[Updated for 2015]
November 21st is National Adoption Day, an effort to raise awareness of the more than 100,000 kids in foster care waiting for permanent, loving families, just in the USA. When I first wrote this in 2013, my parents were waiting to adopt a foster child they’d had for a few years. She is now the second adopted daughter in our family! Let me tell you about the first. Me.
“Mistake” is a terrible word.
While I was never in the foster care system, I am adopted. I am adopted because I was not planned, because my mother was young and unmarried. I was conceived by what many call a mistake, or a sin, an unwanted pregnancy. Yet, here I am.
My birth parents did not plan to be parents. From the moment it was known that I was beginning, I was undesired, and I could’ve been ended.
My young mother let me live and saw to it that I was adopted by a good family. Because of that, I consider her a hero. Once she was aware of me, none of what happened before matters. The moment she knew she was pregnant and what she did from that point on is, to me, separate from whatever mistake or sin you could say got her to that point.
Did she worry I would ruin her life? How did her parents react? What kind of shame and rejection she suffered, I don’t know. All I know is that she chose to keep me and give birth. What is even more awesome, she selflessly gave me to a family she knew she could trust.
She is the first person on this earth to believe in me, the possibilities of my future. I think of her as beautiful and strong-willed. She is a my champion. She may have made mistakes, but I wasn’t one of them. Naturally, I value my life, so you’ll forgive my arrogance in saying that, to me, I was the best decision she made at the time!
“Perfect” is a poor excuse.
Some might think that, in a perfect world, parents want and decide to be parents, and parents want what is best for their children. Perhaps that means parents want to protect their children from having to live with the mistakes they make, from having an imperfect life.
I am not a parent (yet), but I am a child. I never wanted to ruin someone’s life. I never wanted to be a burden or a consequence that someone should be protected from. I have only wanted to be loved. I wanted to belong. I wanted to be a source of pride and joy, not disappointment or anger. I was a child who needed a family and it never mattered if they were perfect.
I am the perfectly natural outcome of an imperfect intimate relationship. The fact that I was not expected, does not make me undesirable. The fact that my life was not intended, does not mean my life is meaningless. If “perfect” were to have been preserved, then I would be lost. We all would be lost.
The truth is there is no perfect world or perfect family. Not as you might define it. Life is messy. Mistakes are made. Even so, life can be beautiful. I am not a mistake. The 100,000 children waiting to be adopted are not a mistake. The only mistake is to be unwilling to give, unwilling to love. The real mistake is being unwilling to see beyond the bad decisions of the past to the incredible possibilities of a child’s future.
Reality isn’t hopeless.
Not all adoption stories are positive. Just because my situation turned out well, doesn’t mean that is the reality that others deal with or can expect. I know that, but I still have hope.
That is why I want to share my story, because it is positive, and good outcomes are possible. My adopted family, the folks I refer to as “mom and dad” are insanely giving, having cared for more foster children than I can count in the past 15 years. No joke, there are many people out there who look to my mother as their mother as well. The fact that this family raised me is no mistake. I was meant to be their child.
It is not realistic to expect you to adopt children or that you even should. As great as that would be, it isn’t the only thing you can do. Consider these things:
- Do you know any foster kids? Perhaps your child’s classmate? Be open to showing them some love. Chances are they need it and your kindness will go a long way.
- Don’t be quick to think poorly of pregnant teens. You don’t know what they are dealing with and your mistakes are no better than theirs. They need support, not judgement.
- Don’t be quick to think all unwanted pregnancies should be aborted. It is very possible for good things to come from bad situations. No life should be seen as a mistake.
- Don’t be quick to think poorly of children from broken homes. Regardless of where they came from, there is hope for their future if their community is willing to get involved.
- Do recognize the value of family, your family, and the gift of family, no matter how imperfect it may be. Any family where a child can flourish is a good family.