7 years ago, my world was flipped upsidedown… and I wouldn’t want it any other way. In 2011, a gorgeous young boy entered this world. I wouldn’t meet him for another 217 days. 492 days until he joined our family forever. This National Adoption Day, I’m reminded of my family’s journey to welcoming our son into the family and the valuable leadership lesson it taught me.
Having experienced pregnancy loss and the joy of birth, all I can say is that it was the strangest of experiences of my life. Loading up the minivan and making a two hour drive to our county’s social services office to “meet my son” for the first time was daunting. As a foster parent when you meet a child for placement, you don’t know if he will be with you for 3 days or forever.
There is Serious Courage Needed in Saying “YES”
There is serious courage needed in saying “YES”, especially when it comes to a child. It means says yes to sleepless nights, heartache, and countless doctor appointments. More so, there’s the chance that once you are fully attached and love that child with a love more fierce and powerful than anything you could ever imagine, that child will be taken from your home. Family reunification is always the goal with foster care, so if the parents meet the minimum requirements their rights as parents can be restored.
When I met my son for the first time, it was with thoughts of “what if” and not knowing what the path looked like ahead of us. What I knew was that he had the chubbiest cheeks, was all smiles and as squirmy as can be. (He still has all the smiles and is squirmy). He pulled at my hair and drooled on absolutely everything. I knew that this was the right decision. Seeing him made me say YES to the challenges of foster placement.
When I met my son for the first time, it was with thoughts of “what if” and not knowing what the path looked like ahead of us.
Sometimes Things Are Just Out of Your Control
Having raised three babies before, it was easy to swing back into the groove of buckling in car seats and taking walks to the park with the stroller. With each day that passed, we loved him more and more. The harsh reality though, was that at least the first year of his life would largely be decided by lawyers, judges, and social workers. And these people didn’t know him or love him as we did.
The harsh reality though, was that at least the first year of his life would largely be decided by lawyers, judges, and social workers. And these people didn’t know him or love him as we did.
You’re Going to Face Inherent Loss, Mourning, Joy, and Strife
Adoption is truly a journey where you face inherent loss, mourning, joy, and strife. Not to mention mountains of paperwork and intrusion of privacy with social workers, home inspections, unplanned visits, and upheaval. Just the very essence of adoption equates to loss. A family gives up their child, or he is “placed” in a new home by the state. This change, though, is a symbol of a new life and opportunity.
In loving him, we also took on the responsibility of loving his birth mom. We ached and prayed for her to overcome her addictions, even knowing that her success would mean the greatest loss in our lives. We took each day at a time. Loved, hugged, prayed and LIVED. We knew though, that this child deserved to be loved.
Eventually, the court determined that adoption was in his best interest. We waited on pins and needles as the appeal period passed. Finally, we could rejoice as friends and family came from across the country to celebrate his adoption.
Don’t Overthink Change… It’s an Opportunity
When we brought home our sweet son, our family dynamics drastically changed. Luckily, our three other children were eager to accept their new brother. I was blown away by the kindness, love, and commitment by seven-, four-, and two-year-old expressed as we brought a tiny stranger into their home, disrupted their routine, and had a new focus of attention. I wasn’t sure how long this optimism would last, but my heart was at ease just a few days after his placement in our home.
A few days in, I was at the store with the kiddos, my new son included, and we crossed paths with a friend. This was one of the first times introducing our “new addition” to a friend… Am I ready for this? What will people think? Is HE ready for this? Before I had a chance to react, my oldest cut through my awkwardness and proudly exclaimed, “This is my new brother!”. My heart was overwhelmed.
Am I ready for this? What will people think? Is HE ready for this?
Was it really that simple? I marveled at the ease and honesty with which he made that declaration. I was a very proud mom in that moment. For me, it took time… Not terribly long, but it was definitely a transition. In the first few weeks, there were long nights and tough days where I questioned whether life would ever feel “normal” again. To be honest, it just didn’t feel real… it was like I was babysitting someone else’s child. I’ve heard the bond is instantaneous for some, but for me, it grew with time.
Strive Until You Thrive
In the meantime, I didn’t “fake it until I made it”… I really don’t like that phrase in leadership or in life. What I did was my own version––STRIVE until I THRIVED. I cared for, cuddled, kissed, and rocked my sweet baby boy. I sang to him and prayed for him and STRIVED to provide the best home possible for him. Somewhere in the overwhelming midst of all that striving, we began to thrive. A bond grew between us. A love beyond what I thought was possible was planted in my heart. I’m not sure the point I felt he was my “own” child, but it happened. It happened long before a judge declared it legally so. That love has grown in strength and power every single day since.
There is an adoption cliché that adopted children grow in our hearts… and well to be honest there is nothing I can find closer to the truth. Now, I struggle to wrap my head around the fact that he did not grow in my womb. He feels just as much “mine” as any of my birth children. And that is what is so beautiful about adoption. He is my child and nothing in the world can change that.
So, my friends, whether you’re going through an adoption of your own, or just finding yourself in unchartered territory… don’t fake it until you make it. STRIVE UNTIL YOU THRIVE. Work towards your goal, ask questions when you need clarity, and push through. You got this.
If you’re interested in learning more about #NationalAdoptionDay, please visit nationaladoptionday.org.