The title sounds promising, doesn’t it? We could all use a dose of hope, especially as we’re unlikely to be getting much from post-adoption support. Sorry, did that sound too cynical? We’ll come back to that in a minute.
This book is a 30-day devotional aimed at Christian adoptive parents and prospective adopters. But it’s not just that – it’s also the author’s own story of the adoption of her daughter from China. (She is an American living in Australia.) This narrative forms the foundation of the devotional and the Bible verses and pontification about the theology of adoption are slotted in around that. It works.
The back-cover blurb is encouraging, too:
‘You finally surrendered. You opened your heart when you said, “Yes, God, I’ll adopt.” But now, you’ve discovered that opening your heart to the idea of adoption is the easiest part of the journey. Now comes the reality of the emotional ups and downs that only another adoptive parent can understand.’
Security vs reality
The book does live up to the promises of realism in the first half of the book. I appreciated the author’s honest comparison of her expectations – of herself and of others – to the reality, from matching through to support. There’s also a lot of talk of living outside of comfort zones and secure predictability.
‘But is secure really the goal? Should it be the goal? “Live worthy to the calling you have received,” Paul instructed in Ephesians 4:1.’
‘Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. – John 15:13
‘God’s calling? opposite of the American dream, but surpassingly greater, don’t you think?’
Fair point. I like this acknowledgement of difficulty and struggle and discomfort. This is what looking after the marginalised and vulnerable is supposed to look like. Jesus didn’t do flower-arranging in suburbia. He got his hands dirty.
The book also weaves in a lot of other people’s experiences, which could potentially make it a great way to share the reality of adoptive parenting with others.
I’m thinking particularly of the sorts of Christians who instantly want to assume if your child still has issues then you’re probably not praying hard enough. They might benefit from reading sections like this.
‘Here’s what a few adoptive parents said they wish others understood about their lives and their children:
- “I wish they understood that I love my adopted children as much as they love their biological ones.”
- “I wish they understood that we are still the same people. Having adopted children doesn’t mean we no longer like or do the things we did with our biological children prior to adoption. We want friendship and support more now, not less.”
- “I wish they understood it hurts when someone asks questions about our children compared to ‘normal’ children.”
- “I wish they understood that we aren’t adopting because we just have to have more children! I’ve heard people say, ‘Well don’t you have enough already?’ But what they don’t understand is that it’s not about having enough. It’s about answering God’s call to care for the fatherless and love our neighbor. It’s about love for God and for others.”
- “I wish that they understood that our family is different from their families.”
- “I wish people knew that when they tell us how awesome we are or how they could never do what we do, it takes away our ability to say how hard it is.”
- “I’m a single mom to two Chinese princesses and sometimes I feel like I have to keep my thoughts and struggles to myself because I’ve had comments made to me about how I chose to be a single parent to two. Actually, the Lord chose me. I never dreamed I’d be a single parent once, let alone twice.”
- “I wish people realized we don’t need answers or advice; we just need a listening ear, a text, a phone call, a meal, or a coffee date—something to help us feel connected to the outside world when those first few weeks and months home are hard. And sometimes the years are hard and we need people to understand that we are the same, but different. God took us on this journey of adoption and that ‘yes’ has changed us in many ways. We have new opinions, goals, and priorities. We may forget to call you back or text; we may parent our children differently now and some of that looks weird. We need grace and understanding as we navigate this new world we ventured into.”’
YES. A big amen to that.
Hold on a minute
And it was all going really well, but towards the end of the book, I thought a bit of idealism crept in again and I struggled to relate to the author. This passage in particular sent my eyebrows skyward:
‘My adoption agency has an entire staff dedicated to post-adoption support for families. As in, there are people on call, ready to help with any range of issues, from cocooning to attachment to caring for the mental health of their adoptive parents. In their preplacement training, the staff emphasizes, “Call us. If you say you’re not struggling in some way after your child comes home, then we know you’re not telling the truth.” I was given permission to admit that post-adoption life is challenging. I was told I would experience difficulties, that I could voice my struggles, and that I would be well cared for when I asked for help. Do you want to know how many times I’ve made that phone call? Once? Twice? A half dozen times? Actually, none. Zero.’
Wait. She has support on tap – including mental health services for adoptive parents! – and hasn’t called them? This is so many leagues away from my own experience of battering on a door that opens just enough to give me hope and then slams in my face again that I had to read it twice. It’s all very well to write about relying on God and whatnot, but he generally tends to work through Other People, such as the professionals who are trained in helping with this kind of thing. headdesk
I got the sense towards the end that the author was keen to conclude the book with a positive resolution and that was going to happen regardless of any personal struggles she or her contributors might be facing. And I understand why she would do that, both from a theological standpoint and an editorial point of view. It’s neat and tidy and provides some sort of soothing balm to the not-too-desperate-just-a-bit-frazzled Christian reader. I would just have found it that bit more helpful if it was a little more… raw.
The author’s experience is different from mine, her challenges are different, and if she has not yet been desperate enough to call on post-adoption support then (a) that’s great and (b) it’s unfair of me to expect this from the book. So I’d say to
cynical British readers, or those elsewhere who’ve adopted older children via foster care and are dealing with major difficulties such as CPV: certainly read the first half. It’s good stuff. And then for the second remember the author’s perspective may be different from your own and she is allowed her happy ending, even if ours feels a while off yet.
30 Days of Hope for Adoptive Parents
New Hope Publishers
£8.01 (Kindle £3.88)
Published 6 February 2017
Disclaimer: I received this book free via NetGalley in return for my honest review.
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