The Struggle For Love – How it All Began

I remember waiting in line to pick up my son from school and messaging back and forth with my husband. I was on a mission to convince him that we REALLY needed to adopt a child. Not just any child, my heart wanted a baby girl. We had 2 beautiful boys already, but I was getting older (good grief, I was only 26) and time was running out! I was so impatient because anytime I got an idea, I was all in and it needed to happen right now, or I could possibly explode! I was filled with butterflies and so much nervousness that he would say no, but I really needed him to say yes! I am not sure what was causing me more anxiety; the possibility of him saying no and needing to reformulate my approach to convince him to say yes, or the idea of adopting a baby. I was so close to him saying yes but he hadn’t officially said yes. 

He had lots of questions that I didn’t have answers to, and I think he honestly was content with me staying at home with our boys. We had a beautiful home; he was happy with only 2 kids and he loved the consistency that we had built. Our boys were 3 and 5 and full of energy, anything trains and loved doing everything with their dad. My oldest was a tiger in the cub scouts, my husband was a leader and our littlest tagged along as an honorary tiger. Unfortunately, this all felt slightly boring to me and I was ready to toss predictability out the window for adoption. 

I had absolutely no idea how much it would cost, how long it would take or where or who to call? All these questions flooded my mind as I was waiting in line to pick up my son from Kindergarten. While I waited. I searched my phone and found the name of an adoption agency and guess what! Not only was the agency in our city but I also somehow connected that “This must be the perfect one to call and God is arranging all of this just for us.” Recalling this is actually making me roll my eyes at myself and those foolish thoughts. By the time I got through the pickup line, I felt like I was walking on clouds because my husband said YES!! I couldn’t even believe he agreed so quickly, but I was so thankful because now I could fast track this whole process and adopt a baby in just a few months. Well, that is what I envisioned. 

We adopted our first daughter in 2011, which was 4 years after opening our home as foster parents and 5 years after my husband agreed to adoption. Our second daughter was adopted in 2012. There are so many things I wish I could go back and tell that 26-year-old version of myself. I am fairly certain I have a list a mile long that would save her from so much anxiety, grief and worry. If she would listen, I would tell her all of them. That younger version of me was a lot like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. Bursting of dreams for a perfect child, hopelessly clueless as to the reality of the foster care system and filled with so much love. 

I am fairly certain that we had so many children placed with us because I could find a solution to any hurdle the agency would present and I was endlessly accommodating. Our certifier knew that we wanted to adopt so with each phone call asking us to take another placement, there was a twinge of hope left with us that this could be long term or possibly permanent. I held my breath in anticipation with each new foster child that showed up to our home. Would they be “the one?” This anxiety rollercoaster can almost become addictive to someone who has a strong burning desire to make an addition to their forever family. I wonder if this is something that the agency knows?

After 10 years of being a foster parent, I finally saw that man behind the curtain. I am not sure why I didn’t see him there the entire time or maybe I did? Either way, in that single moment, all 10 years of belief and hope I had in the foster care system was completely shattered. I was able to see that we had fostered 77 children and yet only 2 were ever available for adoption. We never adopted a baby, nor did I have a baby ever placed with us for adoption. We stepped into foster care having no idea what we were walking into, not having anyone prepare us or shelter us. There is no manual or best course other than making mistakes and doing your very best. 

We learned that the foster care system is so completely overburdened and sometimes in order to find a bed for a child to sleep in, you may be allowed to believe that this child could someday become your own. I have seen it be a beautiful experience, I have seen it completely wreck families and I have seen a lot of in between. The foster care system is not a place to search for a child to adopt. Would they be “the one” now shatters my heart in shame. The naivety of not understanding that these children belong to someone else is truly embarrassing to me. We were blessed to find our forever child through fostering, but the intention of the system is to return children to their family of origin. Our blessed occasions were ultimately at the cost and destruction of other families. 

When we adopted, we didn’t understand how the long list of diagnosis’ and trauma would affect the girls, the boys, our family, our marriage, or, and let’s be honest, any of our mental health. Today, my life looks nothing like what I imagined adoption life would look or feel like. I say feel because it has encompassed emotions from the far reaches of happiness to the deepest level of grief. Both girls are approaching their teen years now and life is becoming more challenging as the complexities of their early childhood trauma, adolescence and demands of young adulthood set in. Both have Developmental Trauma Disorder with a diagnosis of Reactive Attachment Disorder. I use the word “challenging” because they are exceptionally smart, and I believe they know me better than I know myself. This makes most days hard because a calm and peaceful home for me doesn’t feel that way to them. They are incredibly creative, so they are never short on ways to make sure they feel comfortable. Which translates to: Mom is upset, stressed out or agitated. 

After losing half my hair from stress, suffering from severe anxiety and ptsd, I decided I needed to try parenting them differently.  I now let them learn from natural consequences and have let go (I am still such a work in progress) of my internal need to control and manage their behaviors. The more I have let go of trying to control them or their actions, the less anxiety I have. This is definitely not something that has been easy, in fact it is by far the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. I now see it as loving them the way Jesus loves us. He doesn’t step in and correct us directly. He lets us mess up, destroy or even blow up our own lives and then is there when we ask for help. The love he has for us is truly unconditional, it is Agape love. To see how unloveable I have been and God still loves me is how I strive to be for my girls each day. I have seen some minor shifts from them behaviorally, which makes me believe we are on the right track. Some Days are so much harder than others but I just keep moving forward, drinking a lot of coffee and praying. 

Someone suggested the other day that I stop the “natural consequences” approach and try spending more quality time with them instead. Take them to ice-cream or talk to them about how much they hurt my heart or how I would prefer they treat others. This is what most parents would do. This is how I parent my boys, but I think they had forgotten that I had already spent 10 years parenting them this way. What I know to be true over the years is the method of parenting the boys does not result in the same outcomes for the girls nor has helped them attach.  Even more deeply, I am not sure a child with trauma unique to their experiences, is capable of intrinsically being receptive to something they don’t feel the same way as children without trauma feel. What is it they don’t feel you might ask? It’s the feeling we develop that tells us we are worthy of being loved and gives us the capacity to love others.

Just to be perfectly honest, I don’t believe that either of them love the members of their family, nor have ever loved us. Each of them deeply struggles with their own acceptance of being good and worthwhile people.  While life is not a pity party, I don’t believe that they truly know what love is. How can they care for someone in a way that they don’t understand or feel inside themselves? While I had only suspected the incapacity for love at the time, I never wanted to believe it to be true.  Then, one day my husband asked one of our children if they loved me? The response was “that’s a really hard question and I’ll need to think about it.” This alone was enough to break my heart. Then, shortly after sharing the belief that they do love me, they proceeded to answer how they knew.  Their response came in the form of a story about a time when my husband and I went to Hawaii. They said, “One night when you and Mom were gone, I felt a little nervous before I fell asleep. That’s how I know I love mom.”  

Until next time,

2 thoughts on “The Struggle For Love – How it All Began”

  1. That was really incredible. I look at how much I lost by adopting through foster care. I knew it all, I was the best parent to ever parent the kids we adopted. Yeah, it’s a joke. Instead I lost my oldest child by birth, she moved into her dad’s house, and our relationship to this day is crappy. My other two kids the other ones by birth still kinda “like” me. Sad isn’t it that we describe our families like this, that we describe our relationships like this, that we actually have to live like this. With this festive season that’s coming up, I look, and I just want to crawl in bed, put covers over my head, and not get out of bed, ever. I’m not depressed, I see a therapist weekly to make sure of that and to make sure I’m okay. I don’t know what it is, I think maybe it’s grief. Grief over what? Grief over everything I lost. I guess when I figure it out, I’ll let everyone know. Do I love those kids now? Absolutely. Am I okay with how they are? You bet. Why am I okay with things? Because I actually admitted to them what I did wrong when I was raising them. I did that to my birth children to. I can honestly say that all of them were okay with it, except for the oldest by birth. I find it ironic that she is not willing to be accountable for any oh, and I mean any things that she has done wrong. Told me I was looking for excuses for my behavior. I laughed and said there are no excuses, it’s only regrets. However, I’m not just going to let you bash me, a relationship involves two people, not just one. It was at that point that she said I’m no longer answering you, you stressed me out, maybe in two days I’ll have an answer. My oldest child that was adopted pointed out oh, she always does this right around Christmas. She asked if it was to get more gifts. I told her I didn’t know but thank you, for reminding me about that. I said I’m not chasing her this year, I’m okay if she isn’t a part of our family. I don’t have enough money in the world to make her want to be around me and her other siblings. I personally think she has issues of her own, that she is unwilling to deal with. Do I miss my three grandchildren Poshmark I actually only really know two of them oh, she had the third one and moved about a half an hour away. And she made it very difficult for us to visit them, and refuse to come over and spend time at our house with them. I should add we had an inground pool, you would think that we would have saw a lot of them during the summer. I don’t know my youngest granddaughter well, she screamed every time she saw somebody besides her mom until she was 2 years old. I’m sorry my ears cannot take that noise. I think she’s upset parenting children even the ones you give birth to, isn’t always fun. Do I have other grandchildren? Yes, I actually live with one of them. My husband and I divorced, and my son by birth and I created a home each of us could have half of. So my grandson lips with me, but he’s not my responsibility. I watch him between the hours of 11:30, and 8 a.m. . His dad’s on third shift, and he’s had sole custody for a while now it’s gone to more overnights with the mom than what she originally had. But he still has the majority of custody. Life will straighten out I believe for myself, it’s just not happening as fast is what I wanted to. I’m very tired of always being by myself. Part of it is that I don’t want to be around others, after all I think raising these children took that desire away from me. I don’t ever, and I mean ever, want to be judged by somebody else ever again. Maybe I feel this way to save myself the hurt that goes along with a relationship.

  2. Thanks for your honesty. That was so touching. I am an adopted momma of 14AD with RAD and 12 AD with ASD. I feel your pain. So hard loving, giving, serving with they give so little back & we feel upbeat up. I’ve been doing Nancy Thomas parenting along with Neurotherapy that supports her program for 4 years now. Saw good progress a year ago but regression past 4 months. I recently found you on FB & love your heart.

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