Should I Feel This Way after Adoption?

When our son lived with us as a foster child, I think I had a better grasp on my role in his life. I felt more focused. I think it was because I never knew if that day was his last one in our family. That helped me stay in the moment.

He might throw a tantrum after tantrum. Wake up all through the night. Not eat. Not poop. Or poop all over me. Didn’t matter that much when he was a foster son, because I knew he could be gone the next day.

But now I know he is not leaving our family tomorrow.

We have a piece of paper that tells me that he is a part of our forever family. I remember sharing that when the adoption became clear, I laid awake at night pondering the commitment. I knew my life was about to change. A lot.

What I didn’t understand was how I would feel about the changes.

I am about to be gut-level honest with you.

If you are an adoptive parent, I hope I voice some things that you think and feel, but are afraid to talk about. If you are thinking about adopting, file this away to pull out later to remind yourself that you are not messed up.

We adopted our son about 18 months ago. That is longer than when he was in our home as a foster son. The 18 months of post-adoption have been harder than the 15 months of fostering. At least for me.

And fostering included parent visits, court hearings, not knowing if he was leaving our family, having case workers in and out of our home…the list is long.

I am not sure if I let my guard down. Or maybe it is partly because our son is three-years-old and strong-willed.

Whatever the reason I sometimes feel sad, resentful, angry, disconnected, and confused. Then I struggle with guilt for feeling these emotions.

Danielle, my wife, expressed these emotions—overwhelmed, fear of what trauma induced behavior might bring, anxiety about interacting with biological family, aloneness.

What do I think is the cause?

Change. Change in our family and marital dynamics. We never had the nine-month prep time before we welcomed our son into our home. We got a call and one hour later there he was!

Reminders. Reminders that he isn’t our biological child. Reminders that we couldn’t have children of our own. Reminders that we don’t know what we are doing.

Complexity. An adopted child brings lots of complexities. How will he deal with the knowledge of being adopted. How do we interact with his biological family. How will the trauma of his first several months of life affect him as he grows older.

How do we handle this?

Press in. Press into God. Make our relationship with Him a priority. Not back-burnered until things calm down. He is the One who gives us strength, insight, wisdom, and all the fruit of the Spirit.

Recommit. Of course we are committed to our son. I remember when laying awake at night when we were about to make this commitment thinking it was a lot like marriage. This was not a matter of procreation. It was a matter of choice.

Not having an exit strategy, the same way we approach our marriage, keeps us in the game looking for solutions, not a way out.

Reach out. I think it is easy to hide these types of feelings. I can’t help but think that some of you are thinking now, “how ungrateful”. But that is no reason for me to not share how we are feeling.

We actively seek support from others who have adopted, from counselors, and friends and family.

We also are taking intentional steps to improve and protect our marriage. For example, we schedule 2-3 date nights a month. We also are taking a marriage class this spring.

There I put it out there.

If you are an adoptive parent feeling the same, or have in the past, I hope to hear from you. Correspond with me hear or via email.

If not me, then find others who will support and encourage you. People who will invest in knowing and understanding the challenges that you face.

If you are not a foster or adoptive parent, I urge you to educate yourself on the challenges that come with caring for orphans in this way. Be willing to form a team around a foster or adoptive family.

If you are an adoptive parent, what are some emotions you feel? How do you handle them? (leave your comment below)

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I am a longtime Austinite. Married my beautiful wife over 25 years ago. Adopted our son September 2012. Currently a writer and loving it. Previous jobs and careers include project management, missionary, and pastor. I enjoy sports (both watching and playing), traveling, reading, digging in dirt and hanging with my friends and family.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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4 thoughts on “Should I Feel This Way after Adoption?

  1. Friend, not for one moment did I think you were ungrateful for feeling those things. We have a foster child in our home, and it is looking like we will move to TPR. When the reality of that hits me from time to time, I find myself in the same spot. As foster parents, we get emotional support from all the parties involved. All we need is ask, and help flies to us… But once we adopt, will the support remain? Is it all going quiet then? All the meetings and conversations as the team gets together, all of that is part of our lives now, but once adoption happens, most of it will be gone.
    So I appreciate your analogy to marriage. It is a choice we are making, therefore we look for solutions and not ways out 🙂
    Also, parenting in general is that way. Often, parents feel their imperfections very clearly. Any child can become very intense, especially at the age of 3. But it gets easier.
    Another thing worth noting is that pregnancy has a similar impact. For 9 months parents are surrounded by compassionate people who give up their seats for you, who let you go ahead of the line because “the lady is expecting”… Then when the baby arrives, all that attention is gone. If child birth was tough, then even more so, some women long for the days of pregnancy. And some really do go through a time of finding it hard to deal with the baby because of that…
    All is part 🙂 We just don’t ever quit.

  2. I am not an adoptive parent, but as a parent looking in on how y’all are parenting Luke, I say, well done. It’s hard….adopted child or biological child, it’s hard. An adopted child I know must bring more to the table to factor into the parenting load, but parenting any three year old is just down right hard. There are a zillion split second decisions to be made nearly 24 hours a day with a preschooler….most of the time made on little sleep. There is constant redirecting and very little privacy and near to zero time for yourself to just eat or go to the restroom.

    There were times that I wanted to literally run away when I had a three year old and an infant. There were times that I was in tears by the time Jason came home after 11:00 pm doing some church activity and I had been alone with the boys since 8:00 that morning.

    Some of what you are feeling is normal for a parent. It is just down right taxing, this job of bringing up a little human. You really are in one of the hardest stages right now. It many ways, it does get easier from here. Course, then they are 15 and instead of having discussions on why one has to eat their peas, it becomes why one must focus more on The Lord and his work and not the beautiful girl….

    Find those friends that will hear out your honest emotions….even the ones that make you feel like a terrible parent. I guarantee you, you are not alone. But, even in the lowest feelings of parenthood you experience, always remember the impact your faithfulness to God in bringing Luke into our family had had on my son.

    Keep your chin up. Your the best Daddy Luke could ever, ever have.