Recently, when sitting in the brown recliner upstairs, my thoughts wandered to a day about three years before when my cell phone rang with the results of a DNA paternity test that would forever affect our family’s life. I find it hard to sit in that chair without thinking of the day when my husband called, crying and struggling to relay the conversation he just had with our adoption lawyer.
As I sat rocking my then five-week-old child and trying desperately to pass the time until my phone rang, I frantically wondered if my youngest son would continue to be mine. My self-protection reflexes were on overdrive that week before as I waited and doubted. To make the suspense slightly more palatable, I busied myself with making a list of all the important details his biological mother would need to know to make the transition of care easier when the time came to say goodbye. I was detaching emotionally from the child entrusted to me since the day of his birth, second guessing our decision ever to adopt in the first place. We were living the Lifetime TV premier nightmare that adoptive parents all fear. Many people had curiously and cautiously asked me a question like, “When is the baby really yours?” Or, “How long until the mother/father can’t change her/his mind?”
I could see the doubt in other people’s eyes that reflected my own. Do I just pretend to be a mother until my child’s finalization court date? The bond must be different and inadequate because, after all, this child is not my flesh and blood. “Why did I risk this again?” I questioned myself. I resented being exposed for how I had been viewing myself since beginning treatment for infertility years before. “Pseudo mom, pseudo woman,” came a jeer from deep within that I still struggle to conjure up an adequate answer.
Reflecting on that phone call three years ago, sitting in that brown recliner with a baby I knew couldn’t really be mine, I considered that on top of the obvious pain of losing a child I already loved was a battle for my identity. The majority of åmy life, I had defined myself in ways that were more or less attainable or at least had more forgivable margins of success. Because of this, I hadn’t experienced the same quality of pain that was facing me now. Being a mother is simplistically defined as having children and I felt my qualifications being picked apart. The hurt that resulted seemed to tap into a vein with a more direct access to my core identity and made me regret the risk that we had taken to adopt.
In stark contrast to the odds we were given, the results of the paternity test were in our favor and the adoption was finalized a few weeks later. I know life does not always have a happy ending. Risk does not always equal gain. Exposure does not guarantee acceptance. I was hopeful that our miraculous experience three years ago would have magically infused me with new courage and inspiration that would spill over into the rest of my approach to life. However, the reality of how we nearly lost him has not faded like I expected. The court confirmed that I am a mother for the second time but my doubt of who I am in Christ remains.
I am scared to go through the adoption process again. I still fear being exposed as inadequate and unworthy. That pit in my stomach, that potential for heartache, it is more than I want to face. We may or may not adopt again but I pray the decision we come to will not be made out of fear. As the truth of the gospel begins to grip me more and more, I know risking exposure will become less and less nauseating. The very essence of the gospel diverts the focus from me to Christ, and his identity is impeccable.