“It’s all part of a bigger plan.”
“God has a plan for all of this.”
“It’ll be better tomorrow.”
We throw phrases around a lot; it’s a part of our culture, part of how we encourage healing and part of how we look forward with hope. Sometimes, though – regardless of the truth of the sentiment – we feel frustration, even anger at those well-meant phrases and words.
Yes. There’s a plan for each of us. Sometimes for a story that we’re just a small, tiny part of, that we’ll never see come to fruition on this side of Heaven. Sometimes, though… sometimes we get to see at least a piece of it come together.
I’ve gotten some questions, and often share pieces of my own story. But, after much prayer and consideration…I wanted to go a little further in sharing some of my “why.” My “why” as far as my faith, the way I see certain things, and the surety I have that we’re not all here for no reason.
In short: I’ve been able to see things so much bigger than coincidence play out in my own life and I count it all as a blessing. There’s been questioning, hurt and even a time that I walked away from my faith; but, God’s planning, and the way I got to see it happen, brought me back.
If you take the time to consider it; maybe you’ve been able to see it in your own life. Perhaps you recognized it, perhaps not. I’d like to challenge you to reflect though. Our stories? They’re given to us as gifts. Figuring out how to use them to relate to others, to share in this life with others and to point others and our hearts toward the only thing that really matters is a critical piece of our journeys.
For me, and for others who I’ve been blessed to connect with, that story and journey centers around adoption. With the things going around in our world, with those close to us, and with others who we may never meet or come in contact with, this subject is relevant and raw. Because of that, I want to be clear that what I am sharing may not be everyone’s story. It may be hard for some to read but joyful for others. I’ve put a lot of time into writing this one, and much more time sitting on it wondering whether I should share it or not. But, here goes.
A little background.
Around the age of 6, I learned that I – like my friends – didn’t come from my mommy’s tummy. Instead, I learned that my parents chose me…that I was adopted.
What this meant was pretty shallow. So, instead of dwelling on it in a negative way, I became the brat on the playground telling my friends that I was special… my parents chose me. It was much more involved than that. The process involved heartache on all sides that I had absolutely no way of comprehending; I just saw it as a gift.
Until I didn’t.
Around 16, when the classic, teenage-angst identity crisis hit, I began to wonder. I shared this with some people, but mostly kept it to myself. I wondered who was out there, not because anything was lacking in my life, or in my relationships with my parents, but just because I’m prone to filling in gaps when I see them.
Around this time, the internet became more accessible than ever before, and Google became a thing that was suddenly sitting in front of me whenever I turned on a computer. I ran searches time and time again, and found nothing. Little did I know – this was best for me. I was in no way ready to handle what seemed so simple to me, but was so far from it. Additionally, I feel deep; this process had many feelings left to play out.
I Stopped Looking.
After hundreds of fruitless searches, I moved on. It wasn’t that my questions stopped, but, I simply started focusing elsewhere. Life went on. I went to college. I grew closer with my parents. I changed schools. I changed majors five times. My father became ill. I settled into picturing a future with my then-boyfriend, now husband, John.
Then one day, while John was at track practice, and I was sitting in the living room of the house I shared with my still-dear-friend, Doofan. I began searching for random phrases. One of my narratives had recently been published and I was curious about whether I’d find it tied to my name somehow. I don’t remember what I put into that tiny box that changed so much, but, I remember what came up.
The site is no longer there. But, the first search result read, “Looking for my daughter, Laura Ann, born 10/6/1986….” The listing went on to reference where I was born, where my parents were from, and the name of the social worker who had handled the entire thing. Best of all, it hadn’t been posted all that long ago. I did what felt right, and sent an email right away.
Then, I called my mom.
“Mom, what was the name of the social worker who handled my adoption?”
She answered. Leaving it blank for privacy’s sake here, though.
“Why?” she asked.
“Well, I just found this online…” I read her the posting.
Finally, she broke it. “Well. I think we should pray on this before we do anything.”
Silence. A lot of silence.
She knew me too well, “You already responded, didn’t you?”
“Well. God has been a part of every part of this. Now we will pray and see what happens!”
I’m honestly not sure how much time passed…but it felt like forever. When I did receive a response, it felt almost skeptical. I now realized, after many conversations, that my birth mom wasn’t sure what to think of the message I sent her. Was it real? Was it a joke? What was happening?
We proceeded cautiously. We shared information we had – she had pictures of me as a baby that the social worker had promised her but had not shared with my mother (when I turned one, she cut off communication on both sides; my mom never knew updates were promised…my birth mom didn’t know why they stopped.). She had my parents first names. We exchanged information via email. I learned that the feelings I’d had growing up that I was not the “oldest” child, were correct: I had an older sister, older brother and younger sister.
There was a LOT to the story – much of which is up to others to share 😉. But, needless to say, my birth mother had been placed in an impossible situation. She had made a choice: a choice that changed EVERYTHING for her, for me, and for my parents. Today, I can say that choice went much further, making every part of the life John and I share today, with our five kids, possible.
After a few years, John and I were married. When we had our own place, my birth family came out to visit for the first time. The waiting was killer. What would they think? Would we be similar? Would we get along? Would they meet my parents? How would it go?
It went well. We celebrated by getting tattoos together. We shared stories. My birth mom was able to share gifts she had purchased throughout my life for me. We watched movies. We found similarities that I wouldn’t have otherwise known about. We went on day trips. Much conversation happened, a lot of which I cannot share. Certain things have meaning that’s hard to convey through a simple blog post.
Suddenly, my family expanded to include my birth mom, two new sisters and a brother. Coming from a household with two kids, this was extremely different.
One night, my parents came over. One of the most amazing pictures I have in my head was my Mom and my birth Mom meeting. There were tears. Hugs. Thank you’s. Each of them gave a gift to the other that the other couldn’t give. Here’s the amazing part: each of them played – and play – an enormous role in who I am, where I am, and every piece of my puzzle.
It Wasn’t All Smooth Sailing
For others who’ve been adopted, or who’ve been part of the adoption process, it’s easy to focus on the positives…that’s because there are so many of them. Adoption gives life. It gives hope. It is a viable alternative that’s often looked over: I don’t believe it’s looked over because of an underlying motivation or push toward the pro-choice movement. I think it’s looked over because it. Is. Hard.
Here’s the thing. About a year and a half after that first visit, my husband and I had our first child. It was life changing in the best possible way. He was our everything.
As I processed this new love, these new emotions, I realized that the love my birth mother had for me was no less than the love I had for this tiny baby that grew inside me and now stayed in my arms. It made the choice she made – the choice to give me a different kind of future, and to give her children at home a better future – so much harder to comprehend. She felt a love for me, before she even knew me, that allowed her to make the greatest sacrifice of all; one that I couldn’t even imagine.
I crumbled. I didn’t do it with grace either.
I retreated. I stopped communicating. I caused hurt. Not because I was upset. Not because I wanted to inflict pain, but because the magnitude of the gift she gave me and the sacrifice it required was too much for me to process.
I had to take time to rebuild… if I’m being honest, it still stops me in my tracks today. I wish I handled it differently at the time. I just didn’t know how to put it into words.
My mom, even as she walked through the journey with me, had to handle her own share of emotions. I was connecting with family outside of our own. We were a family built by “less than traditional” methods. Would our relationship change? (This could be its own post, but, yes, our relationship did change; it became deeper than ever!) What would moving forward look like? How would it affect my brother – another child of adoption? (This could be a post of its own as well: his view of things is different from my own, but, that is his story to tell. If I’m being honest. “My” story is really a whole lot of individual stories that could be woven into a tapestry that is uniquely our own, yet not totally unique; these stories are happening all around us all the time).
Adoption: The Unseen Heartache
What makes this so amazing, so beautiful, to me, and other’s who’ve been blessed by adoption, is the part I just shared. In adoption, there are so many stories. There are so many physical and emotional needs. There is heartache. Aching for a child that you cannot have. Aching for a child you cannot keep. Aching for the pregnancy you cannot have. Aching to raise a child that you hold in your heart. The heartache is REAL. It is life-altering and it is intense. I have not experienced all of it; but, I am a product of it.
In all ways, those experiencing this very real heartache? They choose hope. They choose selflessness. They choose to work together – whether physically or in spirit – to do what’s best for a child that has no say in the process whatsoever. It’s filled with heartache, but, it’s filled with heart.
Today? It’s easier than ever to make a different choice. It’s easier than ever (“than ever” being the key words, in no way am I downgrading the struggle involved) for adoptive parents to try other methods of conceiving a biological child. Options that make opting out of an inconvenient child possible are more accessible than ever (PLEASE note: I’m not calling this an “easy” choice either. With unplanned pregnancies, no path is “easy” or straightforward. There is always heartbreak. Always tough decision-making. Always challenges. ALWAYS). Those who pursue adoption choose a path that doesn’t seem “normal.” It is, though, brave. It is noble. It is life-changing for those of us who are children born and given futures because of it.
Which Brings Me Back to Unseen Journeys
I started this post by talking about journeys, especially those we cannot see.
I believe that God gives us all stories – some harder or more different than others – for his own purpose. Sometimes we never see the outcomes or purposes on this side of heaven. Sometimes though, sometimes we get a glimpse.
I’ve been blessed to get a glimpse.
I’ve seen how – from the very start – God has put certain people in certain places in ways that cannot be coincidental. It’s led me to believe firmly in his truth, in hope and in a future. It’s helped me handle difficult situations differently because I know there has to be a purpose. It’s helped me relate to others differently. I don’t know what the outcome is, or what plan God has in place for this journey, but, I know I’m not unique. I know that he’s working in each of our lives for something bigger and grander than we could ever imagine and that we are called to trust.
Adoption? Adoption was the start of my journey, a pivotal moment in my birth mom’s journey, and a piece of my mom’s life story that brought joy from heartache. Complicated? Yes. Life giving? Yes.
Adoption is beautiful and filled with equal parts hope and heartbreak, whether we see the outcomes or not. If you’re facing a hard decision, have questions or feel lost. Reach out. Reach out to me, to someone in your circle or beyond. Ask for help. Pray. Then repeat it all. Your journey is not hopeless; there’s a purpose. Choose to grab it.
I’m a friend of your birth mother’s my name is Linda McManus and I would like to read more of your things. I feel like I’m partly responsible for your mom getting back to God because I really prayed hard for her to start coming back to church and when she and Mike walked in the front door I about fell off my chair. So I’ve known her for a long time and love her.