What if it’s a battle–this struggle to bond fully with my adoptive children? Two years after bringing them home from Ethiopia, mournful thoughts of pre-five children still attack my mind. A moment of all is well, followed by hot flashes of frustration and questioning.
Bringing adopted children home seems battle enough. The paperwork, the waiting, the returned paperwork with letter attached—“re-do”. And, if all this isn’t painful enough, suddenly rules change mid-way in an already stacked-against-you process. The courts decrease the number of cases they’ll see. The legitimacy of a child’s orphan status is questioned. Another agency, from another country circumvents the system, causing all waiting families and children to wait longer.
When we were adopting, these things were seen as obvious battles to fight. Spiritual warfare for the Christian. A call to gird loins and bear arms. We held prayer vigils, quoted Scripture, had virtual breakfast together. We prayed for referral dates, court dates and travel dates, praying against the schemes of the enemy and for God’s will to be done. I was energized. The opposition was obvious. Satan hates unity. He hates outward expressions of God’s adoption of us. Certainly he was in the details of any potential derailment.
However, the other side of adoption, the “forever family” side, seems suspiciously akin to post pregnancy– so much focus on planning, preparing and dreaming of the moment; so little understanding of reality. When you’re pregnant, no one explains in detail hemorrhoids, itchy stitches, rock-hard engorged breasts, cracked nipples and staff infections. No one points out the back fat you failed to notice while your belly was growing in front of you or the 12 month zombie state in which you would perpetually live, once sweet baby emerges from your inners now wreaking havoc on your outers. In adoption world, much ado is made of getting baby (or children) in your arms. Other than your social worker (ours was great, by the way), who does the best she can to prepare you for possible issues, most bonding talk is focused on getting baby (or child) to bond with you—not the other way around. And, in all honesty, if there was much emphasis on the later, would I have heard it?
If the enemy worked so desperately to keep my children separated from our family, what makes me think the war is over once they’re home? In fact, for all the intensity I felt in the pre-travel stages of adoption, I had no idea the sheer unleashing of angry wrath I would encounter on the other side–this bonding side.
What makes this post-adoption battle so insidious? The answer is not easily understood, which is part of its genius (if you’re the enemy). First, not everyone experiences struggle with bonding. In fact, from my perspective, the strugglers are the minority—which, I think, is part of the lie. Are we really in the minority or just too guilty and scared to speak up? Feelings of aloneness pervade. Score for the bad guy.
Second, struggles with bonding strikes at the core of motherhood. Women are gifted with a special ability to nurture, feel and act on compassion. Mothers are relational. They see into the heart of their children straight through to the soul—good and bad. When a mother looks at her child and none of those instinctive mother traits arise, the world turns black. Lights go out. Fear grips tightly. The odds are stacking against her. Score two.
Finally, and maybe most difficult to keep unraveled, is the cunning way Satan twists resources of help into instruments of harm. Everything is turned to a science. Bonding becomes something to be conquered–the quicker the better. Time is of the essence. Chapter after chapter, book after book is written with advice, anecdotes and ultimate stories of complete and total bonding. While these resources are intended for good, somehow the enemy whispers lies (quite easily, I might add); “But, you aren’t that good. You won’t have such luck. Your struggle is not normal—there’s something wrong with you. Their situation was different. Their children were more receptive. See, that woman says she feels the same for both birth and adopted children—too bad for you,” and on it goes.
I’ve spent most days battling the wrong person. Rather than aim arrow at the Evil One, I wage war against myself. Some sad thought pops into my mind, and I entertain it. Then I feel guilt over it. I will myself to think something more positive, but the scab is already scratched open bleeding and oozing infection of self-loathing mingled with self-centered whining.
But, what if I were able to see the true nature of the beast against bonding. In Jon and Stasi Eldredge’s book, Captivating, they explain a special hatred Satan has for woman. “She is the incarnation of the Beauty of God,” they write. “More than anything else in all creation, she embodies the glory of God. She allures the world to God. He [Satan] hates it with a jealousy we can only imagine.”
So, what if my unique nurture love is more powerful than fathomed and that’s why the battle rages this wickedly? If this is true—which I believe it is—then how do I keep the proper perspective? How do I stay in the fight? I know the Scripture; take up my sword of the Spirit that is the Word of God. I could make it an outward act—memorize, pray the words—spitting them back. Memorizing is good, but not if it stays on the surface. God begs for more and frankly the battle cannot be won from the front only. I must learn to sneak from behind. Open the door to God’s overwhelming love for me, letting His truths drip upon my children. Bask in His total acceptance. Become a clay pot with holes, emitting light-love onto those in my daily presence.
Be filled. Be tipped. Be emptied. And remember the enemy. Not focused on him, but not deceived, either. He’s real, he hates what I have to offer and he’s working overtime to thwart God-transforming love to those God has given me.
And finally, find support. “Where there are two or three in my name, there I am,” says the Lord. “The prayers of the righteous, avails much,” reminds James. I’ve never seen a battle played out one soldier against thousands. How ridiculous. Yet, that’s how I’ve battled these past two years. Mostly alone. An occasional purging with trusted friend—maybe more whining that fighting. But real, authentic, united battle with other like-minded sisters? Hardly.
God bring me strength, perseverance and fellow warriors for the battle. Amen.