“Adoption is a beautiful thing. But it is also a terrifying thing. It is a maddening thing. It is a mystifying thing.”
Emily Stimpson Chapman was writing about the woman who would make her dream of being a mother come true.
“It’s like praying for an organ transplant,” Chapman, a freelance writer, continued. “One person has to die, so another person can live, except, in this case, one woman has to give up her child, so I can have a child. One woman has to renounce her motherhood, so I can become a mother. It’s not a physical death she has to go through, but it’s a death just the same.”
About the birth mother, she added: “She is in so much pain — so much gut-wrenching, heart-searing, soul-piercing pain — not just about the adoption, but about all the uncertainty that lies ahead for her.”
For Chapman, Facebook and her blog were opportunities to share the adoption journey, with all its pain and fear, hope and joy. This is a gift to more than the adoptive and birth parents, but every potential reader who could find a source of education, inspiration or even a means of healing old wounds.
The subject of adoption, along with foster care, is one that, like abortion, tends to be obscured from public view. Adoption and fostering, being less controversial than abortion, suffer from our lack of attention. Whether you’re a birth, adoptive or foster parent, you may have to go it alone in your community.
Even our language is woefully inadequate: “Giving a child up for adoption,” sounds to a lot of people like abandonment — when in truth it’s the most selfless act there is.
When we throw around the world “love” in the most casual of ways, we should stop to reflect that this is exactly what it is: Radical self-sacrifice. In this case, wanting the best for your child, and knowing you may not be the best for them.
The mother of Chapman’s adoptive child has struggled with addiction and the law, finances, homelessness and relationships, to name a few. But Chapman reflects: “I also know there is no other way for her. She has to place the baby for adoption. Not because I need it, but because the baby needs it. She is not physically, mentally or emotionally capable of raising a child, nor is there is anyone else in her life or the father’s life who can care for him. Adoption is the only and best option for this little boy.”
Toby was born on July 25. The adoption became official a few days later, after a little last-minute drama. The Chapmans were able to stay overnight in the hospital and do all the things parents so naturally do with their new arrival. Seeing the pictures of the new parents, Emily and Christopher, feeding Toby is the kind of image we should have in front of us more often.
Some days, we all seem addicted to our screens and the most recent outrage. This prevents us seeking out ways to give ourselves over to a love that can give and transform life.
So many today suffer from a lack of love, and it has repercussions which we see in our harsh and frequently despairing culture, often desperate for distractions from the pain. Even with some early medical challenges, with such an outpouring of love so early on, Toby is an icon of hope, and his parents — all of them — should be an example to us all.
What more can we do to love and care for someone? There is a pregnant woman who does not know there is room in your heart and home for the unexpected child within her whom she knows she cannot raise herself. There are orphans who have given up expecting anyone to welcome them into their home temporarily or permanently.
Perhaps it is a miracle in itself that a little sharing on social media can raise such challenges — but can we rise to them?
Kathryn Jean Lopez is senior fellow at the National Review Institute, editor-at-large of National Review Online and founding director of Catholic Voices USA.
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