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.