Worth It: An Adoption Story

Tomorrow will be six months since our second foster son was placed with us. And in about 58 hours, we will adopt.

The truth is, my relationship with my son started out shall we say…less than idyllic.

I don’t want to be romanticizing things here. We had a little boy dropped in our living room, four days after the first time we ever heard his (first only) name, by two social workers who barely knew him, with two rather impressive ear infections and five changes of clothes and pretty significantly behind on sleep.

We didn’t know a nap schedule, didn’t know what he ate, didn’t know his bedtime routine, didn’t even know how to interpret the sign language he knew.

This little boy was delivered to our house mere days after we learned that our first long-term foster son would be leaving.

I don’t know exactly how to unpack the mourning process of that period, but what I can tell you is that there were TWO people in this house for a good bit of time that were busted up messes. Two people with extremely short fuses and two people prone to temper tantrums. Two people who wanted to love each other but didn’t really know how.

I thought of it for a long time as HIS transition issues, and sometimes I thought about MY difficulties with sending home our baby, but the truth is we kind of went through the wars together.

I tried so hard to be the grown-up, the one with tools to use to process and to behave correctly, even when I didn’t want to. And sometimes I actually managed it.

I comforted him in the middle of the night, when he would wake up, or half-wake up, just sobbing. Not baby-crying, not wailing, often not even out loud. I don’t know if you realize this but this is not something you hear very often – a two-year-old crying in a way that really isn’t intended for someone to hear or respond.

I went in often, even when I wasn’t sure my presence was comforting; when he’d jerk his head up every few minutes off of my shoulder and look confusedly at my face with his deep brown eyes, and I would just think neither of us even know each other. What are we doing here? and then he’d put his head back down, and then do it again a few minutes later.

I did go to him…until sometimes I just couldn’t.

Sometimes I knew we both just needed actual rest and sleep, and when I went in, he never ever slept.

Sometimes I knew I was just a reminder that the Mama he actually wanted wasn’t there. Sometimes I would think of my baby doing this exact same thing in a few weeks at someone else’s house. And so I said to myself, “I will be here tomorrow, his tummy will be full, he will be warm and dry, and we will have fun tomorrow. He will have to just go through enough nights where the morning comes and we are there, that he will eventually not be afraid.”

The truth is, this poor little guy got a broken Mommy, the not-first-but-final Mommy he knew.

We lashed out at each other sometimes. We both cried. I wasn’t a rock and I wasn’t a perfect refuge, like I thought I’d always be able to be for foster kids. But I was a human, and I think that we now have a sort of deeper respect for each other than we would have if he met me at my “best” and I thought I knew what I was doing.

I feel like I can say this now because truthfully, I look at that one or two months where we were just a hot mess held graciously but barely together by God.

I want to say I’m sorry to my son that he had such a hard time and I’m sorry that I had such a hard time, but we suffered together.

We’re us now, and we couldn’t be us the way we are without having been through what we’ve been through, together.

You know what though?

We’re not all done. I am not all done mourning my baby and he is not all done mourning his biological family, not by a long shot.

But now we mourn as a family, not alone.

He is my sweet, brilliant, hilarious, precious son and when he hurts for his first family, I hurt with him.

Also, in just a couple of days, you will be my son forever. For the actual rest of our lives.

What I learned as a foster mom

• Every single human life, no matter how seemingly arbitrary or bizarre or tenuous their connection to you is, how unfamiliar or even completely unknown their background; every single person has the potential to be an irreplaceable, essential part of your family, if you can humble yourself and learn about them.

• Marriages are intended to be places where you honor and uphold each other. You can survive more than you ever thought, and you can love more than you ever thought if you just keep your promises and consider the other person more important than yourself.

• I am not a strong or gracious or patient person. I am a person who up until now has had a relatively trial-lite life, and I now know better than to think I am better at coping or managing or being compassionate than anyone else out there.

• I would go through that (most likely) difficult first month or two (or six even, or more) of transition over again, even just for the 4 months that have come after. I would do that month or two of the deepest mourning over again a million times in exchange for the 10 months we got to spend with our baby.

When I look at that month or two, the hardest of my whole life, in comparison with the rest of our lives with my son? You look at me and say that month or two is not worth it? I look at you and say you’re crazy.

Six months. The first six months. Of many, many six-monthses. My sweet boy, you are so, so worth every single minute of it.


Abbey Daniels is a stay at home mom who has been irrevocably changed by foster care and adoption. She also leads missions efforts at her church and works for clean water in South Sudan. She blogs occasionally (who has the time?) at thefamilydaniels.wordpress.com

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9 Comments

  1. Seana Turner

    What an open and tender post. I love your comment about realizing now you are not any better than any other mother out there trying to do the best she can. One of the blessings of trials is how it elevates our understanding and compassion for others in the same situation. It wasn’t until I had a child who struggled to sleep that I understood what sleep deprivation is, and how hard it is to help a baby sleep. Congratulations on the adoption. May you enjoy many years of joy ahead!

    Reply
  2. Lauren Williamson

    What a beautiful read. You all are on my heart.

    Reply
  3. Christine

    Thank you for sharing your beautiful story! We’ve adopted once (and soon-to-be-twice 🙂 from China, so I can relate to your feelings.

    By the way, I highly recommended the book The Connected Child by Karyn Purvis. So much wisdom about connecting with children through fostering/adoption.

    God bless you! 🙂

    Reply
  4. Mimi

    I absolutely love this! What a mind shift to realize every single person has the potential to be an irreplaceable, essential part of your family… holy words for a hard season. Thanks for your wisdom today!

    Reply
  5. Joy

    Wow. This really spoke to me as someone who has always been interested in adoption but not sure I could “handle it” whatever that means. Mine has NOT been a trial-lite life, as you described yours, so I often find myself avoiding any trials or discomfort I might be bringing on myself. We have one biological child and we often think we are done, but sometimes I wonder if we might not add a little one who needs a family. I loved your point about how any human can become an irreplaceable part of your family. Beautiful.

    Reply
  6. Jocelyn Ford

    Thank-you.

    Reply
  7. Val

    This brought tears to my eyes this morning, because it is my story too, many times over. Over the last 17 years we have had many children brought to our home, some have left and we are happy for them, some have left that we still mourn the loss of (one whom we planned to adopt and left after 13 months) and some we worry about to this day. But, 2 have stayed for 16 years as long term placements and are just as much our kids as anybody can be, and 3 have become our children through adoption. None of us are perfect at this process called parenting but it is the most rewarding thing I have ever done. This month as we get ready to send a beautiful little girl back to her family we are happy for her but already are missing her in our hearts. We are nearing the end of our foster parenting time, maybe a few years more and that’s it, it has been a difficult but amazing ride. Congrats on your adoption of this beautiful little person 🙂

    Reply
  8. Susan

    What a story ♥️ You expressed the path of foster care so tangibly. We are also foster parents and have had a placement removed. The grieving is tremendous – heart wrenching. We took time to grieve and 4 months later had a second placement who we adopted. It’s still a journey of the unknown – but we are together. Thank you for sharing your story.

    Reply
  9. MollyL

    We said good bye to our baby of 6 months on March 16th. The pain is still there, but she is totally worth it and I am so thankful for each moment we had with her.

    Reply

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