Have you heard the Oncoming Car adoption analogy? It goes something like this:

Imagine a scene in which a mother and father are out playing with their new child outside. Before they know it, their child has wondered out into the middle of the road, and a car is moving towards the child. With only a moment to react, the parents have to make a critical life-changing decision.

Option #1– They both run to protect the child and as they do so, all three are hit by the force of the car. This impact may unify them (offering a little more protection for all) and they may survive with only minor injuries, or the impact may separate them and they will incur more injuries because of that separation.

Option #2 – Only one parent runs to protect the child and they are struck by the car. The force on one parent is more intense, but both parent and child survive the crash.

Option #3 – One parent or both parents rush to the child and moves the child out of harm’s way and into the arms of a couple on the other side of the road. The parent/parents aren’t able to save themselves from being hit by this oncoming car and they take an unbelievable hit for their child.

This scenario provides an interesting analogy of placing a child for adoption. It creates a picture of the urgent need for a decision and its results in the lives of expectant parents and their child. It also acknowledges the tremendous impact marriage, single parenting, or adoption can have on the expectant parents. It enables others to understand how painful and life-altering this experience is for expectant parents. Making this decision is NOT easy, and neither is living with the results.

As the adoptive mom, I am the lucky one in this analogy–lucky (and eternally grateful!) to be in the right place at the right time. In this imaginary scene, I am not directly impacted (like the parents) by the oncoming car; however, I am indirectly affected by witnessing the impact.

Most people in my world don’t see how this moment affected me, and for a long time, neither did I. But now that I have intimately been a part of this scene multiple times, I can tell you the adoption PTSD and survivor’s guilt is very real!

It is hard to talk about because I fear people will think I am ungrateful for being the lucky one in the story. People are more likely to understand if their friend feels guilty while watching their sister fight cancer than to understand my feelings of guilt when a parent places their child for adoption with me. I believe it is because I gain something from this traumatic scene.

In most people’s minds, adopting a child wipes out the pain of infertility and masks the trauma and suffering I experienced. Adopting a child didn’t do either of those things for me.

It did make me a parent, for which I am extremely grateful. However, I suffered the pain of infertility before and after I adopted children. And seventeen years later, I am still working through feelings and misbeliefs regarding not being able to bear children.

Witnessing a parent place their child for adoption is reminiscent of our imaginary oncoming car plowing into this courageous parent. It is unlike anything I have ever seen before or, honestly, want to see again. Describing what I saw, heard, and felt brings me back to the moment of placement. And I would prefer to not remember the piercing sound of sheer heartbreak, or desperate plea of hope in her eyes, or the feeling of stewardship as I was given the mantel of raising this child. It was unbelievable!

As a mother, witnessing this scene allowed me to step into expectant parents’ shoes and imagine what they were experiencing. To get a glimpse of their sacrifice is inspiring and heartbreaking all at the same time. They LOVE their children, more than anything else! It brings to tears to my eyes every time I think about it. That is how deeply witnessing this scene has impacted me.

After one of our placements, we went home and introduced our children to their new sister. Like a runner at the end of a marathon, I was flying high (we did have a baby!), yet I was mentally sore and emotionally exhausted.

The intensity of the experience doesn’t stay with you forever, just like an expectant parent can heal from their injuries. But once you have been through it, you will never be the same. You will have a special place in your heart for all those willing to be a part of adoption.