My children hate mushrooms. They gag and heave just thinking about mushrooms. They pray against mushrooms.
I find mushrooms delicious. If you’ve ever met me, it wouldn’t be a big surprise. I’m a lover of food. I’ll eat anything, really, and probably enjoy it. Except for one thing: I hate eating my words.
Like the sourness of words said in ignorance. When I learn what I spoke, about what I thought, wasn’t based on a big enough picture or all (if even any) of the actual information.
Even worse, I hate eating through the scorching heat of careless words. The ones which make my neck and ears burn, my head throb, and my eyes sting.
The words I detest the most, making me gag before I even see the plate—which usually come chilled, on fine china, and often with an audience—are the self-righteous ones.
I sat in the kitchen and listened to the adoption story. The one where the parents we hardly knew said No before they said Yes. We were hearing the story many times removed. It wasn’t personal. It was all casual and comfortable, around the table talk. The place to speak freely among people you love.
Why did they say No first?
It was more than they could handle.
What does that mean?
They wanted a healthier child.
Just think of the blessing they could be missing out on—maybe the blessing GOD wanted for them, handpicked for them, even—by saying No!
(I’m not the only one who thinks horrible pious judgmental things like this, am I? Or is it that some other people might have these thoughts, but they know better than to say them out loud and give them a place to sit at the table?)
When adoption was in my heart, but before I knew it was to be part of our story, and because I’m often impulsive and passionate and speak before thinking, I put my thoughts into words and gave them voice.
Months later, still uneasy over the situation that had nothing to do with me, I relayed the story to a wise friend—the kind of woman who probably has the urge to pat me on the head every once in awhile and say, “You have so much to learn, little feisty one.”
Instead, she said, “Until you’ve had to make those choices… and not just walk in their shoes—but know what it feels like to live in their shoes, you will never understand how heartbreaking it must have been for them to say No. Do you realize, it would have been worse for them to say Yes to something they couldn’t handle? Don’t judge them or their decision.”
How do stories in our lives weave together? How does the life of a third hand acquaintance intersect with mine after all this time? How do words spoken, not carelessly, but without empathy or understanding, and seasoned with a heavy sprinkle of pharisaic salt, find themselves on your plate five years later, while you’re filling out your own adoption paperwork?
The same week you are the one answering Yes and No to conditions and syndromes and unknowns, considering what you have and what you want, praying with a willingness while praying for discernment, those words drift back to you from your past.
“This is emotional for me,” I tell my husband. I repeat those words to the family coordinator and later to the social worker. Picking. Choosing. Yeses and Nos. Can I write Maybe? What are we open to? What are we not?
With the children born of our bodies, don’t we pray for health? Don’t we know, at some level, it’s out of our hands—so much of it done before we realize a life is even growing inside us—yet we continue to pray and hope and check and prepare.
But with adoption? The weight of what is out of our hands, from the start, is already overwhelming.
And to be honest, yes, I’ve thought about the judgments of others. Just like the ones I make…like the specific one I made all those years ago. I can’t help but wonder what you’ll think of us. For what we’ve said No to, even more, to what we’ve said Yes.
I wont blame you for your judgments, because I do think they come from an honest place. But maybe that’s a naive perception of where I thought I was, and am?
What I’m learning in this process, which reflects what I’m leaning in these recent years, is that I cannot be responsible for what others may think. I cannot measure possible opinions into our actual decisions.
Not that I don’t care, but I can be free from caring.
We’re in the final stages of our paperwork. Much of what comes next is out of our hands; it’s a matter of timing and waiting. Who processes which papers at what speed and which child is waiting when all of that happens. But we will still pray and hope and prepare.
We talk about the adoption pretty regularly at home now, as it happens with a pregnancy, after the period of time passes when it doesn’t seem real. We tell the kids there will be a lot of waiting. And we’ve talked how it will be hard in the beginning. There will be a lot of adjusting for everyone, and for a good long while after that. There’s so much we don’t know.
“Still, I’m excited,” my son says the other night. Two other “Me Too’s” chime in over their dinner plates.
(A dinner without a mushroom in sight.)
Thank you for reading!
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