What a loaded title hey? 😉 This title evokes many things in all of us, if we’re honest. Expectations, hopes, dreams, desires, disappointments, fear and insecurity. When I was 15 and met Jesus for the first time, He showed me a picture in my mind’s eye of myself surrounded by children, none of whom looked like me. He was inviting me to look after them. At 18, frustrated about where my life was going & having fallen head over heels for the “wrong guy”, I asked Him if marriage was ever going to be a part of my future any time soon? He gave me Isaiah 54: “Sing, barren woman, you who never bore a child, burst into song, shout for joy, you who were never in labour, because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband,” says the Lord.” In this same chapter Isaiah goes on to say “For your Maker is your husband, the Lord Almighty is his name”.
“oh grrrreat!” I distinctly remember thinking! Eventually & somewhat reluctantly I surrendered my “right” to have my own children, in order to have the children He was going to give me (there were tears, haha). Despite laying down my desire to be married, I knew the children I would care for needed a father figure, and I still had a desire to be married. I had served in children’s homes that did not have a father figure & in my experience it didn’t seem to work. Although I knew I was called to parent vulnerable children, I never presumed that I would ever be married in order to do it… in retrospect, I was too scared to hope.
Cue Richie walks into my life. Upon hearing a friend’s words “you need to meet Richie… all he ever talks about are street children…” I had a sense that I could be on the verge of falling in love with this man. This happened imminently & we were married 14 months later 🙂 “Motherhood” then hit me like a brick square between the eyes at the age of 28. As a student nurse during my maternity placement, I’d written essays on breastfeeding, natural labour and birthing pools. Arriving home with our newborn Joseph after 10 days in hospital, I felt like motherhood was a conspiracy no-one had told me anything about. I proceeded to phone “La Leche” every day for at least 2 months, to ask them why my child was still not sleeping, despite my perpetual demand feeding. When they invited me to their Christmas work night out, I realised I had to stop phoning them. (Sorry Sarah!) At ante-natal class, I had been adamant that I was not going to have a caesarean section. After 3 days in hospital with no sign of baby, they sent me for an emergency section and I was ecstatic.. (at this point beginning to envision myself at the age of 50, with incredibly swollen ankles, & still pregnant!) In the end I would have let them chop my head off if it meant Joseph was finally going to be delivered. He was the most beautiful baby-boy-called-Joseph I had ever seen… Richie and I were smitten from the moment we first set eyes on him.
Breastfeeding was hard at the beginning but we got there eventually. When Reuben was born 2 years later (caesarean #2) I was such a pro at breastfeeding that every morning my husband & I awoke to a milk bed-bath scene… it was a sticky experience altogether, and not pleasant for either of us. Reuben thankfully didn’t seem to mind, which let’s face it, was all that mattered at that point. Reuben was the most beautiful baby-boy-called-Reuben I had ever seen. We all fell in love with him from day one.
Fast forward now to 2013… we have been living in South Africa for 10 days, with our now 5 and 2 year old boys. We are working with an NGO & get a call to bring 3 newborns home from hospital so that a loving family can adopt them. I set eyes on a 10 day old baby girl, fast asleep & my heart shouts at the top of it’s voice “THAT’S MY DAUGHTER!” with exactly the same level of ferociousness I had following the birth of my sons. Looking at her, I felt like a lioness about to pounce on anyone that could possibly bring harm to her. I had never felt like this about any of the other babies in our care before. I asked the meaning of her Sotho name. “Grace” came the answer. Grace is my middle name.. I felt peace fill my heart along with declarations that she would have a strong voice, that she would be a reconciler, that she would sing & speak out for those whose voices could not be heard. God was silently filling my heart with a fierce, fierce love that I could now recognise was for my daughter.
This was not at all convenient timing. In South Africa, you need to be living in the country at least 2 years before you can adopt a child. Having just arrived in South Africa 10 days ago, this was all happening very quickly. My amazing husband has a definite gift of governance & is very good at setting long term aims and objectives, (and not jumping into things quickly). I do not have this gift. “Richie’s going to say no,” I thought. I wept silently on the way home in the car… watching our beautiful, sleeping, peaceful child in the back seat. We asked God for families for each of the babies. Each of those 3 children have since been placed in families. Miraculously, 8 months later, this baby girl was placed into ours.
When we got home I told Richie “I know you’re going to say no… but…” (*tears*) He agreed to pray and to meet her. Richie fell in love with our daughter at first glance…She has been living with us for the last 6 months as our daughter & although it took God moving many mountains for her to be placed into our care.. she has now completed our family. I have heard adoptive parents saying “the love you have for a birth child and an adopted child, is different”. In our case I have not found this to be true. It’s the same love. Just as fierce, just as ferocious as that of a lion with his or her baby cub. “Heaven help ANYONE who gets in the way of this child receiving my love!“… is pretty much the general gist of things.
One of the things that has obviously been different, is the fact that our daughter doesn’t look like my husband or I on the surface. Or at least, that’s what I used to think. When she bonded with us, she opened my eyes to the fact that she can receive love from us, without any of the barriers that we as adults often see. She just sees love. I couldn’t breastfeed her (*I did try – expressed 1 ml – she was at this point drinking 600ml per day = fail*)… we had to try another way of allowing her to get skin to skin, which she had never before received & which does help with bonding. Taking showers together meant she could hear our heartbeat, get skin to skin & the water served as a great distraction so she could play with the jets instead of focusing on the “this is new & I’m not familiar with it” feeling which was previously causing her to push us away. Now, she loves skin to skin and often falls asleep on my chest, snuggling her head under my chin.. just like my boys who were breastfed used to do. Now, what we see when we look at this beautiful child, is that she looks very much like us. She has the same eye colour as Joseph & I. She has a squidgy tummy & tickly knees like me. Her eyes scrunch up the same as mine when she laughs and she absolutely adores food (like our entire extended family!) She also sings like her Daddy.
One of the things the word “motherhood” used to bring up in me, before our daughter arrived, was inadequacy. No matter how hard I tried I knew that I wasn’t going to be able to make the grade. I knew this deep in my heart and felt it keenly at gatherings such as “mother & toddler groups” (*shivers*), and around other parents I looked up to. When I looked around, I seemed to do parenting totally differently to anyone else. I hadn’t met any other parents of newborns who were fostering or planning to live in a place of safety in a foreign country with other people’s children. Mums often gravitate towards other mums who do things similarly to themselves. I haven’t met anyone who has done this journey the same way as me. This used to make me feel insecure, but then one day it hit me… a bit like a brick square between the eyes… we’re not meant to follow other Mums… we’re meant to follow Jesus. It’s never going to look the same for any two people. Nor should it.
Receiving our new beautiful baby daughter into our care at 8 months, was a whole new growth and expansion of love in my heart, but also a whole new level of insecure. Complete strangers have stared and shaken their heads at me in public. One asked “could you not have adopted a white child?” & yet another “do you think she even knows that she’s black?” I have had to draw a line in the sand & make the decision that other people’s opinions about me cannot affect me any more. “God, give me a thick skin and an open, tender heart” has been my prayer.
One of the things that has really set me free on this is the subject of comfort. Jesus comforts his disciples in John 14 by saying “do not let your hearts be troubled..” as he tells them he’ll be leaving them soon. He says “I’m sending you another comforter..” This other comforter was to be Holy Spirit. Comfort is often seen as something a child needs. When we grow up, we’re expected to “get on with it” & “be mature”. However, only in the place of weakness & humility can we acknowledge our need of comfort, love, and help. Then God can minister to our hearts. It’s His ministry to our hearts that enables growth & restores us. Receiving His comforting love comes when we acknowledge our need of Him.
2 Corinthians 1:3-4 says “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God…” Paul could have said “the God of all miracles”… but instead chose to say “the God of all comfort.” Paul had been a self-righteous murderer & here we have God revealing Himself to him as the comforter & compassionate Father. God’s comfort enables Paul to keep going, through ship-wreck, imprisonment, beatings, & stoning. When we are comforted by God we truly become strong, (even though it looks like weakness.) When we are weak and reach out to be comforted by our Father’s love, then His strength becomes our life.
Paul is saying here that we get to comfort others with the comfort that we ourselves receive from God. Jesus received comfort from His father in the garden of Gethsemane when He said “Father, take this cup of suffering from me”.. The Father sent Him an angel from heaven to strengthen Jesus. He was then able to pour out compassion upon those who put him on the cross…offering them the comfort of having been forgiven. When He comforts and loves us, He works through our own hearts, that we might minister healing to others.
If you, like me, need to know the comfort of God when it comes to parenting & indeed your very life.. then pray this with me:
Father, I need to know your solace & your ease from pain, discomfort & loneliness when it comes to my parenting of my children. I need to know your comfort. I want to open my heart to you now to know your love of me as your child, easing all insecurity and discomfort in my heart. Thankyou that I can bring my brokenness and need to you. As you love me in this moment, thankyou that you see who I really am & you love the person that you see. Let me know your embrace Father. Break through the toughness of “keeping it together” with your love. Thankyou that you know my need and that you know me. Thankyou that nothing can separate me or my family from your love, and that you don’t condemn me, but welcome me into your arms. Father, thankyou that I don’t need to be strong, but that I can be weak in your presence and know your endless strength. Thankyou that in every circumstance I can reach out and find your great love for me. Who the Son sets free is free indeed, so help me to be free to walk as the child of God and parent that I am, free from the expectations of others, with an open & tender heart. In Jesus’ name, amen.
🙂 feel better? 😉 x