with Guest Blogger | Michelle Bushard
“It’s easy to write this now, after three years of healing, but at the time it seemed unbearably hard to let go of my desires. It’s what I needed, though, in order to lovingly walk alongside another human, no matter the outcome. What I learned in those 12 months of waiting and wrestling is that God’s love really does prevail and that every match really was an opportunity to show His love to another person…”Michelle Bushard, Adoptive Mom
When we started our adoption journey a handful of years ago, I had no idea how much I needed to prepare my heart. In my mind, I was preparing for a newborn – picking out clothes, putting up the crib, prepping our 2-year-old for another sibling, and making travel plans.
What I didn’t realize was how much I needed to take the time to prepare my heart for a journey – a journey with many ups and downs, a journey that not only affected me but also would forever change the life of another woman I hadn’t met yet.
This is the story of how we prepared our hearts for adoption. Not once, but twice…
When I first thought about creating a profile book, I wanted honesty and transparency. I wanted the words that were read, the traditions that were shared, the pictures that were printed to reflect truth, and I knew it started by being honest with myself – as much as an expectant mother or father – of who our family was and what we were passionate about.
If we really wanted to showcase ourselves in a raw, honest form, we knew we had to be vulnerable. Somehow, we hoped this “stranger” would genuinely feel love pouring from each page of our book.
We hoped they would know we saw them as a human deserving of honor, respect, and compassion…and a person that would forever become family through a triad of people (adoptive parents, birth family, and adoptee) should our paths collide.
When we created our first book it was honest…just what I desired. What I didn’t know was that we would match 5 times in a 12-month period before bringing our daughter home.
Each match that came and went taught me something, and for that I am grateful, but with every passing “no”, there were more tears than I can count, yearning, and doubt. Halfway through, however, I learned perhaps the most important lesson of them all; I learned to be available. I learned that I am not owed a child, but rather that I am called to be a support, a lighthouse, an encouraging word to an expectant mother or father trying to make an impossible decision. And if, only if, she/he should choose to place, then I will also be available to parent and love.
It’s easy to write this now, after three years of healing, but at the time it seemed unbearably hard to let go of my desires. It’s what I needed, though, in order to lovingly walk alongside another human, no matter the outcome. What I learned in those 12 months of waiting and wrestling is that God’s love really does prevail and that every match really was an opportunity to show His love to another person.
Fast forward to the end of our waiting. I distinctly remember holding my newborn daughter in our hospital room as her birth mother was preparing to leave. I watched tentatively as she opened her hospital bag, and there was our profile book sitting on top of her things. She pointed at it and said, “I’m going to go through this book a million times more in the coming months and think about her and you guys…” I may have stopped breathing for a split second as I realized at that moment: while I had prepared my heart for a disrupted match, I hadn’t prepared myself for a “successful placement”.
I looked down at my arms filled with a sweet girl in a giant pink bow and remember feeling immense joy for the gift that had just been given to me by another woman. But I also remember feeling the weight of grief that was slowly sinking between my shoulder blades as I watched a beautiful, strong woman walk out of a hospital room without her child. I knew that feelings of intense grief and sorrow were about to come flooding in.
It was in that lonely (and yet simultaneously very full) hospital room that I learned both joy and sorrow can share a single space.
From earlier conversations, we knew our daughter’s mama desired an open adoption; we also knew this could look many different ways. I think sometimes we assume that birth mothers need space, and for some, this might be true, but I knew in my spirit that I need to offer her something more. I thought: if I offer and she denied, I would respect that and back off, but I at least had to ask.
“Would you be comfortable with more?”
We had originally agreed to give updates through the agency by mail, but before she left the hospital I asked if she would like my number. She gladly took it and reciprocated with hers. In the days that followed, she was open with us about her healing process, and we sent twice weekly pictures and updates.
At first, I thought to myself, “Wow. This is a lot of work!” But I soon realized it was what she needed to start to heal. She needed to know that the child we shared was ok and thriving. She needed to know that we were true to our word. She needed to know that we would still be there.
Through FaceTime and yearly visits, we have grown even closer over the years. We call each other “sister mamas”, as she cleverly announced one day over casual text, and we truly began to feel like family.
The point here is this: we both let each other into our lives. We both had to show up, open our hearts, and be vulnerable. And ultimately, it benefits the most important person…the daughter we share together.
When we began talking about a second adoption, I came prepared with a different mindset. I still knew that I was called to be available, but I also knew that I was called to love another woman or man as my family and let them into our lives. Like, really let them in. Not just see us through the lenses of pictures, but to do life together.
This time around, I would prepare my heart in a healthier way. Instead of packing a diaper bag and creating a nursery, I spent time sitting in a UPS parking lot with my hands on our profile books, praying over the woman or women that would touch the same book.
I prayed, even if they didn’t choose us, that our book would make them feel worthy – worthy as a woman, worthy to parent, or worthy to place.
I prayed that, ultimately, they would feel seen; that they would know they are not just a vessel carrying a child into someone’s arms, but that they matter.
I prayed that they would know we wanted to love them as much as we wanted to love their child.
It was in the middle of praying instead of preparing that our second adoption unfolded.
It was fast, redeeming, beautiful…and also in the middle of a global pandemic which made things interesting! Because the connection with our second daughter’s birth family came so quickly, it was all a bit surreal.
We spent time bringing her birth family meals in the hospital parking lot and meeting up for lunch after discharge, trying to get to know one another better. Once again, when the time came to say goodbye, we asked her what she wanted and exchanged phones number in order to facilitate a deeper connection.
We know our family makeup is not society’s norm, but it’s thriving, full of love, open conversations, and dedication on both ends. It’s not easy; it takes work. And it’s something not everyone else can understand. But because of adoption, I know a life richer than anything I ever could have imagined on my own.
Through adoption, I have learned that we are not only called to love a child; we are called to love their birth family, too, and to love them well.
Michelle is steady, strong, and nurturing. She’s an extrovert and loves being around people. She strives to be hospitable and likes to make people feel welcomed and comfortable when they are around her. Her friends would tell you that she’s silly and loves to laugh, but she’s also caring, kind, and understanding. She is often the peacemaker in a group but is vocal against injustice. She has an irrational fear of sharks but still loves being on the beach – just not in the water! She’s wife to Nate, mama to three beautiful babies, and friend to many. She’s bold and brave (even when she doesn’t feel like it) and loves with every ounce of her heart.
Find her on Instagram @michellebushard