Saturday, August 25, 2007


We're slowly getting to know Caedmon, I think, and he's getting to know us. We're still learning, of course: sometimes when we think we've got something figured out, he'll change it up on us. Like last night: we thought we'd figured out how to get him onto a three or four hour schedule, and then he managed to maneuver us into feeding him maybe every half hour or so. I still don't quite know how he managed to pull that one off – but it made for a long night. (And now that we're well into the middle of the day, he's sleeping, well, like a baby.)

Most of the time, though, we seem to understand each other. It's easy to tell when he's hungry, of course: he turns his head hard, looks over one shoulder or the other, and opens his mouth wide. It's called "rooting", but you'd almost think that he'd just spotted a tasty breast hiding behind his head and was trying to catch it unawares. By watching him closely, it's usually possible to tell other things too: like which end the gas he's about to emit needs to come out of, or whether he's really done with the bottle (sometimes he likes to fake you out), or when he's just bored and wants to be held. He peed on us four times yesterday, though: given that the instrument in question is uncovered for perhaps .3% of the day, he must have an exquisite sense of timing. That's a behavior I'd like to figure out the cues for.

Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to be going through this process with a baby that Galena and I had given birth to ourselves. Because we're adopting Caedmon, there are aspects of the bonding process that we don't have available to us. We can't search his face for signs that he might have my nose or Galena's cheeks; we can't blame his constant farting on any genes he may have acquired from me, or his fussing on the super-ego he inherited from Galena. When he yawns, he looks just like Emmanuel, his birth father: he doesn't look like me. I told a friend recently that the bonding process with an adopted infant feels a little like physical therapy after a brain injury: you can still get there, but you have to work at it more, and you have to learn, and take advantage of, different neural pathways.

Nearly a year ago, I wrote a letter to the (still unknown) birth father in the packet we put together for our adoption agency. This is how I put it in that letter:

In our journey through infertility, Galena and I have had to say goodbye to much that we have desired greatly. It has been exceedingly painful to know that I'll never be able to fall in love with my wife's cheeks on my daughter's face. I will never be able to argue with Galena whether our child has my grandfather's nose, or Galena's eyes, or whether our son's particular strain of stubbornness comes from her side of the family or mine.

But when we say farewell to these things that we hold so dear, I believe that we also open ourselves to the mystery of divine love. It is natural to hold close the child of your own flesh and blood: it is supernatural to entrust your child's care to another. It is understandable to desire a child of my own flesh and blood; it is a gift beyond words for someone to give me theirs. Adoption is a sometimes painful demonstration that, as human beings, we can be more than our biology, more than mere nature: that grace may sometimes still turn us into something that we might be but were not. As Jesus said, "Until a seed dies, it abides alone." And I believe that in precisely this way, God will honor your sacrifice, and will bless your child.

I know that Galena and I won't be perfect parents. Like all human beings, we will make mistakes and will be impatient. At times we will fail to show to our children precisely the grace that God has shown us. But we will also love the child you fathered with everything we have: and the child you helped to bring into the world, we pledge our honor to shepherd through it.

As I consider what adoption means, to me and to Galena, to you and to your partner, and to our child, I remember what the apostle Paul once said, that we are all God's children by adoption. It is an astonishing gift – once our eyes open to see it – that we are able to partake of the divine life in this fashion. I hope one day to tell our child this story.

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