This is what I wrote in my journal a few days after receiving our adopted daughter in China:
This adoption is more wonderful than I could have imagined. And this adoption is more difficult than I could have imagined. There have been some very precious and joyful moments in this first week with Anah, but in other ways it has been hell.
Now, almost 3½ years later, rather than things gradually getting better (as we assumed it would), in many ways it feels like it has only gotten harder. The difficult moments are far outstripping the joyful ones, and sometimes I wonder, “Why in the world did I do this?”
Some time ago, a good friend who’s walking this same hard journey with us (of older-child, special-needs adoption) gave us a link to a blog post that was encouraging in its raw honesty.
When you hear people talk about adoption, you hear about how beautiful it is, this Gospel picture. I say it myself. The idea of redeeming a child from pain and suffering and hopelessness is undeniably inviting. To be a part of bringing hope and life to a child is one of our callings as followers of Christ. Beautiful indeed.
What we do not hear a whole lot about, however, is the ugly side.
Without tragedy, there is no need for adoption. If something were not broken, there would be no need to fix it.
If it were not for the fact that something went terribly wrong, adoption would not be necessary. Be it death or abuse or abandonment, intentional or otherwise, there is a tragic reason this child is in need of a different family from the one that shares the same bloodline and facial features. There is a broken past with every single adopted child out there and it leaves a mark. Sometimes that mark is a faded scar that is barely noticeable to the untrained eye.
Other times, it is a gaping flesh wound that needs constant attention and care.
God chose to give us the latter.
And it has been ugly.
God chose to give us the latter as well, and it is Anah’s need for “constant attention and care” which brings us again and again to the brink of total exhaustion and despair. Down Syndrome is not her biggest hurdle. English as a second language is not her biggest hurdle. What IS her biggest hurdle is that all her formative years were spent in an institutionalized setting (an orphanage), therefore what is ingrained in her long-term memory (which is typically very strong in children with Downs) is that people will do everything for her therefore she doesn’t have to think for herself. It feels like what is most child-like in her has died—there is almost no innate sense of curiosity or exploration or desire or self-expression, but simply a mindless repetition of that which requires the least amount of thinking and engagement.
This means that we have to teach her everything, even basic things like how to play with toys, and if we do not sit constantly with her and keep her engaged, she will quickly resort to mindlessly sitting and staring at the toy. With a typical child, if we as parents need to work on something else, all we need to say is “Go and play” and they are quite happy to oblige. But with Anah it’s the opposite, therefore it feels like there is never a break unless she is in bed for the night (and somehow that bedtime seems to keep getting bumped up earlier and earlier).
So will this ever get any easier? Three years ago I believed (and hoped) it would, but now I’m not so sure. Right now it’s just hard. And I’m tired.
“Be not far from me, for trouble is near, and there is none to help… But you, O Lord, do not be far off! O you my help, come quickly to my aid!” Psalm 22:11 & 19