The Well Blog

Mommy Wonder

January 11, 2017
Erin Obwald
This article was imported from our previous website, which many have broken some of the content. We apologize in advance for any strange formatting or broken links you may find.

Adoption is funny. It’s one of those things you won’t fully understand until it’s happens, like marriage, being a parent, being a certain profession, or [fill in the blank]. Here is a glimpse into my story.

Married, with three biological children, my husband and I found ourselves heartbroken after a failed foster adoption. We knew we had to do something totally different and that adoption was still part of our family's story, but how? Should we support others who adopt, advocate for orphans locally and around the world, or still continue on the path of actually adopting ourselves? We researched different countries, their rules and guidelines, and we landed on adopting a special-needs baby girl from China.

When I was about 8 years old I heard about little girls left on the side of the road in China because of their one-child law. I knew, even at a young age, that adoption would be a part of my life’s story. What started with a news story 28 years before culminated with this adoption. How good God was to bring this dream full-circle!

It was exciting. There was paperwork to do and money to raise. God blessed us with a community of family and friends to surround us and walk through this journey with us. After 20 months of work it was happening. Receiving our 16-month-old daughter on August 25, 2014, was pretty much what I expected. Lots of tears from both her and me, much to learn about her as a unique child of God, fear, excitement, no sleep, new firsts, a new culture to learn, and finally, a forever family for her.

Growing up as an only child, I knew having just one adopted child would not do. I didn't want her to feel left out. Since we already had three biological children, I couldn't bear the fact that she might feel like an outsider in her own family. In the back of my mind I knew another China adoption of a special needs child, specifically someone with a limb difference like she had, was the solution. But I definitely tend to be a fire, ready, aim type of a person. Was it just my thought? Was I pushing too hard?

Three months after our return with our daughter – on a Tuesday – I saw a picture of a small, thoughtful, 3-year-old boy with a limb difference, named Tu Yan, on our agency's Facebook page. The tricky thing was we didn’t think we would adopt a boy. We were up for another adoption, but had “girl” in our minds. And this boy was 3 already!

I had such a strong feeling about what I saw and read that day that I had to at least inquire about him. The next morning I called, and there was no “line” forming for him. Weird. With other children I had inquired about previously, there was already a “line” of interested families. I felt like those children would be taken care of, and I was at peace about their welfare. But with little Tu Yan we were the first to inquire. After a week of prayer and processing with our family, and and counting the cost, Dave and I came to the decision together to proceed with adopting him. Gulp.

We were with him just 11 months later, giving him a new first name, Tyler, and our name, Obwald, and caring for him as our own. The first four years of his life Ty spent in a crib, likely unattended, his needs barely met, just a bottle given to a 4 year old every morning, not challenged to be his best self, walking unevenly because of a congenital limb difference of his right leg. Now he was ours.

The months after our return with him were different though. My “mommy wonder,” as I like to call it, was gone. Poof! I had been a fun-loving, multitasking, homeschooling mom. Now I just wanted some space. The stress of another special needs adoption, five kids, endless appointments, screaming from two little ones daily – even hourly – combined with hardly any sleep was taking its toll. I was putting up walls around my heart and not letting our new son in. Why was this? I believed in adoption. It was a hard road, yes, but could I find anything to rejoice in? Most days I wished things were easier, like with our first adoption, or that our family would be like we were before these adoptions altogether.

I found myself not attaching to our new son and not wanting to attach. I was looking for ways to find fault in his actions so I could correct him. It seemed I had a hard time translating his physical and cognitive delays (likely brought on by the institutional environment he was in until this point) with his chronological age. I expected too much of him. He was behind. He was small. He lacked exposure to common things in our daily lives. I battled the excitement of challenging him to be his best, who God intended and designed him to be, with frustration about his lack of ability and infantile ways. Why did this bug me? I was letting small things get under my skin, and it brought out anger.

As the months rolled on I found myself having this internal dialogue:

“Why am I so angry?”
“Whose idea was this?”
“Oh wait, it was mine.”

Through this the Lord gently reminded me about His calling on my life at the young age of 8, His clear direction in inquiring about Tu Yan, a boy who would likely fade into the background in a Chinese orphanage, forgotten, and my desire to see “the least of these”[1] be given a chance at a thriving and contributing life.

I’m not entirely sure why, but I do know God used this time of adjustment to refine me and peel back the curtain on my own issues of control and anger through our new son. Stretching and being refined is never comfortable. There are consequences and results. I believe our attachment took longer because of my hesitation, stubbornness and anger.

At 5:30am on September 5 (nine and a half months after our return home from China with our son), I knew it was time to cry out to the Lord. I had tried too hard for too long, and I couldn't do this on my own. I was miserable. I needed Him to intervene or this would not continue well. In those wee morning hours I read my Bible, listened to songs and prayed. Music is one of the best ways for me to connect to the Lord, and I heard these words in the song “No Longer Slaves” that morning:

You split the sea, so I could walk right through it
My fears were drowned in perfect love
You rescued me, so I could stand and sing
I am a child of God[2]

The words “I am a child of God” repeated in my head. I heard clearly from the Lord, "But you're not acting like it! I have better for you." I am a child of God and so is Ty! My heart needed to soften toward our new son. Ty’s behaviors and tendencies from years of lying in a lonely bed needed to be better understood and embraced by me, his mother – the only one he will ever know.

Literally, from that moment forward God has given me a different perspective. Not perfect, but different. More patient. More understanding. More loving. I am in process, as we all are. Every day is not a dream, but God did a significant work in my heart that morning. Each week and month I feel my heart grow an inch closer to Ty’s like air being pumped into a tire. I am so happy to say that after Ty being in our family for 13 months I feel love for him. My “mommy wonder” was resurfacing, slowly but surely.

One of my greatest joys is seeing my two little China babies amaze people with their resilience, determination, ability and humanness. They are not orphans; they are chosen. They are not disabled; they are differently-abled. They are not weak; they are overcomers!

I am so thankful God brought me to that low point of dependence and that He showed up to fill me with attributes that reflect Him, not my flesh. I know when I depend on the Lord for my strength, patience, peace and love that He fills me to overflowing for others.

[1] Matthew 25:40
[2]No Longer Slaves.” Brian Johnson, Jonathan David Helser and Joel Case. Bethel Music Publishing (ASCAP). 2014.

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