by Morgan W.
I am an adoptive parent and all of my children were adopted through foster care.
In 2008, we took the training classes, installed the best car seat in our practical SUV, and waited for someone else’s baby to be taken from them so we could bring it home and, hopefully, adopt him or her. We were young, optimistic, and totally prepared. Love can heal anything, right? Once our baby was home with us, we would just love it so much, anything she or he had been through would be erased. We would be perfect parents.
Today, we have a handful of children. They’re weird and imperfect. They have various delays and disorders. I go to a lot of IEP meetings and specialists. Whenever people find out how we built our family, they say one of two things: “I could never do what you do.” or “Your kids are so lucky.” In the early days, when I had one baby, I would think “anyone could do this! My baby isn’t lucky! I’m lucky to be her mom!” Fast forward nearly a decade and my reaction has evolved. You know what? You probably couldn’t do what I do. Bouncing a drug-addicted and screaming baby all night for weeks could break a person. Being afraid that your child will go back to their biological family because they’re just barely good enough on paper will keep you up all night even if your tremoring, wailing baby settles. I’m strong as hell. And my kids are lucky. They’re lucky because, if they had been reunified, the combination of nature and nurture probably would not have been kind. They’re lucky because I advocate for them. I don’t care who thinks I’m pushy and I’ve always had a serious problem with authority. My kids are lucky because I constantly read and research. I question service providers. I rely on my instincts and my niche knowledge of children with extra needs. I don’t believe in predestination, but I’m good at this.
The part of adoption and foster care that’s the hardest to swallow is the realization that love isn’t enough. There’s a spectrum of brokenness for the children who come into care, and you could end up with a child anywhere on that scale. You could get a well-adjusted baby who grows up relatively typical; a delay here and there. You could get a child with RAD who ends up in residential care because they try to kill a pet or even a family member. Love is a powerful tool, but trauma can last forever, and no one knows how genetics play a role. Not everything is fixable because you hugged your child and wished away the pain. This realization hurts, and it’s a particularly hard fall from the tree of idealism like one I planted in 2008. I can personally verify that you can have two sets of organic unbleached crib sheets and wear your baby daily and your child can still have FAS.
I’m not going to say I wouldn’t trade this life for anything or that my greatest reward is parenting my children. Maybe those things are true, but neither this blog nor foster care can be tied up with a neat, feel-good bow. This life is nothing like what I imagined it would be, but it’s mine, and I’m doing my best.