Our Adoption Story

Our Adoption Story

In a perfect world, one before the fall, there wouldn’t be adoption.

In the very beginning in the Garden of Eden, it was just the Father and His children, walking together in the cool of the day. Perfect intimacy. Deep friendship. Just a Dad and His kids.

And then the kids wondered if He was really all they needed. We know the rest of the story, Eve ate the fruit, and the relationship between the Father and His children was broken. But it wasn’t the end of the story, merely just the beginning. The rest of the Bible is one beautiful story of the relentless love of the Father and Him getting His kids back.

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brown baby. white mama.

The Top Five Things I've Learned From Our Transracial Adoption

5. People

still

ask me if she's adopted.

Ummmm. That would be a yes.

One of my favorite stories is when Selah was about six months old. We went to dinner and we're going to a late movie with our dear friends. This was when she was small enough to sleep in her car seat. It would be a nightmare now, but then, she was a great little movie go-er. I would feed her right before the movie and she'd sleep through the whole thing. It was wonderful! We haven't seen one since. Just kidding! Anyways, the story.

We were standing in line to get our tickets, and this sweet little man came over and asked if she was adopted. Of course I smiled kindly, and said, "yes." I was thinking in my head, "duh." He told us how he took mission trips to Africa every summer and really had a heart for the orphan. He mentioned how he and his wife wished they would've adopted when they were younger. Then he asked me where she was from. I'm 100% positive he was expecting an African country. And without skipping a beat, I replied in a VERY southern accent, "Greer," (our town). Everyone laughed at what to me, was the honest truth, and when he got over his shock, I explained that we adopted through a local agency and shared a little of our story with him.

I know that people KNOW she is adopted when they ask us. Her brown skin attracts attention and people are curious of her story. It's a way for them to ask permission to step into our story in a non-threating way. And I really do love that. She has given us more opportunities to share the Gospel than we could have ever dreamed. And although I could take some of their questions the wrong way (Is she yours? Where's her mom? Are you babysitting?), people know there is a story to be told. And she gives us an opportunity to tell it. One day soon, she'll be old enough to tell it herself.

4. Not everyone will be happy about it.

And that's okay.

We have learned that we are not responsible for changing those hearts. Only God can. Their hearts will not change until the Spirit helps them understand the Gospel more clearly. While we pray that for them and practice humility, we love and show them grace. And I remember the grace God has shown

me 

through Jesus.

My husband is way better at this than me. He has taught me more about grace by watching him give it, than anything I've ever read before. I'll have to admit, my mama bear comes out extra ferocious in this area, and I am still in desperate need of being tamed. I guess really what I've learned, is that I still have much

to learn

about loving others and showing them grace when I feel it isn't deserved. I wish I could say this comes easy to me, but it doesn't. At least, not yet.

3. As a white mama to a brown baby, it is my responsibility to be educated on skin and hair care.

PLEASE HEAR ME, I am by no means saying I know all there is to know about this, I don't! But I do WANT to know. I want to be educated, and I want to always have her hair and skin looking nice. And when I don't know what to do, I need to get help from someone who does!

Anyone who knows us well, will tell you I can go to the grocery store looking a hot mess. But you better believe Selah's hair and skin will look nice. I want the African American community to see that she is well taken care of by a white mama.

Here are a few things I've learned...

  • Coconut oil is a great moisturizer and smells so yummy. I use this on both her hair and skin. Right after I wash her hair (once every one or two weeks) in Carol's Daughter's Cleansing Conditioner, I comb out the tangles, and put a heavy helping of coconut oil in her hair. Even if it's not a wash day, and it feels dry I still put coconut oil in it. 
  • I LOVE the kids detangler spray by Shea Moisture. I mix conditioner and water in a water bottle and spray her hair in the mornings to freshen it up. I've recently started using Carol's Daughter's refresher spray and love it too.
  • I put Shea Moisture Style Milk in her hair after I fix it. This helps hold the curls so they don't get fuzzy.

*You can find all these products at Target. The Coconut Oil can be found at Trader Joe's or your local grocery store.*

  • For her skin, I swear by this natural lotion recipe! Selah started getting eczema on her tummy really bad and NOTHING would get rid of it. I asked one of my sweet friends, Ashley, what she used on her kids, and she gave this lotion to Selah for her birthday. I will NEVER use anything else! You can find the recipe here. It says diaper rash cream, and you can use it for diaper rash, but I use it as lotion. Ashley adds 20 drops of lavender essential oil to hers. She makes it in huge batches and says it lasts forever. You can buy the products to make it here. I rub her down in this every night! The lavender essential oil clears up her eczema, helps her sleep, and smells heavenly.
  • I also put Aquaphor on her cheeks every morning and every night. They get very chapped in the winter, and this seems to help heal the dry spots. 

I still have SO much to learn, but these things have worked wonderfully for Selah. They might not work for your brown baby, but it's worth a shot!

2. Our skin does not match, but we match hearts.

She's brown. And I want her to be proud of that! 

Brandon and I want to always have an open, on-going conversation about how we do, indeed, have different colored skin. The fact is, our skin doesn't match. She should feel comfortable talking with us about that. We want her to know her African American heritage and connect with other African Americans. She has curly hair like her daddy, her and I have brown eyes, but her skin is brown and ours is white. And we shouldn't push that under the rug, or say that we don't see her skin color, because the world does. She needs to have the tools to be successful and confident as an African American woman to Caucasian parents. Who doesn't want that for their baby?

But the truth is,

we

 really

don't

see her skin color. We both were there to watch her take her first beautiful breath. I cut the cord, and she came straight to me. Most days, I have to remind myself that I did

not

give birth to her. I have to remember sometimes that I didn't carry her for 9 months. Her

birth mom

did, and we are forever grateful. 

But this little girl is mine. She is my daughter. And although our skin doesn't match, we match hearts. She has started laughing like me. She wrinkles her nose when she smiles, like I do. She pats my shoulder with her little hand like I pat her's. She has a kind and sensitive heart like her daddy. Like him, she is very pensive and observant. And one day, I want her to know Jesus like we do. We want to teach her to love Him. That this life is nothing without Him. He is Life. 

We match hearts. 

1. Love really does make our family. 

Love is an action, not always a feeling. 

After we brought Selah home, I experienced somewhat of postpartum. The adoption blues, as it's often called. I know this sounds crazy. I couldn't believe it either. I was even ashamed. There were so many factors that caused these "blues."

For one, although it was beautiful and absolutely perfect, the whole hospital experience was extremely emotional. Not just the normal, your baby was born emotional, this was different.

Honestly, we weren't even certain that we would come home from the hospital with a baby. Our birth mom couldn't sign until 24 hours after she was born. Up until that point, she could have changed her mind at any time. So we had all the anticipation of "will she really do it?" We prepared ourselves for the possibility of an empty car seat. Thankfully, it was full of six pounds of sweetness.

We had the beautiful experience of seeing Selah come into this world. But we were also being sensitive to our birth mom and all of her emotions. Although she is literally the strongest woman I know, all of the hospital emotions were heightened to the max.

So after we got home and started sorting through those emotions of her adoption,

complete joy and sadness at the same time,

I had this precious little life that now depended on me. Forever.

Then we started sorting through,"Oh my gosh, are we really parents?" We were sleep deprived and didn't know what in the world we were doing. I didn't get to bond with her for nine months. And she didn't have Brandon's chin or my nose, but she shared our last name. 

It took me a while to feel like she was really mine. And this shocked me. It made me feel guilty. No one prepared me for that. I read a little about it, but never thought it would happen to me. I wanted this child more than anything, and we walked through a really, really dark season to get her into our family. And I didn't feel as if she was mine?

Those days quickly passed and before I knew it, I couldn't imagine our family without her. And like I said earlier, it wasn't long before I had to remind myself I didn't carry her. I don't have maternity pictures

to show her, or the crazy stories about Brandon running to get me ice-cream or pickles in the middle of the night. 

But we do have the story of how we prayed every day to be her parents. We have countless stories of a faithful God. 

The time He used a couple in our church to give us 10,000 dollars for her adoption. The story of the William's children who sold lemonade to help us bring her home. The countless really large checks we received. All the times I laid in the floor of her nursery dreaming what she would look like and wondering, honestly, if God would answer our prayer. 

The story of the day we met her birthmom for the first time and how she cried when we told her about Selah's name. 

We don't need maternity pictures or our skin to match. Love really does make our family.

She will always be my baby, and I will always be her mommy.

Full and Rested

It happened.

I fell in love with Him all over again.

I spent last weekend at the Created for Care retreat, studying the outline of His face with over 500 women whose heart beats for the orphan. He met us there and His beauty was breathtaking. In that room, there were over 650 former orphans represented, home with their forever families.

These 500 women "got me." Every single one of them have a story very similar to mine. They have waited and waited and waited (some are currently) to be mothers. Their families look like mine. They get double-take glances in stores, they answer hard questions about adoption, they have deep fears, desires, and worries about raising their heartgrown babies. But more than anything, the mamas in that room love Jesus. Because really, that's why we adopt.

I'm still trying to process the whole weekend and am having trouble putting into words all my heart took away. The last several weeks leading up to this conference, my heart had become so weary. I would fall into bed each night exhausted from busy days, but what was really tired was my heart. Being a mama is hard. Being a

working mama

is really hard. Being a mama to a child that comes from hard places is very hard. Please hear me, it's so beautiful and worth every second, but it's hard. And after a while it can take a toll on your heart.

Brandon always makes fun of me because I have so many best friends. And I do. Really. I'll admit it. I have a good handful or two :) of really BEST friends. And I love them so much. They have walked really dark roads with me and have finally seen our dark turn to morning. But most of them have babies that grew in their tummy. Their children look like them, they have their personality traits, and they know their medical history. They have stretch marks on their bellies and I have scars on my heart. And we are all mamas, so we talk about mama things, but as hard as they try, they can't understand parts of my story, because it isn't theirs.

There's a peace and relief in knowing you're understood, isn't there? I was thinking about all the mamas I was about to meet as I was throwing things into Selah's overnight bag (I had to borrow it). I got a glimpse of my brown baby girl handing me her toy so I could tell her thank you for the 100th time that day, and I cried thinking about all we have gone through to bring her into our family. All the years of

infertility treatments

, the nights crying in an empty nursery, the hundreds of necklaces I stamped to bring her home, and all the years I spent trying to understand a Sovereign God. When I finally made it to the retreat, with all these women who understood me and our journey, I lost it. I cried most of the weekend.

Just a warning...what I am about to share is real and raw. It isn't wrapped up nicely in a perfect box with a beautiful bow. It's heavy and hard to swallow, but keep reading. There is a good ending. With Jesus, there is always a good ending.

Adoption is beautiful. It's a physical display of the Gospel. Adoption is a story of redemption and hope. Grace is intertwined between every word of each adoption story. But in order for there to be beauty, redemption and grace, there must be a mess. In a world before The Fall, there wouldn't be a need for adoption. God didn't intend for His people to be His enemies. It is because of our sin and our brokenness that we need to be redeemed.

Adoption is loss for all parties. Loss, in our case, of natural children. Not having children that look like us or feeling a baby kick in my belly. Loss for a birth mom. Loss of the chance to give baths, put on band aids, and see those first steps. And loss of a birth family for the adoptee. Loss of knowing family heritage, and answers to many questions.

I went to the retreat with eight women from our Orphan Care ministry (

Hope for Children

) at our church. All of these women also have adopted children or are in the adoption process. Some of them are in my two handfuls of best friends, but then others I really got to know on this trip. After a full day of learning how to parent our heartgrown babies, love and serve our birthmoms, and gazing on the beauty of a Father to us all, we sat down in one of our rooms on the bed. We were all emotionally drained and were making jokes (really funny ones!) to ease the mood. One of the women started crying and said, "It is so terrible that the only way for me to have children is for another mother to loose hers."

It's such a weird feeling, this adoption thing. On one side, there is complete joy and rejoicing for new life, and on the other side, there is grieving of life lost. It's hard and messy and absolutely beautiful. And then I look at our story. I couldn't dream of a more perfect adoption story for Selah. I couldn't have imagined a more perfect relationship with our

birth mom

. I never pictured God would write such beauty is the midst of our mess.

So, adoption is beautiful, it is messy, but it is FULL of grace, hope, and redemption. And after all the heaviness, we get to land here. In the grace part.

The very first night,

Beth Guckenberger

, invited us to a weekend of "Kol d'mama de Kah." This Hebrew saying is the same meaning of the sounds a new mama whispers to her new baby. She doesn't really have words to say, it's mostly weeping, but it's staring intimately into the face of a love, words can't describe. It can also be described as the intimate whispers of a husband and wife, face to face.

This past weekend I grieved, rejoiced, and postured myself for Kol d'mama de Kah with the Lord. I brought back some really practical tools to serve my baby better. I met so many mamas with stories like mine. I heard about all God is doing around the ENTIRE world to "set the lonely in families." And it was beautiful.

He was beautiful. And my heart is full and rested.

And P.S, I got this picture in the middle of a session! He said, "Daddy trying to do hair...so scary!" #c4cdadsurivial