How We Went from Zero to Five Children Overnight
A large family was never on my radar. Nevertheless, in 2016, my husband and I went from zero to five children overnight when we took in a sibling group of five through foster care. But, our journey did not begin there. Not even close! Before meeting our five, we faced many twists, turns, and steps backward. Facing barriers in adoption is a common occurrence. Our adoption was no exception.
In 2012, after nine years of marriage, we decided to begin growing our family. After a short round of fertility treatments and several surgeries, we learned that pregnancy would not be an option. I grappled with many emotions like shame and embarrassment. However, disappointment was not one of those emotions. Adoption was always on our hearts; we just didn’t know how it would fit into our lives. We just wanted a family, and we were not concerned with how God might give us one. We knew it could be a long road, but we could not prepare for the barriers we faced along the way.
The First Barrier
Our first barrier was money. Even if we wanted to pursue infertility treatments and IVF, we knew the cost for us would be upwards of $30,000. At the time, we were both working full-time, long hours, and earning just enough money to live comfortably (but frugally). We did not hesitate to pursue adoption rather than fertility treatments. We worked hard and saved every penny. But, we knew it would require the generosity of family and friends and that we must be willing to search for grants and fundraising opportunities. We were excited to make whatever sacrifices and plowed into the world of adoption.
International Adoption and the Second Barrier
We agreed immediately to pursue international adoption. The idea of adopting from another culture was exciting and challenging to us. We began training and the mountain of paperwork required before hitting our second barrier: us. Our expectations and personal preferences were a significant barrier regarding international adoption. You see, we did not know that to proceed past the initial application process, we would need to pick which country we wanted to adopt from. Choosing a country turned out to be a task we could not complete. Looking back, we laugh because our inability to agree on what country we wanted to adopt from was clearly a sign that international adoption was not the road we should take. It was a frustrating time in our relationship. But in hindsight, we can see how this barrier helped us grow together in the way we make decisions as a family.
So, we took a step back from international adoption. After a few months, we signed a contract with a domestic adoption agency. During our time with this agency, we learned a lot about adoption, adoption agencies, and the families they work with. We dreamed of having an open adoption and remaining close to our child’s family. And then, we waited. It was three years before we received a match.
While waiting, my husband patiently campaigned to become foster parents. He had brought it up several times along our journey, and each time my answer was an emphatic, “No.” Fear and my unwillingness to expose myself to the potential for heartache held me back. However, I believe that God slowly began working foster children into my life through friends and coworkers. I became close to a few of them and found my heart softening. My fears never disappeared, but these children helped me face those fears. Eventually, we became licensed to provide foster care.
We saw our first placement come and go while still working with the adoption agency. It was just as hard as I feared. We had two high-needs children whose mother was in a desperate situation. I learned so much during our short time with them. I learned to have compassion and that I actually am strong enough to be a foster parent. We took a break around the holidays but planned to jump back into foster care once the new year began. My newly found strength gave me the courage to continue fostering even with the pain of saying goodbye.
And then, something crazy happened. We got a call from our domestic agency letting us know that a woman had seen our information on their website and picked us to adopt her son. We were shocked but sure that this was what we had been waiting for. We put everything aside to spend time with and connect with the woman and her family. She seemed to be just the mother we had hoped we would be matched together with. Our open adoption dreams were finally coming true. Over the next few months, we bonded. On the day before her induction, we arrived at the hospital, settled into our hotel room, and waited for the phone call. But, three long days later, we drove home with an empty car seat and conflicting feelings. She decided to parent her child.
I spent the long ride home trying to process what had just happened. I was embarrassed, disappointed, and confused. But, because of our bond, I loved her already like family. So, yes, I had feelings of betrayal and sadness. I also had feelings of happiness and peace because I knew she had the resources she needed to be the mother she wanted to be. I realized at that time that I fulfilled my purpose there. The baby was never mine or meant to be mine. Instead, the mother was mine to support, pray for, encourage, and share my faith with. In this, I found joy.
The Third Barrier
I also found surrender. I didn’t know it at the time, but the third barrier on our adoption journey was me. I needed to come to the end of myself and fully concede my idea of how my family should look. In those moments of swirled emotions, I cried out to God, “Okay! If it is my lot in life to care for other people’s children [through foster care] and never have a family of my own, so be it. I will do it.” I firmly believe that moment was the pivot point of our journey. Because, just a few short weeks later, we received an email from our state caseworker about a sibling group of five who needed a forever home.
The years since we met our five children have not been easy. We waited a year and a half to finalize their adoption. We continue to face the after-effects of trauma and hurt. In all this time we have been together, we have learned how to be a family together. As my husband and I have been learning to be parents, the kids have discovered how to become sons, daughters, brothers, and sisters. But, the barriers we faced along the way prove that it’s okay when a family doesn’t look how we think it should.
Every adoption comes with barriers. They can become roadblocks that stop progress entirely, or they can become parts of the journey that we can use to help and support others. When you face barriers in your journey, I encourage you to do these things:
1. Talk with a trusted friend. When we bring others along our journey, they can help us carry the burden and be blessed as we are blessed.
2. Ask for help. Do not hesitate or be too embarrassed to ask for whatever you need, financial assistance, therapy, babysitting, etc. You will need lots of help, and it is okay to ask.
3. Keep moving forward. Don’t give up. It is worth the effort, I promise.