The Truth About Adoption: Two Years Later
by Jen Hatmaker on September 3rd, 2013

Last week, Ben read a chapter book over the course of five days and only asked me for help on two words.

Remy skipped into 2nd grade like it was her job, barely looking over her shoulder at me.

The Texas Longhorns are very invested in the successes of the Hatmaker children.

We just crossed the two-year mark since adopting our kids from Ethiopia, and I can hardly believe that even as I type it. Just twelve months ago, I was telling you The Truth About Adoption at the one-year mark, and things were still very heavy.
 
The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.
 

We are filled with joy because our kids are healthy and strong, beautiful and smart. They are overcomers, and so are we. I marvel at the ordinary security they now enjoy with abandon, typical advantages we barely consider like being fed and tucked in at night and cheered for at games and educated and wanted. These belong to them now; they are safe.
 
We are filled with joy because we are (mostly) past the crazy temper tantrums, the inconsolable grief, the manipulations, the paralyzing fear. The kids are no longer going off the rails constantly. We’re pretty sure we’re going to make it, which felt like a fool’s hope last year.


As with all retellings, this is our story, and it may bear absolutely no resemblance to yours. We adopted older, unrelated children from Ethiopia who were relatively healthy. Adoption has many faces: babies, foster, siblings, toddlers, domestic, no other kids at home, billions of other kids at home, older parents, first-time parents. This is not a template but simply our experience. There is no one-size-fits-all here. But for us, if I had to loosely discuss Year Two, it went something like this:
 
1-1½ Years
 
The shine has worn off, and you are in the hard work of stabilizing. You’ve exited the near constant therapeutic position where practically every word and every moment has something to do with felt safety/needs/affirmation/redirection/acknowledgement of loss/keeping the schedule predictable/therapeutic words/tantrum interruption/attachment. You can go entire hours like some sort of normal parent. All the fuss surrounding your adoption has receded, and now you are deeply in the trenches.
 
For us, this section of time was almost as difficult as the first six months but for different reasons. When they first get home, you’re simply in survival mode. Your head is down, your entire life is in the weeds, it is chaos, anarchy. Everything that used to take up your time is shoved in the corner doing who knows what. The transition is brutal and pretty much every part of your life is a hot mess. But you knew this was coming and your people are keeping the wheels on because they were ready too, and it’s like wartime.
 
The first six months of the second year is tricky, because you’ve emerged from the madness and now you realize: THIS IS GOING TO BE VERY, VERY HARD FOREVER. This is a difficult season of learning first-hand what abandonment actually wrecks in a child’s heart. The hemorrhage has been cleaned but now you can see the scars. The grief isn’t as manic, but you realize it is deep, way deeper than you thought. You begin to understand just how much has yet to be overcome and how ill-equipped you are to see it all through. You learn that in many ways, this is the work of a lifetime and abandonment is a permanent part of their story.
 
It feels terrifying and overwhelming. Because when the kids are screaming and thrashing, that is behavior you feel you will get past eventually. You can weather that storm. But once you see their broken hearts sitting there quietly, still suffering, you hit your knees.
 
For us, this introduced a season of fear. Will they resent us? Will they blame us one day? Will they twist away from us with unresolved grief? Will they be healthy? Did we do the right thing? We’ve compounded their losses and it feels muddier now than it did on Day One. We are not getting this right, and it matters so much that we get this right.
 
In our family, this was the period where one of our bio kids began struggling mightily. He stayed on the rails that first year because he had to; no choice. There was no room for anyone else to come unhinged. So when Ben and Remy pulled out of triage, he was safe to fall apart. And he did. This is a special sort of heartbreak, and we had to find a new drawer to pull out to deal with it all.
 
Here is the truth: Brandon and I struggled with burn out during those months. The work was so exhausting, and we figured out it was never going to not be. Tension between your bios and adopteds crescendo (because they are out of the weeds and into normal family life so now everyone feels free to ARGUE AND MAKE US CRAZY). This was the worst part. I preferred the early days when my bios treated Ben and Remy like darling new pets, and the new kids hadn’t learned to annoy their big sibs.
 
It is selfish and embarrassingly human, but we were just tired. I felt irritable and resentful. I wanted it to be easier already and it wasn’t, at least not in the ways I thought. Parenting wounded kids is terribly challenging, which you know in your head going into adoption, but starting your second year, you really know it in your life. It’s hard, like maybe forever hard, and you feel that because you are a human, not a robot, and that’s just true. There are some tears in the bathroom during this stage.
 
1 ½ - 2 Years
 
Your family makes a sharp turn toward healing. You can literally see it. The pressure cooker feeling is receding. You’ve figured out how to talk about their losses in an organic way. (I used to bring up adoption stuff out of left field with Ben, and he would spiral in tears. I’ve learned to let it come when it comes and quit trying to force healing conversations into his story.) You free up some energy to deal with your bio kids’ issues. So many days you think: “We are just an ordinary family.” You can’t believe you think this. This is the best six-month run yet. ALL HAIL THE FOURTH SIX-MONTH STRETCH.
 
This is about the time you learn more about adoption ethics. Believe me, I’m no fan of the “I’ve Adopted But Now You Can’t” narrative, but it’s not that adopters want to throw a wrench in the machine for kicks. Just like ordinary parenting, you only know so much when you first get pregnant. You are clueless actually. Two years down the road, your advice to first-timers is different; you’ve seen stuff, you know stuff, you have both joys and warnings to share.
 
There is an arc to the adoption journey that seems fairly common, and it includes getting very serious about protecting first families and first cultures and reunifying families if it is safe and possible. Part of this is because we have brokenhearted children in our homes that grieve constantly for their first mamas, first language, first culture. We’ve seen the loss up close, and it is severe.
 
Adoption is beautiful, but it is complicated. Any time we are crossing cultures and biological ties and socioeconomic disparities, we must tread very carefully, for people’s hearts are at stake. Entire families are in play. Cultures are on the line. Again, somewhere in the second year, this becomes more clear, and we turn an eye back toward our children’s birth places and feel the tension, the loss. (I have so many adoption friends who have moved to their kid’s home country or engaged community development work there, because those connections become so dear, so important.)
 
We need not shy away from these hard conversation, because they can only make adoption stronger, first families better, second families healthier. The more we know, the more we are responsible for, and it is a privilege that God has invited us into the story of orphan care. We are a committed, resilient bunch, I’ll tell you. We love one another and love each others children, and I am grateful to the core that this is my tribe.
 
I was speaking in Birmingham last weekend, and my friend Anna who adopted from Ethiopia the same time we did came. When she first brought her son Cooper home, the diagnosis was grim: he won’t walk, he won’t thrive, he will always struggle. As we hugged and shared pictures, Anna’s friend leaned in and said, “Cooper got in trouble for running in the halls at school last week…” and my throat closed up and my eyes stung with tears, because God redeems. We are not capable of healing our kids’ bodies and hearts and minds, but Jesus is. We can trust him with our little families, because He is a good God and He is ever for us.
 
The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.


Adopters and adult adoptees, what else can you add to the Second Year? What did you learn, overcome, face, discover? How has your story been different? Or the same?


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183 Comments
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Jen T. - September 3rd, 2013 at 1:20 PM
We're in month 15, and I long--YEARN--for "truth-tellers in adoption" as you once said. I so appreciate hearing your story and your honesty. All of our stories are different, but it's balm to my soul just to connect. Thanks, Jen!
Jessica Ronne - September 3rd, 2013 at 1:31 PM
I also have an adoption story although it is not the typical story. I lost my first husband at 33 and was left with 4 young children. I eventually married a widower who lost his first wife and he was left with three young children. We adopted each others children, no classes, no planning, just "yes, this is a great idea, we love each other, let's do it!" And, yes, the first year was intense but we were flying on love and hormones and the newness of it all and very blinded by the reality of what we had just done. The second year (which we are in now) has been different. The blinders have come off, the reality of the choices we have made (I love these children fiercely but it is not entirely the same as the bio ones - I call it instinct versus choice) the reality that I pushed aside my bio ones for a year to bond with the new ones and the guilt associated with that decision or lack of decision. Anyway, thank you for being honest. More people need to be honest about it and although I would not take it back, no way, no how, it is not easy, not in any way shape or form. Thank you for sharing your heart.
Jen - September 3rd, 2013 at 5:48 PM
Jessica, we too are a blended family. I had three bio kids (2-year-old twins and a 3-year old) when we blended our families in 2006. He had four kids (3, 8, 10 and 12). We now have one together (2 years old) AND one on the way! I can completely relate to my feelings regarding my bio kids vs his kids. The intense love I have for my kids (more patience, understanding, empathy, etc) will never be the same as my feelings for his kids. For years I tried and tried to change this, but now I realize it's ok. I take my relationship with them for what it is, and it doesn't have to be the same. Just as I love my mom, dad, and sister differently, my love for each of my kids, bio or not, can be different. Years of blended family therapy, and I am just now starting to get it.
Jessica - September 4th, 2013 at 1:35 PM
Thank you for that Jen. I'm getting there as well, accepting it for what it is, although I have struggled deeply with NOT wanting any of them to feel that mom is different towards them, which can lead to more guilt because I have in a sense pushed aside my longing for my bio kids, to hold them, love on them, all those motherly instincts because of the differences - I don't want to mess up the adoptive ones and have them grow up saying, you always loved your real kids more than us. It's a fine, fine line at times. I would love to chat with you more, it is rare to find someone in the same boat as me. I have a blog with contact info as well if you want to email. Blog is www.jessplusthemess.com. Email is on there :-)
Jenny - September 10th, 2013 at 1:12 PM
You have no idea what a balm it is to my heart to hear that about how you feel differently about your kids verses his kids. I think so many of us who have adopted feel a huge weight of guilt for not instantly (or ever) feeling the same about our adopted kids as our bios. Thank you for sharing that!!!
(We're almost 2 1/2 yrs home with our 3 girls from Ethiopia and have 8 biological)
Kimberlie in DFW - September 3rd, 2013 at 1:32 PM
We are in year 9 (OMG!) and it's been smooth sailing for a while now. But I always remember that his story is HIS. Not mine. I can soothe it, I can help him see the positive, I can help him grieve, but I can never take it away. Sometimes I feel lucky that I can see he is not MINE to own, but MINE to fill with love and send into the world to change someone else's world for the better. And each year gets a little easier when the "first life" is significantly less proportionate to the "second life."
KR - September 9th, 2013 at 12:05 PM
Kimberlie, I don't have any adopted children--I came here through a friend's FB post--but I wanted to let you know how much strength and solace your words have given me with regard to mine own bio kids. Their little lives are theirs, and it's my job to pour in love and structure and a view on how to live out God's kingdom on earth. The rest is between them and God. Thank you.
Rachel - September 3rd, 2013 at 1:37 PM
We are 8 years in after adopting a 3 year old from Ukraine. The last few years have been harder than the first few ever were. Some of that may be this age in general, but we struggle a lot and feel hopeless sometimes. Lying, stealing, ADHD, tantrums, depression, anxiety, fear and more have all reared their ugly heads:(. Thankful for your honesty and your words today. Despite it all, we remain confident that Jesus can heal and extend grace in the areas that we can't.
Sara - September 3rd, 2013 at 1:49 PM
I am not an adoptee, nor do I have any children. Actually, my husband and I have been trying to conceive to no avail. I have been struggling to trust God through this, because my Type A, control freak personality wants things to happen on MY timetable. Obviously, God has other ideas. There is a lot of fear and disappointment and insecurity when you feel like your body is failing you. But your comment "We can trust God with our little families, because He is a good God and is ever for us" is exactly what I needed to hear. So I will continue to trust God with my little family, whether that means a future unborn child, a future adopted child, or just me and the man God blessed me with.
sarah - September 3rd, 2013 at 5:10 PM
I'm going to pray for you, Sara. I've been where you are - type A and all - and have wondered earnestly if God was just not listening or what His deal was. I don't usually read comments, but I did today and I hope it's not too weird that I'm just popping in to say I'm praying for your heart and desire for children. Keep pressing into Jesus!
Sara - September 3rd, 2013 at 6:49 PM
Thank you, Sarah. Today was a hard day. I jokingly referred to my "empty womb" today, and it broke my heart a little. I appreciate the prayers.
Tere - September 3rd, 2013 at 8:08 PM
Praying for you Sarah. Been there too. Type A. Doubting God. Throwing tantrums to God! My oldest of 3 turns 18 tom. God' s timing was so crazy, I still can't quite believe it. I pray God's blessing on your family.
Rebecca Townsend - September 3rd, 2013 at 1:53 PM
I was adopted at age 4, and I can't remember it well. I had been abandoned as a baby almost and in THIS country, so we didn't have many of the challenges that others face dealing with bringing an older child home from another country. My adopted mother died when I was fourteen, so I was "abandoned" again. My adopted father and I hated each other and I went back into foster care at 15. I'm scarred. Deeply scarred. And I've always said I'd never adopt a child, because it's just TOO HARD! My older sister and I were horrible to our parents . . . I don't know how they dealt with us for as long as they did. I'm eating my words now, because I'm adopting my biological granddaughter (long story), but I've had her since she was born . . . God met me right where I was. He's GOOD that way. :D
Ellie - September 3rd, 2013 at 11:54 PM
Hi Rebecca, Your story touched my heart. Thank you for sharing it. God's faithfulness and love are amazing. May His blessings continue to shine on you and your family.
Grace - September 3rd, 2013 at 1:56 PM
You are so brave and faithful. I am glad that you are coming into a new season with your family and that they all have come out on the other side. I thought about adoption but I am not in that position currently. I pray for you and yours.
Kaylee - September 3rd, 2013 at 1:57 PM
Thank you for this!
I'm sitting here in tears. We are still in the paperwork process (our home study is ver close to being done and we're hoping our dossier will be on it's way to China by the end of the year). The more I'm learning about what our daughter will experience, it breaks my heart every time. I keep saying, I want to know as much as I can about the reality(good, bad and ugly) of adoption before we bring her home. Right now one of the harder things for me to grasp is knowing that my daughter will have already experienced such loss, a horrible loss that I cannot even begin to understand, and it hurts my heart to know that I will only be able to comfort her to a point...
But like you said, "God redeems" I'm so thankful that her heavenly father will be able to reach the hurt, broken and scared places of her heart, and bring healing.
That got a little longer then I intended, but thank you again!
Miki Brown - September 3rd, 2013 at 2:07 PM
Thank you for sharing! I love hearing your views and the experiences of all those who respond. My husband was adopted as a preteen and we have always had a heart to enter the adoption arena in some way. Currently, God has placed in front of us the opportunity to create a camp geared towards helping adoptive families come together. Both as a family unit and as a community to encourage each other. My question for you, is what kinds of things would have been helpful for you? How can we effectively come alongside and help with bonding, healing, growing? Thanks for your time!
Dinah Monahan - September 3rd, 2013 at 2:16 PM
This is beautifully written and beautifully explained. You are honest, open and able to share the pain yet leave us with the hope. I am a grandmother of three adoptees from Ethiopia. We, like so many of your friends are now intentionally connected with their birth country through www.livinghopeethiopia.org. We are the only maternity home in Ethiopia. Our goal is to help these moms parent if possible. You have just reinforced in me the commitment to this ministry and our moms. God bless you.
Eryn - September 3rd, 2013 at 2:27 PM
Oooh, tears at the relevance of this post! So many lines I was like, "yes! exactly!". It did seem so hard at the one year mark. Having friends and having had our own experiences of how the one-two year mark brought about a trying time for our adopted children, I would not say I thought of them joyfully at the time. But now looking back, I can see that God had worked on us to make us safe so that they could have salve for a scar or a voice with which to mourn. Now, I can look back and praise God for the times where I did not know what to do other than cry in the bathroom :) We were safe. We were attaching. And our family looked like a beaten crazy dog! Such a wonderful paradox, a weirdly beautiful movement forward- now I see it that way. There is hope for all who feel like they are taking steps backwards. Sometimes backwards can be forwards, but it looks very trying and has the potential for the enemy to strangle you down. Praying that all hold on to hope and can see the blessings and beauty of a child who feels safe to mourn!
Emily W - September 3rd, 2013 at 2:27 PM
The third 6 mos home from Ethiopia was brutal. Terrible. I didn't know what to do with her and her tantrums were at an all time high. But it didntlast forever. :) For us, each 6 mos have been getting better. Praise God! Thanks so much for your words. I don't know when I'm going to learn not to read blogs about adoption in public though!
Christy - September 3rd, 2013 at 2:28 PM
LOVE THIS!! Precious words, and so very, very true.
Kathy - September 3rd, 2013 at 2:36 PM
These statements cannot be stressed enough: "this is very very hard forever" and "every story is different". I love hearing all the adoption stories - they are hard and beautiful. And not everyone has the same experience. We have 3 older bio children and adopted our son from Asia when he was 22 months old, 7 1/2 years ago. He was well cared for in an orphanage (yes, there are some good ones) and the first 2-3 years were pretty smooth with little trauma. He gave and received affection easily, learned English quickly, and just loved all the newness of life with us. But questions and insecurities started coming to the surface at age 4 or 5 (earlier than I expected), and they persist. He asks about his biological parents and family and is very sad that he doesn't know them. Feelings of abandonment run deep and insecurities/fears come to the surface in painful ways. It pains me to think they will not go away. The emotions ebb and flow, and we do our best to love him through the difficult days. We often tell him how much we love him, how much God loves him and how happy we are that God put our family together. But the bottom line is that as much joy as we have, there is also pain. That is life in this sin stained world. I wouldn't give him up for anything.

Kristen - September 3rd, 2013 at 2:37 PM
I sat down today to do my daughters 6th yearly post placement report & I saw the new blog post. I call that timing! We have been doing this a while but the scars are still there & the work is just as hard. It's exhausting & you're right, it never won't be (such bad English in the sentence!) It took me a long time to get over myself & accept that. It's still not easy, but my expectations are probably more realistic which makes my life a little easier.
Beaker - September 3rd, 2013 at 2:43 PM
Hi! We are also at the end of our fourth six months and I
Wish we could say it was easier. Your story could be ours
only in exchange for an emotionally young two year old
who had ruled the roost for as long as he was able. Talk
about butting heads, what do you means rules, I have to talk?
Now aged 4 we are undergoing some pretty rough tantrums
but with another change due, we are not surprised. He is starting
Big School in the morning and we are guessing he is expressing
his anxiousness through horrendous behaviours! Please God send
some angel teachers to make it easier!!
It's only when we look back at photographs, think of what
he was like when he first arrived etc that we see how far we've come!
Only by the grace of God have we managed thus far and ditto for
the future. God has given us two beautiful sons, one biologically
and the other an adoption gift! Hard times and fun times, we
wouldn't change it, but maybe the bad behaviour could take
a back seat and give us a break for a while!
Praying great times over The Hatmakers and all your readers!
We WILL come through this! X
amber - September 3rd, 2013 at 2:44 PM
This post was water for my soul! We are in month 17 since bringing home our toddler son through foreign adoption. I haven't decided yet if we are seeing "typical" terrible 2's-3's or if this is post-adoption yuck we are just having come to the surface. Either way, because he is so young, the manipulative behaviors and tantrums are very manageable. What's more concerning is the jealousy that seems to exist between our bio's and our adopted son. It's a different emotion than what we see just between the bio's and has recently become small "cat fights" between our 4 year old bio daughter and our 2 (almost 3) year old adopted son. Is she just displaying typical middle child syndrome? Is he the typical "baby" of the family? Are they being normal 2 and 4 year old siblings or is it something more? And will it get better? Since adopting I also feel like we are under a microscope. I second guess everything for our adopted child for fear of what others might think...something I never did for the bio's! That feeling of scrutiny has led to many emotions..including resentment, anger, confusion and then, of course, guilt! And to add to the chaos, we are a very spicy crew as well! I can say whole-heartedly we are blessed beyond measure and God has done AMAZING things through this crazy little tribe I belong to but it isn't easy. SO reading your post...well let's just say it's like I sat down and had coffee with my best friend (without any "littles" around) and she knows EXACTLY how I feel and what to say to make it better...at least until the next time I hear "MOMMA, he touched me!" :) Thank you!
Zoie - September 3rd, 2013 at 9:02 PM
This is uncanny! How did you know our story? It was as if I wrote this myself. Trying to figure out the dysfunction myself. Wondering what is normal, what is adoption-related trauma, what is birth order mess, what is our parenting style... You are not alone in your experience. And the One who calls us is faithful. He is redeeming this beautiful mess!
CRS - September 3rd, 2013 at 3:10 PM
Adopted two half-sibling meth babies nine months ago - 6 mos & 18 mos at the time (we have a bio, age 6). There is simply nothing that can prepare you for the intensity of parenting that first year. Forget love, schedules, cuddling, reading, bonding, new traditions, birth story books, etc... It is simply SURVIVAL. I am so glad for people who are honest about this! No one knows how to care for families in that first year in the trenches until you've gone through it first hand I think. Not only is it brutal just getting to the end of each day, but I also think that the enemy tries to pick apart every good thing happening. Honestly, we feel incredibly blessed to still have our jobs, our marriage, and be alive. That feels like success this first year. lol... We are slowly emerging from the first year fog, but it has been difficult not having anyone who understands the magnitude of it. We assure ourselves daily that this is just a season that will pass, while also gulping wondering what the next could bring. Our older daughter - now 2 - has attached amazingly, but the youngest - now 1 - has SO many developmental, medical, attachment, and sensory issues. It is a full time job for two parents just caring for her. My advice for prospective adoptees is: 1) Read Jen's "The Truth About Adoption: On Year Later" about 45 times. 2) Find some friends who have adopted special needs kiddos or siblings and pick their brains 3) Buy a year-long subscription to a local pizza joint, you will not be cooking perhaps ever again. 4) Find some friends to pray for your marriage and give you respite date nights. 5) Realize that the next year of your life will be one heck of a pressure cooker, but that God does promise to refine us by fire, and it is very painful, and you will never be the same!
Christina JObes - September 3rd, 2013 at 3:57 PM
I just got so tired reading your comment and I have six boys myself- three adopted out of foster care. I can relate to so much of what you said. We have struggled with sensory issues with our youngest now just turned two and have found so much relief from the Feingold diet. I am an OT and have been seriously watching closely due to signs of autism and ADHD. He's been on the diet for three months and is a different kid now- when before he "was a full time job for two parents!" like you said.
Anyways just drawn to your comment- between the sensory issues and pizza subscription I feel like our families probably have alot in common:)
www.christina-jones.blogspot.com
Caroline - September 3rd, 2013 at 9:24 PM
Yes, to the ADHD and autism stuff too ... I am so excited to check out your blog! We have been doing the SCD diet w/ her and GFCF ... she's on hemp milk (formula was literally killing her) and we found out the hard way she has severe allergies to gluten, dairy, casein, eggs, soy, and nuts. So that leaves .... raw veggie and hemp juiced. She did have a HUGE behavioral change just getting pulled off formula (which is half HFCS!) It also helped w/ the flailing/tremors/thrashing in her sleep, as well as a lot of the spastic ADDish behavior. I will check out the Feingold diet too ... She also failed her hearing tests so we have to look into that. How long ago did you adopt? Wish you well as you journey forward!
Christina - September 3rd, 2013 at 10:57 PM
So little, can you maybe check out Human Milk for Human Babies & get some donor breast milk for her? I'm sure it would help on many fronts--can even find GFCF donor mamas... if you like anywhere near Greenville SC I'll gladly give you some of mine! (still nursing my son who's 14 mos. He has sensory issues & food allergies as well.). GAPS diet is similar to SCF; the book by Natasha Campbell McBride is so informative (Gut and Psychology Syndrome). Anyway, press on!!
Christinan Jones - September 4th, 2013 at 1:22 PM
All those allergies and a failed hearing test too?!? Momma youve got your hands full. I'm not too familiar with the specifics of the SCD diet. But can she do coconut milk? That's what's Silas does. I've read about making my own, but haven't braved it yet.
Our adoption finalized about three months ago. We had them as foster sons for a year and then they returned to their mom for about six weeks before she called me up and said couldn't do it and that we should adopt. It's been a struggle developing an unconditional bond because we never had the pre- stage of waiting and yearning for an adoption. We were just playing our part as foster parents and psyching the boys up for reunification- though we loved the boys we weren't thinking that they were ours. So the forever part of this whole thing I'm not sure I still comprehend:) We have had them permanently for a year now though and I find that we are faking less and less and have moved on to many more days in a row of making it! If I could just get my five year old to stop peeing his pants I feel like we'd be unstoppable:)
Colleen - September 3rd, 2013 at 3:15 PM
Once again, I think you're in my head. Your 3rd 6-month stretch seems to be what's happening in our home currently. Only we're just now experiencing this in our 6th 6-month stretch. They've been home almost 3 years now. It may have something to do with their age and the fact that we just went through a major overseas move, but just whatever. We're in it and it's HARD! But as I tell my friends over and over, it's so good. Good for me as a parent to recognize their pain and learn totally different ways to parent their hurt. And good for me to press into God during this wacky time. He's the only one getting me through this right now. The Lord is using this to sift some serious ugly outta me. And it's good for my son to grieve these things now so we can work through them while he's still young and under our roof. Thanks for letting us know that you've made it to the "other side" (well, mostly). I'm greatly encouraged!
Bethany Taylor - September 3rd, 2013 at 3:25 PM
Oh how I've loved year 2 of our adoption journeys! We've adopted 3 times, 2 kiddos the first time, 2 kiddos the second time, and 1 this past time. Each year is a journey in itself, but year 2 is a gift. However year three and the growing older brings an entirely new dimension, a deepness that grows over time. A love, a bond, and a testing of that bond. We're almost through year 4 with our first adoptees, Just hit year 3 with our 2nd adoptees and at 18 months with our 3rd adoptee. Each season is a gift and a challenge! Praying that you would have grace and wisdom as you enter each new season!
Holly - September 3rd, 2013 at 3:27 PM
"We are not capable of healing our kids%u2019 bodies and hearts and minds, but Jesus is. We can trust him with our little families, because He is a good God and He is ever for us."

I needed this today. Our little from China is not little anymore and 8 years into being in our family, the road is only murkier with parents who are just plain worn-out. Lots of capital letters of her diagnoses, lots of therapists/drs/meds and 6 stays in psych hospitals this year... all for a "healthy girl under a year old, please." Her heart is so broken.
But:
(it is worth reading again)
"We are not capable of healing our kids%u2019 bodies and hearts and minds, but Jesus is. We can trust him with our little families, because He is a good God and He is ever for us."

Thanks!
Its not always ugly!! - September 3rd, 2013 at 3:31 PM
A beautiful post.
But. I feel like the odd one out.
When I hear phrases like "honest adoption stories", and "truth telling stories" I feel sad.
I know its been mentioned that everyones story is different - and indeed that is true. But not every story is hard and difficult and painful.
Know that Jesus Christ gets ALL the credit here......
Our story of international adoption is true, and honest. We are coming up on year 6 and it has been the most incredible blessed journey! We have not had any the issues described here. None.
Please, I'm not boasting and again, it has NOTHING to do with any of our 'efforts'.
We are a family with bio's, adopted and fosters all living under the same crazy loving fun filled roof.......
I'm not in any sort of denial - I know full well that issues may arise at any time.
God will still be Glorified.
I guess my point is that those of us who don't have the "horror stories" to share, aren't being untruthful, or putting up a false front,(as I have been made to feel in the past). It has been a beautiful journey all along.
For that, I'm thankful.
MC - September 3rd, 2013 at 5:37 PM
We adopted two biological siblings from Cambodia a little over 10 and a half years ago. We were part of the last wave of 500 families that successfully adopted from that country. US adoptions have been closed there since 2001 due to corruption that resulted in the dismissal of the US ambassador and jail time for some US-based adoption "facilitators".

Because of the results of corruption and visa fraud coming to a head at the beginning of the in-country phase of our journey, what had been taking 3-6 months from being matched stretched to over 18 months. Our roller coaster struggle included times when our daughter was taken unexpectedly from the orphanage to one in another city, times when we were told after over a year, that we would never get them both home and times when we walked back from the brink of giving up and decided to stick it out just one more day.

Our two bio kids walked this journey with us. We cried and prayed together and shared the struggles with our extremely supportive Denver-area church who interceded for us, encouraged us and remained close friends despite our myopic focus on the adoption.

Finally, in January and February 2003, we brought them home. After such intense struggles to get to that point, I can honestly say that our first 18-24 months were joyful. This is just a proof point that each journey is different. God's design for our family was to endure struggles on the getting-them-here side and to enjoy a more rapid return to normalcy and assimilation.

Both adopted kids have surrendered their lives to Christ. They are amazingly smart, funny, hard working and affectionate. We can't wait to see what God has in store for their lives!

MC
Amanda B - September 3rd, 2013 at 3:33 PM
You just made me cry and gave me hope! Our daughter has been home (we got her through a failed ET adoption) for just over a year, we know she has come so far but I still feel like the future is grim. AND if that wasn't enough, our son has been with us for just over 4 months. I have felt like we have been in the trenches for a long time and with little hope of coming out. Thank you for writing this and putting the truth of older child adoption out there. I hope that by this time next year, I can say we are thriving and no longer surviving.
Cindy - September 3rd, 2013 at 3:40 PM
Can you explain your take on the I've adopted but now you can't "narrative"?
I feel that families that share their stories about unethical IA are sharing personal truth not spinning tales.


Jen Hatmaker - September 3rd, 2013 at 7:25 PM
I absolutely agree with you. I was referring to the perception...I worded it badly. You should read my 3-part series on adoption ethics posted in May of this year. I absolutely know they are not spinning tales. I'm listening. For me, I either didn't look for these voices earlier or just didn't hear them, but the deeper we emerged into the adoption community, the clearer these things became.
Julie - November 21st, 2013 at 9:02 AM
Even though the stories of corruption don't even come close to compare to the successful ones? And every time another person bashes adoption it hurts the children that are 100% legitimately adoptable? I'm not saying to ignore the stories that are absolutely true, but actually do something about ensuring that adoptions continue in an ethical way instead of just letting them reduce by the thousands every year and accepting this as fact. Thousands of children are surrendered to a life in an orphanage instead of a family and I'm not ok with that. It shouldn't feel ok to any of us and we need to do our part for the sake of these kids.

The CHIFF legislation will do that. They will bring more officials into the adoption process, making adoptions a priority, and working diligently to shorten the unnecessary "dead time" in lengthy of adoptions. It strives to make more adoptions a possibility for the sake of these kids.

We could all focus on supporting those that are deeply aware of the problems and are working so very hard to fix them. I believe we need to support these efforts and not waste our time doing more damage.

I apologize for my bluntness, I just feel very passionate about this. Thank you!
Alecia - September 3rd, 2013 at 4:05 PM
We are waiting on our referral from Ethiopia. This gives me hope and scares me to death. Continually looking to you and your wisdom. Keep it coming!!
RG - September 3rd, 2013 at 4:15 PM
Hi Jen!
Love the blog! Resonate so much with you as we are in our 3rd 6-month period of our own adoption of two boys from foster care. Your words make me laugh and cry and then laugh all over again...thank you!

I would really like to add you to my feedly account but can't seem to figure out how...when I try, it can't find you...what am I missing here? Any help would be great or help from other followers...

RG
AmyE - September 3rd, 2013 at 4:17 PM
We are beginning year four ... and still are waiting for this stage: "You%u2019ve exited the near constant therapeutic position where practically every word and every moment has something to do with felt safety/needs/affirmation/redirection/acknowledgement of loss/keeping the schedule predictable/therapeutic words/tantrum interruption/attachment. You can go entire hours like some sort of normal parent." So glad that things are in a new and dare I say, "better" stage for you all. It is hard and always will be, but am always grateful for stories that give hope.
Jenay - September 3rd, 2013 at 4:18 PM
I can't stop reading this article. I love every word of it. We are living EVERY word you wrote. THANK YOU!!!
Diana Trautwein - September 3rd, 2013 at 4:39 PM
Wow, Jen. Just WOW. Beautifully written, as always, and so insightful. I know nothing about adoption of any kind and having read this, I am stunned by the immensity of the pain that can be involved in this whole process. Thank you for writing it out, for being honest, for telling good stories. Hard stories, but oh-so-good.
Juli - September 3rd, 2013 at 5:03 PM
jen thank you so much for your honesty! we adopted two brothers from Ethiopia three years ago and you described our journey! as hard as some days, actually hours, are to hear them laughing and running around outside and to have them grab my hand makes up for it all. all four of our kids fight like brothers and sisters now and that is ok! the cool thing is that as we work through the process of adopting a 14 year old that we met while we were in Ethiopia they are watching us go through this process and realizing how hard we worked to bring them to our family. we are freshening up our Amharic for this next journey and we are all doing it together. good days and bad days. days my heart breaks for Wena and the decision he had to make and then i know he would be so proud of his boys. hoping some day we can see him and show him the wonderful kids he brought into this world!
Terri - September 3rd, 2013 at 5:09 PM
Jen
Your children are fortunate ( I don't say "lucky" there's no such thing as a "lucky" adopted kid) to have you as a mom. You understand the issues, and the fact that they are life-long issues. As an adoptee, and adoptive mother, this is an area where I am passionate about educating other adoptive parents. I was recently attending a 12 week Trust Based workshop. I introduced myself and said that I had a seventeen year old daughter, adopted at the age of 5, who had attachment issues. Afterward an adoptive mom of young children stopped me and said she was surprised to hear that my 17 year old still had attachment issues. I didn't have the heart to tell her that I am 52, an adoptee, and I still have attachment issues. I'm sure we will have an opportunity in the next 12 weeks for that discussion. Adoption is a life-long journey, it's wonderful that you "get it." That will go a long way in your children's healing. Blessings to you
Catalina - September 3rd, 2013 at 5:25 PM
Jen, could you please explain your comment about it taking 1 1/2 years to deal with adoption ethics? I don't understand this.

Shouldn't adoption ethics be part of the process BEFORE you adopt?

Before PAPs choose an agency that might be trafficking?Before PAPs sign on to adopt from a corrupt country? Before PAPs are swayed to make bad choices by other equally clueless PAPs? Before PAPs are swayed to make bad choices due to pressure from their faith community? Before PAPs realize how utterly unprepared they are to deal with falsified medical histories, PTSD, age discrepancies, RAD, and other emotionally devastating issues that can rip families apart? Before PAPs become frantic because they had to fund-raise to pay the adoption fees and they have no money to pay for the kind of therapies their adoptees desperately need? Before PAPs realize the pervasiveness of the racism in their lily-white communities? Before PAPs get the message that their agencies could care less about what happens to them after the fees have been paid and the children are adopted, and they get no advice about psychiatric resources?

So.....why don't you think ethics should come FIRST?


Jen Hatmaker - September 3rd, 2013 at 7:27 PM
100%. I absolutely think these are BEFORE questions, except they just so often are not. Please read my 3-part series on adoption ethics (posted in May of this year, I think). My account here isn't prescriptive, but descriptive. I've watched these issues surface after the fact somewhere in year two so many times, when in fact they belong in the research phase as you mentioned. Ethics should ALWAYS come first. I'm hoping to beat that drum for the rest of my life.
Michelle - September 3rd, 2013 at 5:45 PM
We adopted the same summer (August 2011) a 16 year old through foster/adopt. Our world was rocked and we had ZERO community. When you wrote "After the Airport" I cried and cried and cried. I was desperate to not feel alone but no one understood. But you were able to put into words our reality as well as make me laugh (hard at that point). I read and read it again (and again) and sent out to every person in our life. God used you to remind me I am not alone and my hope is in Him. You were the start to my reality check that there would be other blogs for adoptive families.Although we have vastly different stories on the surface they are insanely similar. Amazed at although age differences, the heart and hurt are the same to include the behaviors if you really look. Your timeline truly matches ours in a messed up way and so thankful for your vulnerability and honesty in the journey. Year and half in, we were completely worn out and living in fear. Here we are 6 months later getting to experience things we thought we never happen. So thankful God gave us this gift of experiencing love in this way and being allowed to see God heal her in ways the experts said was impossible. Starting to feel "normal" is almost scary!

By the way - do you know Dr. Brene Brown? You two would be a force to be reckoned with! Heard her speak at Summit Leadership on shame and vulnerability. Check out her Ted talks - worth the 20 minutes for the two on there (watch in order). There must be something good in that Texas water because you both are blessed with not just insane knowledge but a way to make people laugh out loud when they are all alone in a room - definitely a rare thing!
Melissa B - September 3rd, 2013 at 6:10 PM
THANK YOU for sharing this. We adopted almost a year ago and your "year one" is exactly how it's been around here. He was almost 9 when we got him and it was domestic, but his past is very, very ugly. Thank you for your honesty and your hope and your encouragement. You will never know how many you have touched with your transparency surrounding the less-than-pretty parts of adoption (the part not many talk about). I hope and pray that our 2nd year will bring more of what you've experienced, too!
Stephanie - September 3rd, 2013 at 6:26 PM
I did not adopt, but my son has Aspergers. And when you talked about being tired, you aren't a robot, it's very difficult, not being a "normal" family- all of this sounds familiar. But the part I loved, was the part of Jesus healing and redeeming, because we are still waiting for that day. Thanks for writing. It helps.
K - September 3rd, 2013 at 6:31 PM
In the 3rd 6-month period and Oh.My.Word. The first year had challenges, but months 13-15 were (are) so, so hard. I've hidden in the bathroom to cry. And in my room, and in the car, and in the grocery store, and at my desk. I'm just going to print this blog and hand it to everyone I know because trying to explain where I am is even more exhausting. Thanks for your honesty, the hope, and the reminder that we serve a healing God who works in very broken hearts.
Angi - September 3rd, 2013 at 6:42 PM
Thankful that we serve a BIG God! My 11 year old adopted son (who has been with us for 2 1/2 years) gets reminded often that life isn't fair. Yes, it isn't fair that your biological mom died at age 23. And, yes it isn't fair that our dog is very very sick and will be put down any day now. And, yes it isn't fair that your biological grandma has lung cancer that isn't treatable (haven't told him this one yet... it has be a ROUGH week). Yes, life isn't fair. Yes, you have experienced a lot of heart ache in your 11 years. Yes, we will get through this. Thankful that my God is big. And, we will go through this together.
Courtney Willis - September 3rd, 2013 at 6:56 PM
I couldn't agree more!!! We will be 3 years in from our Ugandan adoption of the most amazing little boy ever. Today...I could see so clearly the brokenness when he punched and threw his pencil while struggling to do homework. As my bio daughter flinches...even though the pencil didn't come near her. Then...the pure joy when he writes the letter he needed to write. Such a beautiful and difficult blessing! This year I am faced with the decision of whether or not I want to go back to UG for mission work. Is it too soon??? Can they handle it? Will the regression be worth it??? Is God clearly telling me to go??? Life is so complicated! And so beautiful! Thank you for sharing your heart!
Flower Patch Farmgirl - September 3rd, 2013 at 7:37 PM
I remember thinking in year one that maybe my child would never really love me, but it didn't matter. I knew I loved him and I knew that even if he hated me forever and fled my home the second he turned 18 (over-dramatize much?), my love for him wouldn't change. That was the first time I ever REALLY understood unconditional love, and I carry that lesson with me still.

For us, year two was harder than year one, because he was bigger, more stubborn, and with a new-found vocabulary. BUT...it's year three now, baby. We're seeing progress and healing. (In him and us.) It's still hard lots of days, but we're smart enough now to know that it might always be. And we've survived! For three years! And it turns out he DOES love us - already! So, you know, it's all good, or it's at least a new, quirky spin-off of "good".

PS - I first met you through an adoption post. Can we call this our anniversary? No? Too creepy?
Brianne - September 3rd, 2013 at 9:48 PM
We're almost to year 2, and we're here: "I remember thinking in year one that maybe my child would never really love me, but it didn't matter. I knew I loved him and I knew that even if he hated me forever and fled my home the second he turned 18 (over-dramatize much?), my love for him wouldn't change." I worried before kiddo came that I wouldn't love him completely if he didn't love us; I knew I could care for him and meet his needs, but I was afraid I would be "faking it." Thankfully, while it does (and might always) sting, loving him isn't a problem. I think it would be easier most days if I didn't.

I can so relate to the feeling that the dust has settled, and it's just always going to be hard for the rest of our lives. We are seeing how horribly broken early experience can make a child...in our case, not abandonment but extreme neglect. I hope we're on the right path, just a little further behind.

Jen Hatmaker - September 4th, 2013 at 11:11 AM
Well, what adoption brought together let The Mindy Project sustain.
Julie Armstrong - September 3rd, 2013 at 8:08 PM
We are in year 6 with our Ethiopian son, who was 7 when he came to us. We had 4 biological children. The first six months were brutal. Harder than I EVER could have imagined. I was *thisclose* to giving up, but my biggest fear was standing before Jesus one day and having him be disappointed in me. I had lost all human resolve, and for me -- this was a matter of obedience. So we persevered.

The second six months were better for him as the tantrums ceased and we began to realize the other shoe wasn't going to drop, but in my heart, I was becoming bitter. I was angry. What had happened to my beautiful family? I was on anti-anxiety medication just to function through my day. I had stopped homeschooling because of how hard the first year was. We had spent all our savings. I had been mocked, spit on, hit, screamed at by this 40-pound seven year old. I had lost count how many times I cried in my closet.

Though I was faking it pretty well on the outside (I think), I was an angry bitter mess on the inside. I could hardly stand to be in the same room with him. I dreaded the sound of his feet coming down the stairs in the morning. His quirky little habits made my skin crawl. I shut down my heart to him. I silently thought: "No way, God. I am not letting this kid hurt ME again. I've got this,"

Then, one morning in a Bible study, we were studying the story of Peter walking on the water. The teacher said, "most people remember that Peter sank. But we have to remember that first, Peter walked on the water! And before he did that, he had to get both feet out of the boat. Peter was a fisherman, so the boat was his comfort zone. He had to take BOTH feet out of the boat."

Well, I sat there with my self-righteous little self and thought, "Yep. I've done. Boy if adoption isn't getting out of the boat I don't know what is."

Instantly The Lord brought my son into my mind's eye. He said to me, "but you won't trust me now." I said, "But Lord, he hurt me." He said, "But Julie, when you shut out your relationship with him, you shut down your relationship with me."

Right then, right there, I repented of my bitterness and I asked Jesus to forgive me of all the anger and bitterness and hate that was brewing in my heart. That afternoon, when I saw my son after school, it was a new relationship. Jesus redeemed and put a supernatural love in my heart for this child who 8 hours earlier I could hardly stand to be around. THIS is my adoption miracle. He used this little boy to show himself powerful and sovereign and redeem so many months of agony.

Now ... Fast forward five years to today. Are things "perfect?" No way. My son has a complicated and traumatic story (don't they all though?) and his pain is very real and is always close. He goes from seeming almost "normal" to going through periods of being distant and "moody." Did I mention he's almost 13 though? (Maybe he's more normal than I think!!!) There are days that I wonder if he's developed an attachment to us at all. There are days I fear that he will walk out on us when he is 18 and not look back. And then there are days when he spontaneously offers a hug (okay, the ONE day this happened) and my heart soars and I think: Yes!!!! With God, all things are possible!!!

But you know what? Gods commandment wasn't: "Orphan, love these parents as your own." His commandment was: "Christian, love these orphans as you love me." There is no biblical promise of a huggy family when you care for orphans. There is, however, a promise that JESUS (not I) will redeem their tears and turn their mourning into dancing and make them oaks of righteousness. Guess what, Christians? God loves orphans more than you and me. My job? To love and serve this child as if I were serving Jesus. To love him with a 1st Corinthians 13 love and to lay my crowns at the feet of Jesus for all of eternity.
Zoie - September 3rd, 2013 at 9:11 PM
Very powerful. The Lord is using your words to minister to me. Thank you for sharing!
DFNY - September 13th, 2013 at 12:36 AM
Wow. That last paragraph got to me. Thanks for a beautiful, heartfelt post.
Tracy - September 3rd, 2013 at 8:08 PM
It feels so reassuring to realize, as an adoptive family, that you are not alone in the struggles. Most of the world doesn't want to hear the hard parts of adoption, they want the sweet story of redemption. We are coming up on 2 years in November with our adopted kids and I could have written nearly every word of this myself. Our two were added as a foster care adoption instead of international, but the grief, the loss, the tantrums, the behaviors, the chaos, e struggles with our biological kids....spot on. I feel like the fog is just starting to clear a tiny bit and I'm actually starting to feel capable of truly loving these two children that I've tied my home, family and future to. I believe God for better days ahead and am so very grateful that I can look back at the redemptive work of the last 22 months and actually see progress instead of only pain.

Having a community of adoptive families who GET IT is so very very important. Thanks for being honest for those of us who hunger for truth and are too damn tired to write the truth %uD83D%uDE09
Gina - September 3rd, 2013 at 8:18 PM
Well, I'm typing this through tears. I know it is by divine appointment that I found this blog. I am so thankful for your writing and your heart and transparency. We have two bio's (7, twins) and adopted domestically. The little beauty is now two and we have had her since she was two weeks. Long story short I was so comfortable and content and then one day during my time with God I felt like he said that He wanted us to adopt again and that we were to name him Judah. I know how crazy that sounds, believe me. Even I tucked it away not wanting to embrace it and everything that it means. But about two months later I was reading about Judah and that he was the fourth son of Jacob and Leah. An insignificant little fact for most but I felt like it was a personal invitation from God to follow Him and trust Him--because if we indeed adopt again and it's a son, it would also be out fourth son (our first baby boy passed away at six months). Anyway, all of this just to say that again I thank you. We have started the process to adopt from Haiti and I am excited and scared out of my mind at the same time. I have some soul sisters in Christ who get why we are doing this but most think we are crazy to add to our plates. They don't understand. Ultimately, I care more about what God thinks than them but I am still scared (did I mention that? Ha) I am just trusting and waiting to see what God will do but I am thankful I have this place to come. I'll have to check out Interrupted--is that about adoption? Anyway, time to go cry a little more and then pull it together. I am just thankful that God led me here and constantly leads me to Himself and if I could be a tiny part of His plan to help "place the lonely in families" then I am grateful and humbled. God bless! Thank you!
Jessica - September 3rd, 2013 at 8:28 PM
I am a 29-year-old adoptee... I was in foster care from ages 3-5 with two other siblings. I *love* the saying that if you are worried about being a good parent, you probably are one. And the world needs more and more brave people to step up and try their hardest to love kids that are parentless. Thank you to all of you really, really brave parents. :)

Luckily for me, I have a dad (adoptive dad) who was very concerned with being a good parent, unfortunately... I cannot honestly say that about my mom. She never really bonded with us--I don't think she ever dealt with the grief of not being able to have biological children--and honestly, I think she ended up resenting us. She was verbally, emotionally and occasionally violent. I remember wishing that someone from social services would come and find out what a mean (seriously, mean) mother they had given us. When I was 15 she chose to leave my dad and all of us (4 kids) and she started a new life several states away. I am actually thankful for a couple of years of peace before I left for college.

I try really hard to love my adoptive mom in the same way I would love other broken, imperfect people... but unfortunately, it was more traumatizing living with my adoptive mom than any other abandonment sadness I struggled with. I am now a mom to a beautiful 18 month old and I am fighting every day to not be a perfect mom, but to be a whole mom. One that trusts God to continue the healing process He started in me years ago to give my daughter something greater.

If your child can look in your eyes and know that they are safe and loved... you are doing amazing. God uses adoptive parents for that super important "hope and a future" stuff He promises.
JL - September 4th, 2013 at 10:54 PM
I thank God that you, Jessica, despite having a terrible adoptive mom, are choosing to be a great mom...that you are not using your past circumstances to be angry or bitter, but rather focusing on God's grace, and the hope and future of what God can continue to do. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. It really touched me and am so thankful for you.
KJ - September 16th, 2013 at 10:32 PM
Jessica, thank you so much for sharing this and your encouragement to foster and adoptive families!
I feel like it means so much more coming from a kid who was in foster care and has now grown up to be an obviously intelligent and faithful woman.
Lisa - September 3rd, 2013 at 8:29 PM
We adopted three siblings from foster care and have three biological. We too had a bio son fall apart once our first year was over. So completely heartbreaking. I am loving seeing how far they have come. Our first year my husband also lost his vision and I sunk into deep depression with this. So three new hurting family members, blindness, depression and a bio son so sick he had to leave school mid year. We have found our way and continue to live each day with our eyes fixed on the only one who can work it all for good. In our weakness He is strong. Thank you for reminding me with your posts that we aren't alone..or crazy!
JL - September 4th, 2013 at 10:57 PM
Dear Lisa, what high mountains to climb and overcome. I will pray for you that as you keep your eyes fixed on the perfector of your faith, that He will indeed give you strength. Hugs.
Jackie - September 3rd, 2013 at 8:50 PM
So many stories, it's wonderful that we can meet here and share and learn from one another! I love your honesty about adoption Jen, and others who have disclosed personal information about their families. I admit that I haven't read all of the comments, but I've read a few from families that seem to be struggling and while I applaud everyone's faith in God and encourage everyone to continue with that faith, I also feel compelled to urge any family who feels they are struggling to seek professional support. There are many great attachment therapists out there (and a few not-so-great ones, unfortunately!) and if you meet one and don't feel it's a good fit - keep meeting them until you find a therapist or professional adoption support worker who is right for your family and your needs. Creating families through adoption is challenging, even for the most well-adjusted, attached child. There is no shame in seeking professional help and often we are not equipped or educated sufficiently to meet these challenges in a manner that is best for us or our children. Bringing a professional into your family does not mean you have failed or that something is wrong - it means you are a good parent that wants to do what is best for you and your children! God never minds adding another caring person to the team of people that want your family to thrive! (And no, I'm not a therapist, but I have met some wonderful ones!)
Alli - September 3rd, 2013 at 8:54 PM
We are in the 4th 6 months with our 2nd adopted child, and yes, PRAISE GOD for this time. However, we interrupted this time with our 1st adoption, by adding a sister during his "4th 6 months" and we are still struggling with him. But God... We will add a 4th child (3rd adoption) in 6 months from now and we know God redeems and will be with us in our "forever hard."
Pam - September 3rd, 2013 at 8:59 PM
As always, thanks for sharing Jen. You are so honest and real, it hurts sometimes. We adopted a 3 year old boy from Guatemala 13 years ago. His name is Manuel. Times have been so hard and so worth it. Manuel had club foot and some delays. These delays turned out to be so much more. He is on the autism spectrum, has cognitive delays, apraxia, sensory integration dysfunction and mood cycling (not to mention separation issues). He also rocks at guitar hero, can name tons of bands and members of the bands and can shoot hoops like nobody's business. There is so much laughter and so many tears. God has taught us all so much more from the experience of raising this child than in anything else in our lives. I appreciate those who tell the story, the whole story because it somehow validates mine. Thank you for doing just that.
Esty - September 3rd, 2013 at 9:05 PM
"Jesus, pleasepleaseplease. Bring P home.", I pray as I tuck the other 4, some adopted and some not, into beds.
"You do know that's actually really not my ultimate goal for P. Yes?", Jesus answers.
God's plan for my P's salvation/redemption/peace is not me...it's Jesus and that will be accomplished, period. Waiting, chasing, coming home and allllllllllllllllllll that follows works out so much for us as a gift. When all is said & done: He does it and I am so blessed to be close enough to Him "doing it" that it splashes on me, the mama.

Ethics? Yes. Involvement afterward? Undoubtedly. Dr. Purvis and community of "get-it's"? Essential.
But either way, hard or not I love that HE does it. Him.
Good stuff. Thankyou, sister.
Jen, come for beach and coffee anytime.


Rebecca - September 3rd, 2013 at 9:12 PM
Jen, We are on the waitlist to adopt from Ethiopia. We have been waiting 19 months and have maybe a year to go. it seems like you are leaning towards discouraging adoption from Ethiopia and encouraging people to adopt from the US instead. I understand what you are saying and wanted to hear more about your feelings on this. My email is rbdrflys@gmail.com or you can write back here or write a blog about it! Thank you so much!
Vicki - September 3rd, 2013 at 9:33 PM
I will echo the comments of many . . . thank you for your honesty. It is so great to hear your story and know that I am not alone in this place. We are 7 years home from Ethiopia with a sibling group of 4 - 2 sets of twins that were almost 1 and almost 6 - and 3 biological kids. We have had fits, screaming, kicking, tears, lying, stealing and all the other things you have talked about. Mostly it is better. We are much quicker to do counseling. We are much quicker to hit our knees. And we are much quicker to offer ourselves grace. We had no clue going into this journey what it would look like on day 1, yet alone year 7. The children are precious and we have learned a great deal about lots of things we never would have known any other way. We live for the "aha" moments when we discover that they ARE experiencing some healing in their lives. God IS faithful. He comes in and takes those precious hearts and binds their wounds. Not long ago one of my older boys asked me if I believed that God worked all things together for good. I told him I believed God when He said those very words to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. And my precious son responded that he could see that to be true in his own life because he knows that he wouldn't KNOW GOD like he does if his parents hadn't died and he had stayed in Ethiopia. I felt like I was standing on holy ground and could hardly breathe. It was the lifeline I needed to continue to fight for their healing and wholeness. May God be glorified in the lives of my children and yours as we do just that.
Nick - September 3rd, 2013 at 9:46 PM
We have our home study finished and have started submitting. This has been a long, heart wrenching process for us. I always pictured looking through books and hearing angels sing as we saw "our" child. The problem is, I can see it all, picture being Mom to every child we see, my question is, how on earth do we choose? How do we decide, I keep begging God for clear, radiant signs. I'm slow, would an email really be too much God.
Jennifer - September 3rd, 2013 at 9:51 PM
We are in year 8 for my oldest and year 5 for my two younger boys and life is brutal right now. Their behaviors are really difficult and I want to quit, but I know I have to keep pressing on. It is just so tough to parent them when their trauma is oozing out all over the place. I know God is here with me and I have learned so much about His grace and love through this journey.
Gretchen - September 3rd, 2013 at 10:10 PM
I am always so grateful to read anything that is "real" about adoption. You and your husband shared with us at a marriage conference in Branson around May I think. I pretty much lost my mind the day we brought our son home from China. :) Hearing you and your husband share your story was like a healing balm to our hearts. We were so weary. We had just moved before we adopted and it is seemed no one could identify where we were 6 months in. But you could. Oh it felt so wonderful knowing someone else knew we were crazy and it was ok. We are now 9 months in. Most days seem normal which is so amazing to say. I can hold him and he will look into my eyes and not look away. He loves his sisters, he doesn't hit them everyday. He sleeps! I seem to be the only one that thinks any of his struggles might be related to adoption. I know God is healing our son but just like all of us there is more healing to come. Thank you for being real. Thank you for sharing your story. We rejoice with you in what God has done in and through your family.
Julie - September 3rd, 2013 at 10:28 PM
Having done the adoption thing from China 3 times (11 months, 2.5 and almost 5 at time of adoptions) and hitting the 2.5 year mark with our third adoption- my blanket statement is that our experience has been different with each child.

With our first (11months)- we were first time parents. It was mostly just clueless, freaked out first time parent drama. We've been fortunate that she was in a loving foster family and for the most part, has had little residual effects from her time in China. We didn't see her true personality come out until she'd been home for six months, but for the most part, most of the challenges with her have been "typical" kid stuff vs adoption related issues.

With our 2nd- cleft affected and adopted at 2.5- he was old enough to understand something traumatic was happening, but not old enough to understand why. We didn't see his true personality emerge until about 6 months home. Despite his palate surgeries, speech therapy and all of the other issues associated with being cleft affected- he's come through like a champ. He too was in a loving foster family and attachment has been seamless. Yet, we still see pockets of grief from time to time- mostly in the form of missing his foster family in China.

our third has been home almost 2.5 years. Just when I think we've got it all figured out- another curveball gets thrown at us. Within hours of meeting her, we realized that what we were told by the orphanage about her needs was grossly misrepresented. I've wanted to throw the towel in more times than I can count. We've trudged through mystery upon mystery of what is causing what with her delays and challenges. We continue to battle the insurance for coverage of services, we continue to beat our heads against the wall because behaviors we think are past us suddenly rear their heads again (really?! you're 7- quite acting like you're 2!)

Yet- when things get really hard and I'm at the point (again!) of throwing up my hands at God and asking Him for the umpteenth time, "REALLY!!!?!?!? I did NOT sign up for THIS!" I'm gently reminded of a few things....

1) It is no coincidence God placed our daughter in our family (crazy long story) and while He didn't guarantee parenting her would be easy, He has promised His presence, provision and strength in the journey.

2) When I'm beyond exasperated at her progress (or lack thereof), I'm reminded of what her life would be like had we not heeded the call to adopt her. For all practical purposes- she should have died in the orphanage where she lived for 9 months, she shouldn't be able to walk or talk, let alone be learning how to read or write. Had she not been adopted, she would have "aged out" of the system, removed from her foster family and placed in an old folks home where she would have languished until she likely died prematurely due to lack of stimulation. The story of her first 5 years of life reads like a heart breaking survivor novel that continues to unravel and throw us more gut wrenching truth bombs. (Ironically, the name we chose for her means "beautiful strength" in Chinese- fitting considering this is how she lives everyday of her life)

3) God never puts us in a situation that HE CAN'T HANDLE- especially in our adoption journeys.

Through all 3 of our adoption journeys- our eyes have been opened wider to the reality that orphan care and adoption ethics aren't so clear cut- the rabbit hole becomes deeper and more complex the farther up and in you go. We've seen how God's heart for the orphan is way bigger than we could hope or imagine. We've witnessed firsthand how God is using people around the world to care for these precious, vulnerable kids. And finally, cling to Jesus with all that we have- knowing He is the ONLY one who can heal the holes in our kids' hearts, give us the strength to walk through another day, and ultimately, one day- usher in His Kingdom where there will be no more orphans.
Susan - September 3rd, 2013 at 10:54 PM
This is a great and terrible post for me to read. I've adopted three children from foster care with some medical issues, but they came to me as babies. One month ago I took a six year old. Oh my. She is so traumatized and so needy and so broken and I am so exhausted. I'm not sure I will make it to the fourth six month mark. Every day I am wondering if I am making things worse. I'm not even sure how to move forward.
Kelly - September 4th, 2013 at 7:59 AM
I see what you say- and my heart breaks for you. As a group home momma for kids in foster care- I HEAR YOU! Praying for wisdom for you, that the system will work with you for a solution. And know, know that she isn't fighting YOU she's fighting to survive- and somehow she thinks this will help. I don't have solutions for the exhaustion- for years our kids have exhausted us. I walk around my house often reciting, "its not about me, its not about me or them being happy- it is about You. You're glory. I can obey." Not glamourous. Take it in small bites. praying for you..
Joanne - September 5th, 2013 at 9:27 PM
Susan, I too have adopted three kids from foster care and now have two foster kids. I have had the same thoughts and feelings you are having. Hang in there. you are making a difference.
Tammia - September 3rd, 2013 at 11:25 PM
It is good to be encouraged again about God's healing and redemptive work. Thank you for sharing honestly.
We are almost at the three-year mark and things have never been worse, I have never felt at such a low point in motherhood, and I have never felt such a lack in my ability to pray. Just asking for help seems like too much.
We are starting intensive therapy and that makes me feel more hopeful.
Please keep sharing and encouraging.
Maryk - September 3rd, 2013 at 11:26 PM
Jen, I met you at a church you spoke at in Houston over a year ago. I can hear in your words that adoption is not an event...it's a journey! Would love to see you at the Empowered to Connect Conference with Dr. Karyn Purvis at Houston's First next weekend! The hard and the hope!
Maryk - September 3rd, 2013 at 11:28 PM
Jen, I met you at a church you spoke at in Houston over a year ago. I can hear in your words that adoption is not an event...it's a journey! Would love to see you at the Empowered to Connect Conference with Dr. Karyn Purvis at Houston's First next weekend! The hard and the hope!
Jenny - September 4th, 2013 at 12:31 AM
Great to hear truths!
I feel like I try to be so strong & seem so normal. I feel like we are not 'normal and I do not know why we are not'. Kinda don't know why I feel that way. Your truths have eased my heart. I expect so much and chsllenge so much too, very often forget our oldest might be 8 but have only been an American from Ethiopia for 3 years, where as her little white sister has always been American for 3 years & she is truly 3, really more mature actually vs 3 years of age. Your truths have opened my eyes & reminded me of her culture.
A heartfelt Thank you
Bronwyn - September 4th, 2013 at 8:09 AM
Thanks Jen for articulating the struggle - as a mom of two bio and two adopted children we can't believe we made it through three years and are onto our fourth. We have so many "normal" days now that we don't even count them - when the bad days come they are not surprising, but thankfully they are few and far between.
Liz Bundy - September 4th, 2013 at 8:33 AM
Beautiful and brave story, and I don't even know you. I do know Karen Westerman whom I spent 2 weeks with in Uganda with Global Teams 2 years ago, and who with her wonderful husband and 2 children served as missionaries in Uganda years ago and adopted two Ugandans. She is a psychologist, so surely that helped along with her love of and dependence on Jesus. She is on my Facebook. I am Amy's uncle's wife of 3 years. You might contact her through Facebook. Liz Bundy
Elaine - September 4th, 2013 at 9:07 AM
Knock, knock. Dawn sent me. I am glad she did. You are a fine writer. I'm nine years in with a trio of older siblings. Adoption issues aren't at the forefront now but do influence many things as my children enter into their teenage years. I have found that pre-adoptive parents don't want to hear the struggles because "it will be different for them". You gain all this knowledge and you want to warn others about things to expect and ways to perhaps deal with it. So frustrating.
Wanda - September 4th, 2013 at 9:43 AM
We adopted a 6 day old baby girl in 1971. The first few years were great. By the time she was in school everything changed. She lied everyday and stole things from her older brother and us and others. The older she got the worse she got. We loved her and stood by her, but nothing was enough. She ran away from home several times, stole my car when she was 15. You name it, she did it. She took us to hell and back over and over. I don't have the time or space to say everything she's done. No judge, cancellor, or case worker ever blamed her father or me for this. We expected so much, like honesty, cleanliness, respect and to be and act decent. She didn't want to go by the rules. To make a long story a little shorter, we haven't seen her in over 10 yrs. Haven't talked on the phone for years. The last thing she told me on the computor was "I couldn't die soon enough for her." We're not perfect, just hard working, God fearing people. This is the worst mistake we've ever made. It has taken years off our lives and caused me so much stress that caused fibromyalgia and other stress related illnesses. God bless you families that have adopted, I know all stories aren't like ours.
Sherri - September 6th, 2013 at 12:25 AM
While there is life...there IS hope. You may never see the fruit from the seeds you planted but that does not mean it will never exist. Back in 1971 there were no web sites with attachment information and very little training was available for adoptive parents. You did the best you knew. It may not have been a mistake at all. Blessings to your hearts.
Mary - September 4th, 2013 at 12:25 PM
JEN HATMAKER!!!! Visit my dear friends' site Abshiro.com! This lovely, inspiring, talented woman creates an incredible, safe, warm, comforting environment for fellow Ethiopian families; adopted, blended and otherwise. Your ENTIRE FAMILY would meld into their week-long FAMILY summer-camp while experiencing the culture, food, language, and people of Ethiopia here in VA! It's small, personal, and LIFE-CHANGING, and your children would THRIVE! Check it out, and I'm putting her onto your blog!!!! Best of luck with the next years!!!! STILL love reading!
Janine - September 4th, 2013 at 2:18 PM
Jen: Thanks for this. As a married couple who longs to have children, but has not been at peace with what we have experienced in exploring the adoption process, thank you. I feel as though I can hear the real deal perspective on adoption when I read your posts, and far beyond "our life is not perfect", but "here is what I would want to know, here is what I learned and you should consider". As the kind of person that wants to reach out to and encourage others with my own life experiences, I need this, too. It gives me so much more to put before the Lord and consider with His leading....more than just brochures and event speakers and the intense pressure to take every penny you have to your name and pay a ransom for a child. We long to do what the Lord has for us, and know He will lead. Thanks also, for the reality check what it means to love on the hearts of the little ones who have been broken, and how this impacts the family they become part of. Wow, beautiful and scary, but so much Jesus. He releases the captives and sets us free, as only He can.
robyn - September 4th, 2013 at 3:01 PM
Thank you so much for writing this. We adopted our daughter through foster care. We got her at 15 months and adopted at 3, then moved to the mission field when she was four. We have two bio teens. And now find the Lord asking us to start the journey again when we just are feeling settled as a family. Your post was so timely for me to read....thank you so much.
Alison - September 4th, 2013 at 3:16 PM
We are on year 3 with 1 from Ethiopia and about to hit year 2 with 2 from Uganda. We aren't *there* yet. With any. Truthfully (I am only human, afterall) I read this post and had to work pretty hard to push away some jealous feelings. In the last 2 days, all 3 of my kids had seperate MASSIVE MELTDOWNS and they are 5 and 6 years old... not toddlers. I loved the post describing 'spicy' families and I like to think of us this way as well - everything is a THING. Typically, I can identify triggers (even see them in the distance, a mile before the encouter, and shuffle life to avoid them at all costs), but these last tantrums were inexplicable to my eyes. Will it ever end? Will they ever function in a healthy way? Will I ever parent them with a peace in my heart and not a constant panic over what next trigger is on the horizon? I can only hope that we get there EVENTUALLY.... but we're most certainly not there yet.
Mark - September 4th, 2013 at 3:53 PM
Irony of ironies. You posted this blog on 9-3-13: 50 years to the day that I was adopted.
Paula - September 4th, 2013 at 4:34 PM
Our first adoption, Ethioipian twin girls aged 5, was horribly difficult for at least two years. We are at year four and they are wonderful. I do believe there will always be some issues. For the most part though, they act just like any other kid in a family. We adopted a son who was 4 and a half who came home right at year two... I was worried there would be a return to chaos. However, not so. He has been an easy child who fit right into our family immediately. The worst conflict has come from the twin who has the most "issues"... she can be quite mean to her brother sometimes. But his disposition has almost always remained sunny.

All of this is just a reminder that "true" adoption stories come in all forms... it's good to expect and be ready for the difficulties, but sometimes they aren't there.

We've done both. Also, I love what you said about connection to the child's birth country. My husband and I have both been back to Ethiopia many times and will back many more to help the families there.
Amy - September 4th, 2013 at 8:15 PM
Last September while attending dotMom, I had the privilege of hearing you speak for the first time. I instantly liked you because you are real. So real. It was during one of your breakout sessions that God spoke to me about helping children in need. My husband felt that same leading from God and we immediately began the process of becoming foster parents. The only catch to this beautiful story is that I was scared and very hesitant to become a foster parent. Because it's hard. And heartbreaking. But I trudged on with a very happy heart bc I knew 100 percent that God wanted us to do this. As we now sit smack in the middle of dealing with visitation and court and crazy biological family, I struggle. This stuff is not easy. Your story is different than mine, and yet it's the same bc we are both living day-to-day with blended families and a host of issues we could have not been forced to face. Your post and the comments have helped me see that I am not alone in my fears and tears. Thanks for being real. BC being fake is stupid. :)
KC - September 4th, 2013 at 9:09 PM
Jen Hatmaker...get out of my head. Seriously...how do you keep doing this? Writing these words that are so perfectly relevant and describing so accurately the jumbled mess of emotions/convictions/experiences that are so real in my life but so tangled up in my head that I can't even make sense of them myself? You don't even know me! Stop.it. ;)
Learning Unconditional Love - September 4th, 2013 at 9:42 PM
I can't find another forum to write this, so at the risk of sounding off-topic (and weepy, which I am)... I am a parentless adult child, and when I (finally) had my much prayed for daughter, I went off the deep end into crazy town. Reading through your blog from the beginning, seeing your boundless empathy for what it means to face abandonment issues head-on, loving through it, teaching your adopted children that someone WILL stay.... you are saving me right now. You are literally helping me pull myself from the deepest trenches of depression. And so far, I've only read through August 2011. Bless your soul.
marlene - September 5th, 2013 at 12:54 AM
Praise the Lord
menda - September 5th, 2013 at 4:52 AM
Thank you for sharing your story and for all the comments. I really needed to "hear" this today. We have adopted 8 children through OCS in the state of Alaska. Most were infants when we brought them home, but in one sibling group, the kids were 2, 3, and 5 years old. Our kids are now ages 6-14 and we having been living in Uganda as missionaries for the past three years. We are fostering a beautiful, 2 year old Ugandan little girl who we plan to adopt. Part of living overseas for us, means homeschooling. We just started up again this past week and it's been awful! We have gone to counseling in the past with some of the children and I have to admit I'm a little leery about going again because of some of the counsel we've received even from "Christian" counselors. I was basically told this last time that we have too many children and that we shouldn't be missionaries! Anyway, I have to admit that there have been times where I've been almost angry at God for the things we've had to deal with, with our children. Very quickly, however, I am reminded that He doesn't call us to the "easy"and the comfortable. He calls us to an adventure like none other, if we are willing to go! And He is my Counselor. Time after time He gives me the words to say or brings an idea to mind or just gives me the grace to hold my angry, hateful child and whisper words of love and Truth. Most importantly, He is my children's Counselor. Some time ago He gave me the truth that their issues are not my own as far as me bring able to fix them and make it all better. Only He can do that for them. My job as their mom is to walk beside them and guide them in Truth the best I know how. Your stories today have helped remind me of my blessings.
ahdra - September 5th, 2013 at 7:03 AM
I so appreciate this post and the comments! Our story is a little different, but some similarities. We adopted our 2 children from ET, at the same time, nearly 7 years ago. My son was 18 m.o. and my daughter was 5 m.o. - so much younger than yours. My son was a mess from the beginning (lots of post-institutionalization stuff and what we later found out was severe, combined ADHD), and my daughter never slept more than 2 hours at a time and never more than 8 hours a day for the first year home. We were zombies. We also had a host of medical issues in both kids, that thankfully were cleared up eventually, but it took a full 18 months. Those first 2 years with a sick and crazy toddler and a sick and sleepless infant were brutal. So bad that we decided not to try for bio kids, as was the original plan after we got home and "settled" with our first two. During this time I was desperate for camaraderie with others who struggled with difficult adoptions. There weren't alot. So I started my own support group, which helped some. Somewhere in year 2 my daughter finally became a good sleeper. Somewhere in year 3 we started to get a few stretches here and there of sanity and familyhood. In year 4 we got a few solid diagnoses for my son (ADHD-combined type, expressive speech disorder, learning disabilities, and severe enuresis) and got him more appropriate therapy. In years 5-6 we figured out good school strategies for him once everyone finally agreed with us that he wasn't going to just "grow out of it", which we had been saying for years. Plus, we tried an ADHD med, which turned out to the the magic solution for him during school hours. Now, drawing close to the year 7 mark, both kids are happy, kind, firmly attached to us, and enjoying pretty regular kid life stuff and our attempts to keep their birth culture alive and well and in their lives and our family. Our ongoing struggle is with our son's ADHD (not a lot of support for parents in our area). I have appreciated your other posts regarding your frustrations as a spicy mom in a spicy family because I feel like a pretty awful mom when it comes to the difficult hours with my son. He is an amazing kid, truly, but pretty tough to parent with grace. Plus I feel like my daughter, who is super sensitive and on the flip side, academically strong, has to carry a heavy load just being in the house with us as we parent through our son's issues. Anyway, it took us longer to adjust for various reasons, but adjust we have. And part of that adjustment has been getting used to the idea that our son has special needs that are going to be a lot of work for the rest of his life, and ours.
Christina - September 6th, 2013 at 8:51 PM
Not sure if you will come back to see this ...but I would love to learn more about any success you had with the severe enuresis. We are so there with our adopted five year old (day and night time). He potty trained at 3 when we first got him as our foster son- but then "untrained" when visits with Bio mom became more frequent and has never regained control. Sometimes he tells me he can't feel it when the "pee pee" is coming out- but other times it definitely seems like he's just being lazy. I would love any help!!
ahdra - September 7th, 2013 at 8:45 AM
Gosh, we are still dealing with day, and of course, night accidents. He's only been dry 1 night in 7 years and averages ~4-7 smallish accidents a week, and a few huge (pants soaking wet) accidents a month including #2. He's 8 years old. With him I think the lingering problems have a lot to do with a combo of: 1) having severe scabies for months before we brought him home and getting desensitized to bodily sensations in order to cope, 2) being totally used to being in a super dirty diaper the first 18 months of his life, 3) bowel parasites that hung around for-ever when we brought him home, and then 4) ADHD. When we first tried to train him at ~3.5 (he had zero interest to train prior to that and to this day would be happy to be in a diaper except for the social stigma), there were a lot of control issues because he was still powering through some post-institutionalization behaviors, but once we finally got beyond that (for the most part), he's had some biological things going on too. Stuff that has helped reduce accidents (because it was worse!): developing routine times to go #1 that are associated with something: before going anywhere, as soon as we come home, before meals, before playdates, before any screen time, etc...with scheduled #2 times in AM before school and PM before bed. Another thing is that we have learned through urology clinic testing in the last year (which I would highly recommend) is that his colon is full of #2, so that impacts his ability to sense the urge to go. We had to do a 2-day colon blow (as we affectionately referred to it) under a doctor's supervision, and now he takes a capfull (adult dose) of Miralax every evening at dinner. That supposedly helps shrink his colon back to a normal size and increase his ability to have normal sensations. As I said though, his ADHD definitely impacts all of this and he's had a host of complicating biological issues from the start. Anyway...I don't know if that helps, but I can completely sympathize. Of all his issues, this one is the most maddening on a day-to-day basis and the most negatively impactful on our relationship, I'm sad to say. We have to pray for grace the most in this area. One last thought: it never worked for us for very long, but often we hear of other's success with small rewards, as in a few pieces of a favorite candy after a success, or building up tokens in a little jar in the bathroom each week for a choice of a toy at the store on the weekend. Just in case you haven't tried that yet. We tried so many versions of that and it just never worked, but for many, it really does the trick. I wish you all the best as you persevere with you little one!!
Lisa - September 20th, 2013 at 5:28 AM
Hi Christina, I'm a therapist who has worked with kids with enuresis and encopresis. I don't have kids with the issue, though, so I'm limited in my direct experience. When I read your comment it reminded me of a family I worked with whose son had accidents each night before his court-mandated family therapy sessions in which he'd see his birth father. When the family reported this pattern to me, I contacted the provider doing the family sessions and she told me the dad berated and humiliated the son during each session. I advocated for the sessions being places on hold, for the parents to continue treatment without the son being there until the dad had had enough coaching and counseling to do the sessions in a way that wasn't harming the son. The court granted my request and the bed wetting stopped for the son. I'm wondering - are the visits with your child's birth mom simply too much currently? Are they supervised visits? If so perhaps you can speak with the staff person to find out what has been going on inthe visits and if they need to be altered - or even suspended for a period if your child is being negatively impacted by them.
Earlene - September 5th, 2013 at 7:56 PM
Last Aug, 2012, we helped take care of your kids at Glorieta. This is a great story about Ben and I've told it a bunch of times. This one little nutty kid looks at Caleb and nods toward Ben...asks , that your brother? Caleb, yep. Kid says he adopted? Ben pipes up, No, HE's adopted! Love it so much.
Megan - September 5th, 2013 at 8:14 PM
How refreshing to read the real heartache, grief and realistic representation of what so many adoptive parents feel.

As an adoptee and adoptive mom, I find myself torn between the loss of my own birth mother and the joy adoption has brought our family in the form of my daughter. Adoption is complex. Simply put the loss doesn't go away after 2 years or 20 years. The loss is experienced by all parties involved.
I truly believe that there is healing that can come from acknowledging that adoption=loss and that it's ok to grieve that, maybe even your entire life.
Speaking as an adoptee, I can say for me, it adoption is still worth it. Despite everything, it has set the course of my life and is how I have chosen to grow my own family.
WoeBeGoneChild - September 6th, 2013 at 3:21 AM
Wow, thank you. This is the first time I've read a post by someone with birth kids who has ventured into adoption, and tells it like it is. We are just starting our journey, but have 4 kids already. Sibling tensions is my fear, so I guess we'll just have to suck it up!
Rachel - September 6th, 2013 at 8:13 PM
I am two years (yesterday!) in with my 4ish year old Ethiopian-born daughter. Honestly - I struggled for the first 8 or so months (single parenting - not for the faint of heart), then we had a brief honeymoon, then she began to struggle. Right around a year and half home we got it together and now we are kind of rocking it enough that I'm considering adopting again. I'll be better prepared this time (if it is even possible to be better prepared) but it's harder because, as you said, I know a heck of a lot more now about the losses in adoption and the ethics of adoption are more on my mind.
Kathleen - September 8th, 2013 at 6:06 AM
Hi, my daughter sent me a link to this blog r/t your post from May "Worst End of the School Year Mom Ever", I enjoyed so much that I wanted to read more of your posts which led me here!:

I am 51and was adopted @ 3 months of age. (From here) My adoptive Mom was unable to have children of her own. Even though, my parents had home visits and family, friend, and job investigative reports for over a year prior to adoption, I was placed into this home with an abusive (not to me - my mother) home. When I was around 6-7 years old my mom left my Dad. My mom remarried and we moved to Fl. When I was 10. My adoptive father did not want to pay child support, so skipped town. I never saw him again. Soooo since my mother's new husband was for all practical purposes now my Dad he adopted me (adoption #2). I hated my stepfather, now I realize it was more it was more resentment for "taking my mother away". I was not a good teenager very rebellious and angry girl! I was Bulimic for 23 years of my life. I have always felt alone in this world. I am married and have 4 children of my own ages 25 down to 13. My oldest is going to make me a Grandmother in March 2014. I can't say that I have had a good marriage for the past 28 yrs but has not been horrible. I do wonder at times if hives missed out on life to some extent due to attachment and abandonment issues. I feel that I operate in a constant mode of self-protection. I also know that I have blocked out a lot memories both good and bad due to these issues. I can say that around the age of 33 I finally turned everything over to God by knowing and accepting that He Is My Heavenly Father and while earthly man will stubble, fall, fail and disappoint, His love for me will never fail and that is all that really matters in relation to eternity and that our lives here are but a vapor! I can be grateful that God put my stepfather in my life for its due to his influence that I was exposed to God's Word! Unfortunately this man I referred to as Dad for the past 40 yrs and as a grown woman admired the husband an father he was..... He left my mother after 40 yrs (her having a recent Dx of Alzheimer's ) to "hook-up" with old high school sweetheart ! Once again I feel those Deeper pains (vs the regular surface pains) of rejection and adbanonment at the age of 51! Oh Yes, earthly man will fail and disappoint, God's love never fails. I guess I said all of that to say this: We do the best we can and with God's help we do it a little better! For every adoptive Christian parent remember you are an instrument go God's healing hands of love, that can impact these souls entrusted to you for all eternity! Keep your eye on the Prize!

Thank You for giving me a place to share my story with those that can understand!

Juli - September 9th, 2013 at 3:51 PM
Such a great, honest post! I would say that 18 months is about the time I actually began to breathe again. We adopted 34 month old twin boys from Haiti and during the course of their very loooong process, we became pregnant with our first bio kid. I was overdue pregnant when we got the "come and get 'em" call. So that made things extra crazy. First-time-mom psycho with a high maintenance infant (had to be held ALL the time) and 34 month old twins who were afraid of the universe and had meltdowns all the time. We lived in high alert status for those first 18 months. It was so hard, but that was really the turning point for us. Now, 5 years later we are just a normal family (whatever that means). We still deal with stuff, but God has been so good to us.
Janna - September 10th, 2013 at 9:35 PM
Wow! There is hope for us yet - 1 1/2 years into our adoption of our older son from Ethiopia. Hard work and yes, it will continue to be. I so appreciate the truth you speak to both the beauty and ugliness of adoption and first families. How many times I've told my husband how we have to "get this right." We won't get it all right, but he will be loved and prayerfully will know the love of Jesus. Rally on !!!!
Jason - September 12th, 2013 at 4:18 PM
Our adoption stories were different (transracial but domestic), and I still think we have yet to experience the most difficult parts, as our boys get older and start realizing differences. I know for many older child adoption is such a massive transition, and I pray for you all that you experience the joy on the other side that I keep hearing inevitably comes! :)
Jason @ www.jasondykstrawrites.com
Lenore Diviney - September 15th, 2013 at 10:57 AM
We have not adopted personally but on my husbands side of the family one cousin has adopted from Ethiopia, another cousin awaits their boy from Haiti, and two of his girl cousins have married African American men and have the cutest little babies! The influx of ethnicities into this family has made us quite a colorful picture. It is wonderful that this new generation of cousins will have uncles/fathers that can help them understand and know the culture they are from. God has brought these Godly men into our family to help these sweet little boys become Godly men as well. We are truly blessed.
Judy S - September 16th, 2013 at 9:15 AM
I have read a few of your blogs. You are awesome! Keep up the good work. FYI - I am an adoptee. This hit the soft spot in my heart. Thanks for giving back to the world and adopting. Share the love, spread the love. I have only one set of parents as far as I am concerned. That is the ones who raised me - my mother and father. I've always cringed when people use the word biological.
Anyway, great job mom! Mom's have to help other Mom's. We need to be our own personal cheerleaders for our other mom friends when we see something good. - Jude
monica - September 16th, 2013 at 4:10 PM
Thank you for that, I will post a link to this in my blog. We adopted our fifth child, a 12 year old, red-headed Russian dwarf (yes) and the grief is so, so severe. My stinkin' fourth child met Anya and prayed for three years that we'd adopt her. I asked him who taught him to love Jesus like that (tongue in cheek)? We're at almost at year three and doing well, thanks to Empowered to Connect materials. Well, when she isn't bringing up my own issues...She is a delight now and commands a certain magnetic draw in the presence of, well, anyone.

I'm so glad about your new show and house. My dream is to renovate an old, old home, but in So. Cal, we can't find, or is so, AFFORD anything like that! I am an interior designer, certified and all that, and if you aren't given one on the show and need one for some part of the project-PLEASE email! I'd love to connect with you and your family!! nordquistdesign.net Monica :)
Deanna Gilliam - September 17th, 2013 at 7:29 PM
Can I fast forward to my Year 6? We adopted our boys from Kingston, Jamaica that many moons ago yet the reflections in your journey mirror ours even in this day. Our sons were 11 and 7 when they came home after having spent almost 6 years in an orphanage. Though our youngest son has acclimated the best to a new world, culture, life, family.....we had to place his biological brother, our oldest, in a residential care program last year. Our hearts have simply been........broken. The psychological damage done to him so deep and bitter that we had to make the difficult decision to place him somewhere where he would be safe and get the intensive care he needs while keeping our other three safe and growing. God opened doors to a Christian program that has simply been an answer to prayer.He turns 18 this year and we desperately hope that he settles enough to keep his head and heart straight as he navigates young adulthood. Though we are working through very difficult issues in therapy with him, we see his heart slowly thawing and we groan and intercede on his behalf that he would let Christ in. All four of our children (2 girls and our 2 boys) are teenagers so, life is a crazy rollercoaster ride anyway. Add adoption issues that are lifelong to the mix and its quite an adventure. It's not easy to be an adoptive parent, but I wouldn't change anything at all. Our lives are so much richer because of our boys. Thankful for finding your blog today and the shared experiences many of us have had!
Carey - September 18th, 2013 at 7:07 PM
Thank you for this. As an educator, it brings a new light to some of my students that I really needed to see.
GRS - September 19th, 2013 at 4:19 PM
Okay...thank you for the honesty in sharing about adoptions...I live in Brazil (even though I am english) have two bio and 7 adopted...the youngest is now 22 and the oldest over 30. Out of the 9 children I am in touch with 8 of them ...three still live at home with me and also 2 grandaughters...My husband left 14 yrs ago and some of the children stayed with me...others went with him...some of them are really messed up and I know that God will accomplish His purposes even when I can't see the answers. I believe that God doesn't make mistakes and even if my ex-husband's motivation for adopting was not the best it has meant that each one of my children has heard of the love of an eternal Father who will never leave or forsake them. My heart grieves for the mess some of my children got themselves into and all I can do is keep on praying that God will rescue them from themselves...every abandoned child is a hurt child and only God can completely heal them...He chooses to use us to show His love in a practical way and on the days when we don't feel very loving He will fill in the gaps because He loves our kids even more than we do. Adoption is not easy but children need some where to belong and they need someone who will love them unconditionally. When we can't do it anymore and feel so weary we can cry out to God and He answers...I have been there...and still need His amazing grace every day! Praise God for each parent who has heard God's call to reach out to orphans...He WILL enable us!
Rachel - September 23rd, 2013 at 5:10 PM
A friend just posted this to my timeline. Somehow she knew I needed it. We are just months past a year (although not adoption in our case, foster care initially. We are still waiting for the courts to do what they do and make it all final.) and it is all very, very hard. We are covered in diagnoses, and the therapist told me today it is time to call in a psychiatrist for the oldest. I am tired and sometimes if I let it, something deep inside whispers..."I'm scared". Every time I think we are making progress I am slapped in the face with some new strange trauma behavior that I somehow didn't see coming. Yep, definitely tears in the bathroom, in the middle of the night, in the car, in the therapist's office.....Thank you for reminding me that this too, shall pass. There is hope!
Cheryl - October 22nd, 2013 at 12:08 AM
Jen Hatmaker, just heard you speak for the first time at MomCon 2013 in Kansas City. I was in agreement with your ideas of creating our children to be disciplines and enjoyed your presentation until the end. I left after watching your video of your beautiful adoption story saddened and feeling very alone. I was also a bit angry and left with the feeling that I had been lied to about how foreign adoption looks. We adopted a little girl from Thailand nine years ago, and although I know every adoption story is different, yours appeared to be from a fairy tale storybook. I felt alone and ashamed that my adoption story was filled with so many more twists and turns, I began to wonder what I did wrong? Until I read your blog. I appreciate your honesty in your blog because now I realize that our experience was not unusual. Please try to keep it real for the adoptive Mommas out there that need encouragement and hope. Help us understand that our children will struggle and we will struggle but that it is okay. Many adoptive parents are going through very difficult times and adoption is one of the greatest challenges that God could ever give a Mom. (I also have 2 biological daughters-things like trust and attachment just came naturally.) I realized for the first time ever during MomCon that God chose me and trusted me with my beautiful adopted daughter and no one else for that challenging role as her mother. It humbled me and filled me with such gratitude that tears overflowed from my heart and poured from my eyes. God is so amazing!
Catherine - October 27th, 2013 at 10:46 AM
Hi. I know this is an older post, but I was wondering if anyone has thoughts/input on the benefits of adopting two children to help them not feel so "isolated" or alone, as if they are always feeling like the odd one out. We live in the african country we adopted from and have 5 other (white) bio kids. I know there is already a great benefit for our youngest being in her birth country and culture (she even attends a national school) but sometimes I wonder if some of the issues we are dealing with even after 3 years would be different if she had a sibling "like her" in the family. Not just someone that had the same color skin, but someone else who was adopted, brought into the family the same way she was.
We had considered adopting a second child shortly after we brought her home (someone from her orphanage that we knew) but then her needs became so all consuming along side trying to stabilize the family. It has helped so much to read this post and realize it may never change, as we keep expecting, -well its been one year, or its been 2 years already..We are now at 3 years and got her before she turned 2, and we have lately said we need to just accept the fact that it may always be hard. Just like you said. But for some reason I keep expecting it to be different, or if I do the right thing THEN she will be a well adjusted child, just like our other kids...I have come to see you can NEVER underestimate the importance of the first 2 years of a child's life, and that we can never make up for their loss. We can move forward and help to try and deal with the hurt and the pain but we can't ever make up for that time. It's the back of my mind thought though that keeps popping up, what if she had an adopted sibling? But maybe reading everyone else's stories is to say, it wont really matter.? I'd appreciate any helpful thoughts. Thanks.
sandy - October 29th, 2013 at 4:13 AM
I am Mrs Sandy from USA, i want to share a testimony of my life to every
one. i was married to my husband Williams Jack, i love him so much we have
been married for 6 years now with three kids. when he went for a vacation
to UK he meant a lady called Mary?, he told me that he is no longer
interested in the marriage any more. i was so confuse and seeking for help,
i don't know what to do until I met my friend miss Lina and told her about
my problem. she told me not to worry about it that she had a similar
problem before and introduce me to a man called Dr Joel who cast a spell on
her ex and bring him back to her after 3 days. Miss Lina ask me to contact
Dr Joel. I contacted him to help me bring back my husband and he ask me
not to worry about it that the gods of his fore-fathers will fight for me.
He told me by Three days he will re-unite me and my husband together. After
three day my husband called and told me he is coming back to sought out
things with me, I was surprise when I saw him and he started crying for
forgiveness. Right now I am the happiest woman on earth for what this
great spell caster did for me and my husband, you can contact Dr Joel on
any problem in this world, he is very nice man, here is his contact
akhidenorlovespell@outlook.com He is the best spell caster how can help you
within three days.

sandy - October 29th, 2013 at 4:13 AM
I am Mrs Sandy from USA, i want to share a testimony of my life to every
one. i was married to my husband Williams Jack, i love him so much we have
been married for 6 years now with three kids. when he went for a vacation
to UK he meant a lady called Mary?, he told me that he is no longer
interested in the marriage any more. i was so confuse and seeking for help,
i don't know what to do until I met my friend miss Lina and told her about
my problem. she told me not to worry about it that she had a similar
problem before and introduce me to a man called Dr Joel who cast a spell on
her ex and bring him back to her after 3 days. Miss Lina ask me to contact
Dr Joel. I contacted him to help me bring back my husband and he ask me
not to worry about it that the gods of his fore-fathers will fight for me.
He told me by Three days he will re-unite me and my husband together. After
three day my husband called and told me he is coming back to sought out
things with me, I was surprise when I saw him and he started crying for
forgiveness. Right now I am the happiest woman on earth for what this
great spell caster did for me and my husband, you can contact Dr Joel on
any problem in this world, he is very nice man, here is his contact
akhidenorlovespell@outlook.com He is the best spell caster how can help you
within three days.

megan - October 30th, 2013 at 12:48 AM
I'm living and working with poor families in Cambodia. Thank you Jen! And may God bless your family. I very much appreciate the way you intelligently raise issues in a way that allows open discussion. I don't have the answers, but I care about the poor families I know and I'm glad that forums like this allow interested parties to connect their head to their heart.
Christy - November 6th, 2013 at 9:17 PM
I found this post by googling - "hope for behavior challenged Russian adoption". Good to know that there are others who say this is really hard. I never meet these people. I sometimes feel alone on the journey of my family's life. We adopted my son 7 years ago. Thankfully, God granted my prayers by giving me a mother's heart that equaled the heart I possessed for my 2 bio children soon after bringing him home. God knew I would need that passionate love to see us through the future. The kind of love that never stops pressing for peace and happiness for your child. He has always been hard to parent. We did not go 30 minutes the first year without tantrums. I now consider myself quite an expert with attachment, PDD-nos, ADHD, sensory issues. That is just the beginning. You question constantly whether it is something you did, didn't do or is the past creeping into his little life. I've had a hard day(again). I am now praying he will not be so disruptive in his new school that he is no longer able to join a regular class. Throwing chairs in class is not ok. We have never gone a month, actually rarely a week without therapy or doctor visits. I am searching! I am reading! I am trying! I am praying!
On a hard day, I remember that I can't fix the problems. I have laid my little guy in God's hands. He is carrying him. I'm thankful for this because I'm tired. I'm willing to be part of the healing that I so long for. I SO want a future where I watch him flourish in all of the amazing qualities I know he has. He is beautiful and amazing. He has such strong challenges just to get through each step of life. Going anywhere is hard. Staying home is hard. One day at a time-
christine field - January 2nd, 2014 at 11:21 PM
Just discovered you and I'm so excited! You are a gifted writer.
Adoptive mom here too. Four kiddos, 3 adopted. 2 international, 1 mama leaning totally on Jesus.
Have been through pretty much everything with our kiddos. We still all love each other deeply and accept each other completely.
During harder times, I discovered the book of Howard Glasser - Transforming the Difficult Child - woww.difficultchild.com. It was a blessing that saved my sanity and allowed me to see a little more clearly into my kids hearts. The title may sound manipulative (as if a human could ever transform another - that's a higher pay grade!). The book is not about manipulation but about learning to monitor our own emotional reactions to our kids. Premise is that we think kids are out to get us by their bad behavior, but they are really out to "get" our energy and attention and acceptance to allow their hearts to heal.
Hope this offers some hope to another struggling mom.
HelpLess - January 16th, 2014 at 4:11 PM
Im 13 years old and i was in foster care for 7 1/2 years. My adoptive parents are nice, but im regretting saying yes and i want to leave what do i do?
Fearful - March 16th, 2014 at 1:53 AM
My husband and I are 5 months into a kinship foster placement of two young children (3 & 2) that we are in the process of adopting and I am struggling greatly. They were in foster care for 13 months so they were pretty young when they lost their birth parents. They have a lot of the aggression, emotion and attachment issues others have mentioned and we are seeking therapy for them. We also belong to a strong adoption group that supports us but I have so many fears that I just can't speak of and feel so guilty for having them. I just don't know if I can do this for the long haul :/. We have 2 bio kids that are 4 & 2 so having 4 toddlers is tough in itself let alone all the other issues. But the issue that brings me to my knees is the loss I feel of joy and peace that was in our home, the pure happiness of being a parent that we had with just our bio kids. I feel like I have to steel those precious moments with my bio kids for fear the other two will become jealous and see right through my deliberate and awkward attempts to love them. I never thought I would struggle with attachment, but I do. I feel like my heart is guarded and I carry so much shame, guilt and resentment all the time. I just don't know if we should go through with the adoption. The sad thing is if we don't adopt them they will be adopted outside the family which will upset the rest of my family. Plus, they will probably spend another year in foster care and I can't imagine the trauma that will place on them along with losing yet another mother. I question constantly if this was God's will for us to care for them because I am struggling so greatly. I just feel already like a complete failure :(
Rachel - March 24th, 2014 at 9:45 PM
Thank you so much for this post. I feel as if you are an angel here to help me not feel so alone. We are at month 10 of our adoption of 3 siblings ( 8,9 &17) from Ukraine. They join my husband and 10 year old ( adopted from Ukraine 8 years ago). You have made my week. Thank you for taking the time to write your experience.
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