I Wasn’t Prepared for This: Anger After Adoption

26 months since application, 12 months and 1 day since receiving her referral, and it finally happened. We were united with our daughter!

We’d read all the classic books on adoption and attachment, went to seminars about trauma-informed parenting, and felt prepared to handle the challenging road ahead. And in many ways, things have been far better than we could have imagined.

Meeting our daughter’s caretakers was incredibly encouraging. We braced for a large orphanage where everyone was too stretched, and instead our daughter lived in a small home with 7 dear women and 6 children. We anticipated the standard developmental delays that often accompany those who grow up in institutionalized care, instead she is cognitively and physically on track. Based on our observations of the orphanage and how she is doing now, all evidence points to her being emotionally and physically nurtured—which is an immense relief and joy! We’re forever indebted to the women who loved her well until we could.

There was just one problem I wasn’t prepared for and it’s already proven to be the hardest challenge yet.

My sin.

I mean, I knew I’d eventually sin against her, just as I sin against my other kids. But surely it would take a while. I’ve waited for my daughter for years! I view her life as a precious gift! I was mentally prepared to face all kinds of challenges with her! But no matter how much you prepare your mind, it’s a whole new ballgame once you’re in it.

The first time we heard her cry/whine/scream we were like, “Oh, she’s so cute when she’s sad. Poor thing.”

I think it was only Day 3 when I thought, “Are you kidding me? Can’t you wait ONE SECOND without flipping out!”

Day 4, “She is driving me nuts. If she pinches me one more time…”

Day 5, “WOULD SHE JUST SHUT UP ABOUT THE BANANAS”

You get the picture.

Perhaps if there’d been evidence of a hard orphanage situation, I’d be inclined to extend more grace. Perhaps if I knew she’d experienced food deprivation, I wouldn’t be screaming inwardly while she tantrums over wanting a 4th banana. But perhaps not.

Maybe my problem is that my propensity towards sin is a lot more powerful than I care to admit. Maybe my strong conviction to be compassionate isn’t enough to change my heart from being impatient. Maybe adoption/trauma/attachment education isn’t enough by itself. Maybe I’m just a really weak mom in need of a really strong Savior.

The problem certainly isn’t that I need to be convinced of the right things: I know I should be tender when she’s whiny, I should be patient when she screams, I should be affectionate when she’s aggressive, I should be gracious when she’s defiant, I should correct in love and not in anger. The problem is that “… I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing” (Rom. 7:18-19).

Yet while this unexpectedly intense struggle to be impatient, angry, and resentful towards my daughter is discouraging, I know there is hope. I really want to honor Jesus and love the people he’s placed in my life—unfortunately, on my own, I’m pretty awful at it. But I’m not on my own! I know that in every temptation, the Holy Spirit is with me offering strength to overcome it. I can endure (1 Cor. 10:13)! I know that even though I’m still easily entangled by sin, in Christ I am no longer a slave to sin. I can change (Rom. 6:6-7)! I know that when I fail and yell at her precious face, or pull her away from the oven (again) a little too roughly, or give in to inward grumbling, and then crumble as I realize the depth of my sin, I don’t stand under condemnation. I am forgiven (Rom. 8:1)!

With as much as I wish I could always be a naturally gracious, forbearing, and loving mom, maybe it’s a good thing that I’m not. Being confronted with my weakness is the quickest way to kill my pride, and the fastest way to drive me to Christ. What a beautiful thing it is to be forgiven. What a blessed thing it is to be given power to change.  And what a humbling thing it is to realize you can’t do any of it on your own.

I want to be on the list!

9 thoughts

  1. This is so moving because you’re allowing yourself to be vulnerable and real. I have been in the process of praying about adoption (haven’t been moving forward, though, because of my husband’s illness), and I’m praising God now for your answered prayer! Will be with you, too, in praying for everyday, no, moment-by-moment, grace!

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  2. Wonderful post!!! As a fellow mom, I am in the trenches with you!! Somethings you learn and are grateful for how God has changed your heart…other things still rise up a little too much (ok, sometimes a lot too much!) and reminds you again that you need Jesus! What a precious reminder! And what joy to know that with these reminders, the Lord is using you to show your daughter God’s mercies and how big Jesus’ gift of love is!!

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  3. People forget that little ones grieve, grieve hard, it may come out differently, but it is grief. They weren’t her caretakers, they were her parents, now everything is different, everything they knew is gone – even the gentlest of souls would be pushed to the brink experiencing that sheer magnitude of loss.

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  4. Woah! LOL not what I expected! That was brutally honest. I’m glad that you have spoken honestly about it, adoption can be very difficult. It doesn’t mean you love them any less but the dynamics are still different. Be patient. This is a lot for her. I agree with Tao, she is probably grieving the loss of her family. I would let her have three bananas- there are worse things! :p

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  5. Wonderfully said. Praising God for sanctification and his triumph over sin, because I fail on the daily and have no hole apart from his grace. This post is a beautiful look into reality that many of us mother bury inward.

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  6. Thank you for this post because it soooo accurately sums up the feelings and thoughts I’ve had over the past year with our son. I remember desperately and quite honestly, angrily, trying to get him back to sleep (again!!) and being so convicted of my sin. In my head I was such a compassionate person, but I knew sin gripped my heart. It was a painful reminder of how fallen I am. The Lord has helped and things have gotten much better over time!

    Thank you for your honesty…no amount of training modules and Karen Purvis books can prepare you for the emotions adoption will bring you! I’m disappointed that some people have used your vulnerable post to give parenting advice or inform you about trauma (again, the Purvis books told us all about that).

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  7. This is so real to me. When we adopted, I found myself angry that I was not as patient as I should have been with our new daughter (age 3) and I am sure I discounted much of her grief as being spoiled in the orphanage even though I’m now sure it was grief. It is so hard to parent a new child that didn’t start out as a baby growing inside of me, but God is so good and two years later, I love her fiercely and unconditionally. Thank you for reminding adoptive parents that we are not alone in our sinful nature and emotions and that with God we can get through it.

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