The mid-summer evening is cool and bright. The highway feels endless. Only a few moments ago I became the mother of a little girl, and my mind cannot handle it without bouncing between various emotions! Joy, apprehension, and confusion alternate.
The woman who arranges adoptions in South Africa hands me a pile of papers with a picture of our child on top. I crumple the miracle of our lives in my trembling hands. Her tender eyes look at me. Oh, how she does look like our child! I swallow, as if something is stuck in my throat, and I am amazed. The woman goes over the practical things pertaining to our trip, but I ignore it all. We have a child!
We had been waiting for this little girl for years. Prior to adoption, much paperwork and many discussions were needed. As future parents, we went to adoption counseling, where we had a year to discuss about our life together, childhood, youth, adulthood, and various turning points of life. A social worker became acquainted with our family. Her job was to write a home survey for the Board, who would then grant the adoption permit. Upon receiving permission, we started looking forward to getting our application sent to the country we had chosen. When the papers were sent, the waiting for our child began. It took almost ten months.
The adoption process is not long without reason. Rather, it is like a subconscious pregnancy. Many special questions surround adoptive parenthood. In time, the hearts of the future parents become prepared to love the new, upcoming family member. The years spent waiting seemed to be necessary for preparation. The slowly progressing journey taught us to trust and to live in the moment. Our child would be born to us just at the right time if God has meant us to be parents.
During the fifteen years of our marriage I had time to dream about children. I had been worried about both: the responsibilities of being a parent and that the responsibility would not be entrusted to me. In the end, I feel secure knowing that these things are not in our own hands. Although we did not have any children, being childless was not a big part of my identity. A believing spouse, extended family with many children, and the friends around us brought us joy and happiness. Studying and work life gave other meaningful dimensions to our lives. We were able to feel that life is good even without children – that feeling seemed like a gift.
However, I have not been able to completely avoid the feeling of being different in the community of believers. Every now and then it has hurt. I have not experienced motherhood, which would have made me an equal contributor when discussing about mother-related topics with other women. I have wanted to face my friends in other ways besides just as mothers. I think that each of us wants to be our own self. As women, wives, and friends with shared values, we have a lot in common.
When we started our own adoption journey some years ago, we found a large group of important people to make the journey with us. The existence of believing adoptive families has been an especially precious thing. People who have gone through the same stages to become parents and share similar experiences feel like a great gift. As we were departing for South Africa to get our little child, our beloved adoptive families gave us essential advice.
It is the sixth day of July in 2015 in Pretoria, the governmental capital of South Africa. The morning of our child’s birthday is crisp and translucent. The temperature is just above five degrees, a typical winter morning in South Africa. There are numerous thoughts and conflicting emotions in my mind: excitement, fear, joy, and warmth. The moment feels great and powerful.
The first meeting with our little girl is difficult to describe with words. We, still strangers to each other, are all nervous. The child is looking at us, as if asking what is happening. I feel emotions and conflicted feelings toward the child. A small defenseless child is given to us. I smooth the coarse hair of my child and whisper calmly. We sit on the couch and talk with the kind person who has been taking care of this child. The little one sits for the first time on her dad’s lap, studying her new parents and the environment with her sweet gaze.
We part from the caretaker of our child with heavy hearts. We are still going back to the orphanage. It is difficult to express gratitude in a foreign language, especially when the moment is filled with emotions. Fortunately, I am able to keep my emotions under control, as I do not want my child to get startled. A warm touch and a thank you, which contains so much, make everyone in the room emotional. We promise to love and take care of our child.
The first evenings as a mother are a roller coaster of the mind. My life has changed considerably: a process of years, the anxiousness of the last moments, and now a new life. The child is utterly sweet. It feels like she has always been a part of our family. Her childlike, complete trust in our care-taking amazes me. I feel happy but also uncertain. Do I know how to love like a mother? I remind myself about what we have learned throughout the process. All emotions are permitted. Love for a child is born by taking care of her. I decide to trust that all this is necessary and strengthens me as a mother of this child. At the same time, I admire the love my spouse has for our little one; it has been flowing so freely ever since we first met her. It makes me relieved and grateful, as if some of the responsibility has slipped from my shoulders. It is invaluable that there are two of us.
Our little one-year-old girl blends into our family effortlessly. I am so relieved and grateful for that. After about a week from our first meeting the adoption is confirmed at the courthouse near the child’s birthplace.
“Ihhahhaa, ihhahhaa.” Our home is filled with the singing of a curly-haired little girl. She asks to be held, snuggles in my lap, and jumps out only to climb back in again. Sometimes she challenges and opposes her parents as if to ask whether she is still accepted. Our one-year-old, the only child in the family, constantly wants attention and does her best to ensure that her parents’ time is reserved for her alone. If one of us mistakenly becomes immersed in some sort of secondary work, returning to what is most important will happen very quickly.
Blessing – the name our daughter was given by her biological mother, has become real in our everyday life. Now there is no longer need to think about the direction of our life. Being present to this child and to our family is most important. With a child, a lot of unnecessary things are cut out of our lives, which seems to be a blessing. During the last few months I have begun to understand how great a miracle this child is and what a treasure we as parents have received. The unconditional love of a child towards her parents amazes me everyday. A little child teaches her parents great things.
I received more years of growth into motherhood than an average mother. The growth as a mother for this child started from the moment I first saw a picture of her. As a mom, I have often paused to reflect how my relationship with my child has progressed during these past six months. Time has taught me where love comes from. Love has formed by caring and being present. It has gotten stronger day-by-day and in some funny way is comparable to the beginning of a marriage.
Responsibility grew by receiving a child, which also seems to be a blessing. We must consider our child now when making decisions. To have a child rooted in the kingdom of God, we should attend services. Even more than before, we consider our family’s values and the lifestyle and what kind of role models we are to our child.
Adoptive mothers have different questions than biological mothers. Do we as parents know how to ensure that our child gets as normal a childhood as possible in a country where she is different, a foreigner? Will I ever be able to compensate for the loss of basic security that my child has experienced? Do I treat her in a certain way just because she has been adopted?
In the evenings when my child is ready for sleep, her smooth cheek next to mine as I hum her lullaby, my mind is calmed. I want to trust that I will grow as a mother so that in each situation we face I will be good enough. We are at the beginning of our mutual story. We cannot know how large the stones are that we will carry on this path. I want to trust that God will bless our child’s life as He has blessed ours. Her path of life is in the hands of the Wisest and Highest.
It was not a coincidence that our daughter was born in South Africa. The whole process has been the work of the Creator from the beginning to the end. The adoption organization gifted our child with a Bible. On the cover page was written a familiar text: “Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them” (Ps. 139:16).
Translated from Äiti!, SRK 2016