I’m going to be super honest here. So, so uncomfortably honest. Adoption scared the crap out of me.
Despite being fairly literally surrounded by adoption these days, until fairly recently, I didn’t want to adopt.
In fact, it was four and a half years ago that my mind was changed. And it has been four years since our first child came home.
Don’t get me wrong. I have always found the idea of adoption lovely. For other people. Smarter, savvier, more put-together types of people. Not people like me, who fall for running refrigerator jokes and never manage to save receipts and, even as I am writing this, have no clean spoons.
The idea seemed so hopelessly out of reach for someone so normal. Which sounds terribly silly, because most people are, in fact, pretty normal. But for the longest time, I couldn’t wrap my head around the concept of adoption in my own life.
A discussion about international adoption provoked a dismissive, “Oh, it’s so expensive, and it takes so long. And I could never keep all the paperwork straight.”
Domestic adoption? “Well, you never know how long it’s going to take to be chosen, and then what if you finally are, but the birth mother decides to parent? I don’t think I could handle that. And the cost! And the paperwork!”
Foster care adoption seemed, to me, like the most difficult of all.
“I don’t think I can say goodbye to a child after child.”
“The kids have been through so much trauma, I’m not sure if I’m the right person to handle that.”
“They have you write down everything you do, every single day. And save every receipt. Is that even possible?”
“I heard about this case where the family had already adopted their child, and the birth family appealed, and they all went to court, and it was a huge mess.”
I memorized all of my excuses why not and parroted them to anyone mentioning adoption.
But the real truth is this: I was scared. Terrified.
I was out of my mind with the fear of being hurt.
Whether it was the sting of being passed over or the shame of being exposed as the hot mess that I am more-than-capable of being, I was paralyzed with fear. It was so strong that it prevented me from moving forward with adopting for many months after I felt in my gut that it was the way to our family.
If I got bold and decided to talk about adoption with my husband (who, by the way, always replied with an emphatic, “Absolutely, I am interested in this. How would you like to get started?” and is maybe the most patient man alive), I almost immediately followed with conditions to be met before we even started looking into it—things like re-sodding the backyard, and getting a few raises under our belts, and convincing my parents to move closer to us.
If I allowed myself to peruse options online, I was quickly overwhelmed and gave up.
I often recapped the many ways I was a failure and I was scared of that feeling: Not only could I not carry a baby myself, but I wasn’t strong enough to continue with fertility treatments. I wasn’t brave enough (or organized enough, or wealthy enough, or enough of numerous other things) to consider adoption, and I felt guilty because I knew I was terribly caught up in my own temporary struggles, but I couldn’t figure out how not to be. My world was small and kind of sad, for a time.
This perpetuated until one day I stumbled upon a website devoted to kids waiting to be adopted, and I recognized that I couldn’t even fathom the fear of not having a safe, loving, permanent place in a family to call mine.
Not long after, my very intuitive aunt told me about her friend, who was in the process of adopting through foster care. This friend had found a local agency that she adored, and they all thought I might like to go to an informational meeting.
My equally intuitive mother encouraged this suggestion.
And, for some reason, I finally decided to go. After letting fear dictate my world and batting at the tug I felt to look into becoming a foster parent, I somewhat reluctantly attended a meeting at a foster care agency.
And in an hour, our path was decided on. I left feeling 100% positive that this was what we needed to do, and I was ready to do it. I was finished grieving the hypothetical life I had planned. I had finally broken through the fear and shame and pity I had built around myself and saw that there were bigger things.
Yes, I wanted to be a mom, and yes, this could lead to curing our childlessness.
But, more than that, more than most things, was that there were kids who needed families to love and care for them—some for a little while, some forever. In my city. In my town. Kids right down the road who needed a safe place. And I had the ability and the desire to create that safe place. Someone like me, who doesn’t always feel put together or qualified for adulthood, could actually take steps to make a difference in the life of a child.
Even more surprising (because I think deep down I already knew it was a technical possibility), I realized that my thought process on the topic had shifted; that if I decided it was no longer about me and my fears, then it was no longer about me and my fears. Like magic.
It didn’t make me not scared, this realization. And it didn’t make everything suddenly easy. None of the things that had scared me were changed: It should take time. It could be expensive. Our hearts would be broken. I might have to say goodbye to a child I loved.
It was all the same. And it was still scary. But deciding that being afraid didn’t make something impossible meant that there was room for possibility. And room for other things, too. Like love, and the experience of being intentionally vulnerable, and the kind of heartbreak that makes someone a parent.
This is not to condone throwing caution to the wind or diving in without any thought to whether there is water in the pool. The adoption process does require research, and careful planning, and time. It’s okay for hearts to need time to be worked on. It’s good to be sure of your choices.
Be smart, certainly. Be savvy.
But please, please—don’t be motivated by fear alone. Allow yourself to entertain the thought of being hurt along the way, and remember all the people who will be there for you. Stop being afraid of imperfection right now, because it is inevitable and, as it turns out, even wonderful.
Let go of the fear of not being in control and being scared, and let love take its place.
If I can do it, you can.
Learn more about how to become a foster parent.Are you and your partner ready to start the adoption process? Visit Adoption.org or call 1-800-ADOPT-98 to begin your adoption journey. We have 130+ years of adoption experience and would love to help you.