I have written, deleted, and rewritten this article more times than I can count. I usually do not have trouble with words. Anyone who knows me knows I can take the longest way to tell a story. But for some reason, I was just having a hard time with this one. If you haven’t noticed, the title of this article is, “What Is the Greatest Joy of Adoption?” I should have no problem writing this article. I wouldn’t be a mom had it not been for the gift of adoption. Then why the trouble? I think it is because if you have been impacted by the gift of adoption, you know it is indescribable. Not to mention that there is not only one great joy; there are many great joys about adoption.
What comes to mind when you think of the word joy? Maybe it is happiness. Maybe it is pleasure. Maybe it is a feeling. Maybe it is a song, like Joy to the World to be particular. Maybe it is a movie. Maybe it is excitement. Maybe it is something unexplainable. Maybe you think the dictionary definition, “a feeling of great pleasure and happiness.”
What comes to mind when you think about adoption? Maybe you too think happiness, children, pleasure, joy, excitement, or something unexplainable. Maybe you think about all the children who need loving homes. Maybe you think of loss. Maybe you think of a movie. Maybe you think of a song. Maybe you think the dictionary definition, “the action or fact of legally taking another’s child and bringing it up as one’s own, or the fact of being adopted.”
Then what is the greatest joy of adoption? What gives you a feeling of great pleasure and happiness about the gift of adoption? Just as there can be many different definitions of the words above, I think there are several aspects of adoption that are joyful. Here are a few of my favorites!
It Made Me a Mom
First and foremost, it made me a mom. I waited almost six years to become a mom. Like many of you, it was after devastating loss, heartbreak, and fear that I was blessed with another woman’s child that I get to call my own. Many parents turn to adoption after struggling with the inability to conceive children naturally, or some form of infertility. First, let me tell you, there is nothing wrong with you or wrong with the fact that this is the path your life has taken. Everyone’s life has a path and had it not been for my path, I wouldn’t have met my son’s biological mom or my son. Count it as a blessing. Don’t let others’ negative comments or perceptions make you think you are anything less than what you are meant to be!
The pure amount of joy I get from simply being a mom is unexplainable. I didn’t know what I would feel or what I would love most about being a mom before I became a mom. Who really does know anything before they experience it? My favorite part? It is simply being a mom. I have experienced a kind of love that I never thought I would. I have experienced a kind of love you cannot find a definition for. It is a feeling of completeness. It is a feeling that you cannot explain to someone who hasn’t experienced it. Is it hard being a mom? You bet it is. But is it worth it? It sure is.
I never knew watching someone grow would bring as much joy as it does. It started when he was a baby, watching him learn to eat, sit up, crawl, walk, talk, and the list goes on and on. As he got older, the growing changed. It was developing a language. It was seeing a personality develop. I seem to find great joy in just watching him grow and develop. I try to not think too much about what the next stage or phase of life will bring and enjoy the little moments we have together, whether it be picking him up from school, reading books to him, or just making a project with him. I try to remember that the days of him being little, or even the fact that he likes his mom, are probably very limited. Some days may seem long but the years fly by. Embrace them. Enjoy the joy!
It is a Gift
It is a gift. In fact, it is the greatest gift I have ever received. If we go back to literal definitions, a gift is “a thing given willingly to someone without payment; a present.” Our son’s birth mom willingly and voluntarily gifted her son to us. I know that sounds odd when we are talking about another human being, but she wasn’t forced to do it. She didn’t have to do it. We didn’t pay her to. She did it out of the most sincere love she has for her child. That concept, four years later, still blows my mind. Have you ever read the quote, “A child born to another woman calls me mommy. The magnitude of that tragedy and the depth of that privilege is not lost on me,” from Jody Landers? I could not have said it better myself. Adoption is much like a double-sided coin; it made me a mom, but it also took a child away from his birth mom. I never want the magnitude of that concept to fade. I never want to forget how I became a mom.
He is a gift, given to us by another woman; we are entrusted with her precious baby to be the best parents we can be for him. I don’t ever want to take him for granted. I, like every other parent out there, totally miss the mark some days. However, I try to remember the best that I can and the most that I can that he is a gift. He is priceless. I need to be thankful for him every day, even when I am cleaning up spilled milk for the third time today. Someone out there wishes they were cleaning up spilled milk, changing diapers, reading to a baby, doing laundry, making sure homework is done, and doing the never-ending to-do list of parenting. Try to remember that the next time you are cleaning up Legos off the floor. There is a woman, a man, a family, out there yearning for the chance to do just that.
It’s not about me
The greatest joy of adoption has nothing to do with me, my husband, our family, or our son’s birth family. It has everything to do with him, the child. The greatest joy of adoption is the child. Yes, the child I never thought I would have has now become my greatest joy and is the greatest joy. Have you ever seen a child on Christmas morning or his birthday? Their faces light up and the pure expression of joy and excitement on their faces is priceless. I live for these moments. I live for the moments our son expresses such joy and excitement. It can be in the little things, like when he wants to tell us about his day at school or he is so excited to show us a new project he has made.
We recently started listening to the song, “Joy,” by For King and Country. If you haven’t ever listened to it, I highly suggest you do. The music is contagious and they shout JOY throughout the whole song. We listen to the song regularly on the way to school. Our son shouts joy just as loud, if not louder than they do in the song. It brings me just as much joy to hear him sing that song with so much enthusiasm and excitement as it does to him when he sings it. Think about how much better his day at school must be knowing he has started his day with so much happiness and joy! If only we could all start our days like that! Think about how much happier our world might be!
Expanded our family
Like many other things in my life, I had an idea in my head of what our adoption was going to look like. Well, it doesn’t look anything like I had imagined. In fact, it is pretty much the complete opposite of what I thought I wanted. The agency we went through only offered open adoption. At first, I thought no way. I didn’t want to have an open adoption. It would feel too weird. What if the birth mom wanted too much control or say in the way we parented? I wanted nothing to do with it. The more we researched open adoption and what it meant and what it would mean to our child, the more open I got to the idea of having an open adoption.
Now, we have an incredible relationship with our son’s birth mom. She is amazing, and I consider her a friend. Our families have gotten together, even before our son was born. We have spent weekends camping together. We have spent holidays together, celebrating as a family. We have vacationed with them. They are a part of our family and we are a part of their family. I didn’t think I wanted this kind of relationship, but now that I have it, I couldn’t imagine it any other way. It brings me great joy knowing our son will have a connection to his birth family. He won’t have to go out and search for them or answers. He will have them readily available. Right now he is too young to understand the family dynamics, but I hope when he is older he will realize just how beautiful it is.
But the most precious joy of all is the unexplainable feeling it is to finally be a family. To finally be able to say you are a mom or a dad. To finally be able to send those birth announcements. To finally be able to have birthday parties and invite both of our families to them. To finally be able to celebrate Christmas as a family. For any of you who have experienced any kind of infertility issues only to then be blessed by the gift of adoption, you know what I am talking about. You know that feeling you just can’t find a word in the English dictionary to describe the feeling you feel.
I have always said that adoptive parents love their children differently than parents who have children naturally. This topic has sparked many conversations and debates amongst my family and friends. I don’t mean that if you have adopted children and biological children, you love them differently. I mean, we, the parents who have never given natural birth to a child, love our children differently than someone who has naturally given birth to their children, partially because so many of us have waited so long to become parents. We yearned for the day that someone would utter the word “mom” or we would finally receive the call that we were matched with a birth mom. Those feelings I am sure compare in a way to finding out you are pregnant, but in their own way, they stand alone. They mean years of waiting disappear. They mean an answer to a long-awaited prayer. They mean finally being able to call yourself a true family. They mean you finally experience the joys of parenting. You finally get to know what it feels to be loved by a child. I don’t know about any of you, but that feeling, the feeling of having a child look into your eyes and tell you that they love you, that feeling is unexplainable and unmeasurable. It simply is joy.
What is the greatest joy of adoption? The simple fact that it made someone out there a mom, a dad, or a family! It made me a mom, my husband a dad, and our family of two a family of three!
Jessica Heesch is an avid runner and fitness guru by choice, occasional writer by coincidence, loved by an amazing husband, and mother to an incredible boy, Jackson, by the gift of adoption.