No one goes into adoption thinking they are going to be the worst-case scenario; I know we didn’t. It is so easy to have an imaginary scenario in your head about what your adoption is going to look like. Sure, it may be difficult at first, but you know you can supply stability and love and in not very long your new child will blossom in his new security.

Cue rainbows and unicorns.

But we all know this isn’t how life happens. Parenting any child, adopted or biological, is a roller coaster of gigantic proportions. It is the gamble of a lifetime because you have no way of knowing what is around the next bend. If this is true of emotionally healthy children, it is even more true of children severely affected by trauma.

To parent such a child is no small matter, and I don’t believe that all the preparation in the world can truly prepare you for this particular type of roller coaster. The ride you are getting on is going to be steeper, faster, and far scarier than you ever dreamed possible. Sometimes it is going to be all you can do to hold on and not go flying out of the car. Sometimes you wonder if you will survive the ride at all. At its worst, you sometimes think . . . even if ever-so-briefly . . . of getting out of that car, no matter the consequences.

For some children and their families, adoption is hard. It changes the way you do family and the way you think about family. The word “home” takes on a whole new level of meaning, and sometimes that meaning is not positive. This has certainly been our experience with one of our adopted children. Yet, we have adopted again, and I still encourage others to consider adoption. Why would I do that if it makes life so messy?

1. My life isn’t really about me. If your sole purpose in life is to earn the highest salary, buy the biggest house, and take the best vacations, then adoption isn’t for you. Also, if your life is all about doing exactly what you want, having long periods of quiet, or being able to find something in the same place you set it down, adoption isn’t for you, either. Frankly, parenting isn’t for you. When you agree to raise a child (any child, even biological ones), you are putting yourself aside a bit. Children need care, time, and attention and that means sacrifice on the parents’ part. Your life becomes more than what you want—instead, it becomes more of what is best for multiple people, including yourself. There is a bigger picture and you are part of it.

2. Even in all the hard, there is joy. We have had moments when life has been hard. Very hard. Yet, we have also had moments when life is good, and when we see bits of healing. No, life doesn’t look like we thought it would. It is harder, yes, but it is also deeper, richer, and more purposeful than I had ever thought possible. We are playing a role in a child’s healing, and though it may seem glacially slow at times, it is there. Getting a front row seat to God’s continuing provision, and yes a miracle here and there, is no small thing, either.

3. We are still talking about real, live children here. No child purposefully asks for trauma and the brain changes that come as a result. Trauma and loss are things that happen to a child, often at the hands of adults who are supposed to be caring and loving. Without love, stability, and care, these children will never heal, never be whole. These hurt children desperately need someone to care for them, even when it is hard. Especially when it is hard. Because that is they only way hurt children have of communicating their pain to the world. It is their cry for help.

Yes, I still support adoption, even when it turns life upside-down because we are still dealing with real people. Human beings who each have value and deserve to be loved and cherished and helped to reach their full potential. Even when that healing comes at the cost of my comfort and ease. To be truly in support of life, we have to also be in support of helping hurt children.