love [minus biology]

There is a day we are born into the world. There is a day we are born into a family. For many of us, this day is the same. For some, it is different.

Our son, Warren, was born into the world on November 21, 2010. He was born into our family one year ago today, July 2, 2012. Today we celebrate his 1st birthday in our family.

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This was the scene, one year ago, when we left our hotel room in Zheng Zhou, China to go meet our son. It was like the long corridor of a labor and delivery unit in a hospital. There were ten other American families staying in our hotel, all expecting the birth of their children that day. The hotel was preparing for us to bring our babies home from the public affairs office that afternoon. Our babies ranged between the ages of 18 months and 8 years old, but for us, it was as if they were being born for the first time.

At breakfast that morning I spoke with some of the other adoptive moms. Many of them were returning to China for their second or third time. I asked them what to expect as we all gathered together to meet our children. They said “chaos…It is chaos.”

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Imagine a delivery room. Bright white surgical lights. Adrenaline, nerves, anticipation. Crying, screaming, pain. Birth, joy, awe. All of those things interwoven and branded into the deepest recesses of your heart, never to be forgotten. All of these words describe the day we met Ren, except we shared this delivery room with ten other families in a sterile room of a government building. I remember feeling so exposed and overwhelmed. Multiple cameras flashed at one of the most awaited and vulnerable moments of our lives. It felt impossible for one place to hold so many profound moments for so many people.

This year I have learned that birthing a child is not necessarily a biological process. It can be, but it is not limited to this. A birth is something that happens in one’s heart. It is not confined by cells or DNA or blood. It is spiritual and emotional. It is something that happens between two people, in that hidden space we often find hard to touch and define.

I often liken a biological birth to the process of falling in love. It is fueled by chemicals and hormones, emotions that are powerful–so powerful that they rewire your brain and create a bond that is immediate, overwhelming, and inexplicable. There is a sudden rush, a feeling of power and euphoria. I didn’t realize how much I connected childbirth to these emotions–how much I depended on them and took them for granted until I experienced a different kind of birth, the birth of my son.

If biological birth is like falling in love, then perhaps adoption is like an arranged marriage. I believe God did the arranging; it was this mysterious, perplexing process that required great trust. God arranged for Warren to be our son, just as He arranged for Tessa and Lucy to grow inside of my womb, but I quickly realized that love takes many different forms and grows in different ways.

Love, sometimes, is not immediate. It takes months, years, to develop. It is not primarily fueled by feelings. Sometimes its roots must grow deep into dark soil before a flower can blossom. I have learned that this is okay. I have learned that sometimes, the types of love that are the strongest and steeliest are the ones that grow slow and steady. Eventually, the feelings follow.

This year has not been easy. It has been hard in the way that bringing new life into the world is always hard, though the challenges have looked and felt different. My son and I, unable to fall back on more organic means of attachment, have developed new ways to connect. We have learned each other. Learning can be exhausting and frustrating and loaded with failures. Learning requires grace and resilience.

Ren came into our world like most children–confused, traumatized, crying, and screaming. On that gray summer day in China, as I held his sweaty, terrified body to mine, I knew that I wouldn’t be enough for him, just as I’m not enough for my girls. That day, in the humid drizzle, I felt the weakness in my arms and back as I tried to carry his weight and keep him secure. In that moment, I asked God to be enough for me, for Warren, for our family. My bones could feel that terrifying gap between the neediness of my son and my own resources…the neediness of myself and my own resources. It was the beginning of a greater understanding of what it means to be born into God’s family, adopted as sons and daughters of His kingdom.

It is hard to find adequate words to describe the journey, the challenges, and the immense blessings that Ren has brought to our world. I have done my best in this moment I have to write today. As my favorite poet, Laura Gilpin says,

“How flimsy words are,
crushed or shattered under the spilling weight of meaning.
All I can do is dip into the depths
and hold what I can here in my cupped hands
letting the words fall from my hands into your hands,
and say no more.”

I feel so much gratitude. We love you, Ren boy. Happy 1st Bday. You are so special.

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Ren. 2 July 2012

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Ren. 2 July 2013

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8 thoughts on “love [minus biology]

  1. This brought me to tears! Beautiful description of love and such a great reminder that we’ve been adopted into God’s family. Thank you for sharing your gift of writing – it’s such a blessing to me! Happy 1st “birth”day, Ren!

  2. This is some beautiful truth here, Lib. Thank you for putting into words and sharing with us.

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