Today’s adoption post is brought to you by Kim Van Brunt. Enjoy!
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“When you are behaving as if you loved someone you will presently come to love him.”
It was only 20 minutes after setting foot in Africa for the first time that I felt it. We had purchased our visas, gathered our suitcases and were rolling them smooth toward the clear glass partition, hearts beating wild, knees buckling. I hadn’t seen you yet. Somewhere in that mass of beautiful dark faces was one that already belonged to us. Our son was waiting.
I wanted to run away.
Fear screamed at me to get out of there, to return home to safe, familiar, known. Anxiety tugged at my jacket sleeve, saying I could just close my eyes and turn around, make it all go away. It was my last chance.
It can’t be even a second later and you’re in my arms, a little thing for 8 months old, such a solemn expression. Your life’s experience is showing on your face. You’re confused, wary, quiet.
I look into your eyes and you look into mine. Finally.
I say hello, but to a stranger.
You feel like someone else’s child.
You don’t know me, and I don’t love you.
Now my heart is pounding again, unbridled fear has come roaring back and threatens to pull me completely under this time. This is supposed to be your child, Shame sneers. Where is the miracle? Where is the love?
I turn my heart upside down trying to find the right emotion, desperate to feel what I thought I was supposed to feel, and all the time I’m hoping it doesn’t show on my face. I’m in the moment but outside it, I can’t believe it’s happening like this, I don’t know what we’ve done anymore, or why.
The photos of the moment show me beaming, couldn’t-be-happier, and if you squint a little, you can even believe it’s love at first sight. They look every bit like the “gotcha day” photos and videos I watched over and over before it was our turn. They represent everything I believed to be true and wasn’t. Not for me.
And though at the time I felt like a fraud and a failure, now I see I was doing it exactly right.
Over the next days and months when I was learning to love our son, I acted as if I already did.
When he cried and screamed and pushed me away in grief, I acted like I felt patient and kind.
Though it felt like he was someone else’s child, I acted as if he was mine.
Now I know that it wasn’t dishonest. It was faith. Believing in what I could not see, trusting in what I did not feel. I was living in the hope that my heart would grow into a love I couldn’t conceive.
Months later, I had had already repeated the actions of love maybe a thousand times when it happened, right in the middle of the most mundane moment.
I was tucking my son’s blanket around him at bedtime, just the way he likes it. I straightened up beside his crib and for no reason, my heart spoke the truth I’d been seeking: I love this boy. He is my son, and I can feel it now, finally, all the way down to my bones.
Faith had become sight. That was the true miracle, and I had been practicing it all along.
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Kim Van Brunt is a writer, mother, wife and world-changer. She lives in Minnesota with her husband and three children and is working on her first book, which will be about adoption and the hidden emotions adoptive parents experience. Find her on Twitter @kimvanbrunt or Facebook at facebook.com/kimvanbrunt. She blogs about faith, family and adoption at kimvanbrunt.com.
If you’d like to submit a post telling the story of a poignant moment that occurred during adoption or foster care, please email your 500-word submission to email@example.com. Thanks!
Prior adoption and foster care posts include:
Checking ‘Yes’ to Everything: Adoption Stories With Sonya Judkins
Because Someone Has To: Adoption Stories With Shar Halvorsen
Momma For a Moment: A Foster Care Story, With Tamara Out Loud
11 Replies to “I Saw Our New Son and the Voice Said, “Run Away!” – Adoption Stories with Kim Van Brunt”
Ok. I’ll be honest. I have avoided this series. True. My life as a mom is messy right now and hard. I did not feel like I had the emotional fortitude to plunge into other people’s parenting pain, too. I am so blessed that I read this. I have not adopted a child, but I know this feeling. My teenager and I are at odds now; she is pulling me close then pushing me away. In my mind, I know these are important steps for her. In my heart, it hurts, and it is hard, and I am confused. Right now, I feel like a failure. I hope I can say I am doing it exactly right, someday. When she pushes and pulls, I will remember your words; I will act patient and kind, though it is distinctly the opposite of how I feel. Thank you.
Thank you, Jen — you helped me see it in a new way, too. In whatever relationships we have, in the challenges we face inside ourselves, this practice can be life-giving and keep us going in the right direction. When I’m filled with self-hate, I will treat my body as if I love and admire it already. When I feel disconnected from my husband, I will draw closer to him. When I’m frustrated with my kids and overtired (hello, today), I will act patient and sow love.
When I feel like God is absent, I will lean into him and imagine I’m wrapped in his arms.
Thank you for making this connection. Actions can help us feel out our faith before we know it fully.
What a beautiful story! Your honesty and vulnerability are touching…
Thank you for the kind words, Denise!
I wrote to you days after we came home from Rwanda with our 3 year old son. I cried… sobbed as I wrote about how depressed and sad I was. The thoughts I was having were unreal and in my mind I just kept thinking “what have I done?”. I so very much appreciated that you responded to my message, giving me words of hope and encouragement. I have wonderful friends who, to my surprise, have been understanding and supportive when I’ve opened up to them. I got up the nerve to go to counseling and the counselor felt the depression was bad enough to recommend medication. Now, 2 months have passed and my head is finally above water, most days. I’m not hiding in the laundry room crying anymore and I’m starting to feel a connection to my son… a very fragile connection, but still, a connection. My 8 year old biological son (who has also been struggling with the adjustment) even admitted last week that he was actually starting to like his new brother. Daily I have been going on the “fake it till you make it” premise. And I think that is the most practical pieces of wisdom I have received in this process. Thank you for all your writing and I am so excited to hear about your book—so very necessary! Thank you so much for you kind words when I was feeling so low–you have been a blessing to me.
The most beautiful description of faith that I’ve ever heard.
Thanks for sharing your heart and for giving us a wonderful insight into love and faith.
I am a 28 year-old single girl living with my parents…and nowhere near adoption. But this post spoke to my heart. Oh, thank-you.
I am living this. Right now. Today. Thank you for your words. They give me hope.
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