Six months ago we stood before a judge and legally finalized Mason’s adoption. It was one of the best days of our lives and we are so grateful we were granted forever with him. It was a two year process leading up to his adoption, with lots of ups and downs within his foster care case. It’s no secret foster parenting can take a toll on someone, and an adoption finalization is most definitely cause for celebration. But, many people forget that a finalization doesn’t mean the hard work is over. In fact, it’s just beginning.
Mason came to us when he was seven weeks old. Most of us would consider him a newborn at that age, especially with him being almost seven weeks premature. Because he came to us just shy of two weeks out of the hospital, the common misconception would be that his “trauma” was minimal, because we are all he knows as parents. This is false. While yes, he doesn’t carrying the scars that older children have from living in the foster care system, he still experienced more trauma than any child should ever have. Any child, regardless of age, who is separated from their birth mother, experiences trauma. Zach and I’ve decided not to share Mason’s story fully because it’s not ours to tell so I won’t be giving any details. But I hope through what I do share, more people become aware that trauma can be experienced as early as in utero. This means that there are more kiddos affected by trauma than we acknowledge, and more people need to be familiar with how to love and serve kids from hard places. I know in our future, teachers, coaches, and peers of Mason will assume being adopted doesn’t affect him because he was so young when it all took place. But that false perception could hurt his development. We are surrounded by family and a community who understand childhood trauma and adoption, and are desperate to learn more. I am eternally grateful for that and pray more people in society take that posture.
For us personally, Mason is still fairly young so his processing journey isn’t as obvious to the outside world. However, there are many things Zach and I are working through with him even at the age of two and a half, that stem from his beginnings. Not only are we doing our best to help him overcome some of his obstacles, but we also recognize that we need to react differently to certain behaviors. Many think our method of parent is too gracious, but our first primary goal of all correction is to continually build connection with him. His identity as a child has an additional layer to it because of his adoption and we do our best to make parenting decisions with that in mind. In addition to a different approach in parenting, we are constantly educating ourselves on how to discuss adoption with him even now, and help him stay familiar with his birth family and heritage.
I’ve said this before, but adoption cannot occur without loss. Adoption is God’s way of taking what’s meant for brokenness and covering it with restoration and grace, and for that I am eternally grateful. It can be beautiful. We were adopted into God’s family and so now we get to mirror that here on Earth. But because adoption comes from loss, it is the job of any adoptive parent to consistently remember that and work hard to honor their child’s processing journey.
In the past six months we have had some of our best times as a family and some of our hardest moments. Watching Liam and Mason play together and be brothers makes my heart swell. It has been a gift to watch them develop their sibling relationship and I would be lying if I didn’t also say there is a peace now, knowing Liam won’t lose his best friend. I watch Mason play with friends and love going to Sunday school and I thank God He had his hand over his life from the very beginning and chose us to be his parents. To “feel normal” – without worker meetings, restrictions on photos or paperwork has selfishly felt wonderful. It’s been a season full of gratitude as the four of us have bonded. And yet, our family won’t ever be normal by society standards. We are not just a biological family. Yes we have parents and children, but we also have our child’s biological family as well, blending different ethnicities and cultures. And we are passionate about not forgetting the uniqueness and beauty of our family because it forces us to live a life outside of our “normal family” bubble, and points onlookers to the King and His design for people. If I’m honest there are days where I wish I didn’t have to share the title of mom with another, or watch Mason struggle in certain areas. But I remember it’s moments like these that most connect me to my Heavenly Father; relying on Him to sustain me and help me make sense of the beautiful mess. Not a day goes by that we regret saying yes to this journey, and we know God is not finished molding our unconventional family yet.
photos by Jessica Susana