How to Be The Village
by Jen Hatmaker on November 2nd, 2011

Sometimes being ever-so-slightly in the public eye is rough. With a mouth and discernment problem like mine, you can imagine. I basically offer my life on the altar of criticism daily, then douse the sacrifice with plenty of fuel to make disparagement a lay-up.

For instance, Brandon and I attended a Halloween party last weekend with the theme “Heroes and Super villains.” Our friends came in such costumes as Captain America and the Joker and Kim Possible. They were all very polished and adorable. We came as washed-up, possibly strung out Superman and Supergirl complete with ripped fishnets, smeared makeup, and pistol tattoo drawn with Sharpie. We may or may not have had unlit cigarettes dangling from the corners of our mouths.

These choices are often met with disapproval from the watching masses, as you might well guess. I know you wish I would only dress up as Little Bo Peep or Mary Mother of Jesus, but Brandon and I are very, very silly and immature, and I’ve been trying to tell you people this for some time.

But usually I am grateful for the connection to the greater world, if only through social media and the miracle of emails (plus embarrassing transparency). For example, just a few days ago, I received this email:

Our good friends just returned from Ethiopia last night with their two little boys. Ok, they've had their "airport" moment and we were right there with them. What are some things we can do now to support them in the "real life" journey without overstepping our boundaries? Thank you so much for your transparency and honesty. Everyone can benefit when you share from your heart.

I was so moved by this email. Having benefitted from a community that practically smothered us with support throughout our adoption journey, I am so grateful for all the other good friends out there, loving their people and asking how to help. Since reading this email, I’ve been marinating on her question, and I’ve decided to write this Field Guide to Supporting Adoptive Families. (And it will be brief because I will try to remember that this is a blog and not a manuscript and the rules of blogging include succinctness, so that is exactly how I’ll proceed today, except for the exact opposite of all that.)

Let’s break this down into two categories:

Supporting Families Before the Airport

Your friends are adopting. They’re in the middle of dossiers and home studies, and most of them are somewhere in the middle of Waiting Purgatory. Please let me explain something about WP: It sucks in every way. Oh sure, we try to make it sound better than it feels by using phrases like “We’re trusting in God’s plan” and “God is refining me” and “Sovereignty trumps my feelings” and crazy bidness like that. But we are crying and aching and getting angry and going bonkers when you’re not watching. It’s hard. It hurts. It feels like an eternity even though you can see that it is not. It is harder for us to see that, because many of us have pictures on our refrigerators of these beautiful darlings stuck in an orphanage somewhere while we’re bogged down in bureaucracy and delays.

How can you help? By not saying or doing these things:

1. “God’s timing is perfect!” (Could also insert: “This is all God’s plan!” “God is in charge!”) As exactly true as this may be, when you say it to a waiting parent, we want to scratch your eyebrows off and make you eat them with a spoon. Any trite answer that minimizes the struggle is as welcomed as a sack of dirty diapers. You are voicing something we probably already believe while not acknowledging that we are hurting and that somewhere a child is going to bed without a mother again. Please never say this again. Thank you.

2. “Are you going to have your own kids?” (Also in this category: “You’ll probably get pregnant the minute your adoption clears!” “Since this is so hard, why don’t you just try to have your own kids?” “Well, at least you have your own kids.”) The subtle message here is: You can always have legitimate biological kids if this thing tanks. It places adoption in the Back-up Plan Category, where it does not belong for us. When we flew to Ethiopia with our first travel group from our agency, out of 8 couples, we were the only parents with biological kids. The other 7 couples chose adoption first. Several of them were on birth control. Adoption counts as real parenting, and if you believe stuff Jesus said, it might even be closer to the heart of God than regular old procreation. (Not to mention the couples that grieved through infertility already. So when you say, “Are you going to have your own kids?” to a woman who tried for eight years, then don’t be surprised if she pulls your beating heart out like Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.)

3. For those of you in Christian community, it is extremely frustrating to hear: “Don’t give up on God!” or “Don’t lose faith!” It implies that we are one nanosecond away from tossing our entire belief system in the compost pile because we are acting sad or discouraged. It’s condescending and misses the crux of our emotions. I can assure you, at no point in our story did we think about kicking Jesus to the curb, but we still get to cry tears and feel our feelings, folks. Jesus did. And I’m pretty sure he went to heaven when he died.

4. We’re happy to field your questions about becoming a transracial family or adopting a child of another race, but please don’t use this moment to trot out your bigotry. (Cluelessness is a different thing, and we try to shrug that off. Like when someone asked about our Ethiopian kids, “Will they be black?” Aw, sweet little dum-dum.) The most hurtful thing we heard during our wait was from a black pastor who said, “Whatever you do, don’t change their last name to Hatmaker, because they are NOT Hatmakers. They’ll never be Hatmakers. They are African.” What the??? I wonder if he’d launch the same grenade if we adopted white kids from Russia? If you’d like to know what we’re learning about raising children of another race or ask respectful, legitimate questions, by all means, do so. We care about this and take it seriously, and we realize we will traverse racial landmines with our family. You don’t need to point out that we are adopting black kids and we are, in fact, white. We’ve actually already thought of that.

5. Saying nothing is the opposite bad. I realize with blogs like this one, you can get skittish on how to talk to a crazed adopting Mama without getting under her paper-thin skin or inadvertently offending her. I get it. (We try hard not to act so hypersensitive. Just imagine that we are paper-pregnant with similar hormones surging through our bodies making us cry at Subaru commercials just like the 7-month preggo sitting next to us. And look at all this weight we’ve gained. See?) But acting like we’re not adopting or struggling or waiting or hoping or grieving is not helpful either. If I was pregnant with a baby in my belly, and no one ever asked how I was feeling or how much longer or is his nursery ready or can we plan a shower, I would have to audition new friend candidates immediately.

Here’s what we would love to hear Before the Airport:

1. Just kind, normal words of encouragement. Not the kind that assume we are one breath away from atheism. Not the kind that attempt to minimize the difficulties and tidy it all up with catchphrases. We don’t actually need for you to fix our wait. We just want you to be our friend and acknowledge that the process is hard and you care about us while we’re hurting. That is GOLD. I was once having lunch with my friend Lynde when AWAA called with more bad news about Ben’s case, and I laid my head down on the table in the middle of Galaxy Café and bawled. Having no idea what to do with such a hot mess, she just cried with me. Thank you for being perfect that day, Lynde.

2. Your questions are welcomed! We don’t mind telling you about the court system in Ethiopia or the in-country requirements in Nicaragua or the rules of the foster system. We’re glad to talk about adoption, and we’re thankful you care. I assure you we didn’t enter adoption lightly, so sharing details of this HUGE PIECE OF OUR LIVES is cathartic. Plus, we want you to know more because we’re all secretly hoping you’ll adopt later. (This is not true.) (Yes it is.)

3. When you say you’re praying for us and our waiting children, and you actually really are, not only does that soothe our troubled souls, but according to Scripture, it activates the heavens. So pray on, dear friends. Pray on. That is always the right thing to say. And please actually do it. We need people to stand in the gap for us when we are too tired and discouraged to keep praying the same words another day.

4. If you can, please become telepathic to determine which days we want to talk about adoption and which days we’d rather you just show up on our doorstep with fresh figs from the Farmer’s Market (thanks, Katie) or kidnap us away in the middle of the day to go see Bridesmaids. Sometimes we need you to make us laugh and remember what it feels like to be carefree for a few hours. If you’re not sure which day we’re having, just pre-buy movie tickets and show up with the figs, and when we answer the door, hold them all up and ask, “Would you like to talk for an hour uninterrupted about waiting for a court date?” We’ll respond to whichever one fits.

Supporting Families After the Airport

You went to the airport. The baby came down the escalator to cheers and balloons. The long adoption journey is over and your friends are home with their new baby / toddler / twins / siblings / teenager. Everyone is happy. Maybe Fox News even came out and filmed the big moment and “your friend” babbled like an idiot and didn’t say one constructive word about adoption and also she looked really sweaty during her interview. (Really? That happened to me too. Weird.)

How can you help? By not saying or doing these things:

1. I mean this nicely, but don’t come over for awhile. Most of us are going to hole up in our homes with our little tribe and attempt to create a stable routine without a lot of moving parts. This is not because we hate you; it’s because we are trying to establish the concept of “home” with our newbies, and lots of strangers coming and going makes them super nervous and unsure, especially strangers who are talking crazy language to them and trying to touch their hair.

2. Please do not touch, hug, kiss, or use physical affection with our kids for a few months. We absolutely know your intentions are good, but attachment is super tricky with abandoned kids, and they have had many caregivers, so when multiple adults (including extended family) continue to touch and hold them in their new environment, they become confused about who to bond with. This actually delays healthy attachment egregiously. It also teaches them that any adult or stranger can touch them without their permission, and believe me, many adoptive families are working HARD to undo the damage already done by this position. Thank you so much for respecting these physical boundaries.

3. For the next few months, do not assume the transition is easy. For 95% of us, it so is not. And this isn’t because our family is dysfunctional or our kids are lemons, but because this phase is so very hard on everyone. I can’t tell you how difficult it was to constantly hear: “You must be so happy!” and “Is life just so awesome now that they’re here??” and “Your family seems just perfect now!” I wanted that to be true so deeply, but I had no idea how to tell you that our home was actually a Trauma Center. (I did this in a passive aggressive way by writing this blog, which was more like “An Open Letter to Everyone Who Knows Us and Keeps Asking Us How Happy We Are.”) Starting with the right posture with your friends – this is hard right now – will totally help you become a safe friend to confide in / break down in front of / draw strength from.

4. Do not act shocked if we tell you how hard the early stages are. Do not assume adoption was a mistake. Do not worry we have ruined our lives. Do not talk behind our backs about how terribly we’re doing and how you’re worried that we are suicidal. Do not ask thinly veiled questions implying that we are obviously doing something very, very wrong. Do not say things like, “I was so afraid it was going to be like this” or “Our other friends didn’t seem to have these issues at all.” Just let us struggle. Be our friends in the mess of it. We’ll get better.

5. If we’ve adopted older kids, please do not ask them if they “love America so much” or are “so happy to live in Texas.” It’s this simple: adoption is born from horrible loss. In an ideal world, there would be no adoption, because our children would be with their birth families, the way God intended. I’ll not win any points here, but I bristle when people say, “Our adopted child was chosen for us by God before the beginning of time.” No he wasn’t. He was destined for his birth family. God did not create these kids to belong to us. He didn’t decide that they should be born into poverty or disease or abandonment or abuse and despair aaaaaaaall so they could finally make it into our homes, where God intended them to be. No. We are a very distant Plan B. Children are meant for their birth families, same as my biological kids were meant for mine. Adoption is one possible answer to a very real tragedy… after it has already happened, not before as the impetus for abandonment. There is genuine grief and sorrow when your biological family is disrupted by death and poverty, and our kids have endured all this and more. So when you ask my 8-year-old if he is thrilled to be in Texas, please understand that he is not. He misses his country, his language, his food, his family. Our kids came to us in the throes of grief, as well they should. Please don’t make them smile and lie to you about how happy they are to be here.

6. Please do not disappear. If I thought the waiting stage was hard, it does not even hold the barest candle to what comes after the airport. Not. The. Barest. Candle. Never have I felt so isolated and petrified. Never have I been so overwhelmed and exhausted. We need you after the airport way more than we ever needed you before. I know you’re scared of us, what with our dirty hair and wild eyes and mystery children we’re keeping behind closed doors so they don’t freak out more than they already have, but please find ways to stick around. Call. Email. Check in. Post on our Facebook walls. Send us funny cards. Keep this behavior up for longer than six days.

Here’s what we would love to hear or experience After the Airport:

1. Cook for your friends. Put together a meal calendar and recruit every person who even remotely cares about them. We didn’t cook dinners for one solid month, and folks, that may have single handedly saved my sanity. There simply are not words to describe how exhausting and overwhelming those first few weeks are, not to mention the lovely jetlag everyone came home with. And if your friends adopted domestically right up the street, this is all still true, minus the jetlag.

2. If we have them, offer to take our biological kids for an adventure or sleepover. Please believe me: their lives just got WHACKED OUT, and they need a break, but their parents can’t give them one because they are 1.) cleaning up pee and poop all day, 2.) holding screaming children, 3.) spending all their time at doctors’ offices, and 4.) falling asleep in their clothes at 8:15pm. Plus, they are in lockdown mode with the recently adopted, trying to shield them from the trauma that is Walmart.

3. Thank you for getting excited with us over our little victories. I realize it sounds like a very small deal when we tell you our kindergartener is now staying in the same room as the dog, but if you could’ve seen the epic level of freakoutedness this dog caused her for three weeks, you would understand that this is really something. When you encourage us over our incremental progress, it helps. You remind us that we ARE moving forward and these little moments are worth celebrating. If we come to you spazzing out, please remind us where we were a month ago. Force us to acknowledge their gains. Be a cheerleader for the healing process.

4. Come over one night after our kids are asleep and sit with us on our porch. Let me tell you: we are all lonely in those early weeks. We are home, home, home, home, home. Good-bye, date nights. Good-bye, GNO’s. Good-bye, spontaneous anything. Good-bye, church. Good-bye, big public outings. Good-bye, community group. Good-bye, nightlife. So please bring some community to our doorstep. Bring friendship back into our lives. Bring adult conversation and laughter. And bring an expensive bottle of wine.

5. If the shoe fits, tell adopting families how their story is affecting yours. If God has moved in you over the course of our adoption, whether before the airport or after, if you’ve made a change or a decision, if somewhere deep inside a fire was lit, tell us, because it is spiritual water on dry souls. There is nothing more encouraging than finding out God is using our families for greater kingdom work, beautiful things we would never know or see. We gather the holy moments in our hands every day, praying for eyes to see God’s presence, his purposes realized in our story. When you put more holy moments in our hands to meditate on, we are drawn deeper into the Jesus who led us here.

Here’s one last thing: As you watch us struggle and celebrate and cry and flail, we also want you to know that adoption is beautiful, and a thousand times we’ve looked at each other and said, “What if we would’ve said no?” God invited us into something monumental and lovely, and we would’ve missed endless moments of glory had we walked away. We need you during these difficult months of waiting and transitioning, but we also hope you see that we serve a faithful God who heals and actually sets the lonely in families, just like He said He would. And even through the tears and tantrums (ours), we look at our children and marvel that God counted us worthy to raise them. We are humbled. We’ve been gifted with a very holy task, and when you help us rise to the occasion, you have an inheritance in their story; your name will be counted in their legacy.

Because that day you brought us pulled pork tacos was the exact day I needed to skip dinner prep and hold my son on the couch for an hour, talking about Africa and beginning to bind up his emotional wounds. When you kidnapped me for two hours and took me to breakfast, I was at the very, very, absolute end that morning, but I came home renewed, able to greet my children after school with fresh love and patience. When you loved on my big kids and offered them sanctuary for a night, you kept the family rhythm in sync at the end of a hard week.

Thank you for being the village. You are so important.

Adoptive friends, what can you add? What has been helpful or hurtful? How has your community helped you raise your children? What do friends and family need to hear?


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224 Comments

Melinda - November 2nd, 2011 at 12:29 PM
Wish I could add something, but you covered it all, Jen. Thanks.

Also wish I wasn't so familiar with the "Did you know they were going to be black?" question... dum-dums live in sweet home Alabama, too.
Jessica Hoekstra - November 2nd, 2011 at 2:54 PM
And also in Michigan!
Sarah - November 3rd, 2011 at 12:29 PM
And also in Florida!
Sharon - November 3rd, 2011 at 8:26 PM
In Minnesota too.
Deanne - November 25th, 2011 at 3:13 PM
And in WV ;)
Lisa McGough - December 17th, 2011 at 11:19 AM
This was so great to read. All should read. Two things really resonated with me. First, I can't tell you how many people have asked how happy I must be. Yes, I am truly grateful for my son, but the road is filled with struggles and losses. Secondly, friends please do not disappear. I feel so alone right now. Thank you to those friends who are sticking around.
Joanna - November 2nd, 2011 at 12:40 PM
Bringing meals is huge...even take out or gift certificates. Offer to run errands (call me from the grocery store to see if I need anything...pick me up a latte on the way over :) Help me clean (bathrooms, kitchen, fold laundry) so that I can nap at nap time too. Basically anything that will free me up to spend quality, eye contact, touching, one-on-one time with my kid(s).
Chasity - November 2nd, 2011 at 4:46 PM
Loved this whole post and love your comment Joanna! Spot on!
Jacque - November 2nd, 2011 at 12:45 PM
Thanks for posting, Jen! We are in the process of adopting a sweet little girl named Phiona from Uganda. The part that has been the hardest thus far (besides the waiting, which is terrible) is the negative comments we've received from people about how "she is black and you are white," (really? weird. hadn't noticed.) and about how we "shouldn't bring an African child to South Texas because she'll have to adapt too much," and how "people will turn their noses down to us because we are a transracial family." Since when did we revert to old ways and become so ignorant? This is a precious child, who only wants to know that she is loved, protected, cherished, safe, etc.

Thank you for your blog and thank you for being so real!
menda fowler - November 5th, 2011 at 1:44 PM
Jacque,
I just read your comment about adopting in Uganda and I just wanted to tell you that we live in Entebbe, just a few minutes from the airport. If you need a place to stay while you're here, we would love to have you. We've got a little apartment attached to our house. We have 8 adopted children from Alaska (where we are from), so adoption is close to our hearts! Blessings as you continue on this exciting adventure. Menda
shadley - November 2nd, 2011 at 12:50 PM
May I share this? This is perfect and beautifully written. We have been there and I know many in other stages of this journey who could benefit from Xeroxing this baby and passing it out at Thanksgiving dinner.
Cherie - November 2nd, 2011 at 2:53 PM
LOL!!!!! Love this response!!!
Anna - November 3rd, 2011 at 10:04 AM
Focus on the Family also has a booklet printed out that shares some of these same points.(not nearly as emotional and "real nitty gritty reality" interspersed throughout though.
Anna Dreyfus - November 2nd, 2011 at 12:52 PM
Thank you, thank you, thank you, Jen!!! You are awesome and I couldn't have said it better myself! Love you, friend!
Jen Giles - November 2nd, 2011 at 12:55 PM
Oh Jen, I'm crying. Your post was so helpful. I've been part of the village for a fostering family AND I'm trained and licensed counselor AND I'm generally able to read cues, provide timely compassionate responses AND I find myself over and over having NO CLUE how to help my friends who are adopting. I think I'll read this post over and over. And I look forward to reading comments from others to see if they agree on ways that "we" can best support "you". Don't stop writing! The awareness I gain from your perspective is so helpful.
Sarah - November 2nd, 2011 at 12:59 PM
I recently heard a message about resurrection and how adoption is a type of resurrection. After all the loss there is new life. Thanks for sharing your story. We are just at the beginning of the process to adopt from Ethiopia.
Laurie - November 2nd, 2011 at 1:01 PM
I would add...if you ask in front of my kids if my adopted children are biological brother and sister, please don't be surprised by a mumble jumbled answer. My kiddos now speak and understand English, hearing me answer your question with "No" or even "No but they are now" only confuses them more.
Jill - November 2nd, 2011 at 1:25 PM
Laurie....yes, yes, yes! I have had this one flung at me WAY too many times. I have 4 Ethiopian beauties from 3 adoptions and I hear it all. the. time.
Sarah - November 3rd, 2011 at 12:41 AM
You dont have to mumble...Just say, yes, they sure are!! None of their business!
Gini - November 2nd, 2011 at 1:03 PM
Thank you for writing this--I posted a link on my blog.:)
Lisa - November 2nd, 2011 at 1:07 PM
WOW. One of the most honest, accurate and amazing things I' have ever read. This needs to be published. Thank you so very much for sharing.
erinbeth - November 2nd, 2011 at 1:10 PM
I sure wish I had some well thought out adopting-mama response right now. But, my glasses keep fogging up from tears, I can't keep snot in my nose, and I'm ten minutes from meeting a client at work. I just want to say THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! for this post. I've been a mess lately. Don't ask me why. I don't know why. Adoption books for kids send me to hang my head over the toilet as my stomach knots for their grief. Kids in Halloween costumes caused a spontaneous melt down while driving home (don't worry, I didn't run any of them over). My ugly-cry last night (yeah, that's 3 days in a row) went something like this "I don't get it? What's wrong with me? Why am I crying?" Um. Yeah. That hormonal-paper-pregnancy thing. I get it. I get it, big time. Just glad I'm not crazy (like, officially).
Sara - June 15th, 2012 at 8:37 AM
Wow - Hey I'm new to Jen's blog and reading back stuff... We are in the middle of compiling our dossier and I find myself an emotional wreck! I mean I've cried daily for a week straight! whew!!!!! thanks!!!!
Terri - November 2nd, 2011 at 1:11 PM
This is an excellent and accurate list and you have covered all the bases! I would add three things.
First, remember that as adoptive kids grow and are years into their lives at home, they can still have lagging development of various kinds. You can always ask the parents the best way to handle behaviors and/or problems. My son may still thrown a baseball in the house because all he heard you say was "don't bounce the basketball in the house." My daughter may be sassy because she's uncomfortable or anxious about the social situation she doesn't know how to navigate. Some of these more subtle developmental delays can linger for several years and it's not because adoptive kids are "all screwed up" but because they have ALOT to make up for no matter what age they were adopted.
Second, don't be mad or have your feelings hurt if a family asks you NOT to come to the airport as a big group. I was so sick in the Atlanta airport and coming home from our third adoption that the stewardess wanted to have paramedics waiting for me in Dallas. :)
Third, and this is related to one of your points, don't ask someone in the midst of a difficult adoption when they are going to give up or move on. That is like asking a couple in the midst of a difficult pregnancy when they are going to have an abortion.
Shannon - November 2nd, 2011 at 1:12 PM
This will be linked on my Facebook wall in about 15 seconds. Thank you for spelling it out so clearly. Oh, and this:

"God did not create these kids to belong to us."

YES. Thank you for saying this. Adoption is a way to restore something broken. I love my girls desperately, and I am thankful God saw fit to place them in our family. But I absolutely believe He desired them to be able to stay in their birth families.
Jennifer - November 2nd, 2011 at 1:24 PM
Thanks!! Awesome, I think you covered EVERYTHING! After 10 years....I'm still getting stares and questions about my Hispanic son. Yes, I'm black, but oh wow, I didn't know he was Hispanic!!! Thanks for letting me know!!
Marla Taviano - November 2nd, 2011 at 1:36 PM
I love you, and I'm treasuring up all these things in my heart in the event God leads us to adopt. For now, I'm praying in faith that God will still allow us to spend 5 weeks in Cambodia at the end of this year loving on orphans (Gabe had a heart attack Saturday night and was thisclose to not being around any longer).

p.s. I snickered out loud at the "aw, sweet little dum-dum" and my 9yo asked me what was so funny. I told her, and she made me say it 5 more times. Gonna be my go-to (not-so-)veiled insult from here on out.
AmyE - November 2nd, 2011 at 1:58 PM
"Never have I felt so isolated and petrified. Never have I been so overwhelmed and exhausted." So, so true! And while it's better after 15 months, I still wake up each day having no idea if anything I'm doing is actually making a difference in my child with a significant attachment disorder. Thanks for speaking truth, and reminding me I'm not crazy. (yes, I am!)
Kimberly - November 2nd, 2011 at 1:58 PM
Holla! Love this to my very core.
Jenny - November 2nd, 2011 at 2:05 PM
Having friends invite our big kids out for the day has been one of the best things. They got to have fun doing something that we as a family just couldn't do right now-- take a 6 mile bike ride along the Potomac River and have a picnic lunch. Whoa-- just MAKING lunch is a big deal right now. Taking our big kids out to eat-- can't really do that when the new little one HATES a high chair because she hasn't ever sat in one before. Those prepared meals are pure gold as well. Pure gold. And, I nearly cried, well okay, I did cry, when a neighbor called me from the grocery store to see if I needed anything. What a relief not to have to load everyone up and hit the store for milk, bread, eggs. And, she brought me a chocolate bar, too. Maybe no big whoop to her, but HUGE for me.
Beth - November 2nd, 2011 at 2:07 PM
I have tears in my eyes, thanks for this post. I would add please don't reply to our complaining of how hard life is once our child comes home with "You asked for this!" God called us to adopt no doubt about it and it is the hardest thing we have EVER done but the most rewarding!
Christy - November 2nd, 2011 at 2:08 PM
Awesome!!!!
While talking with someone today at gymnastics we were talking about adoption, she is a social worker but has not adopted. We were talking about who should and who shouldn't adopt and I finally said, "I'm not exactly sure WHO should adopt". After reading this I have figured out who... anyone who is willing to have their whole world turned upside down for Jesus!!!! I am so thankful we chose that road but wow it's hard!!!
Faith - November 2nd, 2011 at 2:18 PM
AMAZING!!! Thank you soooo much for writing your heart Jen, and while at it, writing so many of our hearts as well! I hope you don't mind, but I shared this on my FB page....your words are such a gift to allow our friends to learn the desires of many adoptive families! We are one of those families who are on birth control because we believe God has called us to adopt....we're not ashamed of that fact at all! BUT, the reactions we receive are hurtful. Thank you for your transparency!
Sara McNutt - November 2nd, 2011 at 2:21 PM
I love, love, love your writing. I'm an avid blog reader and I think you're the best, most authentic, say-what-I-didn't-feel-like-I-could-put-into-words-until-you-said-it-perfectly blogger around. Thank you, thank you, thank you. My husband and I are a few years away from adoption (after he finishes NP school) but I store up these gems of wisdom in the meantime. Be blessed, my friend (if only that were true IRL...) :)
bonar crump - November 2nd, 2011 at 2:25 PM
I love the Hatmakers!

What a huge glorious hot mess they've got going on over there!

We should all be so lucky.
Mlynne - November 2nd, 2011 at 2:30 PM
Thank-you, thank-you, thank-you, how well you have written so many of my thoughts up to this point, Waiting and waiting. I also will try to post a link on my blog. This day was the perfect day to read this for it has been one of those weeks when I question if God will find us worthy to parent a child from Ethiopia and it is also one of those days when I feel like who would understand this?
JenV - November 2nd, 2011 at 2:32 PM
I think you should publish this. A year ago, when we were waiting for our daughter to come home, I was looking for something like this to share with my friends and family. It's witty and fun to read, and yet gets the point across so clearly. Thank you!!!!
Laura - November 2nd, 2011 at 2:36 PM
Hi Jen,

A friend from college shared this link on FB, and I've sat here laughing and crying for the past 10 minutes. Thank you for your raw, open, funny honesty that touches me to the core of my being. Now I've got to go back and read from the beginning to catch up with you, in a non-stockerish way, of course. :) Every word you wrote is echoes my heart perfectly. Praise God for those willing to be honest about one of the grandest adventures ever told!
Jaime - November 2nd, 2011 at 2:38 PM
I would add to not pretend like you are psychic by saying to a waiting family "You'll hear this week!" or "This time you'll pass court!". I am going to ask people for a $1000 money back guarantee on all predictions.
Jenny - November 2nd, 2011 at 2:39 PM
So good. Thanks for your honesty and transparency. We added 2 girls to our family almost 14 months ago. It's been a lonely and difficult road, many days are blessed and great but it has been lonely and isolating.
Jill - November 2nd, 2011 at 2:45 PM
One thing I would add to the "Do not say" list before the airport.....do NOT tell me all the horrific adoption stories you have heard. This is worse than telling a pregnant woman all the horrible labor stories....I don't need to hear about adoptions falling through, adoption scams, etc. Not helpful. We all pray our adoptions go smoothly but everyone knows that it can all fall apart in a heartbeat, don't remind us of that.

For the after the airport part....one of the best things that happened to me was a neighbor (who I had never met yet but also adopted internationally the summer before me) noticed that I needed some work done on my house. He motivated his church team to come over and reshingle a section of my roof that had blown off in a storm right after we returned home. Ask us if we need something done....mow the lawn, wash the car (the inside, we could care less about the outside of it at that point), pull weeds. Ask us if we need help with childproofing the house or if there are odd jobs we need done. As a single mom, there are so many things I have left undone because I could not leave my child alone long enough to pull out a drill or find the hammer.

And you mentioned about the pets and your child being afraid of them. Offer to pet-sit for us. My dog was neglected so much those first few months. Take him on walks for me, play with him in the backyard, take him to your house for a weekend so he can have fun and my kid can get a break from being on edge all the time. Offer to keep him for a week or two and bring him over for visits to slowly acclimate the child to the dog and vice versa.

Thanks so much for this post!!!!!!
Lindsey - November 15th, 2011 at 12:42 PM
Seriously! If I hear one more person tell me an adoption horror story or that they are a social worker and all adopted kids have issues, I am going to scream!
Debbi - November 2nd, 2011 at 2:54 PM
I love this!!! Thank you so much for posting!! Btw, we have a mutual friend, Julie C from Tulsa!! Small world!! :)
EJ Phillips - November 2nd, 2011 at 2:57 PM
Love this. Although I'm one of the folks bristling because I do say that my adopted daughter was planned to be mine since the beginning. Because the only other option is that is that my adopting her has trumped God's sovereignty. So while I get your point, agree with it and all its corollaries, I liken it to God also knowing about the Fall prior to the Fall. (Can you tell I'm reformed? I can't help it. I was predestined that way... :) Am forwarding this along to the Orphan Care Community at my church...
Missy - November 3rd, 2011 at 8:48 PM
Me too EJ. My reformed self bristled too :)

God reveals his glory though the most spectacular sins, as Piper would say.
Jen Hatmaker - November 5th, 2011 at 6:17 PM
Favorite thing ever: "Can you tell I'm reformed? I can't help it. I was predestined that way." GOLD!!! Point: EJ Phillips. Love it.
Candi - November 2nd, 2011 at 3:00 PM
I love love love this! If you publish this, it will be wonderful, and I will give it to everyone I know when we adopt again (because I would like them to be successful at dealing with me next time...ha ha ha!). About the bringing food: YES! Also, people should never ask if you need them to bring food; they just need to show up with it. I guess that applies to when people ask, "Do you need anything?" too. Yes, we need something; no, we're not going to say we do. People are just supposed to know what we need and do it! :)
Allison - November 2nd, 2011 at 3:01 PM
Add to the list of after the airport:
When an adoptive parent is having a difficult time (and perhaps not handling it well or needs to vent), NEVER say, "Well, YOU wanted to adopt her...". It hurts to the core of a mom's heart to not receive compassion from those she trusts to lean on.

Thanks for this, Jen. Truly, thanks.
Jennifer - November 2nd, 2011 at 3:04 PM
#5 in "afer the airport" is my ABSOLUTE FAVORITE - thank you so much for saying it! I have tried to communicate that notion, too - that our son was not made for our family - but that our willingness and his need were brought together by a God who loves all of us.
Rachel Goode - November 3rd, 2011 at 9:48 AM
This is great! However, I disagree with #5. God DID intend for these children to be ours from the begining of time. Psalms 139:16 says, "your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be." Sure, adoption is a result of the fall and of sin and imperfection and loss. But God knew these things were coming and He allowed them, because He knew that through the bad, He could make even more beauty through His redemption than if nothing had ever gone wrong for these children. "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." Romans 8:28
Melanie - November 2nd, 2011 at 3:06 PM
This post makes me sad... It brings up so much hurt... We adopted a little Boy from Ukraine this summer that has Down Syndrome and is 7... We had sparce support before... There were no airport scenes... We came home to a whole drama that my Inlaws created while we were away, at our home and with our so we thought close friends... I still feel very alone today. It has been a very hard 4 1/2 months... But I wouldn`t trade that little guy for all of the support in the World!
Erin R. - November 2nd, 2011 at 11:00 PM
I am so sorry to hear, Melanie. Where do you live? Perhaps I (we) know folks in your area who can rally around you!
Jill - November 4th, 2011 at 5:51 PM
Melanie I am praying for you to have a village rise up and love you! I will pray for you!
Brenda - November 2nd, 2011 at 3:11 PM
I am the white mom of two black 10 year old boys we adopted when they were six months old. Just when I think I've heard it all, someone asks me a real zinger. My favorite: "Are you their real mom?" Yes, people ask me that in front of my 10 year olds. I'm the only mom they've ever known, so this question confuses them endlessly. My answer: "Yes, yes I am." and then I smartly march away pushing my shopping cart at a brisk pace. To answer any other way implies that I'm only their "temporary" or "fake" mom. My favorite question is, "You have a lovely family. Do you have a story?" This allows me to tell them about our adoption and why we consider it a miracle from God. We had none of the issues you are dealing with as we adopted them domestically (some might consider Oklahoma foreign, but the majority allow it statehood); however, we couldn't have done what we did without the massive support we received from our friends and family. As we enter the mine-filled land of adolescence, I'm sure our racial differences will become more pronounced. But God has been faithful throughout to give us the strength we need. I can't wait to see what He does for you and your family. Keep blogging about this! I love it. P.S.: See you in Wichita on Thursday!
Trace - November 2nd, 2011 at 3:28 PM
This was a nice manifesto, Jen. Really covered a lot. Most of the difficulties we've faced have been not from people who wanted to help, but from people who didn't get why we were adopting. If those people are reading this blog, I would just add, it's not helpful to ask, "Why would you ruin your family like this?"

The thing we would add, and someone else alluded to this already, is just to be understanding when our adopted kids don't obey the rules, or know how to act in public settings right away, or even embrace family members. Orphans may have never had an extended family and may not know how to act. They may not care that your title is "Grandma," or if they do, they may not know how to bond with you. We've had people in our family say that building a relationship with our adopted son is "a two-way street," which is ridiculous to ask of a 13 year-old who's been in foster care his entire life.

Also, stating that "you would never let your own children act like that" is not helpful. As adoptive parents, we are picking our battles, slowly trying to teach them right and wrong, overcoming past habits, etc. You're right, we wouldn't let our biological child act like that... because we've raised our biological child since birth and have had 10 years (and more) to teach him, nurture him, and encourage him. We've had our adopted child for three months, and contrary to what you apparently believe, the foster system didn't teach him to be perfect.
Jen - November 2nd, 2011 at 3:29 PM
Thanks for sharing! Gosh, Id say a big question, that has been asked in front of my 13 yr old adopted child is," Isn't it really expensive to adopt??" Not OK..Again, thanks for sharing! Jen
jodi - November 2nd, 2011 at 3:31 PM
A wonderful post - thank you! I have recently "loss my son", a boy that I know is my son, but things are keeping us apart. I have to accept the fact that I will never be his mommy - but I am grieving the loss of my son - I know other non-adoptive and even some adoptive friends wont ever understand - it is a very lonely time. Thank you for sharing these tips!
Sarah - November 2nd, 2011 at 3:41 PM
Thank you for this:

Plus, we want you to know more because we’re all secretly hoping you’ll adopt later. (This is not true.) (Yes it is.)

I HAVEN'T LAUGHED THAT HARD IN AT LEAST 6 MONTHS IN Waiting Purgatory!!!!!!!!! It's soooooo true!!!!
leann - November 2nd, 2011 at 3:55 PM
I am an adoptive parent
Christy - November 2nd, 2011 at 3:56 PM
Thank you for saying all of this! We have adopted twice already (five children - over four years, all came home between 8 and 13 years old) so have a brood of children 12 to 17, eight in all, three homegrown scattered in there, and five adopted from Ethiopia - and we are in process to adopt two sisters in Ethiopia, heading to our court date shortly. The two littles are three and one, and the three year old has Down Syndrome. I have shared your post on facebook as it so well states the experience. It is so hard that when we go through hard times, the times that are part of the process, so many are ready to jump on the "it must be a terrible mistake, you can't do this, you are losing your mind" ship. No, we aren't any of the above, we are just dealing with life. It isn't always pretty, but you need to walk through the valleys with us too, if you want to join us on the mountain tops! We are raising KIDS! Kids who have had more loss in their short lives than many of us will EVER have!!!! And yes, sometimes we are tired. What I remember most of the early days home - the first six months or so, was the total exhaustion because everything in life was new and way overstimulating and simply intense. And I was lonely. I was lonely because I wasn't allowed to have a bad day, to make mistakes, because so many were ready to judge. Just because we do something hard, doesn't mean we shouldn't do it. It is just hard, and that is okay. Thanks for saying this!
Jodi - November 2nd, 2011 at 4:09 PM
Thank you, Jen for holding this mirror to my face
D-Mon - November 2nd, 2011 at 4:26 PM
Speaking of Halloween...(and I totally get the irony of your costume)

How do I explain to my five-year-old son who has been here for five weeks in broken amharic-english-spanglish exactly why you have a bloody knife sticking out of your head? This is celebrating what?

Oh Halloween. Well Miss Server at Denny's, he doesn't seem to understand and can you kindly please just remove the bloody knife while you wait on our table?
Christi - November 2nd, 2011 at 4:34 PM
Jen,
As part of the Village for my friends in the "Before the Airport" stage, I cannot THANK YOU ENOUGH for this very enlightening and helpful post. I wish it could be published and shared on a bigger scale...so many friends of adoptive families need to hear this!

There are so many times when we feel torn...we want to help, but don't know what to say. We want to do something, but feel so inadequate, so clumsy with our efforts. Your practical tips and words of wisdom are so priceless to me! Thanks again for sharing your heart on behalf of others in the process. I've come to love reading your writings - they are inspiring and REAL, which is so...refreshing.

...And thanks for the tip on the wine. I'm absolutely going to use that one!! :)
Rachel - November 2nd, 2011 at 4:38 PM
Thank you thank you thank you for posting!
So refreshed by these words as we play the waiting game.

TraumaMamaT - November 2nd, 2011 at 4:43 PM
Good, good stuff. Good to be reminded of the waiting period crazies. Good to remember the crazies of the first year are over, even as new craziness comes up two, three, four, five years down the pike. Even years after the airport, this mama often feels quite isolated. I would encourage other a-moms especially to reach out, just as they are asking to be reached out to, for support. Be there, even when you're tired, too. Be there, even when what your friend is going through with their kids scares you. Be there even when your friend isn't making sense. Be there even when your friend is so tired they're snapping at everything. Be there just so they know you're there and just so they know you're with them for the long haul. Make time. Remember when they dropped everything for you.
*Ashley Lou* - November 2nd, 2011 at 4:45 PM
This made me laugh. and cry. Thank you.
shelley - November 2nd, 2011 at 4:47 PM
such a substantial post! great all the way around! one of my favorite parts is, "We gather the holy moments in our hands every day, praying for eyes to see God’s presence, his purposes realized in our story. When you put more holy moments in our hands to meditate on, we are drawn deeper into the Jesus who led us here." beautifully written! we have been home with our siblings for 2 1/2 years and so much of this still applies. grateful for your transparency!
Kristen - November 2nd, 2011 at 5:03 PM
I wholeheartedly agree with everything you wrote! My addition would be please fight the urge to comment on the adopted child' appearance. I can barely get through Target without someone telling my daughter how beautiful she is. I've always felt that those comments, while not seemingly bad, are doing two things: Acknowledging that my daughter is different
Michelle - November 2nd, 2011 at 5:09 PM
Treat us as if we were pregnant. How about giving a congratulations, small gift, throw a shower. Do SOMETHING to show you are excited!
Karen - November 2nd, 2011 at 5:17 PM
Bumper sticker Christians are really not helpful in any situation. Some of the things I heard when my mom died are the typical, "She's in a better place..." followed by "God will make good out of this," "It's His will and plan for her life," and misquoted scriptures such as "He won't give you more than you can handle" and the famous Jeremiah 29:11. I love Jesus and I know His promises to me. In hard times, rather than these platitudes, people need to simply hear, "That stinks!" or "I'm so sorry things are hard right now." The comfort doesn't come from someone slapping biblical bumper stickers on tough situations, striving for an "answer" to why you're going through your difficulty, it comes from someone who cares enough to simply share this human moment with you. Period.

I have clearly felt this with my own situation, and I thank you for the reminder that it applies to so many others.
Rhonda LaBatt - November 2nd, 2011 at 6:02 PM
I love you. That is all. :)
love - November 2nd, 2011 at 6:07 PM
thank you for this.

i'd add in a section about questions not to ask my children or to ask me in front of my children.

-what happened to their 'real' parents.
-what their 'story' is.
-how old they are. [this is so tricky. so many people don't realize that a LOT of orphaned children--especially older ones that might actually answer--do not know their age. our boy thinks he's a lot older than he probably is
Lisa - November 2nd, 2011 at 8:02 PM
Yes! People are so insensitive about talking in front of our new kiddos who came from foster care. They ask about their past, and praise us for "saving them", then proceed to tell me about other people they know who foster..all in front of my kids! I just want to apologize to my child in front of them and make them squirm instead of the child.
Barbara - November 2nd, 2011 at 6:08 PM
Thankyou. I'm the Nanna of an adopted child and I HAD NO IDEA of what it all meant. I thought I did. I'm going to print your blog and post it to all my relatives. I adore my new granddaughter and had the best moment just the other day when she asked her Mum (my amazing daughter), "where's my Nanna?" It takes a long time but we get there in the end.
Debi - November 2nd, 2011 at 6:09 PM
I loved this! Thank you for sharing! I would also like to add that while you mention before/after the airport, I have to say it's the same with just adopting through the foster care system. Everything you wrote, I could relate to!!!
Diana - November 2nd, 2011 at 10:19 PM
I was thinking the same, Debi. Although we don't have language differences, those of us who've adopted older sibling groups from this country are fighting our own battles. Bringing home a 6, 7,
Cindy Shotwell - November 2nd, 2011 at 6:12 PM
Perfect!! Even though our grandsons were adopted thru foster care at ages 18mos
Marcia - November 2nd, 2011 at 6:23 PM
Wow, just found your blog and have enjoyed reading recent posts. What I'm compelled to comment on is your paragraph about the kids not being made or created to be in your family- they were made to be in their birth family. Amen, sister! I believe this with all my heart. This old world is so broken, and adoption is beautiful redemption, but that redemption happens because of so much loss and grief and pain. It is unhealthy to focus only on the "happily ever after" without acknowledging the "terrible, horrible, very-bad" that came before. I am all for adoption and bringing orphans into families, but I am also passionate about acknowledging the reality of their loss.
Be blessed today and in the coming days and years as you mother the children God has given you.
Willardsdaughter - November 2nd, 2011 at 6:34 PM
This is awesome, thank you so much for sharing!! I wish I could write something like this about depression, b/c I hear many of the same (stupid) platitudes coming from the (ignorant) assumption that I am a nit's width away from committing suicide or "kicking Jesus to the curb" just because I admit to feeling depressed. Yikes, maybe you got me thinking!!
Stephanie - November 2nd, 2011 at 6:59 PM
Love it!
LJ - November 2nd, 2011 at 7:00 PM
I am an adoptive mother of a very handsome little boy and we are waiting to be matched with another. The Lord has taught me so much about my own spiritual adoption as I have walked this road.

Yes, I agree with the WP and it seems that no one understands it. You have given us such a well-stated accurate description of the waiting! God gave me many revelation of his character during that wait. One day, I remember standing in my sons room putting a few toys on the shelf when I realized with the same expectancy that I was preparing for our son, God was also preparing for me a dwelling place with him. His longing to bring his people home is greater than my momentary pain. He is long-suffering for us and awaits our eternal homecoming. In John 14:2 He says "My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am."

I have also learned that sometimes people say things the way they do not to hurt us, but simply because they do not know any better. This is not an excuse for them but a way for me to understand the root of their comment. Even myself, as an adoptive parent, find myself stumbling over my words with other adoptive families.... wanting to inquire about their 'story' without sounding invasive.

Most people think they are being sweet to comment on our sons 'cuteness' and that is how I take it. I do not consider it accentuating his different appearance. I am proud of the pair that we are. I cannot correct everyone, only God can really illuminate for them the importance and privilege that adoption is. I'm not angry over odd questions....just sometimes sad for the one asking. But it opens and opportunity to engage the heart of another. However, I wish I were better at responding well :) I don't believe that I have never gotten intentionally rude comments.... just ones that were ill formed. They most insensitive commentary has come from family if anything. But I also try to see it from their side even if they have injured me. What must it feel like for a potential Grandmother to hear for the first time that she will not have a biological grandchild? I imagine she must process some grief. I'm so sorry that some of you have experienced very real rude commentary and like me, possibly from those close to you.

Just as I cannot understand what a day is like in the life of someone with a terrible illness, neither can another truly understand the struggles and joys of my or your adoption.

I will agree that they can however be supportive... this blog is a good tool to help them understand what supportive means!
Laura - November 2nd, 2011 at 7:02 PM
Please don't ask: "Are they real siblings????" Meaning are these adopted kids of the same birth parents.... As my kids grew older, I cringed at that question. Regardless of blood lines, they are REAL siblings RIGHT NOW!!!!

Laura
Lisa - November 2nd, 2011 at 7:27 PM
Ugh! Platitudes. We have experienced a major health crisis for my husband following our adoption of three sibs. I can't stand to hear the,"He won't give you more than you can handle." and "God is in control." I get all that. For the love of Pete, I just want a hug. Not answers. Thanks, Jen. Reposted on FB.
Carly - November 2nd, 2011 at 7:44 PM
I don't know if anyone has said this already, but it would be really helpful if people could refrain from saying, "You think this is hard? Wait until you get to ___________." That is the opposite of helpful. Is it true that the things down the line may be harder than the things we are in now? Sure. But does it help in any way to tell us that? Nope. To a fifth grader, fifth grade is hard. Will high school be harder? Probably. Will college be harder than that? Most likely. But will saying any of that help the ten year old who is navigating fifth grade? Not in the slightest. God doesn't put us in college at the age of ten. So why do people act/talk like He does? The next stage will be harder, undoubtedly. But for now, this stage is hard. Respect that. Respond to that. And let us deal with the next stage when we get there. "Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof." Matthew 6:34
Cecilia - November 4th, 2011 at 5:29 PM
I have not adopted and still dislike this phrase. Our first child was stillborn and our second had a tenuous arrival. I realize life isn't all roses, but I'm grateful for even the hard times. I would love to spend even a hard stage with our first. I think that's why it rubs me the wrong way when folks warn of crawling toddlers and hormonal teens. I can promise it beats the alternative.
JoLynn - November 2nd, 2011 at 8:33 PM
I absolutely love this Jen and have tears ready to shed. As with your previous post, this is so close to what people who are going through the infertility journey need as well- Real life sometimes sucks, it's sometimes dirty, and even as christians, we sometimes lose our cool. Thank you for letting us know how to help. Love in Christ
Erica - November 2nd, 2011 at 9:11 PM
Thank you for your post. I have been completely drained from our wait lately and I feel so guilty that I want to punch the next person that says "God's timing is perfect...." So glad I am not alone in that. I am also so glad that you pointed out what we really need in the wait. I feel so alone a times because I don't think people know what to say. Most people say nothing. Your story is such an encouragement to me during the wait.
Sally - November 2nd, 2011 at 9:30 PM
Are all your kids giddy about their new siblings? because mine are not! I didn't know how hard our 2nd biological child was going to take this new 5 year old brother of his.
kristen howerton - November 2nd, 2011 at 9:37 PM
I love this post so much I want to marry it.

I always wanted to scream when people told me "just have faith" during the wait. As if our faith is somehow responsible for good outcomes. Faith = Only Good Things Happen. Lovely theology.
Kati Foster - November 2nd, 2011 at 9:54 PM
AH-mazing! Thank you so much for saying it like it is :) Linking you up because our village needs to read this!

Esty - November 2nd, 2011 at 9:58 PM
Shoot. You wrote all of MY thoughts. Well....saved me a blog post. *whew*

Perfection, Jen. Just STOP it. It's too, too good.
Betsy - November 2nd, 2011 at 10:06 PM
This is incredible! I could not have said it better. I especially appreciate the part about acknowledging the tragic loss that all of our kids have had to endure. I think this point is often forgotten.

I only have three things to add:

1) As someone else mentioned, DO NOT tell me an adoption horror story. Yes, I am talking to you, woman who sat beside me on the flight to Addis Ababa and felt the need to share the story of an adopted child who ended up in a mental institution.

2) Please don't refer to my son's adoption as a "rescue". I got this one on the school playground the other day and I was speechless. I think I know what you were trying to say, random Dad at school, but the question, "did you rescue him"? made me cringe.

3) Unless you are a very good friend of mine, please don't ask for every detail of my son's "story". His experiences belong to him, not me; chatting about his loss and sadness with strangers is really not necessary or fair to him. You don't need to know his "story" to know him.
Jennifer H. - November 2nd, 2011 at 10:19 PM
Wow. As an adoptive mom still in Waiting Purgatory, I'm equal parts crazy scared and cheering wildly after reading your post. Thank you for saying what we ALL in the adoption village need to hear.
Sherry Zechar - November 2nd, 2011 at 10:25 PM
We're the parents to 5 internationally adopted kids and 2 older biological kids. (Ages 22, 19, 12, 8, 7, 6, 2.5) The last two adopted kids came home 1 1/2 months ago and we are SO "After The Airport". Our new kiddos are 8 and 12. And we are knee deep in a not so good adjustment period. I am ("that" crazy woman will all THOSE kids who is hateful and snippy because she isn't sleeping and just had medical diagnosis of her new kids dumped on her that sure wasn't in the plan...you know their new daughter is actually deaf, can you believe that?? They never even knew that was in the plan either. That crazy woman who locks herself in the bathroom and turns on the shower and cries then comes out smiling and putting on the happy face in front of her kids because it's the best she can do coping right now. You might wanna avoid her before she snaps completely. Just thank God that her and her husband own a pizza restaurant because otherwise those poor, poor children wouldn't be eating right now.) Yep. That's me. (Did I just vent in a round about way?? I think so.) But anyway, you put so beautifully into words what I can't. I love your blog, you know what it's like to deal with this daily.
em - November 2nd, 2011 at 11:07 PM
wow.. i am not in your shoes, but hope to one day adopt.. i really respect you're honesty, and appreciate your feedback.. i just have read through these comments though, and combined with the post - i just don't know what to say. someone mentioned not to comment that their child is beautiful, others want company, then you say to not stop by.. it's a little overwhelming to be honest.. i think it's so important to let God guide the way we minister to friends in the midst of such a huge, beautiful, messy, transition - and i will be the first to say that people say stupid, out of the blue things that do not help. however. i read this
Sara - November 2nd, 2011 at 11:36 PM
We had meals for two weeks after our three little ones came home. There were a lot of nights that my husband and I cried in to our mashed potatoes because we were just that grateful to have people who cared about us. I had a friend who met me for late night coffee and listened to me prattle on about what a strange thing it is to give a child all the love and care that a newborn baby needs while simultaneously providing all the firm boundaries that a typical three year old needs (even when your kid is 8) and how doing this times three had me wondering if I was cut out for the job. I don't remember if she said anything meaningful to me that night, but I DO remember that she was there. And that meant masses to me. There was another friend who invited that same eight year old over for a play date. The first time ever in her life that she was invited to someone's house to play. She welcomed my whole brood just because she understood we wouldn't be ready to let her go solo just yet. They decorated cookies, jumped on a trampoline and painted pictures in the backyard. It was a golden moment for my daughter and I was ever so grateful to my sweet friend for providing that for her. Because Lord knows I was too tired to do anything like that myself!

I think my only admonishment to "the village" would be, to please not stop. We are just over a year in to our "adjustment" and while we certainly don't feel so "upside-down" as we did in the beginning I don't think we feel like we have our feet entirely on the ground yet either. Please still realized that we need your encouragement, your understanding, and (even if we are wearing your patience to the bone by telling you for the upmpteenth time about the hoarding or the stealing or the bang-your-head-against-a-wall-pound-your-fists-on-the-floor difficulty you are having with homework every loving evening) your grace-filled support and prayer. Give us words of wisdom. We need them. But please don't criticize or judge. We need your love and empathy in very much the same way that our kids need ours.
Toni - November 3rd, 2011 at 12:06 AM
Wow!! What a great article you wrote here! We adopted our son when he was 2 from Thailand. He is now 17. I don't think we had a lot of comments that I can remember. It was really funny how many people thought it was so "neat" and acted like they would consider it. And at first we were naive thinking most people should. But then the reality set in and our son had very difficult attachment issues and we thought "Wow this is not for everybody". And of course none of those people that acted like they would do it did or probably even looked into it. I think people may not have publicly voiced their comments because my husband was the preacher. I did have a few people interfere with my disciplining my son. Once he was pitching a fit and I left him in the church bathroom for a "time out". If our son was yelling and screaming it was very hard to move him anywhere. I had just come by to see my husband and I was not far off. This man came by and didn't even ask what was going on and took our son out of the bathroom and made some kind of comment to me. So people really felt sorry for him. It was fortunate our son who is still very strong willed got a "strong willed" mother too (hahaha). We had a lot of difficulties then but he has been such a blessing to us. Unfortunately now we are having some difficulties but I hope it will pass. God bless you and your family .
SL - November 3rd, 2011 at 12:25 AM
Love it!!!!!!!! Numbers 3 ,4 and 6 under "after the airport" are SO true! This is a great post that will help many people. Thank you!


Shauna - November 3rd, 2011 at 12:57 AM
Where were you 2 years ago??? :) I could have used a post like this to post on every wall, blog and anything else I could find. :) It was HARD - the hardest thing I had ever done. I felt so alone. About 3 weeks into "after the airport" God brought me a friend that understood. And I will NEVER forget what she said…..she said "he is cute (because he was/is) but I will not touch him - he needs you." I nearly fell on the floor weeping. Every other person walked into the room, scooped him up and smother him with all the attention they could muster. It would immediately set us back - waaay back. I would gently try and explain attachment but friends thought I was being mean or selfish. It was so hurtful and hard. We love having people here - we love doing "life" with many but that first year was ugly. It was a lot uglier than it needed to be. I pray your "guide" will go out to help others - even if they do not get it - may they at least know a bit about what happens "after the airport."
Justin - November 3rd, 2011 at 1:13 AM
I am the husband of an avid (and expert I might add) blog reader. I do not generally read blogs unless my wife tells me that I "have to read this one!". Tonight she told me to "read the best blog post I have ever read." … I will have to say she was not far off. Thank you for laying this out in such a clear and honest way.

I would add to please NOT only know and call my adopted child by name and not my bio kids… "OH __________, how are you today?"… with no mention of my other kids who are standing right there and can hear you. And please do not tell me how wonderful my adopted child is, again with no mention of the other kids… because, quite frankly, I think they are pretty cute and wonderful too.

Just because we have adopted does not mean we sent all the others to boarding school!
Kohana - November 3rd, 2011 at 5:06 AM
Hi Jen, I just wanted to drop you a line to tell you that you are my new hero. I imagine you writing with a cape on. :)

I have a son through domestic transracial adoption, two bio kids, and a baby we are providing short-term foster care for. I'm an American girl with a Dutch husband, living in Sydney.

I'm so pleased to have found you because (to me), you really strike the balance between Spirit-inspired adoption and a strong handle on ethics and reality. You're upholding both with equal voice. It is easy to find either one, but not both. Since I found you a couple posts ago, I feel like you're saying what I've been trying to say all along. I'm so glad to have found you, and I'm telling all my friends. :)
Donna - November 3rd, 2011 at 6:52 AM
Amen. Thank you!!!! As the mother of two girls adopted from China and waiting for travel approval to go bring home my two boys, I couldn't agree more! You written beautifully what my heart feels. Thank you!! Donna
Paige Betterton - November 3rd, 2011 at 8:48 AM
We are SO in the middle of the "after the airport" syndrome right now. This was so true for our family that it made me nauseas just reading it. I only read half yesterday and finished it this morning. We have been home 2 months with our newest adopted child from China. She has done great. Our first adopted child has not. Boy howdy has her attachment issues come up! Thank you for giving me water on a parched soul today. And our dedication of our second daughter is Sunday and we are using the verse about God setting the lonely in families. LOVE that he has chosen us to be her family. Love you to from North Alabama!
Anna - November 3rd, 2011 at 10:19 AM
The "after". Was so much harder than I imagined. Took about 8 months to feel human and I felt so isolated. I wish we had gotten meals. All the eating out we did- Ive gained so much weight. Plus 5 months of being home I picked daughter up and strained my back. Our family lived on 30-45 mins away and didnt even come to the airport. Hiding at home so others wouldnt see the reality........ because lets face it, I was terrified. The horrible waiting time and finally getting what I wanted. Now THIS?! I guess I am saying all this cuz I really want to hug your neck and tell you, " I understand." and "thank you for saying what I cant."
Grace - November 3rd, 2011 at 10:25 AM
Thank you so much Jen!!!!!! We are six weeks after the airport, and still feels like it was last week sometimes. Thanks again.
Kathleen Johnson - November 3rd, 2011 at 10:29 AM
Jen, Your story has reached deep inside me each time you have shared. Our family is WAITING for our almost 9 year old daughter from ET to come home and it has been excruciating. I have tried to remind myself that God's timing really is perfect and have told others that very thing because I don't want them to feel bad or awkward around me. I am hurting. I just want her home. I feel the loss of time with her as each day goes by without news of a court date. I also feel the pain of a little girl who has lost her parents and everything that was familiar as she was left at an orphanage. I wonder if we will ever be able to help her heal from all those hurts and experience a joyful life. Then I am reminded so sweetly by the Lord that if we will "show up" and be willing to hurt along side her and love her through her sorrow, he will do the healing. I was also given such an amazing promise that "HE will repay the years that the locusts have stolen". I really am surrounded by others who are either in the process of waiting or are already home with their kids, but I have been hesitant to share just how painful the waiting has been. I think I also struggle with accurately communicating what I'm feeling because I don't know exactly what it is. Thank you for puting into words what my heart has been aching to say. Thank you for allowing me and others to feel a little less wierd and isolated during the hard parts of growing a family through adoption. Kathleen
Shawn - November 3rd, 2011 at 10:47 AM
I would add to the "are you happy to be here" part - please don't tell me how lucky my kids are. My kids are going through pure hell, nothing any child should ever have to go through. They are scared, angry, confused, grieving. I HATE hearing that my kids are lucky. They picked the shortest straw of all, and I am just hoping that I can some how make things better for them in some small way.
Jessica - November 3rd, 2011 at 10:49 AM
wish I had this list 4 years ago to share with friends and family...so thorough and so true. I'm hanging onto this baby for next time! Thanks so much for sharing it!
Karena Price - November 3rd, 2011 at 11:14 AM
Thank You for writing this Blog!! It was amzing and oh so true... Adoptive mom of 2 wonderful kiddos that are still in Haiti this was a blessing to me!! Thank You Thank You Thank You!
Jeannette - November 3rd, 2011 at 11:18 AM
Beautifully written!! I would like to add a few comments from the perspective of foster care.

1. Please do not ask questions - especially in front of the child! All foster parents are required by law not to speak about the child's background. And all foster care adoptive placements must remain in foster care for at least 6 months before the adoption can take place. So even if we wanted to answer your question, we cannot. In our case, our daughter was an adoptive placement, but we were asked by CPS to not tell her this until the adoption was actually taking place. So all of those people asking us if we were going to adopt her (in front of the child!) really put us in a bind. I would just smile and say "we are praying that CPS will allow that." So we did the "after the airport" experience with very little support (like meals, showers) as most did not know it was an adoption.

2. Please pray about being trained and licensed as a respite provider. Foster families (even if you are in the adoption process) cannot leave the child with ANYONE (including grandparents to be) unless they are licensed respite workers. The training does not take too long. I had 2 respite families (along with my parents) who to this day are a HUGE part of our daughters life. I will forever be grateful for them.

3. How churches can help. Our church recruited someone to go to class and kids church with our daughter for the first year. This allowed us to go to church in peace. The 2 volunteers (both veteran school teacher) figured out what would trigger our daughter and were able to avoid a lot of problems just by a timely trip to the water fountain. (Our kids church uses a lot of loud music and lights which most kids love. Our little PTSD child, not so much!!) Our daughter considered these two ladies to be her friends, which was a bonus as her social skills were so poor she really did not have any friends that year. It was a huge help to us and to her.
Joey Sorenson - November 3rd, 2011 at 11:34 AM
Jen,

Thank you for your openness and honesty and for expressing many of the feelings that we, as fellow adoptive parents, may not be able to express or, at least, in the same way that you do. I do, however, believe that you missed tha mark significantly when you wrote about adoption being a very distant "plan B". I know what you mean, but I firmly believe that Scripture states God is completely sovereign in every area of His creation, including adoption, poverty and the makeup of our families, both biologic and adopted. True, if Sin had never entered the world, then there would be no need for adoption. But we do live in a fallen world, and I believe God's hand is behind every circumstance, even the unpleasant or tragic ones. If we do not belive this, then we are left to a God who is constantly struggling to come up with Plan Bs to neutralize the effects of sinners and Satan as we constantly "mess up" His "perfect will". The Bible also states His ways are way higher than we can imagine....so while I can't even begin to explain why God would use terrible ciircumstances such as poverty, disease, wars, etc.. to accomplish His purposes...He Does! The Bible has examples of this all through the Old Testament. I firmly believe our view of God's sovereignty effects our World View and it should help us to see God's perfect plan, even in the formation of our families.
In short, God absolutely chose Katie Joan to be part of our family....nothing about her existence or circumstances caught Him off guard or caused Him to come up with a "backup plan." Now, I don't believe that God created her specifically for this purpose alone, but I do blive He is powerful enough to use this to further His Kingdom...mainly because His Worsd tells me so!
Not trying to stir up trouble, but wanted to express the way we view scripture and the issue of God's sovereignty.
eloranicole - November 3rd, 2011 at 7:25 PM
Joey, I appreciate this comment so much. Thank you for speaking my heart so eloquently.
Tom - January 9th, 2014 at 9:31 AM
Absolutely 100% agree, Joey. As an adoptive parent I found a lot of the practical ideas in this post to be helpful, but the slippery slope of the position articulated in that section of the blog is that nothing bad or not "ideal" was part of God's sovereign plan - which means that the most horrific act in the history, the murder of the Son of God, was also a Plan B/reaction on God's part. As you pointed out, none of that squares with Scripture.

I for one am thankful that God did not leave us in our spiritual condition (children of wrath, Ephesians 2) but instead adopted us into His family through Christ according to a plan set in place from eternity past (Ephesians 1) - not as a distant, unnatural, reactive Plan B but as the full expression of His love and justice that He planned ahead of time and revealed in due time.

More so, I don't think this is merely theological in nature but is also has practical impact on how we view and talk about adoption. When we talk about our children that have come into our families through adoption, do we do so with regret? Do we secretly wish we could reunite them with their birth families because that is their "destiny"? Do we consider our biological children first-class and our adopted children second-class because they really weren't meant for us in the first place? No. And neither do I rejoice in the circumstances that lead to any child being without a family. As Christians, we rejoice in knowing and serving a God who is in control and who extends love, grace, and mercy beyond measure. He is the one who works all things together for good for those who love Him.

Adoption may appear to be Plan B in the eyes and experiences of finite human beings who can't see the end from the beginning, but surely even the composition of our families are under the sovereign plan of the One who created and sustains all things.
Stacey - November 3rd, 2011 at 11:57 AM
Great blog post- love 2,4, and 5 after the airport- you verbalized so many points exactly how I would like to say them but cannot seem to find the words in our 'after the airport' phase. I cried reading this, and loved it. thank you.

Stacy - November 3rd, 2011 at 12:37 PM
OH Jen, once again you've spoken the words that so many of us REALLY needed to hear and only wish we'd spoken. I can't roll back the clock so that these things might have applied to us but I can make sure that I offer up your blog to those who are even remotely thinking about adopting. I will tell you that after spending more than one time closed away in my closet, sobbing because I thought I was a looney toon who thought I'd done the right thing only to feel like what we'd done (bringing home 3.5yo b/g twins-who,who no my sweet dum-dums from Ohio, are NOT identical..one is a BOY, the other is a GIRL) was more than slightly foolish. Almost 5yrs later, we still go through the paces and have many issues. The difference is NOW I just say what's on my mind (well, no-not everything because THAT can get one in trouble) rather than hide away in my closet. Thanks Jen, for keeping it real, it's empowering to all of your fellow adoptive mommy friends.
Shawn - November 3rd, 2011 at 3:31 PM
I sob in my closet too! Just thought that was funny...just one more thing I guess us adoptive moms have in common.
Carlee - November 3rd, 2011 at 1:02 PM
Wow, a friend just sent me your post. Check out my post from a few weeks back. Great (or crazy:) minds think alike. :)
http://fathersheartadoptions.wordpress.com/2011/09/16/what-not-to-say/
Marci - November 3rd, 2011 at 1:59 PM
"Plus, they are in lockdown mode with the recently adopted, trying to shield them from the trauma that is Walmart."
Amen! I am so glad others have that moment when they think, "So the time is finally here, we can NO longer avoid the trauma of Walmart... how do I prepare this child for what is about to happen? And dear Lord... help us not to see anyone we know... or get comments from crotchity old ladies!"
Nikki - November 3rd, 2011 at 2:18 PM
"We are a very distant Plan B. Children are meant for their birth families, same as my biological kids were meant for mine. Adoption is one possible answer to a very real tragedy… after it has already happened, not before as the impetus for abandonment."

Would you say a little more about this? I love your post! My husband and I have been talking about domestic infant programs. What would you say about birthmoms meeting and choosing adoptive families? We agree that God's perfect plan would be every mom wanting and able to keep every baby? But what do we do when mom doesn't want to be mom or truly believes she can't, or is incarcerated, etc? Because some of these programs help moms decide not to have abortions... We're discerning, and I'd love to hear your opinion. Thanks!
Lora - November 3rd, 2011 at 2:18 PM
Well done. Directed here by a friend; will be passing it on.
Vera - November 3rd, 2011 at 2:55 PM
Wow. My mouth is agape. This is, without a doubt, holy written scripture from the point of view of adoptive parents. We're still in the paperwork/homestudy phase, and already we've encountered thoughtlessness from those around us. I'm particularly struck by #5 in Before the Airport. That truly is the worst part for me.

Your blog is brilliance, and I tip my virtual hat to you!
Teresa - November 3rd, 2011 at 3:22 PM
Wow! I hope you think about what and what not to do in other's lives as you expect them to do in yours. I respect what you're doing, but way too many rules. As you pointed out, I WOULD opt to do nothing after reading your blog, afraid of offending you!
Jaclyn - November 3rd, 2011 at 3:43 PM
I was referred over here from a friends blog, and can I say that this is an awesome post!!! We are early..... very very early in our adoption right now and sadly I am already experiencing some of these things.... I also found it very helpful for knowing what to do with those further along in the process and more of what to expect.... I plan to book mark this and share in the future if I may.... Thought I better ask now :) Thanks again for writing this!!
Maddy - November 3rd, 2011 at 5:02 PM
Apparently I'm the one person who really didn't agree with much in this post. Not saying its wrong but that I have never felt like this through any of our eight adoptions. I loved having people come over, having people ask about the adoption, people encouraging me in the Lord to hold fast and not give up. I love the reminder that things are in HIS timing. I really loved not having friends that let me wallow in a pitiful mess of selfishness. If people used the wrong terminology I corrected them in my response because they genuinely cared about our family.

This journey isn't about us. It's about the Lord. It's about a child and redemption and second chances and NOT shooting other God-lovers down for things that we are touchy about. It's about learning to show as much grace to others as He has shown us.
Jen Hatmaker - November 3rd, 2011 at 5:13 PM
I'm so glad you weren't assaulted by racism or had to deal with any children with attachment issues. These are very real struggles for many adopting families, so boundaries are not only healthy, they are necessary. One of my best friends taught me how to love her well after she lost her mother at a young age, and I was so grateful and never forgot it. I can now support other friends in their grief in better ways. Helping each other love one another through unfamiliar or challenging situations makes for a better body of Christ! I'm always on the lookout for lessons... Blessings to you as you raise that big tribe of kids!
Maddy - November 3rd, 2011 at 8:17 PM
But I didn't say that my children didn't have attachment issues or that we don't deal with racism because we deal with both on a regular basis. One of my children has repeatedly threaten to hurt herself, her siblings, her parents...anyone until we take her back to her birth country. Two of my children have HIV and have spent their lives being rejected and hurt by people they thought they could trust. Enter DH and I and a lot of love and it's still off-putting to them. And if you think you've heard negative ignorant comments about adoption, adopt 3 kids with unrepairable heart issues, 2 with HIV, and 3 with permanent cognitive issues and in wheelchairs. You will hear every negative comment known to man. And you will learn pretty quickly that the people who need to be addressed are not the ones in your village, no matter how annoying you (apparently) find them. Who cares if they tell you it's in God's time? They love you and care about you and your children and your relationship with God. What does need to be addressed are those people who refuse to let their child be in the same schoolroom because their child might "catch AIDS" and those people who constantly spread nasty rumors about you doing it for "the insurance". But the group of people you chose to address are the ones who have your back, but just don't happen to be saying the magical words that you believe will make for the perfect comment. At some point we have to realize that it's not about us. We have been granted so much grace and to not extend it to others, *especially* those who constantly bring us before the throne of grace and petition for our family seems selfish. Especially to admonish people for reminding you of God's authority and omniscience.

Maddy - November 3rd, 2011 at 9:07 PM
Due to a posting difficulty, I had to copy and relate my previous reply and I think only the first bit showed up. My ending comment was this:
Perhaps I am reading your post incorrectly. You referenced how amazing your "village" is but then proceeded to let us all know how they could have done much better. And one of those ways was to not admonish or encourage you to keep God's authority and timing as the big picture. That to be reminded of the big picture is basically something that makes you want to strangle someone with their very own hair. :)
Every member of the body of Christ has a purpose. Some of us are the legs, some are the kidneys, some are the fingers and the toes and the eyes and the hands... To admonish a toe to act more like a kidney is no good. The Lord has wired us all differently and we need to take those differences in stride. Some are amazing encouragers and can sit and weep with you. Others aren't wired to weep. They are wired to be the doer. It doesn't make them less worthy of being a part of the village.

All that said and now I say, yes, I remember waiting for our fifth, with HIV, and hearing from our agency that he was hospitalized and dying and hadn't been given his meds for months because of the cost. The person I was with basically said, "And that's the result of a
sinful world. Too bad his mother was risqué." I *did* have to get up and leave the table I was so upset.
DameCatoe - November 4th, 2011 at 10:05 AM
Jen Hatmaker, you have not only a divine gift of words but that of tact as well.
Caroline - November 4th, 2011 at 4:24 PM
I have to say that I agree with Maddy. I have some very close friends right now who are adopting or who have adopted. I never realized that I suck so much. I hope that they extend a little more grace upon me as I experience this HUGE learning curve of adoption. My life has changed dramatically as their stories have unfolded and all along I thought we were on the same team. I never realized that there was this world of adoptive families vs. non-adoptive families.

Dear Friends- I am here for you. I love you. If I hurt you please call me and tell me. Please don't write a blog about me. I love your children and I am going to make mistakes. Thank Maddy for "It's about learning to show as much grace to others as He has shown us". Now that's a blog I would love to read.
Karla - November 5th, 2011 at 9:19 PM
Thank you Maddy for your wise and mature words. I have been persuaded by a few friends to read Jen Hatmakers blog and I finally got around to it. That probably won’t happen again for awhile.
I was told she was witty and funny. I am not sure what adjectives I would use, but they would be different than those. Having several friends who have adopted I am quite certain that after reading this blog I completely and utterly SUCK. My concern is that if my friends continue to read this blog they will swim in the same pool of self- pity that the author does.

Maybe Jen doesn’t realize that everyone is walking a road, some graciously and some not so graciously but we are all on it. I have a few friends on their roads right now who haven’t adopted (Gasp! Horror!) but have learned some very painful life altering things. One for instance discovered that her husband has a prostitute for a mistress, another friend uncovered past memories of satanic abuse from her childhood, and yet another is in just a painful abusive relationship with her husband that never seems to get better no matter how much she prays. I have to wonder if Jen would know the “perfect” response or “perfect” silence to any or all of these scenerios. I actually have to wonder if she even knows that satanic abuse exists (aw! Sweet little dum dum…. It does). Maybe living in Texas, (the land of big bows and monogrammed handbags or monogrammed EVERYTHING) has left the author thinking that adoption is the largest hardship a woman can overcome. I can assure you…. It is not.

Dear sweet friends in my life who have adopted,
I love you. I love your kids. I know I have said hurtful things. My heart was not to hurt you, I promise. In the future if I hurt you, will you call me and tell me instead of passive aggressively writing a blog about me to further your “career”?
Much love,

em - November 6th, 2011 at 1:31 AM
maddy, thank you for showing another side.. i have been baffled by this post
missy @ it's almost naptime - November 3rd, 2011 at 9:08 PM
Preach on sister.

A word to families:

if you refuse to acknowledge our 25-months-and-counting pregnancy, please know that we are having late night discussions, preparing ourselves that we may need to sever our relationship with you once she comes home. We understand that you don't agree with our decision to adopt for whatever messed up reason, but rest assured that we WILL choose our daughter over you if we feel she needs to be protected from your prejudices.



Grace - November 8th, 2011 at 6:38 PM
Thank You Missy!! I'm so there right now!!
my boys mama - November 3rd, 2011 at 9:29 PM
My biggest struggles were with the "Oh now that you have adopted you'll get pregnant" bs and with a friend who, when our son's arrival home was delayed for the 3rd time, said "Well, you'll still get him, right?" Right. Maybe. If it doesn't fall through. If geopolitical winds don't change. If if if if if. And sure, it's 99.9% likely it will happen, but we've been bonded to this child for 7 months and he's going from a baby to a toddler and we're missing his first year, and imagine if you had gone to the hospital, given birth to your baby, and someone came and took him away and said "Oh, yeah, you have a lot of paperwork to do before we'll give him back to you, so go on home and we'll process it as quickly as we can, as long as we don't lose it a few times...." Really, imagine you just had a baby and you can't take him home and you have NO idea when you'll get to take him home, you can't visit him, and you just get pictures and updates every 2 months or so. Would "You'll still get him, right?" be what you want to hear when you find out his paperwork was held up again?!? THANKS for writing this, I will be sharing it as we're now in the process of adopting again, because as hard as it is, I can't think of anything else I'd rather do!!!
PandaMom - November 3rd, 2011 at 10:14 PM
My friend posted the link to this post on my FB wall. Wow. I've never read your blog before, but will from now on. WOW!!!!! I really don't think I could have written any of this better or more accurately myself!!!!! How did you get in my life? lol!! We have our 9 year old daughter whom we adopted from China in 2004 at the ripe old age of 15 mos. and we are in the process of adopting our foster child who is mulatto (that means 1/2 black and 1/2 white for anyone reading and not in the know) and is a whopping 3 years old. Talk about HARD? I only THOUGHT the adoption from China was hard. The Texas foster system is waaaaaaaayyyyyy worse!! We are sitting in a nasty appeal right now. Just waiting for the case to be thrown out so we can adopt this sweet baby. Anyway, one little comment on here won't do justice to how TRUE I think your post is. Completely RIGHT ON. Thanks for articulating it so eloquently......and hilariously. We love to laugh, too. My hubs is a children's minister and we've laughed our way to almost 20 years of marital bliss together. Thanks again for being so real!
Ali - November 3rd, 2011 at 10:49 PM
Just beautiful and the perfect words!
Alysa - November 4th, 2011 at 7:19 AM
Thank you! We are in Uganda right now hoping to bring our sibling group of 4 soon. I have reposted this in hopes that everyone I know reads it. Honestly, I am really hoping for some prepared meals even if it is just someone making a costco run for us with our money. Being in country, we are on our own and we are exhausted to the core.
Addie - November 4th, 2011 at 9:17 AM
my advice on what to do for an adopting family: actually give them that airport moment!

We didnt even get that, and it just really hurt... after we got home, everyone just expected us to go back to normal and couldnt understand why were acting different - like it was hard or something. It left an open wound.
Flower Patch Farmgirl - November 4th, 2011 at 12:18 PM
Where have you been all my life?
This rings true - every word. It makes me feel like I'm more normal than I thought.
Also, this: "It’s this simple: adoption is born from horrible loss." Thank you for getting it and sharing it.
I'm facebooking this beast. Don't try to stop me.
Stacy - November 4th, 2011 at 12:51 PM
I so needed to hear this! I laughed and cried and shouted AMEN at the top of my lungs a few times. We are one of the families whose son's files in Ethiopia are being looked over by CIS Nairobi, so I think you have just about voiced all my thoughts and emotions in one long but great post!
Jody - November 4th, 2011 at 1:12 PM
Wow. Do you mind if I copy and paste parts of this to my blog? You have worded it so very, very well. Adoption was not plan A for us....we've tried for biological for 8 years!! However, we're so very thankful that we chose to follow God's plan for our lives and have now adopted three children from Russia... :) He is Good. Thanks for putting into words what the rest of us so desperately need others to know!!

hannah singer - November 4th, 2011 at 1:55 PM
jen, thank you so much for this. excellent, necessary widsom here.
Cindy - November 4th, 2011 at 3:47 PM
I found this to be a little too harsh. I do understand things that drive you crazy, but you can't fault people for not being able to read your mind, or for not knowing the right thing to say at the right second you need it said. My husband and I recently lost a child. Friends said the wrong thing all the time. I understood it was difficult to know what to say, but I appreciated the effort. I don't remember who said what thing that drove me crazy. I just remember that they acknowledged us and our loss. Those that didn't say anything were the ones that I remember.
rachel - November 4th, 2011 at 4:36 PM
thank you! i want to be a good villager (village person??!), and i will keep this as a reminder of how to love well! off to text a friend who is waiting waiting waiting...
Colleen - November 4th, 2011 at 4:51 PM
You totally nailed it.

I'll add these coupla things, based on my experience:

Please don't treat my adopted children as "aw...poor little orphan boys!" when I'm trying to set boundaries and apply parenting discipline with them. As if I am not a "nice" mommy and must have forgotten that they were orphans and I should give them everything they're whining for. This just continues their orphan behavior and does nothing to teach them how to be sons.

And 2., please don't treat them like little celebrities because they're totally adorable little Ugandan boys. I've made the mistake of letting people do this for the year that they've been home. Now they've developed a "celebrity complex" and expect this royal treatment everywhere they go. They've turned into little Lindsay Lohans...which I now have to reign in every minute of the day. Ugh.

Love your writing and your heart...keep up the good work!
Nancy - November 13th, 2011 at 6:34 PM
YES and YES Colleen!!! I call it POCS (Poor Orphan Child Syndrome) and I battle it daily.
deborah spera - November 4th, 2011 at 6:23 PM
You, Hatmaker girl, are a delight.
Gael N - November 4th, 2011 at 7:06 PM
One of the small things I was so, so thankful for-- When we made the decision not to leave our new 17 month old in the church nursery without one of her family (we rotated family members each Sunday), the Sunday School and nursery workers didn't bat an eye. They were completely supportive even though this probably crimped their style a bit. --really who wants a 12 year boy in the one year old room? I still get teary at how well they supported us. When we ask you to do wacky things to support our attachment, just go with us... :)
Jules - November 4th, 2011 at 7:08 PM
What about corruption and child trafficking? What is the best way to tell your friends they are participating in a corrupt practice that causes all manner of heartbreak that is financed by the $$$ they are spending??
Kara - November 4th, 2011 at 9:18 PM
Two more things to add to the list of things NOT to say: When talking about my children, please do not refer to my biological children as my REAL children.

I promise you all my children are real and they are all mine. Just because I didn't birth two of them doesn't mean they aren't my real children.

Secondly, when asking about our adoption and how hard it may/may not be do not say, "Well, what about your biological children? Have you thought about what this will do to them? What if this isn't easy/good for them?"

My job as a parent is not to ensure that life is a bed of roses for my children. When is loving others, caring for them, being open to the needs of others, and helping others heal a bad thing for anyone?

Thank you for the comment about acknowledging our adopted children. Many people brought food and gifts for us, yet many others didn't even acknowledge that we had two new children. That is hurtful on so many levels when you are in a place where you just need a little pick me up like a card, present, or food to know that others do care.

Finally, there is no timeline as to when our lives will be "normal" again. In fact, it may never happen or may take years.
Johanna @ These Prices - November 4th, 2011 at 9:31 PM
re: God's plan and adoption being a distant plan B.

This is something that I struggle with and spin myself in circles over on a regular basis. I wrote about it a few weeks ago, and what I think (which maybe is wrong!) is that NOTHING as it is here was His plan. Infertility wasn't His plan for me and my husband. His plan was for us to marry and be fruitful. That was how He created the world. Be fruitful and multiply. Our son's birthmother getting pregnant "accidentally" wasn't His plan, and our son being born to parents who couldn't care for him or raise him wasn't His plan.

But He REDEEMED all of that through the miracle of adoption. We were restored to parenthood. Our son was set into a family. His birth parents choosing life was honored and given purpose.

So was all of that His plan at Creation? No. But has He always known that my life was heading to intersect with this baby's life and has He been preparing me for it for all of my days? Yes. I believe yes.

So in THAT sense, yes it does feel like this baby and I, we were meant to be. And to read that some see our family as second class. That my baby is less my baby because he wasn't "created for me" that way that bio children are created for their bio parents ... Well, it hurts. (And I would rebutt that all children are created by God for God; none of us were created FOR our parents.)
Jen Hatmaker - November 10th, 2011 at 8:41 AM
Johanna, thank you for your thoughtful comment. I am going to clarify this point in my next blog, and I think you'll see we are much closer in theology than I made it sound. I was actually fighting against a different straw man that my readers couldn't see. Wasn't that helpful for everyone? Please forgive me for hurting your feelings, and many blessings to you as your raise your kiddos!
Juliet - November 12th, 2011 at 1:16 AM
I absolutely understand the heart of what you are saying when you talk about the loss/pain/brokenness that is part and parcel with adoption. Adoption (and certainly America!!) should not be romanticized. But, I just can't wrap my mind around the "distant Plan B" idea. I admit, I think that my husband, my two adopted sons, my two biological kids, and myself were all chosen to be a family from eternity past. From the foundation of the world. I even say this, both about them and to others who have adopted kids. I'm one of those who makes you bristle (sorry about that...)
This doesn't mean that I am not fully, sadly, heart-brokenly aware of my sons' pain. I see too much of the fear, grief, and at times rage within one of my sons in particular NOT to be aware of it. And I'm sure I'll learn more as they continue to grow and as they are able to better process their grief.
But why, oh why, does this mean that we should view our being together as a distant Plan B? I agree that in an ideal world, there wouldn't be poverty, mental illness, war, abandonment, irresponsibility, death, sickness-- and the host of other things that lead, ultimately, to adoption. But it's not an ideal world, and the real, broken world is where I live with this family of people with all kinds of broken pasts (like my family's long history of substance abuse) that God is redeeming. He has known about all of this brokenness from eternity past, and has always planned for its redemption. The Lamb--the only hope of Redemption for any of us-- "was slain from the foundation of the world," after all. That Redemption, which the redemption of adoption mirrors in a small way, was planned all along-- just like my sons' adoptions were.
I know this is a lot of theological semantics about the topic of the Sovereignty of God-- so, wow, we're wearing our big girl pants discussion-wise! But I know that half of the reason my son is so afraid is because he's not sure if he DOES fit into this family, irrevocably, just as if he was born here. I say he does. Please don't tell him differently by saying that his being here is a distant Plan B. (I know you'd never actually say that to a child . . . or I hope . . . but advocating the message increases the likelihood he'll hear it at some point.) And saying it to others only confirms the suspicion of so so so so (sadly) many who are pretty sure that adoption isn't a "real" family, after all, and is second best (Plan B?)
This really isn't meant as a criticism-- just a response. If you're ever in Katy, TX come on over and we'll have coffee and spur one another on toward love and good works-- it's what we both want; we just talk about it differently.
Blessings to your family!
Esther - November 4th, 2011 at 10:20 PM
In regards to anyone doing Foster Care, I wanted to mention a few things (some have already been mentioned some significant points, so I will avoid bringing them up).
1) There is no climactic "airport" experience. Usually you don't have the time you need to prep. (For us, it was 24 hours notice - we were in the process to adopt from Ethiopia, and we changed our plans - and our Home Study didn't even have the official signature on it yet. So the shock for us was REAL!) While an airport experience is not indicative of how a family is going to survive and thrive, it is pretty awesome. A family beginning on panic is memorable, but not in the same way as an airport experience. Just food for thought.
2) The children in Foster Care aren't legally yours until the Court Date, which takes a minimum of 6 months and sometimes several years. This again is anticlimactic. It's like people have to hold their breath before they can celebrate. (This sadly allows time for opinions to be formed of the hurt children you've welcomed home, making the adoption almost a "scary" topic for some since the children came bizarre and scary behavior.)
3) There isn't always time for a baby shower. And even if there was, the truth about #2 trips things up a bit and makes it dicey to celebrate their arrival if the state decides differently for the child/ren's future. So again, it's difficult to celebrate the arrival of your children.
4) For us, this was probably this absolute hardest facet to the FC system (though I understand why it has to be this way). The child/ren might "come with" therapists, whose visits completely upset the structure you are trying to build as you become a family. In our case, the therapists (4) were even more new faces for the kids since the therapists they had before couldn't travel to our home. Their visits caused far more upsets than we were already facing with two extremely angry, confused toddlers in their 5th or 6th home. That paired with the 2 social workers (also new faces for the kids, sadly) was extremely stressful. I can't even begin to say how these weekly visits by 6 different individuals (some unannounced) caused very real stress on our kids, thus further upsetting any hopes of family unification, until the adoption took place. The needed bonding for our family couldn't happen for so long because of all this interruption.
Your words resonated to me and I agreed with about 98% of what you said. God's sovereignty in all things is something I believe strongly in, so I do believe God intended my children to be part of my home eventually. -And side note- their being part of our home was just as much for us as it was for them. God has taught me SO much. But I can appreciate your view that adoption came from brokenness, God didn't *originally* want the earth to be filled with sin and certainly not orphans. But He is sovereign. And if His Church really were His hands and feet, the orphan "crisis" wouldn't be quite the same crisis. IMO.
I was practically was applauding throughout your post. Thank you for being real. Thank you SO much for thinking this through and putting in writing what so so many of us have felt. I shared it with a few people, and I'll probably read it again. :)
Pam Robertson - November 5th, 2011 at 2:00 AM
This was great to read. I have to Ugandan girls and live in Australia, I often feel like we are the strangers. I read the book "Adoption a ministry, adoption a blessing" and it talked about the church being the support to the family. I cant say I ever felt that. Adoption is huge and I dont think people get it...................the emotional roller coaster and the life long journey.
Thanks for your words.
sheli massie - November 5th, 2011 at 10:11 AM
thank you. thank you for writing this. i really do want to claw my friends eyes out when they tell me its God's timimg. no %$#^ sherlock. i know. i also know that my heart is breaking all over the place and i just want you to hold me while i cry. i want you to scream with me. i want you to be angry with me...so thank you. thank you as we wait for a refferal for two little ones from uganda.,,,,and our hearts ahce. thank you.
Louise - November 5th, 2011 at 12:16 PM
All of you young people are inspiring a whole generation to open their hearts and minds to kindness and compassion. Keep up this momentum as our world really needs the love!
girlscout - November 5th, 2011 at 1:49 PM
We celebrate her 8th Gotcha Day this week.
Remembering far too many of the details you are writing about here. Some made me laugh.
There will be a day when you forget that there was a overstimulated Wal-Mart run. A day when you leave the parent teacher conference nearly in tears b/c of how far your starfish has come and how blessed you are to witness the process.
Diane Busch - November 5th, 2011 at 5:22 PM
Thanks for posting this - all of it - so many people will benefit. I am Grandma to a newly adopted grandson from Ethiopia, so I have seen a lot of this first hand. I love your honesty and transparency. Such good reminders and encouragement. May God bless your family and all those who have taken this huge step to rescue children and love them with God's amazing love.
66BookMom - November 5th, 2011 at 6:52 PM
Thank you for authoring my new favorite blog.

During our first Waiting Purgatory (we are now in our second times two!), I felt the need to validate my "impatience" so I redefined it:

IMPATIENCE DEFINED

In our adoption process…

Impatience does not mean I don’t think everything will work out okay;

Impatience does not mean I am a control freak;

Impatience does not mean I do not trust in Providence;

Impatience does not mean I do not have confidence in my agency;

Impatience does not mean I don’t suppose my child is being cared for until I’m united;

Impatience does not mean I do not believe God’s timing is best.

Impatience simply means…I miss my child.
Andrea in NC - November 5th, 2011 at 7:00 PM
For me, my "after the airport" hot button is when well-intending folks compare my kids to kids who have never been abused, neglected, removed from a family who (althought they mistreated them) they loved, institutionalized, had to navigate the confusing
Andrea in NC - November 6th, 2011 at 7:51 PM
Maybe remove this post. It's not what I sent and is incomplete. Doesn't really make sense without all of the words....
elisabeth - November 5th, 2011 at 8:18 PM
THANK YOU!!! We have two bio sons and a sweet daughter from south korea. I was TERRIFIED when we got home and felt completely out of my mind with exaustion. No one understood.... this article is completely perfect and sums up what i wish every friend that has a friend adopting would understand. (and family member of mine) Great read, i linked it to my fb page.
Shannon - November 6th, 2011 at 2:12 PM
Thank you for this post - absolute raw honesty - may I share it? We are parents to two adoptees and preparing to bring home three more children. This eloquently says everything I have always wanted everyone close to us to know!
Ashley - November 6th, 2011 at 6:02 PM
Thank you! We've been working on our homestudy the past few months, after TTC for 2.5 years with one loss, and a failed birth mom match last month. No one gets how I'm feeling, No ONE. Well, except you, and a couple friends I've me along this crazy adoption journey. I needed this today.
Carmen - November 7th, 2011 at 5:50 PM
When we adopt again, I am going to post this baby right before we bring our new kid(s) home. When we came home we had...NO...help. Thankfully, we had a fairly easy transition but learning how to be a mom to 2 VERY active little boys was incredibly difficult. Not to mention the approximate 5 loads of laundry that someone didn't do while I was still in Ethiopia. ;-) So thank you again for your post. You are truly awesome and I'm so glad I got to know you a little bit in Ethiopia.
Lisa - November 7th, 2011 at 8:10 PM
the one thing i would add is throw a party! Call it a baby shower, call it a coming home celebration, call it whatever you want...just celebrate! Take a risk and do some celebrating towards the end of the waiting. I know for us there was so much uncertainty that to have a party freaked my friends and family out so most of them wanted to wait until the adoption actually went through before they had a shower but we needed stuff to prepare for our sweet little guy. That's what people do for expectant parents and we weren't any different! Whether it's the first or 10th kid, whether it's a baby or a 14 year old, there is still fun stuff you could use to welcome a child into a new home and it's a great reason to have a party! So if you know someone who is adopting gather all the people who love them to come together and celebrate their journey and allow the adoptive parent(s) the opportunity to be honored for the beautiful story that is being written for their family. Give them a chance to tell their story and then shower them with love and encouragement and prayers and GIFTS! :)
Heidi - November 8th, 2011 at 12:18 PM
This is great. Thanks for validating me. I will carry on!
Jill - November 8th, 2011 at 4:18 PM
Wow! My husband and I are apparently normal. We are 2 years into adopting 2 children from Ethiopia and are still awaiting "the call" with our referrals. You have validated my feelings and have given me hope to carry on the wait. If it is alright, I will be sharing this with my friends and family. Right now, there isn't much more painful than friends and family no longer asking how the process is going. Thank you!
Jennifer - November 8th, 2011 at 8:03 PM
Thank you for putting into words so many of the thoughts I have. We have been home 11 weeks now with our thirteen year old and I have to say this is the hardest thing I have ever done. Since she's been home "so long" now, people seem to assume that we are all settled into a routine. Wishing I had a support network of other adoptive moms like when my biological kids were born and we had playdates etc. Feeling like I am the only one on this wild ride - its good to read everyones comments so I don't feel so alone!

While we were waiting for her arrival, my sons fourteen year old friend asked how much longer until our adoption would go through. . . When I told him how how many more months it would be his response was the very best that I ever received. . . He said, "Wow! That really sucks!". He said it perfectly!

Thank you for your blog! It is a huge encouragement to me!
Sarah - November 9th, 2011 at 7:44 AM
Priceless. Thanks for giving us all permission to be human.
Debbi - November 9th, 2011 at 11:16 AM
So good! I haven't adopted nor do I feel led to, but have tons of friends who have. Love your humor and telling it straight up!!
Brock Ketcher - November 9th, 2011 at 2:23 PM
Love this. Makes you want to laugh, cry and run! Just linked you to our adoption site: http://www.YouCaring.com.
Karen - November 10th, 2011 at 11:22 AM
When I reply to questions, even obnoxious questions, I try to reply as if I were talking to my child ... and sometimes make it a little game. i.e., when he is asked if he was adopted, he will often reply, "well, no, my Mom just drank a lot of chocolate milk when she was pregnant." The looks he gets in response are priceless. Your child is what matters the most in the conversation. Often the person asking the question already knows the answer and you are not responsible for educating them or changing their opinions. But you are responsible for training your child to be kind in the face of opinionated and rude people. We adopted when he was very small and he is now 21 years old ... it's been a long time :) And he is a joy! P.S. I'm also very good at being evasive and changing the conversation :)
Kristin - November 12th, 2011 at 6:40 PM
Yes. Thank you.
Antoinette - November 13th, 2011 at 10:17 PM
What a great post! A friend of mine posted this on facebook. This is so helpful for those of us who want to know how to support our friends with adopted kids. I do have one observation though. Although I think the African American pastor's comment was way off, I have to wonder whether people adopting kids seek out counsel from their African American, Asian, or Hispanic friends about what it's like to live as an ethnic minority in this country, especially in states that aren't known for being sensitive to race issues. My guess is that the majority of the people who have commented on this post are white-- is this because churches in America are still largely segregated? I can tell you from experience that being the only dark kid in a white church is not easy, and that even very loving friends who are who are in inter-racial marriages or who have adopted children are prone to make hurtful, racist comments from time to time. Just because you are married to someone who is of a different ethnicity or are the parent of a child of another race does not make you an authority or an expert on what it's like to deal with racism as a person of color. It DOES give you a perspective as a white person who has a close bond to a person of color and will hopefully make you speak out against racism, but you cannot speak FOR them. This is where I think people of color in the church could be helpful to you folks who are adopting kids of different races. Anyway, thanks for the helpful blog.
Jen Hatmaker - November 14th, 2011 at 8:31 AM
I totally appreciate this comment and wholeheartedly agree. This issue causes me no end of tension, and I am so hungry to learn from my black friends and neighbors and fellow believers. I come into parenting Ethiopian kids with NO arrogance; rather a healthy amount of fear and trembling. Thank you for your comment, and please continue to help us and lend us your perspective.
Danielle - November 15th, 2011 at 11:00 PM
The phrase that's broken my heart the most
susan - November 18th, 2011 at 6:40 AM
I am not an adoptive parent and probably won't be at 53 years old. But I know folks who are. Thanks for the to-dos and to-don'ts. I want my interaction with these folks to be encouraging and helping not damaging.
Gwendy - November 21st, 2011 at 12:13 AM
We are in the paperwork process of adopting through the Foster Care system. Our comments so far are supportive. But one I would add to the "do not" list is... When (not if) you are on the phone with a friend or family member at any stage of adoption, and hear their bio kids being crazy and your friend/family sounds a little stressed. Please don't say, "and you want to add more kids to the craziness"? Yes, as a matter of fact I do!! I'm thankful God doesn't look at all His crazy children, running around screaming and yelling and say "I can't add anymore to the chaos"!! God's word is very clear about adoption and we are serious about being obedient. Thanks for your post.
girlysmack - November 21st, 2011 at 4:56 PM
I just found your blog and I SOOOOOOOOOO needed to hear all of this right now. We have a brand new 19 month old son from South Korea who joined our family this summer, and it has been a bit rough. And by "a bit rough" I mean it has been freakin' almost impossible! We have two biological children and their lives have truly been turned upside-down. Sigh. I know one day this little sweaty, screaming stranger will be my best friend. But tonight that day seems a looooooooong way off.
Flower Patch Farmgirl - December 5th, 2011 at 6:41 PM
Not sure if you'll get this comment, but we brought home an 18 mo. old from South Korea over a year ago. When he came home, we already had 2 other children (also adopted) and I'm not sure any of us have recovered yet! I understand all you say here. Please hold on to hope! That boy will love you. It'll happen out of the blue and you'll forget those awful days (at least for a while). Praying you have the support you need and for rest and patience!
DeputyHeadmistress - November 21st, 2011 at 11:33 PM
Man, I so wish somebody like you had been around 19 years ago when we adopted our two. It was an American adoption of two kids the same race as we are, but they were almost 4 and 6- and one of them took about five years to accept me. Meanwhile, we didn't get so much as a card from our church 'family.' Not a casserole. Not a pair of socks, not offers of prayer. We had three biological children and I had miscarried at 16 weeks the year we adopted the girlls, and I can't tell you how often some well meaning person told me that it was just wonderful, I'd lost one baby but God gave me two, like they were interchangeable, and wasn't I just giddy with delight about losing a baby since now I had two shiny new children (who hated me, who didn't breastfeed, who weren't babies, and who were their own precious, darling persons, NOT 'replacement parts' for the baby we'd lost).
I blogged about how to help an adoptive family here last year.

One of my friends commented that what she would value most would be the offer, a sincere offer she could trust, of daily prayer for at least a year.
Lisa - November 22nd, 2011 at 8:46 AM
Maybe this was already said (so many comments, so little time!!) but one thing I wanted to add on the DON'T say list is, while we're waiting to bring our children home please DON'T ask "Have you heard anything?" Every time I was asked that question while we waited YEARS to bring home our first daughter from China, even though my face showed a polite smile, my soul was screaming "DO YOU HONESTLY THINK I WOULDN'T HAVE SAID ANYTHING?!?!?!? DO YOU HONESTLY THINK YOU WOULDN'T HAVE HEARD ME SHOUTING FROM THE ROOFTOPS IF WE HAD HEARD THAT IT'S FINALLY TIME TO BRING OUR DAUGHTER HOME?!?!?! I COULD JUST THROTTLE YOU, YOU IGNORANT TWIT!!!!!"

Thankfully, I'm a much calmer and more rational person now...

Jen, I absolutely love your blog and I have become a rabid fan of you and your books. If I only knew you in "real life" I'm sure we would be great friends!
Hollie - November 22nd, 2011 at 10:56 PM
God Bless you for sharing your heart....and many of ours as well!!
My husband
Angie - November 23rd, 2011 at 12:40 PM
What an absolute blessing you are! We adopted our daughter through the foster system last year and I really truly could've used this! Some people in our family are just now coming around to her and not because she was adopted but just because they didn't know what to do or how to act so they did nothing. Now we're in the process of going to Ethiopia to pick up our five year old sone in the next nine months. You better believe I'll be sharing this blog with them so hopefully this time around goes better!!
Camille - November 25th, 2011 at 10:11 PM
Amazing post! I'm going to send this to a friend in the process of adopting from Honduras immediately. She's in the middle of the "Waiting Purgatory" now with pictures of her girls on her refrigerator. We adopted domestically earlier this year, but many of your points apply perfectly to all adoptions. Thanks so much!
Rachel - November 30th, 2011 at 6:34 PM
I lived the waiting purgatory - and survived. My Ethiopian daughter has been home for 10 weeks. I read in a book that for the first six months after adopting a child that any day both you and the child are alive at the end of the day is a successful day. I certainly had to reframe my perspective of the perfect days we would have once she was finally home (and there were, certainly, perfect moments in the midst of the jetlag and screaming and food-stuffing). I think I fell in love with this picture of a toddler and had to re-fall in love with the actual toddler (who has a history, a personality, and opinions of her own). Thankfully I was surrounded by amazing people who, by and large, supported me the best way they could. Thanks for voicing what many of us are feeling.
Beth - December 1st, 2011 at 8:27 AM
Jen, I came to your blog today just to comment on your After the Airport post, which I found linked on Ann Voskamp's blog. Oh, you cannot know the encouragement and relief and joy I've felt reading the Airport post several times (and after sending it to some friends and family).

Amazing to come to your current blog post today and see that it's really all about the Airport post. Thanks so much for what you've written and for just loving Jesus.

We brought home an adoptive daughter in March. From a state 14 hours from here. In bringing our new daughter here to our home, we flew into the same airport you did with your adoptive children! She is my niece. My new firstborn. She's now the oldest of six daughters. We have experienced our own version of most of the things you related in these two posts.

Thanks again...
Leah - December 3rd, 2011 at 5:23 AM
We're on adoption #2. In fact, I come home a week from today with him. This adoption is of a 7 year old boy.....who is in every developmental way 18 months. We weren't expecting that. But we know better than to expect ANYTHING, so while WE might have been prepared, we have friends and family asking, "How are you gonna do this?" Umm...the same way as if I birthed him because there are no other options." We don't not love him because he's not developmentally 7! And there was another wrench thrown into our world. My other son, adopted one year ago today, had spinal fusion surgery in May. He spent 3 months in a halo, (ever had a kid in a halo? It requires a ton of care!!! Not to mention NOT BATHES ALLOWED!) then 3 months in a neck brace, and then was able to (F.I.N.A.L.L.Y!) start school in September. So he's had what, 3 months of a normal life? We felt READY to do it all again! So while I'm here in Serbia, my husband took him for a sedated CT scan because he's been complaining of pain. HE NEEDS TO HAVE THE SURGERY REDONE. NOW! Seriously...lets make this an even more fun story. We live in Minnesota and the spine surgeon is in Philadelphia. Yep. I'm going to bring home our newly adopted 7 year old toddler, then turn around and get on another plane with him AND my 11 year old, and go through surgery, the intensive care unit, all of it...alone! Why? Because someone has to earn an income, so hubby will be staying home with my other daughter who is 15. Have I mentioned all of our kids at home have Down syndrome? So my 15 year old with DS is already a bit touchy because Mom is gone for 3 weeks, and annoyed by her 11 year old brother with DS who finally has enough ASL to communicate with her, but who is in pain so he's pestering EVERYONE, and now I'm going to bring home a 7 year old toddler with DS who has wedon'tevenknowwhat medical issues yet. So what is my comment about? Because everyone is ALREADY saying, "Well, you asked for it!" Yes, as a matter of fact, WE DID! That does not mean I'm not going to be severely jet lagged when we come home. It does not mean I'm not going to ever be exhausted from chasing our 7 year old toddler around, or that there might be a day I lock myself in the bathroom and refuse to come out of the shower because I'm crying....maybe. I'm writing all this, and I haven't even made it TO the airport with the second one yet.
Jen Hatmaker - December 5th, 2011 at 8:23 AM
Oh Leah. I will slap my hand over my mouth the next time I think my life is overwhelming. Bless it all! You can count on my prayers as you navigate the next few month (years). May God grant you a limitless supply of patience and energy and love. You can do this, sister. God will do it through you.
Beca McPherson - December 9th, 2011 at 1:26 PM
It is 5 1/2 years later, and we still work on post-adoptive issues with our treasure from Ukraine. She is now 7 years old. Your post is dead on accurate. One thing I would add -- this many years later -- is to BELIEVE ME when I tell you I think she has some issues we need to work on. Don't minimize or tell me that she seems so loving and attached. (She is.) Don't be tempted to tell me that all the hardest work is done, just because she is a love and does her darndest to keep it together when she is around other people. Of course she doesn't freak, flail and melt when she is with you...you are not her mom, even though I know you love her too. Remember that there are parts of her brain that are deeper that words can reach. These are riddled with gaps and misfirings that come out behaviorally sideways, because she missed 18 months of constant, loving, encouraging interaction with a mommy and daddy. When we commit to working some therapies (our pick: neurological reorganization) that aren't your garden variety approaches, don't think we nutso working on a problem that doesn't need to be solved. Trust me when I tell you that we get to relive the wonder and miracle of how God makes baby brains and bodies to grow and develop into wonderful, balanced, beautiful, peaceful children. We get to be a part of a miracle in slow motion, and every moment of every day -- good or bad -- is a moment we cherish.
Christy - December 10th, 2011 at 3:36 PM
Thank you for your blog. We adopted 3 from foster care in March and have 3 bio children that are teens. Man does the help the older siblings ring a bell. I wish someone would just have them over and do something special with them or just take them to a movie. We try and it is getting better, but guess who ends up babysitting for us a lot of the times? The 15m 13, and 11 year old. They need a break from how their world has been turned upside down. Don't get me wrong adoption was the best thing for our family and we hope to adopt again, but having NO one that I know who has adopted 3 at a time and has other kids at home to...I could use advice sometime.
We have been so blessed with friends that care, but I don't know how to communicate what we need too. I sometimes also don't know how to care for friends that have adopted so thank you for putting it into writing. Now I have some ideas too, especially for the international kids.
ruhama - December 12th, 2011 at 9:07 AM
My SiL just forwarded this post to me and I appreciate it VERY MUCH. We're in the 'before airport' stage and WP is horrible. Our paperwork isn't even in Russia yet and I'm already tired of telling people there's nothing to report...

So thank you for this post. It also reminds me to find the little things to cheer about *now*. And can pass this on to friends who may not realize the deeper part of adoption emotions. :)
Kerry - December 15th, 2011 at 1:42 PM
I just ran across this post. My husband and I are currently in the waiting phase for domestic adoption. I hope you don't mind, but I posted this with an excerpt on my own blog. I linked everything back to you. Thank you again for such a wonderful post!
Angela - December 20th, 2011 at 7:09 AM
I sincerely thank you for helping me avoid being unintentionally hurtful. I once told a dear friend of mine who had been adopted, "Yes, my husband and I would like to have our own children and also adopt." She replied, "Angela, I am mother's 'own' child." As a Christian, commanded to be humble, I am grateful to her for her gentle correction. It is clear you love your village, Jen, warts and all.
Erica - December 22nd, 2011 at 4:54 PM
Thanks! very helpful. We have friends who are in WP. I will send this link to all our friends so we can support them appropriately
Zanna - December 28th, 2011 at 11:14 AM
Thanks for sharing. I have a feeling I'm going to link to this when the time comes. Come to think of it...I may link to it now b/c of all the "during" wisdom.
Theresa Gerrond - January 6th, 2012 at 11:01 AM
This was such a great blog, with information I'd never thought of...a friend posted on FB. Having adopted an infant over 30 years ago, I didn't have to deal with many aspects you discuss. Thanks for opening my eyes to the trials of the situation...have you sent this in to any national publications? I think you should!! You're a great writer and I like the "real" aspect you put in/I was laughing through my tears.
Jodi Tucker - January 11th, 2012 at 6:25 PM
Thank you for this incredibly honest and true post!!! I have had many of the same feelngs and wrote about them and other things here in my little book for adoptive Moms. All we can do is try to help each other on this awesome journey!
www.fastenyoursweetbelt.com

Jen Summers - January 16th, 2012 at 3:02 AM
Jen,

I recently started reading your book "7" on my Kindle and LOVE LOVE LOVE your writing wit and humor coupled with the hard truth of what God has been doing in your lives these past 4 years (which is so similar to the journey my husband and I have been on too). So, I decided to click on over here to your blog to take a peek and realized you are also an adoptive mama (my husband is a pastor and we have 10 children - 9 of them adopted between April 2007 and Nov 2009 - that's what reading "Crazy Love" will do to you! LOL!) - anyways, I came to this post and thought you are SPOT on for advice. I have a couple of older blog posts about this as well that I'll link to here, but also, I just wanted to say that if you ever need someone to say "Yes it is freaking hard right now AND it is right and good, keep going," (and you want it to be someone who gets it), please call or email me. We are most days (FINALLY) past the really hard first few years (of which we had FOUR IN A ROW since we adopted 3 and then 2 years later adopted 6) and it is incredible to look back and see how much Grace and Mercy God must have poured out on us just to get us through. (But I digress - and I obviously love parenthesis WAY too much) Here are the links to the advice for helping newly adoptive parents:
http://hisgracehisglory.blogspot.com/2010/10/more-of-what-to-expect-first-year.html
http://hisgracehisglory.blogspot.com/2010/10/your-questions-answered-showers-of.html
Abbey - January 20th, 2012 at 9:20 AM
I didn't read all of the comments, so maybe someone else already added it, but I would add:
Please do not ask me (or my child) about personal details of their story or health history. It is not your business and some things are highly confidential. If I (or my child) wish to include you in knowing those details, we will volunteer the information. But please don't ask me if my child has health issues. It's just really awkward.
Nancy - February 9th, 2012 at 10:26 AM
The thing is, these concerns to not go away even after the child is an adult. My child who spent her first 12 years in Bulgaria has not left her formative years behind even though she's in her 20's. Our family is also biracial (she's Roma) in the South; this has had a big impact on her desire to be white as she was severely discriminated against in Bulgaria. And some family members still don't recognize her as my daughter in the same way their biological children are theirs. One thing I've learned is to let her be her, not to have her meet my middle class privileged expectations; she's in God's hands (she's a practicing Catholic).
Melissa carter - February 10th, 2012 at 7:47 PM
Hi Jen I just discovered your blog through a friend on fb. Great article as well as some of your other blog writings. We have 10 kid ,9 of them adopted internationally. I love your transparency and honesty. Blessings , Melissa carter
twinkle - February 14th, 2012 at 12:23 PM
Hubby and I adopted from foster care almost 8 years ago. Our boys are amazing..... but it was not an easy process. This is the first time I have ever read/heard such honest feelings from an adoptive parent. Every other blog I ever found about adoption always made me feel like canned dog food. We were struggling, and had no support from anyone really. All we ever heard was how happy we must be.... and how lucky our boys were to have us. Nobody ever wanted to know the truth of how hard the transition was. Thank you for this post. I am in tears, just knowing that what felt was normal and okay.
Name - February 23rd, 2012 at 8:02 PM
I can echo "twinkle's" sentiments... I'm in tears as well right now. We have had THREE children for 6 months, also from the foster care system. They are 3, 2, and 8 months... and due to delays, It's really like having an 8month, 1, and 2 year old... I love them, but it's exhausting. I'm not only adapting to being a mom, but a mom x3... It's all I've wanted for months, and I wouldn't go back if I could... even though I honestly want to some days... but I do feel "loss" and "grieving"... Life is very different now... exhausting... wonderful... hard... some smiles, and alot of limit setting... It will get better, and I'll adjust and learn to not be so selfish with what I want/need... but It's hard... THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart for your honesty!nn
Name - March 4th, 2012 at 3:23 PM
Type comment here...
Sandy - March 13th, 2012 at 2:00 PM
I was sent to your blog from one of my adoptive families. I am an adoption social worker. I was wondering if you mind me sharing your words with waiting families. I think the "realness" of your message might be just what some of them need to hear. I will gladly give you writing credit for your inspiring words. Just let me know.
Jen Hatmaker - March 18th, 2012 at 10:25 PM
I'd be so glad for you to use them. Post away, and thank you for linking back to my site. Blessings to you...
Wendy - March 18th, 2012 at 5:49 PM
As someone who hasn't been to church in a dozen years--it's people like you who give Christians a good name. I discovered your blog about an hour past my bedtime last night, compulsively read all your adoption entries (2.5 hours past bedtime), and came back today to re-read them. I'm trying not to gush as you right now.

We're sending our acceptance letter tomorrow for two children in Lithuania. Could I print this out and hand it to family members? I think it might help avoid misunderstandings later on.

Thank you.
Jen Hatmaker - March 18th, 2012 at 10:26 PM
This is a very high compliment. Thank you, Wendy. Please print this out for your family. Much love to you as you bring your children home from Lithuania. Grace and peace and love to you abundantly...
Desiree - April 13th, 2012 at 5:42 PM
I'll be bringing my son home from China soon. THANK YOU for putting into words what is so difficult to explain to loved ones surrounding us (and the ones who think they are supporting us...). Blessings to you
desiree - April 22nd, 2012 at 8:55 PM
I read this before we brought our son home.....and now it is three weeks after. I am nodding in awe (a second time) as you nailed both right on the head. Friday night my village showed up in the form of a great friend who came over to watch "whose line is it anyways?" with us.....it was so refreshing to just have someone come over and be normal with us! And the meals.....YES!!!! They save me! I am cooking for one little Ethiopian dude who hates all things American anyways, add another dinner to it for the rest of my family and I am burnt the blank out!
Roxa - April 30th, 2012 at 10:00 AM
WOW, what an eye opener, I am a grammie and my daughter Dawn is adopting from China. Thank you for enlightening us, you really gave me alot of good ideas.
Deborah - August 26th, 2012 at 11:43 PM
Just one more thing to NOT say! Do NOT ask me one more time "Are they sisters?". Of course they're sisters! They're both in our family and they have the same two parents who provide for them, teach them right from wrong, bandage their boo-boos, and who traveled halfway around the world to bring them home and nurture them! What do you think makes two girls sisters, anyway? Nuf' said.
Amy - October 11th, 2012 at 1:47 PM
Your my hero! Amy, mom to P and E, adopted 2010 and 2012
Ginny - January 5th, 2013 at 12:13 AM
I've come across this before, but as we prepare to bring our daughter home, this is so perfect. I'm sharing it on our family blog- linked back here. Thank you!!
Joni - February 28th, 2013 at 9:33 PM
I have to say as an adoptive parent this blog and comments have been very interesting to read. Some things I agree with, others not so much. I have not adopted internationally, but have friends that have and have seen the trials and difficulties they've had to endure, even years later. After struggling with infertility and having a hysterectomy at age 24, we decided to adopt. My first son, now 20, was adopted as a special needs child at 4-1/2 months old (at the time he had several medical conditions that, thankfully, turned out to not really be significant), but later turned out to have a form of high-functioning autism. After a divorce and remarriage, my current husband and I adopted a beautiful healthy newborn baby boy through a private agency. He was 5 days old when we brought him home. He is now 9-1/2. Both of my boys were legally free for adoption when we got them. That means their biological parents had already had their rights terminated. My older son was 2 when his adoption was finalized, and my younger son was 9 months old. So during the time between when we got them and finalization there was no risk or worry that they could be taken away.

Fast forward to almost 2 years ago... My husband and I wanted to adopt again, but didn't have the $40,000 it cost to do another private adoption and we both felt like foster care was the way the Lord was leading us to go. It was something we'd considered before and had prayed long and hard about it. We had no idea what an emotional rollercoaster we were in for. After 8 weeks of classes, background checks, physicals, and spending over a $1000 to make our home safe to pass the home study (we had to put a fence around a pond on our property), 6 months had gone by, but we were finally ready to be placed with a foster child. Another 3 months went by and we were finally placed with a 15-month-old baby girl. She was the youngest of 3 girls and came from neglectful situation. Her father was in prison and her mother was in jail but was released soon after. We knew going into foster care that the goal was reconciliation with the parents and we needed to think of ourselves as glorified babysitters. We explained all of this to our younger son who was so excited to get a baby sister and continued to stress that this could just be temporary. We got to know our baby's older sisters who were in another foster home and though we tried to guard our hearts, we fell in love just a little more every day. As she learned to talk, she started calling us Mommy & Daddy because she heard our son call us that. Our son became her "Bubba" and our parents, her PawPaw's and Grammie. She saw her sisters and mother for about 2 supervised hours twice a month with her caseworker.

In the state where we live, parents whose children are placed in foster care are given 9 months to complete their case plan. In other words, correct all the things wrong and accomplish all the things necessary to regain custody of their children. At that time, if they have not done so, the goal changes from reconciliation to adoption and steps are then taken to begin termination of parental rights. They used to be given a year, but it was shortened to 9 months because it was felt that children were languishing in foster care for far too long. At that point, if a child becomes available for adoption, the foster parents are then given the opportunity to adopt them. Usually at this point if there is a relative who wants them, they already have them as a foster child. When we reached the 9-month mark, our foster baby's mother had not completed her case plan and was given a 3-month extension. Why?? We don't know. Especially since she is now pregnant with her 4th child and doesn't even know who the father is. All of her other 3 girls have different fathers. Now we are at 1 year and fully expect her to be given another extension. This past year has had more twists and turns than a soap opera. If I could give you more details about this case, you'd be shocked. All the while, our family is madly in love with this baby, have no legal rights to her and could possibly never see her again if the court gives her back to her mother, who at this point, still hasn't completed her case plan, and continues to have babies she can't support or care for appropriately.

The average person has no idea what being a foster parent is like, and certainly doesn't understand how emotional trying to adopt through the foster care system really is. Some families foster children of a different race, so all those questions come into play, not to mention older children that have been abused, neglected, or even worse, molested, act out or misbehave and strangers and well-meaning friends and family make inappropriate comments. In spite of what they've been through, most of these kids still miss their parents and are terrified in a strange new home and the more they act out and misbehave, the more likely they are to be moved to yet another foster family.

All that to say, if you know a foster family, please be kind and sensitive to what they are going through. Much of what was in Jen's blog applies to foster families, but I'd have to say our purgatory period is after we get our child and wait months falling in love with him or her praying we'll be able to adopt, and at the same time feeling bad for hoping that the parents won't comply and be reconciled with their children. I've learned to just pray that "God's Will is done." And that there is the least amount of heartbreak for all parties.

Sherrie - March 4th, 2013 at 1:47 PM
Absolutely as relevant today as it was when you wrote this! Bless you! My daughter could have written these very words.
From a very proud mom and blessed grandmother.
Thank you for your courage in writing this!
Ginna - April 1st, 2013 at 11:17 PM
Sherrie and Jen, I will soon (hopefully) be "Nana" to two children from Ethiopia - a baby girl and her 7 year old brother. We have 9 other grandchildren (one foster grandson has returned to his birth mom but I will always count him as one of ours). We adore them all and can't wait to welcome these 2 new ones. After reading all this I"m wondering how to best be prepared to grandparent in the "right" way. Should I plan to only help by cooking, cleaning, or whatever is needed, or did you find it was ok to hug and snuggle a bit too? I want to do this right for all - not interfere with attachment, but everything in me cries out to pull them into my arms and love on them as I did with each other new arrival. Help!!!
Danielle - September 10th, 2013 at 9:41 PM
This is so helpful for so many reasons. We just started a new fundraiser for our adoption and it is a t-shirt that says "It takes a village" on the front. We know this to be true and your blog post helps our supporters who buy one "own it", for real! We really appreciate it! I'm sure you didn't know you were writing it for us, but thanks for doing it! xo
Jason - November 17th, 2013 at 1:49 PM
Some people that I met in Colombia while adopting my daughter posted this on Facebook, and I happened to catch it. Since my wife and I chose to adopt before even trying to have biological kids, I especially remember those types of questions: "Which one of you can't have kids?" Although the look of shock on people's faces was usually worth it. Since my wife and I are about to begin the process again, for a little boy from Eastern Europe this time, I'm looking forward to sharing this with people in a couple of days when we break the news. Thanks!
Holly - December 2nd, 2013 at 4:58 PM
Folks waiting for their children thru adoption need/want someone to throw a shower for them too, just as preggo mommies do. It can hurt when all the pregnant ladies at church get a shower, but you are skipped.
Susie - April 16th, 2014 at 5:30 AM
Thanks for sharing your heart and experiences, which really spoke to me. My husband and I adopted a CPS child who was our foster child before our adopted daughter. One lady with whom I worked gave our new (10-year-old) daughter and me a thoughtful gift in honor of the adoption. She either made or had made two matching aprons of the appropriate sizes and included a child's cookbook so that I could teach my new daughter how to cook. As I look back on that gift, I realize how it nurtured an activity that we could enjoy doing together. Others gave us photograph albums so that we could capture memories of our family activities. Others with children of similar ages would invite my daughter to play or to go on an activity with them. As some have mentioned, sending the child cards and remembering the child's birthday, also helped the child feel welcome in our church community.
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