had to endure the rages, violence, threats-not the picture and haven of rest that I had wanted to provide as a Mom. What I wished I had known was that love may not be returned, and the gameplan may be to be a friend in that child’s life. We were not prepared. We are trying to walk in this shadowland.

  13. Adoptive Mom of two, Hosted 20 (unadoptable) orphans

    – Before adoption I downplayed the role of DNA/genetics in the life of an adopted child (A great environment would solve all problems)

    – There seems to be a direct link between my children’s behavior (& how I deal with it) and my time in the Word/prayer each day

    -I prayed over my children as soon as we adopted, that the sins of their birth family (father) would not be passed down or come to bear on them and they would have a clean slate before the Lord.

    -Allow your kids to talk to you about anything. Don’t act shocked or preach – They need to know they can share anything without condemnation

    -It’s better to train, teach, and lead in non-conflict times

    -I’m trying to be as open as I can at each developmental age about their adoption and birth family

    -Each child handles their adoption and the information differently

    -I am grateful that most days, I forget or don’t even think about that they were adopted – meaning that I feel completely their Mom and I couldn’t imagine loving them more.

  14. My answer got a little long so I posted it on the blog – drat that I don’t get to grin at you from the audience next month – but I will be cheering you on and praying from here. :)

  15. Melissa R. Hall

    What do you wish you’d known as you launched into parenting, whether by adoption or by birth?
    > My husband & I weren’t launched, rather we were catapulted into parenting…I say catapulted because we were only 28& 29yrs. old; Got married September 19, 2010, began to “plan” our newly wed life together knowing that we one day wanted kids but were hoping/willing to wait as he (my husband) explored his just beginning career opportunities & as I was literally just transitioning from years of college life to suddenly married & navigating my own “career world”. After our wedding day, literally about 2 months after honeymooning we discovered our plans of waiting to be parents were not to be…..suddenly the game of life became “hands on training” instead of an “instruction manual”. We found out we were expecting our 1st (& only thus far)child, a daughter. Needless to say my husband was ecstatic, me not so much. We (I)thought we had set ourselves up for “waiting” for family planning but discovered differently when those 2 double pink lines slowly appeared on the home pregnancy test after taking 2 of them just to be sure! Sure I was happy to become a mother, but I wasn’t “joyful” b/c I felt I had no preparation whatsoever. “This” –at least the timing of it wasn’t in “our plans; or my plans”. I assumed that the relationship w/ my own mother was evidence enough of that. Here I was at almost 30 yrs. of age married & pregnant already trying to “prove” in my own way that I was adult enough to navigate the seasons & decision making of life solo, when my own mother especially, continued & continues to treat me like a child still b/c it’s too painful for (her) to let life take it’s course & watch me grow up & let me go in the way God has for me??
    I’ve never considered the relationship that exists b/w my mom & I very healthy or very close. As a result, I naturally assumed that I would end up being the same “type” of woman w/ my daughter that my mom was w/ me……emotionally closed off & distant but “fun” in a group setting although not very vulnerable one on one. Makes it hard to get to really know a person like that. So I guess, I wish I’d been confident in knowing who I was as a young woman & who I wanted to be as a woman, wife, & mother vs. always striving to live according to the “expectations” & “assumptions” that are silently placed upon your life w/out even knowing it.
    What have you learned or are you experiencing that’s very different than what you’d expected, whether happy or hard?
    > I am learning hands on, about not feeling obligated to have to answer to parents authority now as a married woman. That I as a mom, struggle to realize & authoritatively implement the authority I have now as a parent of making certain decisions w/ out approval or “permission” of loved one’s. It is truly a battle ground to implement your own authority as a parent of a toddler to grandparents, when you yourself are still viewed by them as a little girl & not a grown woman or parent yourself in their eyes. I yearn for them to treat me like the adult that I am but how can I expect that when I realize that they probably never will see me for the young married woman w/ my own family that I am, but rather still that little freckled faced red-headed pony tail girl that they’ve always known. It’s a real power struggle……but a struggle for independence not control.
    What were you totally ignorant about at the beginning that you’re learning by experience?
    > LOL! (Laugh Out Loud)the “effectiveness” or lack there of, of any method of “birth control”. I ‘ve gotten to the point to where my husband & I agree that if it is the best for us at particular times to expand our family, God will bless it; and if not, then it’s because it’s not the best for us at the time. Learned to let go of the “false sense” of “security” that the concept of “birth control –any form” allows us to feel so that we begin to believe we are in control when we truly are not
    What unexpected things have blessed you?
    > Discovering we were pregnant when we weren’t at all expecting to be. Knowing the joy of no matter how annoyed you feel during the day from your 2 year old b/c of mounting stress levels, that no matter how “edgey” you get in temper, she still wants her “ma ma” & wants to kiss, hug, & snuggle no matter how bad of a mood you are in. My marriage has been blessed as a result of our little girl. It’s amazing to realize how much closer my husband & I have bonded to each other as a result of having our daughter.
    What unexpected things have blindsided you?
    > The realities of “life isn’t about me” anymore. The level of selfishness that I seemed to harbor within myself & didn’t have a clue about until I had to suddenly begin caring for another life altogether…my baby girl. The realization that scripture does not exaggerate at all when it says that our human nature is selfish and sinful. It’s a real wake up call when suddenly you are staring your own selfishness square in the face b/c you were not prepared by your own family, not even your own mother for the “realities” of marriage & parenting but rather, were only introduced to it’s preparation by “concept” only b/c of a mind set of “it’s just what you do” b/c “it’s a part of life”. You are introduced (by your own parents) to the concept of the “fairy tale” story of Marriage & parenting, but it is never clarified for you that the “fairy tale” is only a fictional story…….not a reality. Real life expectations & preparedness of marriage and family is quite different & much more realistic that the “fairy tale” story versions that are advertised to us as little girls.

  16. I’m only mom to one so far but we are in process for our first adoption. I often fight a lot of anxiety over it, hearing all the sadness, hurt, pain and struggle most adoptions seem to come with but trusting the Lord for his help.

    I often think it is grace that we don’t know what parenting will bring or look like before it comes and that we can take each new turn one at a time.

    I do wish I had known how much becoming a parent would rock marriage and how strong one needs to work to make marriage a priority in the midst of Littles.

    I wish I would have known how confusing parenting can be – how many voices are instructing from so many angles around us and how to wade through all the advice and opinions.

    I had no idea one life change could change a person (me) so much.

    I had no idea how self-centered I was before adding to our family. Or how much I valued “my own time” and “my own agenda.”

    And I wish I would have known how much joy parenting brings and how it’s not cliche to say that all the hard parts are outweighed by the good.

  17. You you want to know what I wish I had known about parenting in general…I wish someone had told us that it’s hard, grueling, heartbreaking work (and I’m not talking about sleepless nights with a crying baby. Come to find out, that’s as easy as it gets!) I wish I had known that by the time I would figure out how to do this gig with some degree of wisdom, my children would be nearly grown. I wish someone would have told me that I was going to make mistake after mistake after mistake…but that God’s grace would always be sufficient. I wish I had known that my ideas about parenting, what children need, and even what is right and good were going to change ALL the time, but sometimes not fast enough to avoid making the above mentioned mistakes. I wish someone had told me how absolutely humbling parenting little people who are big sinners would be. I wish I had better understood sin, and the law, and grace. I wish we had understood that the sin is impossible to escape, it fills and creeps, and devours our every thought and deed. As much as I wanted to protect them from sin, I simply could not, it was who they were and who they would remain apart from Christ. I wish I had focused less on behavior and more on the Savior. I wish someone had told me not just to, “enjoy it (meaning raising children) because it’s over so very fast.” but rather I wish someone had said, “Enjoy God, delight in Him, teach your children to do the same. It’s really all that matters, if they can see and savor Jesus, all else will be OK.”

    What I wished I had known about parenting via adoption: I wish someone had even began to hint, that once we followed God down this path of parenting via adoption we were going to enter into a new kind of spiritual warfare to likes that we had never known and possibly will never know again. We were so COMPLETELY blindsided by the battle, we were not even expecting a single arrow, let alone a relentless onslaught lasting many years. I wish also that someone would have told me, because I know now after the fact that these people exist, that when you adopt older children and toddlers, it can and just might take a really long time before you truly have motherly affection for your children. It’s not for lack of love, after all, love gets up and serves and sticks though the hard no matter what….affection allows you to do that with..what’s the word I’m looking for…not joy…but something near to it….that in time those feelings of I’m just doing what I HAVE to do for this person(s) I don’t really understand or feel close to…will be changed into, I’m doing what I GET to do for this person I adore.

    Melissa: Mom to more than a few, via birth and adoption.

  18. I’ve only got one daughter so far and have much less experience than many of the commenters here, but here are my reflections:

    One thing I did not expect was the depth of “dying to self” that parenting would entail. I didn’t expect postpartum depression, either, and as I climbed out of it, I tried to sort out what was hormonally / chemically driven from the shock I had received in learning to lose my life for the sake of a tiny, dependent child. Not being overly disciplined in selflessness, I do think a great deal of my initial hardship came from the latter.

    I think I have been unexpectedly blessed simply by the presence of God in this ordinary house. I’ve prayed to have His perspective on the things that happen in mothering my child, and that perhaps has been the greatest blessing of all: realizing that God is saying “no” to certain things, because He is fulfilling His purpose in both my daughter AND me, to make us more like His Son. The accomplishment of that great goal must (at least for a contrary child like me) include challenges, disappointments, and hardship.

    I’m sorry if that was too general… but thank you for asking those questions. They brought me out of the woodwork and got me to finally comment, and I am learning much from others’ answers! :)

  19. I am thankful for the advice you gave me at TGCW12. I was discouraged about the seemingly insignificant role I play as a mother now and for at least a couple years before my son is old enough to understand the gospel. But you told me that you have to see it like a business start-up plan…it’s very slow-going at first, but you have to have the end in mind of what this investment can become. So now I change diapers with hope. :)

    I wish I had had a higher view of motherhood before I became a mom myself. I was restless, itching to do things for the kingdom that single women have the freedom to do but that married women cannot. “Why spend my life raising a handful of kids who may or may not believe in Jesus when I could be preaching the gospel to thousands overseas???” But motherhood mirrors Jesus’s strategy for reaching the nations: making a few disciples instead of trying to convert the masses. As C.S. Lewis said, “The homemaker has the ultimate career. All other careers exist for one purpose only – and that is to support the ultimate career.” What a privilege God has granted me!!!

  20. As a mom of 2 under 3, I enjoyed reading these comments and wish I could hear your lecture! Hope you are able to post it! It’s nice to read reformed women’s views on parenting and how the gospel relates to it. There are so many books out there that just don’t sit well with me as a new mom – and that just don’t work for my kids.

  21. Noel, I am most surprised and disappointed to learn that my love is not as unconditional as our Creator’s. I have found it extremely dificult and totally not natural to love when the child is pushing every button, yelling profanities at me, being destructive, and rejecting ME! how immature and childish on my part. I’m the adult here :). After many years and many children I know love is the decision I make everyday to put my child’s needs in front of my own. I wish I had taken off my rose-colored-glasses years ago and saw adoption/foster care truthfully.
    My second ah-ha moment was that the training I had received regarding the life experiences of the child were not made-up for dramatic flare. Imagine the worst a child could endure and you’ve imagined the lives of many of the children we’ve cared for. No wonder they reject the structure and relationship of family, of parents, of authority…no wonder when they have been fighting against the world since the moment of conception…had they not fought they would have surely died.
    And now…knowing these truths I am more committed to our children, to foster care and towards more adoptions!
    It’s a blessing….a a miracle…and if not me – who else?

  22. We have two by birth and one by adoption through foster care. Before becoming a foster mom, I honestly think I saw my children as extensions of me. After becoming a foster mom and loving solely for the benefit of a little one who may or may not be in your home the next day, let alone the next year, I realized just how much my view of being a mom needed changing.
    I wish I had known that my children are not extensions of me. They are gifts. They are a stewardship. I need them as much as they need me. And the good Father of all designed parenting to teach both the children and the parent what he needs us to learn from Him.
    I wish I had known that enjoying my children had much less to do with their behavior than it did with my attitude.

    • Mary, i’m in the same situation (2 by birth and one little boy added to our family by adoption 2 months ago) and i really resonated with what you said. Seeing this gorgeous little black boy of ours with his two, very fair older siblings is a constant reminder to me of stewardship and not ‘ownership’, or them being ‘extensions of me’, as you say. God has ordained for us to care for these 3 and for the these 3 to be our children and challenge us in their own unique (and not so unique!) ways, so that we may grow in God’s grace, just as you say. What an inspiring thread to read. Parenting is not for wimps!

  23. I always considered myself as having a “heart for orphans” including spending a year in college working in Romanian orphanages. So I was completely blindsided when we started fostering 2 little boys. The 3-year-old is adorable and athletic and friendly and has more pigment than most people at my church, so he became an instant celebrity there. But at home, he found every button I had and pushed it. He seemed to enjoy finding buttons I didn’t know existed and pushed those too. I was shocked at the level of sin in my heart that God kindly showed to me. Could I actually be struggling with hating a helpless little orphan who had been through so much? Praise be to our Heavenly Father who adopted such a wretched sinner as me and who gives me grace upon grace every day to love because he loved me first.

    I found out that it is way easier to love hundreds of orphans from a distance than one up close.

  24. Good questions, Noel!
    I am still asking these questions as my head spins at our family’s adoption endeavor!
    When we adopted a 6 y.o. girl out of the foster care system, I felt I was ready for whatever would come! (That should have been an alert!)
    I did think “if I just love our child enough”…, but I fell short and God seemed pleased to show me my lack! My lack and my pride blindsighted me, but God’s love, mercy, grace, and sustenance continue to bless me over and over!

    Here is a favorite quote, though it is not perfect:

    “It humbled my ego and stretched my soul.
    It awakened me to eternity.
    It made me know my humanity, my own mortality, my own limits.
    It gave me whatever crumbs of wisdom I possess today.”
    Erica Jong (American writer and poet~ 1942)

  25. […] you so much for your responses when I asked for help. Don’t stop […]

  26. I wished I had known that children REALLY are a gift from God! I have children at home, children in heaven, and children that adopt me for a time while being friends with my children who are still at home. At times I have been frustrated by my relationship with any number of these children. I am frustrated when they are messy. I tend to be frustrated when they are destructive, to themselves and to others; and I am overwhelmed when children don’t feel my love for them. This usually happens in the midst of my frustration. Had I known what a gift ALL children are, I would have chosen to snuggle more, invite learning and respite more in my arms and at my side, and just stayed in “the moment” as much as possible. God is good in that I have learned so much and still have so much time with those children who come in and out of my life. The lessons I have learned from Dr. Piper and other bloggers about God’s grace and omnipotence in ALL situations has allowed me to focus on the journey, NOT the outcome, I have been able to be more vulnerable and loving, knowing that God has given me gifts….. NOT responsibilities. Everyone who knows me sees this difference and everyone who meets me remarks about the difference that God’s grace in making in me. Children like being around me again and I love being around them. I had lost that as a new mom and for the next 15 or so years because I constantly focused on the outcome and responsibility…. That is not what I do when I receive a gift! Normally I tear into it and smother it with joy, tears, and attention. I look at it with joy and hold it lovingly. I polish it and keep it clean. I put it somewhere where everyone including me can enjoy it. I am learning to do that with children. It is such joy!!!

  27. So much I didn’t know…so much I still don’t know.

    Never realized how much I would love to watch my husband be an awesome daddy.

    Never thought about dealing with a child who is very different from everyone in our family. Always wondering if we are loving him well and doing the right thing.

    Never understood the pure joy or pure exhaustion of 5 kids.

    Am blessed beyond measure to have 1 adopted and 4 biological kids and a husband who love me….mistakes and all.

  28. I am married almost 27 yrs, and my husband and I have an adopted daughter who is almost 14. Something that completely blindsided me was when my daughter asked me why her birth mom kept her first daughter, but didn’t keep her. The question came out of the blue to me (maybe I was just naive or clueless!) one day a few years ago. Lizzie’s birth mom sent us a photo of herself posing with her firstborn daughter. It had been tucked away for a while, and Lizzie came across it one day when she and I were searching for some lost thing. She looked at it for a few minutes, so I asked her if she’d like to frame it and keep it in her room. That’s when the question came.
    I always purposed that whenever Lizzie asked about her birth mom I would be sure not to take it personally, not to feel insecure, etc. I was blindsided by the ache in my heart that I felt for this child that I’ve loved since she was one day old. Mentally I understood that adopted children suffer the loss of identity, connection, etc. But until I heard her sweet voice ask that question, I didn’t realize the emotions that would overwhelm me. I thought that I might feel replaced if she wanted to keep a framed photo of her first mom in her room. How shallow!! I never expected the feelings of grief and sadness that I would feel when this child of my heart expressed her grief and loss.
    I breathed a quick prayer for guidance and compassion. “She didn’t choose to give you up because of anything about you. She chose to sacrifice the joy and privilege of knowing you before she ever saw you, because she thought that would be what was best for you. She was young and single and overwhelmed by the responsibility of raising two beautiful girls on her own. We are so very grateful that she gave us such a treasure.” I showed her the pictures that were taken when we met Rose, her birth mom. That was also the day that she put Lizzie in our arms forever, just 24 hours after her birth. The pictures clearly showed our joy and her tears. Her sacrifice cost her dearly. She knew that she wasn’t choosing an easy path for herself, but a better life for her daughter.
    I’m sure that didn’t fix her grief. I pray that God’s grace will fill in the gaps that my insufficiency leaves. I pray she will find her self worth in Christ, and never doubt it because of being “given away”.
    Adoption is beautiful, but not without great cost. Look at what our adoption cost God.

    • Sorry, but I had to add one more thing:
      My husband and I are both Caucasian, and Lizzie is African American and Mexican. Obviously, we don’t look alike! I didn’t realize what a wonderful blessing that would be. I have an easy way to make God look great! He did for me what He did for the barren woman in Psalm 113:9 “He gives the barren woman a home,
      making her the joyous mother of children.
      Praise the Lord!”
      When someone asks me about our family, I say that even though my husband and I were physically unable to have children, we are parents! God did what was impossible for us to do for ourselves! That can lead into so many other discussions of His greatness!

  29. •What do you wish you’d known as you launched into parenting, whether by adoption or by birth? ~Gospel Centered Discipline~ book by Tedd Tripp”Shepharding a child’s heart” helped me tremedously.
    •What have you learned or are you experiencing that’s very different than what you’d expected, whether happy or hard? ~God is indeed Sovereign~ yep always good..really.. yet sometimes very hard.
    •What were you totally ignorant about at the beginning that you’re learning by experience?~They didn’t know how to love or trust us~ so frustrating when you give everything you have of yourself for them and they spit in your face, hit you and rebel against all you say..ouch.. remnds me of how I act at times toward the Love of God.
    •What unexpected things have blessed you? ~God Grace and Mercy~ ..amazing…so undeserving.
    •What unexpected things have blindsided you?
    ~How easy it was to make my children an Idol~
    ~How much they really do Try to please us~
    ~ Inexpressible Joy of being a parent~
    ~ Their is a different type of love between birth children and adopted for me, is not bad but different~ I wonder if that is how GOd feels toward Jesus and us?
    ~I Still have a lot of questions, wisdom to gain and am working things out…may we all press on to the Goal!!

    • oh and always make time to cultivate the relationship between you and your …why did I forget to mention that earlier.hmm:)

  30. It might be strange for me to be posting here, as I haven’t adopted, but we have good friends who did and I would love to get this book, “Chosen by Love”, for them. I know they wish they had known that an open adoption has many downsides…like demands from the birth mother that are unreasonable! At the same time, I know they don’t regret adopting their baby; they see him as an incredible gift of God!


    My friend Jennie Lodien and her started publishing this book years ago. It is a baby book/memory book for parents to put together for their adopted children. When I re-read this post tonight I thought I should share it with you!

    Bless you and your family!
    Lori Raymie

  32. Hi Noel,

    Thanks again for your visit to our city in the East’s West. I wish I had known… not to try and raise my kids to not be sinners. I want my children to know they are sinners. I want them to see their need for a Savior. It seems like so many of us parents want our kids to grow up not needing a savior. That’s too bad, really.

  33. I am the mom of 4 adult bios and 2 adopted teen/preteen. As far as parenting in general, I wish I knew that one size doesn’t fit all in parenting style and training. That it’s impossible to be a perfect parent, wife, and woman at all times, and there are lessons my children can learn when they see me pick myself up, apologize, and recover from those mistakes. That if I am to do my best job over the long haul, I can’t skimp on my own health, exercise, sleep, or diet. Of course in reality, my own health has been the first to go when things get messy.

    Now as for adopting, I wish I knew that exposure to alcohol prenatally is not as minor as our state social workers lead me to believe. That the best love and parenting in the world can’t heal a damaged brain. That I would learn grace the hard way, and be forever changed. That I would see other kids misbehave in stores and no longer judge the parents. That it can be exhausting to be an external brain for two others year after year. That the social services and education system in our state make things harder, not easier. That I can love two kids that came to us through adoption as much as the four I birthed. That it would be the most difficult journey of my life, yet the most rewarding.

    • I love your words, ” external brain for 2 others”. Exactly describing parenting. I also am amazed at how sugar coated my vocabulary has become since parenting. I no longer say things like, “Please do it because it is the right thing to do.” I wish I could say that and it reach a child’s heart…. No I have to say things like I only wanted to return that to you later so I could drop by, say hi, and bring you some lunch money. When they here that it benefits them, instant acquiesce. Boy what a softie loving God’s gifts has become.

  34. What do you wish you’d known as you launched into parenting, whether by adoption or by birth?

    All our children are adopted.

    That there are no guarantees. Children need love and faithful parenting, but there’s no package “child rearing” practice that is foolproof.

    That every adoption is accompanied by grief.

    That I would frequently feel helpless.

    What have you learned or are you experiencing that’s very different than what you’d expected, whether happy or hard?

    Love isn’t always enough. Being the best parent I can be isn’t enough.

    One of the joys is seeing the gifts given our adopted children. I can feel unmixed pleasure in them, not worried about pride, because I know that I had no genetic input. (Not sure if that makes sense.)

    What were you totally ignorant about at the beginning that you’re learning by experience?

    Not totally ignorant about prayer, but learning so much more of it.

    What it means to give my children to the LORD.

    The mixture of emotions over our children. Our eldest is not doing well at all, spiritually or materially or emotionally, and yet I still love him and have joy in many memories of his childhood. Very bittersweet.

    What unexpected things have blessed you?

    I have pure pleasure at times in my relationship with our daughters. I LIKE them and love them. They are so much fun. I like the women they are becoming.

    What unexpected things have blindsided you?

    Helplessness in helping our sons, both adopted with special needs… one premature (26 weeks gestation) and one at age 9 from Romania.

    The way birth parents have affected one adopted child as an adult. Not their faults necessarily… just an added complication.

  35. A couple more things…

    I was surprised by the lack of help from the church. We, as believers, preach pro-life, yet reject those who are “different” as a result of premature birth or issues due to abandonment or early days in an orphanage. The church is not well equipped to help those on the front lines of adoption. We do a lot of talking about mercy, but don’t act with mercy. I remember being in the throes of difficulty with our son adopted from Romania while attending a SS class on mercy. I couldn’t sit in it. I needed some mercy, some help, but all people did was debate whether to let neighborhood kids use the outdoor basketball court. I ended up sitting in our van crying week after week.

    • YES, I can really relate to this. There are many times when people say, “I’ll pray for you,” I can’t even make eye contact with them because I’m so annoyed. We have needed real help! But none was offered.

  36. The other thing… Churches are afraid of legal liability and I think hesitate to act because of that.

  37. […] all my blog readers who helped me remember all I don’t know when you responded to my requests here and here. If you haven’t read through all those comments, I encourage you to take advantage […]

  38. I have been totally amazed as I read these replies and the large amount of sadness expressed by these moms–adoptive and birth. My experience has been just the opposite–overwhelming joy. I am birth mother to 9, no adoptions. Yes, we’ve had some very difficult times/days, but my life would have been difficult at times without my family–life is like that. But, with my family, I am not alone in the bad times and even happier in the great times–and almost everyday has been a good day.
    Was I ignorant to begin with–yes, blissfully so–but the Lord continues to surprise me and delight me with HIS loving care. So far (I’m 56. The “kids” range from 18-33) it’s been a great ride:)

  39. […]  Noel had a lot of great things to share.  She also shared comments that people had posted on her blog when she asked them what they wished they had known.  One of Noel’s friends, Dorothy, wrote […]

  40. […] Beforehand, I called on blog friends for their experience. I’ve just reread the dozens of comments to that post  and find myself once again helped and deeply […]

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