The title of this article can very well be the title of my life. I remember when I was younger, I would dream big about having a wildly successful career and being a mother to a lot of children. I loved kids so much that I babysat as often as I could. I always thought that seven was my lucky number for kids. Both of my grandparents had seven children and my mother had seven children. When I got married, my husband was one of seven children, and I thought it was a sign that we needed to have seven children. About a year after marriage we started trying to get pregnant. That was when my dreams started to unravel.
Unlike my mother, I did not get pregnant easily. After a year of trying, I went to the doctor. My husband and I spent months running tests to learn what was preventing us from having children. When the results came back, we were picture-perfect and there was no explanation about why we weren’t having success. So, we tried Clomid (fertility medicine) to speed up the process. Then, I had a kidney stone and cysts on my ovaries. We gave up trying.
That was the first time I really started to think about adoption in my life. That was when I came across a saying that adoption is when the baby grows in the mother’s heart instead of her belly. I wanted a child so bad in my heart, but I couldn’t put one in my belly. It was a very painful and emotional time in my life. I used to think that if you worked hard enough, you could achieve your dreams. Now I know that some dreams have to change because some things are out of your control. My dreams of a large family did not happen.
I was eventually able to achieve part of my dream by having a child. Actually, I was blessed to have two girls. However, it was not easy. It took almost another year after the Clomid trial to become pregnant with my first daughter, and I had surgery for endometriosis before I could get pregnant with my second daughter. Even though two girls were not the big family I dreamed of when I was younger, they are enough. To achieve the big family I knew I wanted, I would need to adopt.
One of the biggest drawbacks of adoption for our family was the financial cost. Over the years we had our fair share of financial struggles. We never had enough money to pay for an adoption ourselves. In addition to the financial struggles, we move around a lot because my husband is in the military. We have lived in ten homes and four states in the last 11 years. Adoption is a lengthy process, and our lifestyle makes it even more difficult.
Before this point, I thought I understood how to be resilient when things don’t go according to plan. However, I was able to have two children, and some people never had that opportunity. So, while I had some mini-lessons (as far as fertility goes) on dealing with dreams not coming true, I was about to have some major exams on resilience.
Our family started our adoption journey a few years ago when we finally moved to a place where we would live for three years. That was the longest time we lived anywhere since my youngest daughter was born. We decided to adopt through the foster care system because we knew that would be the best financial way to adopt and we wanted to provide a loving home for a child that came from a difficult background.
The process to become a foster parent was incredibly lengthy. We were required to take over 40 hours of classes. The classes discussed all different kinds of abuse and issues that kids in the foster care system deal with. During the sexual abuse class, my husband and I sat there holding hands for comfort. Inwardly, I wept for all the challenges that children in the foster care system face. It took about four months to finish those classes and to take CPR certification classes. Then we had to be fingerprinted, have a fire marshal inspect our home, and do an all-day visit or question session with a third-party person. We were asked all kinds of intimate and personal questions during that experience. The person interviewing us looked throughout our house in every room.
To prepare for fostering we also had to lock our medicine up, lock up weapons, and buy a fire extinguisher. We had to prepare a room for the child and read an entire handbook of rules that was well over 100 pages. It took nine months to complete all of the necessary paperwork, background checks, and classes. When we finally were cleared to be foster parents, it was a relief.
I remember the nervous excitement when we received that first call. They needed a home for three young children, but our house could only take two. We owned cars that seated a total of five people. Since my husband was frequently gone, we could not take in more than two children and still have a way to drive around. They were aware of our situation, but they needed a home for the children. So, we took two of the three into our home. We loved those kids so much and welcomed them into our lives with open arms.
We took them to parent visitations, doctor’s appointments, dental appointments, and were preparing to spend a long time taking care of them. After a month, we were surprised by a call one night. They had found a new home for the children that could take in all three of the siblings. I wanted to go out and buy a van that very day so that they could stay with us instead of going to a new home. Unfortunately, we couldn’t at that time. So, with tear-filled eyes, we said goodbye to these beautiful kids the very next day. I was glad that the siblings could be together, but I knew I would miss them.
A few weeks passed before we got another call and received two more kids into our home. Unfortunately, there were issues with this placement as well, and after another month, the kids left our home. These two special kids had loving parents, and I only wanted to help them be reunited with them. It still saddens me that we were not able to care for them until they returned home. It was after this placement that we realized that we did not want to continue fostering at that time. The trauma of having children come into your home and developing a bond with them and then having them taken away never knowing what happens with them was hard. There were additional circumstances that added to our decision, but it is enough to say that we had to stop fostering at that time.
So, now what? How do you move forward when you have a desire to adopt, but there are roadblocks in the way? Everyone is different, but here are some things that have helped me deal with infertility and the trauma from fostering.
Allow Yourself the Opportunity to Grieve
Sometimes life is incredibly hard. We go through challenging situations and circumstances that pull us down to the brink of despair. It is okay to feel upset, to not be okay, and any other number of feelings. Let yourself feel that anger, sadness, or whatever else you are experiencing. When you have an adoption plan and it doesn’t work out at the last minute, that is a very hard thing to go through. It means that hopes and dreams have been dashed. The same is true for those who experience infertility and go through numerous treatments like IVF. When it doesn’t work out, there is a mourning period. Don’t skip that period or deny yourself those feelings because they don’t go away if they are ignored.
The only way to truly deal with these kinds of disappointments is to let yourself feel the emotions when they come. Maybe you will be numb at first and the emotions won’t come until later. That is fine. Not everyone will respond in the same way, but forgiving yourself for not being happy or not being able to adjust quickly is important. If you injured your knee, you wouldn’t expect your knee to be better the next day. Psychological trauma like infertility and dreams being unrealized is an injury. Give yourself time to recover.
Look at Alternatives
Throughout my fertility journey and our adoption journey, I changed plans. I had to take medicine, have surgeries, and pursue a lot of alternative plans to achieve my goal of having a family.
I don’t think my adoption journey is over, but it is merely on hold right now. I am learning about numerous other ways to adopt, and I am waiting for some family circumstances to improve, including finishing college. This is my last semester before I finish my degree, so my time will free up considerably after these next few months.
Since foster care didn’t work out, maybe I need to adopt locally or internationally. Maybe I need to go through an agency. Since finances are a challenging aspect, I can learn about adoption grants and alternate ways to fund an adoption. There are a lot of different ways to adopt and there are a lot of amazing organizations and businesses out there to help you.
Just because something you tried didn’t work out, doesn’t mean it is the end. It may mean that you need to try an alternative way to adopt.
I have friends that are trained and licensed psychologists. I know that I would not have survived our experiences as foster parents and our inability to adopt through the foster care system without them. It is important to talk to others when you are struggling.
People who struggle with infertility can find support groups. So can people who are trying to adopt, people who have placed a child through adoption, people who have yet to realize their dreams of children, and so many others. Many of us need help dealing with the trauma we experience. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
I am not just talking about psychological help either. Find someone who knows how to help you achieve your adoption dreams. Talk to an adoption lawyer or an adoption center. Thanks to the internet and technology, help can be found easily. The Gladney Center for Adoption can be an excellent resource for you to help you reach your adoption needs.
Take Your Time
This is such a challenging concept because infertility and adoption are both things that try your patience. Many people will wonder why they would need to take their time and will want to rush headlong into adoption as soon as they realize that they cannot have a child of their own. The problem with going straight from one thing to another is that you are not allowing yourself time to grieve. It is natural for a person to want to fill a void in their life, but when you do not process your previous experiences, those emotions compound and make you a ticking time bomb.
One of the many questions that we were asked before we could get certified as foster parents, is whether or not we dealt with our own infertility. They ask this because people who have had miscarriages or have experienced the loss of fertility are subject to compounded trauma. This happens when a person who hasn’t overcome past trauma experiences new trauma. The two traumas combine and make it even harder for the person to deal with their emotions.
Thankfully, I can say that by the time we fostered I had overcome the trauma of infertility. I was at a point that I was okay if I only had two children for the rest of my life. I had let go of the dreams of a large family and decided to be grateful for what I had in my life. I am so glad that I was at that point because otherwise, I would have crumbled when those kids left my home. It would have made the recovery significantly longer and I don’t know if I would even consider trying to adopt again.
Since our attempted foster care situation, I have once again taken time to heal and recover. I know that my family has a lot of things going on that would make it challenging to adopt right now and I am waiting until I am ready to pursue that course again.
This is my story and how I overcame the challenges when things didn’t go according to plan, but your story will be different. You may find that my advice is helpful to you or you may find that you need to handle life’s challenges differently. Either way is fine because we are all doing the best that we can with the circumstances that life gives us. No matter what your struggles are, remember that you are important. Your needs and wants are important and there are people out there who want to help you. You’ve got this and you can recover.Do you feel there is a hole in your heart that can only be filled by a child? We’ve helped complete 32,000+ adoptions. We would love to help you through your adoption journey. Visit Adoption.org or call 1-800-ADOPT-98.