by Katie McGee
Adoptive Family Caseworker
Placement days are special days around Covenant Care. As an adoptive family caseworker, I have the privilege of serving couples in the process of adopting. I walk with these couples as they wait months and sometimes years for that moment.Witnessing a couple meet their baby for the first time never gets old. As an adoptive mom, I know first hand what that moment feels like. All that you’ve prayed for, hoped for, longed for, scrimped and saved for…all of the pain of waiting is fulfilled in an instant. It’s surreal. Overwhelming in the best way to describe it.
These moments are made even more precious when you know the backstories that go with them. Details like how the couple was led to pursue adoption or how long they waited typically include some sort of loss or hardship. It is beautiful to see a physical representation of God’s faithfulness placed in the arms of a new mom and dad. For them, so much of what they’ve been through finally makes sense.
Often in the world of adoption we consider the possibility that an adoptive couple has experienced loss prior to pursuing adoption-through infertility or the loss of a child. We also regularly think about the birth family, especially in domestic adoption, and the loss that they experience by making the selfless choice to place their child with another family. But we sometimes forget that the precious child placed in the arms of those new parents has a history too. Until we adopted, I had never considered the loss the child experiences in adoption.
When I met my daughter’s birthmother all of that changed for me. There was a real person with a name and a story and a family on the other side of my dream come true. I fell in love with her. It broke my heart that for her daughter to become my daughter, it would mean they would lose the opportunity to really know each other. And the relationship between mother and child is sacred.
One of the things that CCS does when a child is placed with a couple is a placement ceremony at our office. Our staff, the family of the couple, the couple, and the child all gather in our board room for a time of prayer and blessing. Our director always reads a couple of passages of scripture, including this portion of Psalm 139:
For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.
I will be honest and say that for awhile, I felt a little awkward when we would read that. I would think to myself, “Doesn’t this just remind this couple that this baby wasn’t formed in this mom’s womb?” I was reading this passage recently when it struck me that yes, this passage would remind a couple that the baby they hold on placement day is not biologically theirs…and that is kind of the point!
As adoptive parents, we cannot afford to believe that domestic adoption is the same as having biological children. In Psalm 139, we see that the God who spoke the universe into being also knits every single baby together in their mother’s womb. Pregnancy is sacred and God-ordained, regardless of the circumstances surrounding it. Yes, this points to the sanctity of every human life, but it also points to the sacredness of the relationship between birthmother and child. For us to ignore the latter would discount our children’s stories.
When children are adopted, they receive the same rights, privileges, and relationship to their adoptive parents as biological children. In this sense, there is no difference whether your child joined the family through pregnancy or adoption. There is a huge difference, however, when it comes to history and loss.
Psalm 139 should be a motivator for us as adoptive parents to share our child’s history with them. We must talk to our children about their adoption from the day they join our families. There should never be a day when we sit down and say for the first time, “you’re adopted.” It should be a regular conversation in our homes from the day our child comes home. We should not be afraid to talk about their birth families or the difficult parts of their stories. We must press in to their loss and pain and engage in these conversations.
Acknowledging birth families and sharing these stories does not discount our role as parents or threaten our relationships with our children. In fact, it strengthens and secures it. When we are willing to have these conversations with our children as we raise them, we teach them that their history matters. As a result, our children will see us as a safe place to land when they hurt or struggle with that history.
When we choose to adopt children, we take on all aspects of adoption — the beautiful, the messy, the uncomfortable — for life. We don’t walk away from the adoption agency or courthouse with the hard work behind us. In fact, it is really just beginning. Raising adopted children isn’t easy, but not necessarily for the reasons people typically think. It takes a great deal of intentionality to regularly have meaningful conversations with your children about adoption and often times those conversations only bring up the pain of loss or confusion.
I understand this difficulty. However, the truth from Psalm 139 tells us that God writes our stories with great care and detail. We can trust him as the Author and therefore seize the opportunity to share with our children the story He is writing for them as well.
Katie earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Family Ministry from Toccoa Falls College. At CCS, she walks adoptive families through the adoption approval process, from home study to pre-placement counseling and placement. She is married to Luke, and together they are the parents of two children adopted through Covenant Care.