Announcer: Welcome to the Adopting and Fostering Home podcast. Whether your family has been on this journey for years or you’re just getting started, we’re here to support and encourage you along the way. Now, your hosts Lynette Ezell and Tera Melber.
Tera Melber: Welcome back. Today we’d really like to welcome back our dear friend. She and her husband have been married for 15 years and they have three kids. They have one biological daughter who’s 11, and they have two sons, 9 and 3, who joined their family through domestic infant adoption. They have been really dear friends of ours for, gosh, such a long time and we’ve walked with them through their journey of building their family and walked alongside and prayed with them.
Tera Melber: We’re super-thankful for them. She has a passion for orphan care and ministering to other moms and they live right here in the big state of Georgia.
Lynette Ezell: Thanks for being here again today.
Guest: Thank you so much for having me.
Tera Melber: Today we really want to talk a bit about maybe some myths that people have about domestic infant adoption. What would you consider some of the myths maybe that people might have?
Guest: Well, just they’re not being taken from something that they’re already familiar with to be put into something else that they’re-
Tera Melber: They don’t have a memory.
Guest: Right. There’s not a memory. They’re not grieving a person that they knew. You’re getting them so young that they won’t remember. A lot of those things, which sound ideal, but they’re just not true. I know not long ago, like, Tera, you’re my big sister in the faith and you’re a sweet friend, and you guys have walked through a lot with us. We did training with you all, and so I have you on speed dial whenever I needed you. I called y’all on one of our tough days with our oldest son.
Guest: He was dealing with some trauma related to his adoption. I’ll talk a little more later about how we knew that. I needed some advice and to cry and to make sure I hadn’t royally messed up his life with the conversation we had. You asked if I would do that on a podcast, if we could just talk about some of these things. A lot of people choose domestic adoption because of some of those myths. They think that there won’t be trauma and grief as much since they’re brought home at birth, they’ll always be “yours.” It’s not true.
Tera Melber: No. It’s not.
Guest: We brought home both of our boys through domestic infant adoption, went through an agency. We hardly had any birth parent contact just at the hospital, not a whole lot of history. Our second child that we brought home, our son, was through a private adoption and was through a friend of a friend who knew they needed to make a plan with their niece for adoption. Both boys have very different stories. Both boys experienced some trauma in the womb from various substances they were exposed to.
Guest: Both of them were with us from the very beginning. We discovered, pretty quickly, that just because they’re with you from the very beginning, doesn’t mean they’re not going to hurt.
Tera Melber: I think the thing we have to remember is that babies, just like when you were carrying your oldest daughter, when you’re carrying your baby for nine months they know your voice. They know …
Lynette Ezell: They do. They know your voice.
Tera Melber: … the rhythms of the way you move. They know you. It’s a scientific fact that they know you. You’re taking great care of yourself, the very best that you can and providing the most nurturing, loving environment in the womb for the baby. At the point when your boys’ birth moms were really struggling, they were in a really broken place in their life and were struggling with some decisions that were impacting the boys in the womb. Your boys knew their mama’s voice, so it’s not as if they don’t know or don’t remember anything. I think sometimes we discount that, but you cannot discount that.
Lynette Ezell: No. You can’t.
Guest: It does come into play, and you start to see it. We were really grateful for the wisdom that we had been given just through training and talking to more experienced parents that had walked before us through adoption. They had always told us just always tell the story from day one. Tell the child about their adoption, just make it your life. This is what life is in our home, we talk about this.
Tera Melber: Never a secret, even though when your boys came home you’ve never kept their adoption a secret.
Guest: Exactly. We’d be rocking them in the nursery and telling it, and right then you know you’re not telling it for their sake, but you’re telling it for yours.
Tera Melber: Right. You’re practicing.
Guest: Just to get used to saying it.
Lynette Ezell: You’re so right. I was just doing that out in the hallway with my little granddaughter when she came here, and I remember having her. We had her her first month of life, that we were already talking to her about how the Lord brought you into our family, and you were adopted in love. We are so grateful for you; even though she didn’t understand. She was an infant, but you’re so wise to start that early.
Guest: Even whenever they’re tiny and you’re rocking them in the rocking chair, you’re saying it to them, but really, it’s for your benefit too, so you just get used to saying it and it just becomes normal for your home. We did this for years and we would give more information to, I’m still referencing my oldest one. We would give him more information as his questions would come, or he got a little more mature and we could give him more of the story.
Guest: At age five we had the actual moment where it seemed to click. We were looking through a scrapbook that we had made of his adoption, the story of how he came to us and things about his birth parents and just history there. There was a look on his face as we were reading it that was different. It wasn’t just information anymore, but he realized that it was something that happened to him. He finally got it. It was one of those moments that just aches in your heart as a parent, because …
Tera Melber: Because you know what’s coming.
Guest: … you just see the sadness and the loss just creep across this little face. There’s a little anger, too. He’s thinking, “But I was in her tummy, not yours.” I was like, “That’s right buddy.” He looked at his birth mom’s picture, and after he had decided he was done looking at the book and didn’t really want to talk about it anymore, a little while later he came to me, and he pointed to the picture and he said, “This is my favorite mom.”
Lynette Ezell: He was processing much deeper than you could have ever imagined at five years old.
Tera Melber: He was looking for your reaction. Like, “Are you going to say something bad about her?”
Lynette Ezell: When that happened at our house, we were making piggy tails, and my little one was in front of me and she said, “My birth mommy didn’t want me. That makes me so sad.” That was the first time that she acknowledged that. It was at four years old. You’re right, when it hits you, like I’ll never in my whole life forget that moment.
Guest: It’s just that moment where you think, “Oh, I wish I could take this all for you, but I can’t because it’s your story, and you have to walk through it.”
Tera Melber: What did you do when he said that?
Guest: I just listened. I was like, hmm, tell me about that.
Tera Melber: Way to go momma.
Guest: He would say, “Well, because I was in her tummy.” And I’m like, “That’s really cool.” And just trying not to overreact even though inside you’re thinking, “Oh please still love me.” He’s processing, and you just have to look at it and think even though you can’t be in his place, if you were wouldn’t you feel that way? You just have to think what if it were me, wouldn’t I be curious? Wouldn’t I want to know and ask questions? Just being a safe place for him to bring those questions is such hard work, but it’s so good because how else is he going to process this?
Lynette Ezell: We have to remember as adoptive and foster moms we cannot be offended. We have to leave our offenses outside, because the child cannot process those. Like he said, that’s my favorite mom. That was the only vocabulary he had to really describe that tenderness he had toward her at that moment when he realized, when, like you said, he put the pieces together, and he began to understand it, and saying, “That’s was my favorite mom.” That’s the only words he had to express that. We cannot be offended by that as parents.
Guest: That’s right. We can’t put our adult feelings on them. Go ahead.
Tera Melber: When he had that moment at five, he’s now nine, I’m assuming that more moments have come, because as children grow and develop we know that their brain begins to grow and they begin to analyze information differently when they’re five and eight and twelve and sixteen and eighteen, and then when they-
Lynette Ezell: Hormones kick in at 10.
Tera Melber: This is the first of many moments that you’re going to have, that’s for sure. Did he just leave that conversation, and everything was fine? As different moments have come along as he’s grown and matured, how has he handled that information?
Guest: Sometimes we’ll go almost a year without him wanting to talk much about it. We’ll continue to talk about it, or I’ll bring up, or I’ll even just say, “Hey, buddy. We haven’t talked about this in a while. Just so you know, if you ever want to talk about it, I’m good with that.”
Lynette Ezell: I love it. That’s so good.
Tera Melber: That’s perfect.
Guest: Every time that he would have a new layer of understanding about his story, you could always tell because there was a thunk that went with it. There was a lot of sadness, a lot of up and downs. His highs were high, his lows were low. Some anger. Then he would ask more questions, or things would die down and he would put it to bed for a little while. We just always try to be with him, to not use too many words, because I mess up whenever I use too many words, and just to hurt with him, and just keep assuring him that we’re not going anywhere, that we’re here.
Tera Melber: Well, he always needs to know you’re team Jay. You’re team Jay always. You’re always going to be on his side no matter what he says or how he needs to discuss it or talk about it; that you and daddy are always on his side.
Lynette Ezell: Knowing your family, you’re always connected and caring, and it’s okay. You’re always connecting. You’re moving forward as a family daily. You’re building a life together as a family.
Guest: That’s right. There are times that it’s just you can tell that it’s just right on the surface. It’s just in his heart, and he’s dealing with it. Recently we were having one of those disciplinary moments. We’re in the bathroom talking and just dealing with something that he did. His response to the discipline and just talking, it just turned into this raw expression of grief that just broke my heart. It had nothing to do with what we were talking about.
Guest: It just came out, you know, “Why did this happen to me?” It was about his adoption, and, “Why did they do this? Why didn’t they want me?” It just goes to show that that is just he’s expressing his feeling of loss that had absolutely, yeah, it fed into why he’s probably acting out and doing things, but that it’s not just about what he just did. It’s about his heart is hurting. I didn’t have any clever answers or clichés. Those are worthless in these situations.
Guest: You just keep doing the same thing, and I didn’t know what else to do but just to tell him story again and just tell him that birth mom really did love him, and that it was a very difficult decision for her, and that our love is never going to change towards him, and God’s love is perfect towards him. Then sometimes after you say all of those things, like in that moment, we just sat. I sat on the little footstool in our bathroom, and I rocked my 80 pound nine year old in silence, and we just cried together.
Guest: It was one of the sweetest, holiest moments to me because I was just thinking, “God, it is ridiculous that he is letting me do this with him, that he would let me into his hurt right now. God, thank you that I can just walk with him through this.”
Tera Melber: It’s so hard. I’ll never forget one year one of our kids, we were excited about planning a special meal to celebrate this one’s entry into our home. I think this one had been home maybe five years or something like that. I said, “What would you like for dinner tonight?” Our little one said, “I don’t want anything.” I mean like ticked off. The whole response was, “The only reason that we’re celebrating tonight is because something terrible happened to me.”
Tera Melber: Up until that time in years past it always was a point of celebration, like, “I want to celebrate. This is a big deal. Did you forget, because it’s happening.” This particular year it was just raw. All we said was, “Sweetheart, we love you and we are grateful that you’re our child, but we know that you’re hurting and it’s okay. We don’t have to do anything this year.” The next year rolls around and the head pops up off the pillow, and it’s like, “So what are we doing for me today?” You never know. It waxes and wanes.
Lynette Ezell: It does. We had that happen in our house and there was not one complete sentence. It was the grief. It had come around to that time when the adoption took place and then there were no words. There were no words brought to the table, just a lot of tears.
Tera Melber: It really is just so hard. I know you said earlier that your boys both were exposed prenatally to substances. I know that that does play into that. When people are thinking about domestic adoption and how they want to walk this path, that does play in to things. Long-term effects of that still, in some aspects, are not even known. Our role as mom and dad is love them through it.
Lynette Ezell: That’s right.
Tera Melber: Any of us could have a child that has special needs and we love them through it, and we help them become the best child that they can possibly be. We celebrate their strengths, and we help shore up their weaknesses. There’s just a lot that goes in no matter what type of adoption or foster care, it’s just not for the faint of heart.
Lynette Ezell: No. It’s not. I guess I’ve gotten older in this process, because now when couples are like, “We just really want this perfect little child.” I find myself just being blunt honest now, and saying, “Good luck with that, because where are the perfect parents who are going to go along with this perfect baby?”
Tera Melber: Yes. No kidding.
Lynette Ezell: We know this does not happen, because we’re all born into a broken world, and we all have a past. We all have things to deal with.
Tera Melber: In closing, if you could share a nugget of wisdom with people who are considering adopting or fostering a child from any background or any age or from anywhere, what would you say? After all these years, what have you learned in the last almost decade?
Guest: Well, I think there’s just not an easy way to bring a kid home, and there’s not one type of adoption that is more streamlined or simpler than another or fostering. It’s just all hard. I would just anyone that’s adopting or fostering a child from any background, of any age, from any spot on the globe, that you need to prepare your heart to hurt with your kid. We need to educate ourselves and just devour all of the materials, trustworthy materials, that we can about helping kids navigate trauma in a healthy, God-honoring way, and a way that dignifies their stories, and …
Tera Melber: That’s perfect.
Guest: … their birth families, and just to pray a lot. It’s not all about how difficult it is. It is so full of unspeakable joy. There are just some things in life that are just worth fighting for and this is one of them.
Tera Melber: You’re so right. The Lord asked me to open my prayer journal. We’ve shared about it on this podcast before. I shared about it all weekend, and it’s very simple, but it’s just prayers for my chosen child. We’ll add that in the show notes as well. It’s just a starting point for parents to pray about all the things you just shared. In several of them you really wouldn’t have thought to pray over them with your biological kids, like attachment. That’s a big deal in adoption and foster care.
Lynette Ezell: And healing from their past. I love that one in the booklet, and just talking about there are a lot of hurtful things that happen. When our kids were little, I would say, “People have yucky stuff in their past. We all do.” Our prayer is that the Lord restores you to as healthy a place as he possibly can while you’re on this earth, and our full restoration will not be until we stand before him. So, healing from the past and just accepting this did happen to me and it was really yucky, but the Lord had a purpose and has a purpose and a plan in everything that he has done in my life and will do.
Tera Melber: That’s right. That’s right. I just love this reminder from God’s word. “Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you…” he who began this good work in our children, all of our children “…will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ, Jesus.” Philippians 1:6.
Tera Melber: Absolutely.
Lynette Ezell: Hey, thanks for listening again today. If this podcast has helped you in any way, if it’s brought you comfort or you’ve been able to share with someone, or just encouraged you to step into foster or adoption care, or maybe encouraged you not to run away from foster or adoption care, would you just take a minute and leave us a review on iTunes? It would mean the world to us and it would really help us out.
Announcer: You have been listening to the Adopting and Fostering Home, a resource of the North American Mission Board. For more information about today’s podcast and other relevant resources visit sendrelief.org.