My heart is heavy with sadness. Since Sunday I have been trying to fathom the pain and frustration of one single mother in Tennessee who sent her 7-year-old adopted son back to Russia. I feel for this young boy who is now orphaned again. And I fear the potential damage this will have to the future of Russian adoptions.
It is difficult for many to understand all the emotions this case evokes. But for those of us who know God's care for the orphan, this case calls us to deep prayer and soul searching.
I see the doors of the orphanage in Kostroma open like it was yesterday. I traveled there in January 2003 to meet Eugenia now known as Jenny. She was two at the time. I had come to the decision to adopt again from Russia after seven wonderful years raising my oldest, who I adopted at six months of age.
Although parenting always has its challenges, it was easier with an infant. I knew that the older an orphan is, the more difficult the adjustment might be. But nothing could have prepared me for the challenges I faced after bringing Jenny home.
My precious toddler jarred me awake night after night with nightmares. Blood curdling screams brought me to my senses. My tired body rocked her and whispered in her ears that I would never leave her. The next day I dragged my body out of bed to work. I was sick from a virus I picked up overseas. My oldest child was adjusting to her new sister. For a season my well ordered world was turned upside down.
"Can't you send her back?" a well-meaning friend suggested. The thought hurt not only the day it was said but today as I remember it. No, she was not a puppy. She was my child. I had made a commitment to her and there was no turning back. But it was rough. I won't deny that. All the training I had, all my years of working with children could not have prepared me for the testing of my love and commitment. For the first year I dropped out of many activities in order to spend as much time as possible with my little one. She needed me.
I studied her personality and slowly we began to bond. I knew it the first time she got sick, and she nestled in my arms.
"Thank you, Lord," I whispered. And even though there were many days after that when she seemed to want me to give up on her, I refused. When God calls you to do something He always enables you to do it. One day at a time.
One year led to two. Today as I look back on the seven years we have had together, I can only give thanks to God. For today my daughter knows she is loved. Adoption is all about skill and commitment.
Many families are on the brink of adoption from Russia at this time. News stories like these raise a lot of questions and stir fears which already were present. What is the truth? How can we avoid experiencing a similar upset?
1. Although there are adoption preparation classes and training, realize that nothing will totally prepare you for what you will experience parenting an adopted child. Some of these orphans are very wounded. Not every person is equipped to deal with certain issues. We all have our limits. So be prepared, ask questions, join adoption groups and know yourself.
2. Analyze your motive. I longed to be a mother from the time I was a young child. I couldn't imagine life without that. So as I began to parent and faced challenges, I knew that it was all about what was best for my child. My two girls are very different but they both need consistency and love no matter what. That means taking advantage of professional resources, support groups, churches, etc.
3. Be realistic. I think if I could go back and do it all over again, the one thing I would change is my own perspective. Healing comes slowly. But when you are living through an adjustment period, each day can seem so long. It is easy to think that this will never change. But the truth is, God heals more often than not in little ways that you are probably not even aware of. You wake up one morning and realize that it has been a long time since there was a meltdown. You notice that you are able to go more places and do more things. You realize that you are becoming family.
Grace touched my life as a young girl and set me free to serve Him through pouring out my life for others. His Grace strengthens us to be broken bread and poured out wine to a hurting world. It will be worth it all when we see Jesus.
April 15, 2010
Sharon Beth Brani lives in Culpeper, VA..Her greatest treasures are her Lord and her two adopted daughters. She is a licensed professional counselor and a specialized adoption coach working with adoptive families. She helps the adoptive parent and their children to maximize the adoption process and to enjoy a lifetime of committed love and growth in a healthful family situation. Her website is www.heartprintsadoption.com. She can be reached at [email protected]