Our adoption journey has been a little different than most people's. My husband and I didn't struggle with infertility for years before deciding to adopt. We never tried at all to get pregnant before we decided to adopt. Adoption is something I have always wanted to do- it was our first choice, not our last resort.
Luckily my husband was open to the idea of adopting as soon as I mentioned it, while we were still just dating. He asked me why I wanted to adopt (like many people have asked) and I couldn't come up with a clear reason. I had seen my aunt and uncle adopt my cousin when I was a kid, which I think got the wheels turning. Then I pursued a career in social work, which lead to me working with children in the foster care system. That finalized the decision for me because I saw firsthand how many kids there are right in our own communities who desperately need a stable, loving, committed family.
We began the process to become foster parents just a few months after we were married. (Having worked in the system, I knew that it is very common for foster parents to eventually adopt their foster children if they aren't able to return to their birth families or go to relatives.) It took a few months to complete the home study, which was a lot of paperwork but really not too painful. After we were certified, we were placed with a child in just four hours.
Our son and daughter were our second and third foster placements. They were 4 months and 20 months old when they were placed with us as a sibling set. The baby was badly neglected and malnourished. We picked him up from the PICU, and his older sister was tracked down by the state and brought to us a few days later.
The first few days at home taking care of a baby and toddler were a bit of a shock to the system. Unlike pregnancy when you have 9 months to prepare and know you'll be coming home with a newborn, foster parents may have just minutes to prepare when a child comes into care. And they can be a wide range of ages and have a variety of extra needs.
Our children adjusted to their new environment relatively quickly. The bond between us as parent/child took time to develop. We had been told when they were placed that these two would very likely be heading towards adoption, so even though they were our foster children we never acted like it was a temporary situation. As far as we were concerned, they were ours from the start. In the back of our minds, we always knew that it wasn't a done deal, but we decided to put our hearts all in to them like they needed and deserved. If they did end up leaving us, we would have been heartbroken but that is what you sign up for when you decide to foster. The children's need for love trumps the adult's fear of heartbreak.
Two years and one month after they came to us, Tiana and Zari were officially adopted. They had been our children all along, but I can't even express how good it felt to have that piece of paper! Just knowing that they'd be ours forever and no one could step in and take them away was a huge weight off our shoulders.
The kids are 7 and 9 years old now and they know all about their adoption story. We've always tried to answer all their questions as best we can and not make them feel shame for wondering about their identity. One huge benefit of adopting the way we did is that we know who their birth parents are, so our kids don't have to grow up under a cloud of mystery wondering where they came from.
One thing I wish people understood about adoption is that while the ending may be happy, it is fundamentally rooted in loss. It hits a nerve when people make comments like my children are "lucky" to have been adopted. I think it is lucky when children are born into families that are equipped to care for them and never have to endure abuse or trauma. At the very least they've experienced the trauma of being taken from all they know. Even in babies, this can have powerful, long-term effects.
If you are considering adopting a child, I would recommend reading as much as you can on the topic and then just go for it. There are so many children out there who need families, whether in your city, across the country or overseas. Every child deserves a family.
Mom of 4 (by birth and adoption), Caitlin spends her days picking up Cheerios and wiping butts while wondering why she ever got a master’s degree. When she’s not looking for lost shoes or yelling at her kids to stop yelling, Caitlin seeks out opportunities to connect with other “real” moms and find ways to make our busy lives easier.