The Adoptive Experience
By Owen Vyner
For some people adoption seems quite mysterious as though it is an altogether different experience of parenthood. We have to admit that there are definite differences.
For example, we first held our children at Denver International Airport and not in a hospital.
We had no ultrasound images to pass on to excited grandparents although we did receive video and photos every few months – and we watched and studied every detail endlessly.
Lastly, the gestation period was not established by a predictable biologically-established timetable but was determined by government agencies, visas and federal police checks.
Yet despite these differences there are genuine similarities.
The first aspect of adoptive parenthood is falling in love with someone who has no biological relation to you. I am surprised that I have to explain to some people that this is not the first time this has happened to me. After all, I fell in love with my wife.
I professed a lifelong love for her who was – for a time – a complete stranger. And the “I do” of parenthood should ideally be a natural overflow of the “I do” of marriage.
In essence, the love that husband and wife profess on their wedding day (in Latin, ‘diligo’) is precisely the love of election – I choose you.
This is also the love that God has for us in Christ Jesus. This is the love that all parents are to have for their children – the pledge of a lifelong love of election.
The second aspect of adoptive parenthood that often strikes us is the enigmatic nature of our children. They are complete mysteries to us – even their little faces. And yet, is it not true that in every child we find a mysterious stranger who we should welcome with love on his or her own terms?
With biological parenthood people will often say that a child looks like a parent or a grandparent.
We have no context by which to interpret the faces of our children. I personally find that the faces and temperaments of my son and daughter surprise me each day.
Are we not called as parents to respect the total uniqueness of the child who has come into our hearts and our homes?
These two dimensions of adoptive parenthood: welcoming the child with love and as a mysterious ‘other’ are also at the heart of biological parenthood. In some way they stand at the foundation of God’s paternity when he welcomes each one of us in baptism.
In this way, both forms of parenthood – adoptive and biological – become complementary expressions of, and witness to, the fatherhood within God as revealed by Jesus Christ.
This article was originally published in the Catholic Leader, March 2016. Reprinted with permission.
About Owen Vyner
Owen is a doctoral candidate at the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family. He was the Director of Marriage and Family in a parish in Denver, USA (2005-2011) and also studied theology in Chicago. He is married to Terri and they have two children, Laura and Charlie.
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