Friday, May 11, 2007


I've been stricken today with a culmination of somber thoughts that have been forming and developing for the past few years. I'm not sure I can do them all justice, but you would probably be wise to continue only if you have the fortitude to consider some emotional topics.

I'll start off with this observation: By the time Sydney was Peter's age she had been swaddled up by her birth mother, taken to a public place, and left all alone. Abandoned. In fact, the best guess by the orphanage was that she was only 2 weeks old at the time of her abandonment. You can look at some of the previously posted photos of Peter to get a feel for what that means in terms of her size and development.

It goes without saying that the thought of having to take either of my children somewhere anonymously and turn my back on them and leave, never to see them again is overwhelming by itself, and I cannot fathom the grief that would come from being forced into that by a system, whether governmental, familial, economic, whatever, that made it the only option. Yet there are countless women and families forced, by factors that they can't fight or change, to abandon their children, or worse.

While I can never claim to know what Sydney's birth mother was feeling or thinking when she left Sydney that morning in China, I know it can't have been easy. I can't know whether she was a single mother who could not keep her child for social or governmental reasons. I can't know whether she and her husband already had a child and could not afford the penalties levied on those who have more than one child. I can't know whether they were hoping to have a boy and were so concerned with having a son that they decided it was worthwhile to give up Sydney to try again. I can't know whether they hid the pregnancy from officials to avoid being coerced into aborting the pregnancy. I can't know any of this, but I can look at Sydney now and imagine the pain that follows that woman and her family as they think about what might have been and wonder where that little baby is now. I can imagine the second guessing, the doubt, the sorrow. I can pray that God's grace would be with that woman and her family. That they would seek out comfort in the only place it can be found, and that they will trust that He is watching out for that child. I can pray that someday we might all be together in God's presence and see and delight in God's providence for Sydney and for all of us.

Over the years we have read a number of articles that discuss the emotional and psychological ramifications of that early abandonment on children and the impact of being in an institutional setting where, for example, crying does not bring comfort or, for that matter, any response at all. Despite all the love and security that an adopted child can experience and the fact that there are no real memories of this abandonment, the experience deeply impacts the development and reactions of a child. And even those children who do not show clear symptoms in their development or early childhood will at some point have to grapple with the fact that they were abandoned by the very people who should have loved them and protected them from the cruelties of the world.

No matter the love showered upon these children by their adoptive families, how can that not reverberate throughout the rest of their lives? How, indeed, can their lives not be overshadowed by that abandonment forever? I've tried to put myself in Sydney's shoes, and in my heart of hearts, I have to recognize that I don't think I could cast off that shadow. I could hide from it, I could fight it, I could even throw myself into various diversions to distract from the pain it might cause, but I don't think I could be free of it. So where does that leave me? And where does it leave my daughter?

Providentially, where I hit my limits, God comes and carries me. Paul says "But he (God) said to me 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.'" (2 Corinthians 12:9). As I have considered this question and wrestled with its implications for Sydney, I have become convinced that the only way to live out from under the shadow of abandonment is to live in the shadow of the cross. God will never abandon his children (Hebrews 13:5 to cite just one). He has adopted us into his family and sealed us with an unbreakable seal (Ephesians 1:13 and 4:30. We can't break it ourselves, and neither can anything in this world that might try (Romans 8:35-39).

I don't know of any other comfort or promise that could overcome the magnitude of the grief of being abandoned, do you? This is not to say that a child or adult who is, to use the earlier phrase, "in the shadow of the cross" will not still feel the effects of abandonment, whether developmentally, emotionally, psychologically, etc. I'm not trying to use the salvation and adoption made possible by Christ's death as a "Get Out of Jail Free" card that will keep us from suffering in this world. Sydney may very well feel the heartache and loss of that abandonment. She may display symptoms of developmental short-circuiting as discussed in the article I linked to above. We might have obstacles to overcome and work through with her. The point, though, is that no matter what the future holds, we know it is not our love and security and protection that will allow Sydney to come to terms with her abandonment and be freed from the burden it places on her. For that we can grieve. But it is only in Christ's never failing love that she can find what she needs. For that we can rejoice and pray with all our hearts that she comes to know and love our great and loving God.


Natasha Griffin said...

I have been following your journal since the adoption of Sydney. My cousin was adopted from China a couple of years earlier so I am interested in other stories. I currently work with foster/adoptive children as a social worker. I too am adopted. I found a wonderful book that addresses some of these issues from the perspective of adoptive children. It's called 20 Things Adopted Children Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew. It is very accurate and put some things in my life/adoption experience into perspective. I was adopted by my grandparents and had a wonderful life, but my experiences with abandonment and such have definitly shaped who I am and the course of my life. If you would like to talk more about this, please feel free to email me.