By Maureen Francois, Benedictine College
Last year, I interned with an adoption-centered non-profit. Throughout my internship, I learned a lot of things about adoption, and came to better appreciate the ways that God works through adoption to teach us about Himself. For so many reasons, adoption is a beautiful continuation of the Image of God in the family.
From the day a parent meets their baby, they are overwhelmed with the preciousness of the child. Life is so fragile, so valuable, so meek, and such an incredible blessing. Among all the joy, every parent can tell you about the anxiety that they carry when bringing their son or daughter home. Is the baby okay? What if we do something wrong? Is he sleeping enough? Is he sleeping too much? Is he eating well? We’re not perfect–what if we mess something up? What if our kid turns out terribly? All these things go through your head when you bring home a baby, whether you birthed him or adopted him. When a baby has been placed with you for adoption, it reflects that somebody else trusts you with their baby. They know you are only human, and that you will at times make mistakes, just like everyone else. But despite your imperfections, they have chosen you to be the mom and dad of their baby. This brings to mind how God sent His only Son as a little baby, and placed Him in the hands of sinners. He knew we would mess up, but He still chose to give us His Son. Our humble receptivity of the Christ Child is reflected in a raw and real way when we are chosen to be the parents to a child.
Something I have said a lot as an adoption advocate is that we don’t adopt so that we can have kids. We adopt so that kids can have us. Anyone who has woken up at 3 am to change a diaper or feed a baby will tell you that parenting is not something you do for yourself. Every part of parenting is an act of love for someone else. By opening your home to a child, you are giving of yourself for them. By serving their needs, and being a self-gift, adoptive parents image the self-sacrificial love of Christ.
The most inspirational and loving people I have known in the adoption field are foster families. These parents have ceaselessly stood by the sides of children, loved them, cared for them, and parented them through every uncertainty. With or without knowledge of how long the child will be with them, they continue to give of themselves for him. The movie Instant Family explains a common situation of a foster couple facing the unknown: will their kids be with them forever, or will they go back to their birthmother in a week? Is reunification the best thing for them? What will happen? A friend explains to them that the feelings of frustration, rejection, confusion, and anxiety are all feelings that the kids have carried for their whole lives. They also are left to wonder what will happen, who they will live with next month, and whether they will be safe and cared for. Although the parents cannot find immediate answers for their children’s case, they can at least carry their cross with them. They do not have much control, but they are still able to give the kids the stability they need, even temporarily. This is how love grows. Pope St. John Paul II called suffering the “touchstone of love”, meaning that it measures the purity of love. To love someone is to suffer with them, and through suffering, more love grows. When they leave your house for the last time, you may not be able to see them graduate high school or college, or land their first job, or start their family. There may not be many rewards for you. But suffering with a child for their own sake is the most pure form of love. Being there for them when no one else is, and giving them a father and a mother, is a way we can respect their human dignity in the face of abandonment and abuse.
My final note of reflection is how the aspect of being chosen in baptism is reflected in adoption. By baptism, we become daughters and sons of the Father by grace of adoption. God wants to be our Abba, so He gave us the sacraments to bring us into His ever-growing family. When we welcome a new child into our home, making them our son or daughter, we give them a glimpse of the life that their Father in Heaven wants for them.