A couple dad’s responses to, “What does it mean to be an adoptive father?”

“I’m currently in the limbo of what this all could mean. Will the adoption happen? Will everything go through the way we’ve hoped? Will we carry hidden guilt and heartbrokenness of caring for this sweet child as she’s been removed from her mom by the state? Is it too late? Is the trauma implanted into her sweet, soft heart going to be something affecting her life forever?

“These are the things I think about a night while I play Candy Crush trying to distract myself.

“I believe all adoptions are birthed out of a place of loss. With that trauma, this thing of adopting an almost kindergartner feels way less cute than I thought it might be if we adopted one day. The pictures look sweet, but the thrashing feels less so. The checker at Trader Joe’s is completely enamored and I’m envisioning the way she is going to pull my beard out when she loses it over the idea of not being able to see her biological mom again…and who can even blame her?

“The thing about all of it though, is I’d do it all over again- even if it meant the adoption didn’t end the way we’re hoping it will now.

“The chance to love a child, no matter the trauma and pain they carry, is such a rich, humbling opportunity to step into loving the way I believe we’re wired to love.”

- Seth, current Foster Dad + potential adoptive father

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“Love is all that matters. Sometimes when you’re being tossed around in the grueling and emotional adoption process, you get caught up on details that don’t really matter.

“It’s good to be reminded of your roots and the whole reason you’re doing this. I am incredibly honored and proud to be able to love a child that needed love in his life, and no matter what happens, we will always be a safe haven of love for Xavier.”

- Justin, dad by adoption 

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“Before I met my son, I remember fearing some sort of disconnect with him. That’s a fun way to start a family, fearing there will always be a barrier. I knew the possible barrier may be thin at times or thick as concrete other times. I just feared this wall permeating my life reminding me my son is not my “real” son. Because that’s how people talk about adoptive families, isn’t it? It is, in case you were wondering.

“Between the sterile meetings with caseworkers, weird online training, and awkward home visits I never saw my son. Not on an ultrasound screen or growing in my wife’s body.

“Sure, I was excited and really enjoyed preparing our nursery for the arrival of our future child. However, I felt a barrier. I didn’t have a face to a potential name.

“Everything was too nebulous for me. I couldn’t wrap my head around loving someone I had never met and probably would not meet without this long process. The process seemed so impersonal to me.

“Then one evening in January of 2016, my wife was texting and calling me frantically while I was at work.

“She texted me the first picture I ever saw of our son.

“All those fears of there being a barrier were shattered with that small 1.6 megapixel (no smartphone here) picture. I am a dad.

“I finally had a face to love and connect with. A face that didn’t look anything like mine but still gave my heart the “jump, jump” it was aching for.

“To me, being an adoptive father means loving outside my bloodline. It means loving my son despite fear, despite differences, despite nice neat little family lines.

“It’s like I had all this love and joy in my heart during the adoption process and I didn’t trust it would ever find someone to pour into. Well it most certainly did find someone.

“My son is my son. I love him so deeply.

“Seeing his little eyes poke out above our front window sill and his tiny little hand waving hello and goodbye as I leave for work and return home is indescribable.

“To be an adoptive dad means, well, to be a dad.”

 - Loren Brenner, the father of my two babies 

When I look around at the best dads by adoption, I see them putting the needs of their children first. The best sort of adoptive father is one that isn’t afraid to put their child’s identity and needs before their own. The best sort of adoptive father is humble.

This often means recognizing the need for racial mirrors in their children’s life, which means other men who mirror their child’s race or culture. This often means humbling their self in more ways than one, and any need to be everything their child needs. This means loving past bloodlines and through trauma.

To be an adoptive dad means, well, to be a dad.