by Ernie Reppe
Ernie has been my friend for over fifteen years. He and his wife Christy live in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, and are the proud parents of three amazing boys. His story below reflects his journey with adoption. Many people asked about adoption after I wrote my infertility piece, so I’m so grateful to have Ernie’s wise and honest voice here. Enjoy. You can follow Ernie on twitter here.
Comfortable and easy.
That’s how I would describe life before my wife and I adopted three biological brothers all at once from Colombia, South America three years ago.
Sleeping in until 9:00 on weekends. Eating out all the time. Never having to clean the house (because nothing was ever out of place). Not having to deal with someone else’s snot, puke, pee, or poop. It was all so beautiful!
Now that the boys are home (and are now 7, 6, and 4 years old), life isn’t so comfortable and easy anymore.
Now at least one boy comes into our room every morning before the sun comes up. We rarely eat out because it’s such a hassle (not to mention expensive!). The house is a complete disaster all the time. And I don’t even want to start sharing the gross bodily function stories of my boys!
But this is par for the course. If you’re a parent, you know this kind of stuff comes with the territory. I knew what I was signing up for when I became a father so this stuff really doesn’t bother me (most of the time).
What I wasn’t prepared for was the intensity of walking through the boy’s stories.
While adoption is a beautiful and wonderful gift for us as parents, it can also be very messy. Every child entering into an adoptive family has already experienced a tremendous loss, and more often than not, they’re also bringing with them the emotional wounds of additional traumas.
Though we were prepared and educated as well as we could be, I had no idea how angry an adopted toddler could really be. Or how much my love and comfort would be flat-out rejected. I had no idea there could be so much hurt and pain inside such a little person that has only been alive for a fraction of the years I have been.
Just the other night I gave one of the boys a routine timeout for something (I can’t even remember what it was for), and it ended up taking 20-30 minutes to work through. It got really messy, really frustrating, and it ended with my boy breaking down in his room and yelling “nobody likes me.” It was one of those agonizing yells where you could feel the hurt and pain behind it.
On the one hand it was beautiful to finally see some real emotion from him…to see his heart finally feel something other than anger. But on the other hand it was heartbreaking to see some of the deeply rooted wounds that still live inside him. Despite three years of my wife and I pouring love and comfort into him, he still believes he’s worthless.
Seeing and dealing with all this stuff in my boys is very difficult for me. The hardest part is that it brought me face to face with my own anger, feelings of rejection, and wounds. I soon realized that there’s no way I could walk my boys into freedom and healing unless I first let God walk me into the same kind of life.
So that’s where I’m at. God is peeling back the layers of my heart and exposing what’s inside, and I’m actually beginning to look and acknowledge all the junk. It’s really messy, and I get really frustrated sometimes (because I really want to have it all together), but I’ve also had a couple of those moments like my son had where my brokenness finally explodes and clears a path for my heart to experience freedom and healing. I imagine it’s a beautiful sight for God.
I never imagined that being a father would mean that my boys and I would walk through our messes together. It sure doesn’t make for a very comfortable and easy life…and that’s OK with me. What God is doing in us is better than anything I could ever imagine.