As Jody Landers said, “A child born to another woman calls me mommy. The magnitude of that tragedy and the depth of that privilege are not lost on me.” Adoption is beautiful, but the truth is, under the beauty and joy there is also hurt. There’s a misconception that an unexpected pregnancy means that a child is unwanted, which is categorically untrue. Adoption is not an option created out of laziness or lack of love for a child; it is quite the opposite.

With our first son, we knew his mother loved him deeply. She was young, alone, and soon to be divorced. She was parenting two boys already and knew she wanted something different for her third son. She took exceptional care of him, but she knew, almost immediately, she could not parent him. Imagine how that must feel? Knowing what it’s like to raise children and love them so deeply, yet he’s not meant to be yours. She placed him in our arms healthy and absolutely perfect, while she mourned him deeply.  

We love her; we loved her nearly instantly, so we mourned with her. In hindsight, I know where we made mistakes, but we truly tried to do the best for her. Watching her pull away was completely understandable, but heartbreaking. We missed her, so to watch her heal was wonderful and a relief. She still loves him, deeply, but she knows he wasn’t meant to be hers. I cannot imagine all the emotions wrapped up in that simple statement.  

When our son was two, we were contacted to adopt a soon to be born baby boy. What a beautiful gift that was. When his mother changed her mind and decided to parent him, it broke our hearts. While we healed, there was a lot of deception, whether intended or not, it hurt and was very hard. It took a toll on us. It shook our trust, broke our hearts, and I sold everything. Gone. It took me three days to cry; once I did, I felt like the tears would never stop. I remember his birthday, I say a prayer for that precious boy every year, and I know he’s loved.

A while later we moved to foster care adoption. I have never cried so many tears as I have in the past three years. It is a necessary process, but it is heartbreaking in every single aspect. While reading the reports of what my child has endured in order to get to me, and what their parents have experienced and caused, the child never stood a chance against it. To see your child struggle to be loved, to the depth of their core. Shake in fear when asked to get dressed, and your mind reels with the thoughts of what might have happened to cause her to wet herself when asked to “come here.”

To watch your child pull away from you because while they returned to their biological parent for a “trial home visit” your child was mentally pushed about what she calls you. Repeatedly scolded for loving anyone besides her biological parent. Repeatedly told she doesn’t live in your home and isn’t allowed to miss you. While the bond was real and good before she left, you were another person who “left” her. How do you explain you never had a choice, and that you mourned every moment she was gone? You cried, fought, and were angry. You missed every part of her being.

Yes, there is grief and hurt. For all sides of the story. But the beauty of what can be. What love can conquer, it’s a beautiful thing. Besides, nothing worth doing is ever easy.

Karla King is a passionate open adoption advocate, adoptive mom, foster mom, wife, reader, avid creator of food, a stay-at-home mom, and Christian. She loves taking care of her family, supporting others on the adoption journey, and watching the world through her children’s eyes.