{depression, lovely clefts and the ultimate Love}

it's been a while coming, but i'd like to transverse the mountain of post adoption depression.
the more i've been honest about this season in my life, the more i'm finding other mom's who have been through something similar.

it must be said that i'm no expert. this is a subject that effects many people very differently. my experience deals deeply with the trauma of surgery...but i know for many others, their situations and feelings are different. i don't claim to know everything, but i feel compelled to share my story...even just to open the door of honesty.

as i've been healing, i realized how hard it is to be honest.
it takes courage i often don't have, and i felt raw and exposed when i first blogged about it.
like a failure. a big, fat looserish failure.

but there is something special about this thing called honesty.
honesty produces freedom because God can't heal what we don't admit is real.

i'll be the first to say our experience adopting Emery is better than i could have imagined.
we feel as though she's been here all along and i'll always post about the awesomeness.
the miracle of adoption.
she is a fantastic blessing and we marvel at the wonder that is Emery.
the happy posts aren't fake...they are the reason i love to blog so i can remember the beauty of our days amidst the chaos.
it's important to verify the honor that is motherhood.
to speak out against the negative and embrace this time of our life with joy, even when it's a downright exhausting day.

and it isn't always happy everything.
and amid the beauty and joy, i discovered a devastation that i never thought could happen to me.
i mistakenly thought i was too strong. too in control. too qualified to allow depression to sink into my joy.
boy oh boy, what an arrogant person to think i could overcome something i can't control.
{you can read what i wrote in the thick of my despair here}

it's brutal. horrible. and unlike anything i've ever experienced.
you can't just snap out of it. 
it needs to be talked about.
it needs to be out there.
depression of any kind isn't something anyone likes to talk about, least of all me.
in fact, i think it needs to be a part of pre-adoption training, although i have no idea if that would have even helped.

** there is also something serious to be said about the spiritual warfare involved with adoption. a child being brought home to their family isn't something the enemy wants to happen. i believe much of what i experienced was the onslaught of defeat and inability to rely on God's protection and security. it was only after intense prayer (on my behalf by close friends/family) and reading over and over God's Word that i began to walk slowly out of the fog.

i can clearly identify the snapping point in my emotional state.
it was more than the "after the airport" - (best article for post-adoptive families, or anyone in recent transition)
it happened alongside of emery's first surgery in september 2011 and the weeks of intense recovery that followed.
(read  here , here and here to catch a glimpse)

they told me it would be really brutal to see her come out of anesthesia. they weren't kidding. it was more like a scene from alien than a recovery room. it wasn't the blood splattering the walls from her ripping out IV's or the stitches covering the inside of her mouth. it was her anguish. her torture. seeing the emotional toll it drained on her spirit to be confined. tied down. forced into something she didn't consent to. writhing in pain and confusion.
the screaming and anguish continue for hours. then days. then weeks. even oxycontin and morphine couldn't touch the pain deep within her soul.

i realized just how deeply she was scarred from her life before us. how painful it was for her to relive the feelings of being alone and her inability to receive comfort.
my insides hurt just remembering it.

it changed me. i became bitter and angry. furious that we had to repair what was already beautiful.

she had already been abandoned at birth. passed around by caregivers. strapped to a chair for so long that the straps dug deep scars into her back and chest. starved when she was clearly able to eat. igrnored when she cried out in pain. left to spend hours on end alone on her back. taken away from her homeland by people speaking another language. given unfamiliar food, crib, toys, clothes, smells.
and now, just when our relationship feels settled and trustworthy, i hold her as she flails and screams, and i can't take the pain away.

emery seemed to heal faster than i did. after a month of tears and screaming and night terrors, her stitches dissolved and her scars healed.

trying to decipher why i couldn't let go of the anger and loneliness.

when we said goodbye to her cleft in december 2011, i hit an all time low.
(you can read about it here, here

i grieved deeply the loss of how she was created, but i knew that most people didn't understand, so i couldn't talk about it. it sounds strange to miss a cleft lip.

if you've read my blog for any amount of time, you know i'm crazy in love with her new lips. she looks just as beautiful as always. she's an angel of perfection...we gawk at her constantly and marvel at the loveliness that is emery.
it's just that changing the original felt wrong. inconsiderate of the way God intended her to be. it literally felt painful to my soul.

i realize repairing a cleft is more than just cosmetic. the repair aids eating and dental structure and speech and breathing. ear tubes repair faulty ear drainage pathways.
i'm not saying i would have left her unrepaired. i'm not saying that.
actually i did say that to someone. and i got the look. and a very stern: "you're not serious, are you? you wouldn't really leave her like that? would you?"
and in my mind, i voraciously bit their head off. i screamed and yelled and said awful cuss words.
in my mind.
in real life, i smiled, and went about my day.
harboring deep anger at the world for not feeling what i feel.

i've since made peace with the world.
the anger has dissipated and i see freshly the love my Savior has for me, even in my heartache.
especially in my heartache.

my experience of dipping into the depths of my anger has brought new light on the fact that many people just don't know. they don't know that a cleft really isn't all that bad. in fact, it's quite charming.
i am reminded that i didn't know it either before i gazed into those deep dark eyes...felt her slender hands in mine...and kissed those little lippies so sweetly.

and after all is said and done, i've learned that God is present. walking in the depths with me.
a lesson worth any amount of anguish.

the truth is, you don't know know how this thing called adoption is going to effect you. your family. your marriage. the world around you.

it will be hard.
there will be challenges you've never faced as a parent or as a human.
you will learn things about yourself that you don't like.
you will love a child so much it hurts.
you might even feel so inadequate that you don't want to get out of bed in the morning.

if you are considering adoption, you need to know it will be hard. receiving a gift of this imeasurable magnitude cannot be met without challenges...or else it wouldn't be quite so valuable.

or, if you have friends who have adopted, you need to know their family is going through a major transition and odds are, they need you, even if you don't know how to help.

if you are considering adoption, you also need to know something else. 
it's crazy awesome. 
best decision i've ever made.
i'm willing to be honest about the hard times because i know they aren't what shines through at the end of the day.
when my baby girl wispers "mama, mama" with a smile as i rock her to sleep...any challenges we faced during the day don't exist anymore.
i'm her mama. plain and simple.

these children...born of our bodies or our hearts...they are powerful tools for God's purpose.
our calling as Moms and Dads is a high one, of which i am not worthy.

it's no wonder there is a spiritual battle over these little ones. each has a spirit of power, a God given soul impact on life. a power story of God's Love.

but we have to be willing to be honest about where we are.
honest with God, even when our honesty isn't pretty or even rational.
honest with each other instead of simply saying "i'm fine."
and honestly allowing our souls to accept the deep and wide Love of our Creator.

we walk this journey together, you and i.
God created us to connect and know we are in life together.
there is power in praying each other through hard times, walking the long road side by side, and trusting God to fulfill us when we can't take another step.

if someone is honest with you? you must be willing to see them with compassion and zero judgement.
this isn't a joke.
recovering when devastation hits is vital for our families, for our marriages, for our walks with Christ
and we are all a part of it.

whew. anyone with me?
can i get an amen?


  1. Thanks so much for sharing about your struggle (and love) for adoption, the process, the trauma of the surgery, all of it. I think that by being brave in doing so, you are going to help so many other momma's post-adoption to understand what they're feeling..help them feel normal...not feel as alone. And I think often we avoid blogging about the hard stuff for fear of the ridicule, and people misunderstanding us, and like we're grasping at straws and must always include the underlying, BUT I LOVE MY BABY(IES). The thing is, we all love our babies, so much so, and motherhood is an honor and a gift and the best job ever. But it does have a ton of exhausting, hard days--and that's okay, too. Thanks for sharing your story, as usual, beautifully and eloquently written.

  2. Amen. Thanks for your honesty, you beautiful person. I love you forever.

  3. Amen Ang! Life just isn't perfect and happy all the time. Thank you for your willingness to put yourself out there so others dealing with this know they're not alone. You are an awesome mama and example friend!

  4. "honesty produces freedom because God can't heal what we don't admit is real." Amen!! That is so true. It's so hard to be honest about our struggles, but it really is the way to healing. I loved your whole post and I loved your honesty. Thanks for sharing!!!

  5. AMEN!!!!!!! Love that you are so honest...........totally know it is spiritual warfare out there when it comes to family the enemy wants to destroy. We need as moms and sisters of our Daddy King to lift each other up in prayer as we walk this walk of motherhood. Love ya girl. :)

  6. Amen! & God bless you! Keep on keeping it real! Love for you & your amazing family!

  7. I just adore you! I don't even know what else to say! Praying for you always and thanking God for your friendship!

  8. Amber just gave me the link to your post and I'm so glad she did! I am 1-month post-adoption and 1 month away from cleft lip surgery for our perfect 18 month old daughter. This post has me balling just thinking how you've written so beautifully what's on my heart right now. I will miss my daughter's cleft smile and I do think she is beautiful and perfect and if I hear one more person say "Oh, she's going to be so beautiful when she has her surgery." I'm going to slap their face!! You have definitely turned your misery into a ministry to moms everywhere and I am thankful for your honesty. You should write a memoir someday! There is definitely not enough books out there on the trials and joys of adoption.

  9. You're wonderful. I enjoy every single part of your honesty. When Hayden came home, he had been living with a foster mom his entire life. He was well cared for, never went without and was loved beyond measure. This was her 27th baby in over 30 years of fostering. Talk about amazing! His transition was somewhat flawless and I didn't experience a moment of deep despair from him. But as he's growing and as he's tapping into some deep soul stuff.. it's there for him. I feel it. I see it. When he cries over something that seems trivial to me, and he's wailing as if someone died - I have begun to recognize those wounds that are so deep, he only knows how to express it in his sorrow. He never has words for it.. even though he's 7. I have more patience with his angst since figuring it out. And I'm discovering that he's mildly depressed lately too. Harder to sleep, etc. 1st grade and living in a predominately white small town. He's seeing stuff. He's always confident with who he is on the outside and he's a kid with plenty of friends. But this Mama is ready to attack anyone that tells him his life isn't perfect the way it is. The devil battles for our attention, our time and most of all our confusion, sadness and angst. I've had to fight the spiritual battle more often than I'd like to admit, but with the help of God - we will overcome and so will you. Always. There is a book I'd love to recommend to you if you haven't heard of it. It's called "The Battlefield of the Mind" by Joyce Meyer. Oh my sister.. this will rock your world! It's all about that stupid satan and his ways. He's patient and arrogant and I'm sick of him. You too? Hang in there darling. I'll keep you continuously close in my prayers. Mwa!

  10. AMEN,AMEN and AMEN! Amazing, tears dripping, went right to the heart post sister! Thank you for being so transparent, raw and brutally honest! We need to hear the REAL stuff in addition to the sweet and lovely! Thank you, Thank you for opening up and sharing!
    Praying for you ALL! Hugs and Blessings from the May gang :)

  11. Amen. We can only heal when we allow Truth and Light to flood those recesses we try to hide.
    Your honesty will bless many!

  12. Every word of this is so true! The surgery time after the adoption was so hard for us too. That feels like such an understatement... Thanks for writing this article!!
    matthiaszoo.blogspot.com (our surgery was Jan 11, 2012)

  13. Wow...thank you for sharing, as I was reading through this post I was nodding and saying "ah huh" continuously. I have tried to talk with others about my feelings about the surgeries, the trauma afterward, and my thoughts on her beautiful smile she already possessed...so few got it. In particular in your post "The Catalyst" section rang so true with me. Seeing my daughter come out of the anesthetic was awful and painful, I still have nightmares about that day. Thank you again, it helps to know others have felt this way...

  14. Wow. This is amazing. I've followed your blog for a long time now, and I love how you've been honest about the path you've been on....good and bad. Now we're leaving in 5 short days to travel to china to get our daughter. I'm feeling so many different emotions....I'm all over the board really. I don't know what to expect, so I try to have low expectations.....and anything above that I'll consider a gift. I guess I really felt the same way before giving birth to the boys really...in a way. Above all, I'm thankful to you for sharing your heart so that I can feel a little more prepared for the feeling that may possibly come my way :)

  15. Amen. Words and thoughts are flooding my mind. But mostly, right now, about clefts as my 2nd daughter with a cleft had another lip repair surgery this week. And as I adjust to yet another new look to her face, I can't tell you how much I miss HER face. Her original face. And to the world that sounds crazy...and I love her as deeply now as ever...but I miss that wide open smile.
    Babbling now...but thanks for being honest! :)

  16. I just found your blog through a friend's. I loved this post. I have a biological son born with a severe cl/cp. One of the toughest days of my life was the day his lip was repaired. I related to your thoughts...and more. I was so in love with his precious face...it was truly perfect to me. Perfection...was redefined for me the day he was born. There was something strikingly beautiful...in what the world considered 'deformed' and 'imperfect'. I was forever changed the day my cleft baby was born. We are now in the process of adoption 2 precious baby boys with clefts from China. Your family is beautiful. Thank you for sharing your heart.


  17. Thank you...I needed this so much, right now. We have been home 3 months. I have discovered that not everyone wants to hear the ugly truth, so I have withdrawn and given them the smiles and nods they are after. But I need the truth, I need it so I can heal and so others can as well..and you have given it out of a beautiful sacrifice. Thank you. Many prayers for you and your beautiful family.

  18. I'm so sorry for those dark grey days you experienced - but I know many people will be so thankful you've written this post. A sincere well done to you.

  19. Thank you for the brutal honesty, friend. Thank you.

  20. Thank you for sharing your heart and for your honesty. Adoption is a beautiful thing, it is also a very difficult road to walk. Often those around us only see the outside of it all... how cute our little ones are, how wonderful it is that they have a family, and many other beautiful things. What they don't see often is life in the trenches, heart ache of what our children have experienced before they came to us and what that means daily sometimes, the beauty of how our children were created and He made them ours.
    Thanks again for sharing,

  21. I was sent to your blog by my sweet friend Stephanie Anderson, and it feels like such a gift to sit here in tears reading this honest, beautiful, love-filled post as my husband and i start at the very beginning of our adoption journey. Thank you for your truth and your courage, for only when things are brought into the light can they help bless, heal, inform, and grow others and ourselves. So happy to have been connected to you!

  22. Hi Angie, you may not remember me (Sarah Adams/Sarah Tillman on Facebook) but I have followed your blog for a while now. I am currently teaching in China now and I have been SO inspired by you -- your attitude, your HONESTY, your perseverance and your life choices. You are such an inspiring woman, and your brutal honesty is so healing for me to read about. I'm in a very, very new phase of life (facing the unfortunate end to a marriage to a childhood sweetheart and now living in CHINA of all places!), so I've been in the process of re-evaluating what life will look like for me (hint: it's not at all what I thought it would look like, but I'm loving the way God is putting me back together). However, seeing your story of adoption (and learning what I now know about the situation from living in China for a year) has convinced me that if I ever find myself in a position where children are an option for me I know that I am called to adopt from China. Seriously. So beautiful, so hard, but SO GOOD. So please keep sharing -- the good and the ugly. I feel privileged to be able to read about your story.

  23. You get a huge Amen from me...i don't know you, but thankyou for being honest, thankyou for enduring, may God's peace and love flood your lives together!

  24. BIG FAT AMEN!!! Keep doing what you're doing, Angie!!! Keep being YOU! GOD IS USING YOU TO BLESS COUNTLESS PEOPLE, MYSELF INCLUDED. Sending you love and prayers today!!! -Meghan (friend of Chad and Becky's)

  25. I have no idea who you are, but I just found your blog through another blog. We are in the very beginning stages of international adoption...literally, just praying about the country and agency...haven't even started. I'm so very thankful for people like you who bravely bare their souls and tackle the difficult things about adoption. It helps people like me go into this with a more realistic view of what is in store. We have three little boys, ages 5, 3, and 8 months and are hoping to adopt a little girl, most likely from China. I sat here and read your words in tears as my heart just breaks for those sweet babies. I don't know if you'll read this, but if you do, I have a question... I see that you have two young children as well and I was wondering if you feel like it helped having younger kids at home with the transition and adjustment for your sweet girl? We are contemplating doing this soon or waiting until our boys get a bit older... Just trying to get opinions of people who have been through this before... :)



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