Anyone who has ever struggled with infertility or pregnancy loss has heard this statement, “If it doesn’t work out you can always adopt.” And although people mean well when they say it they typically just don’t understand that it’s not that easy.
Before a couple ever even considers pursuing becoming a foster parent or adoptive parent, that couple must FIRST work through the hurts that come with infertility and pregnancy loss. This isn’t a simple task and it shouldn’t be taken lightly. Couples who have struggled for any amount of time with infertility and pregnancy loss will be devastated by various parts of the foster/adoption process.
It is so important that these feelings be worked through that it is one of the things caseworkers address during the in-home consult.
The job of a foster parent is a taxing one emotionally. You spend months jumping through hoops and preparing to open your home to all of these poor innocent babies that need a home. Then once you open, the reality of it sets in. These children are innocent and they’ve experienced a lot of trauma’s that most people couldn’t even fathom. As a result of that they have issues that they need help working through.
They need someone who can help them grieve the loss of their biological parents and old life. Someone who can help them work through the anger, fear, and serious psychological and/or physical issues that they may be facing because of what happened to them.
Some of this children are very bitter and may act out in undesirable ways. As a foster parent you grow to love these children and you hate thinking about the terrible things they’ve faced in their young lifetime. You may even make an effort to pray for the biological parents so you don’t get consumed with hatred for them.
You get close to the six month point and the case worker starts dropping hints or blatantly telling you that odds are the biological parents rights are going to be terminated. In the event of termination, you will have the opportunity to adopt the precious children you’ve invested your time in and have grown to love as your own.
As a foster parent you know that there’s still a chance it could go the other way so you try not to get too excited about the prospect of adoption. However, with the glimpse of hope you’ve been given about the case worker, it’s hard not to start looking toward the future.
Then it happens. All of the sudden bio mom has gotten off the drugs or they found a doting aunt and uncle that are more than willing to take the children. And just like that, at 12 months the children you thought you were going to have forever are going to another permanent home.
For every foster parent there are tears. Happy tears because reunification with a biological family member was in fact that best thing for the children and they are ecstatic. Sad tears because you’ve loved them and fed them and tucked them into bed every night for a year. They have become a part of your family and now they’re leaving.
As a foster parent, you learn that all of the tears and pain you feel are normal and it means that those children received the love and family they deserved while their parents got better or another family member become suitable to take them. You recognize that being a foster parent is about doing what’s best for the children — not you. You’re aware every time a child enters your home that you’re going to give them your all regardless of how much you get hurt in the end.
As an adopt-only couple, you spend months filling out all the paperwork and jumping through the necessary hoops and FINALLY your home is open. You know that statistics and the stories about how for some people it took years before they were able to adopt, but secretly you hope that those stories don’t become yours. You hear about all of the children being tossed into the foster care system and hear foster families talk about their struggles. You see foster families adopt children that were placed in their home after your home was opened. You filter through the Arkansas Heart Gallery and see the faces of all of these children that you’d bring into your home in an instant, but your case worker doesn’t call.
It is a long and emotional road for all families, but it is well worth it. However, for a couple who has struggled with infertility or pregnancy loss this process can be shattering. Infertility and pregnancy loss is heartbreaking for a man, but it is the woman that tends to take the full force of the emotional trauma.
The process of trying to open up as a foster or adoptive home brings back memories of the months of effort of trying to get pregnant. The thoughts of “why can’t this be easy for me like it is for everyone else,” creep back into your mind like they did when you were trying to get pregnant.
When you finally get your home open, you sit in the completely decorated bedroom and strain to hear the giggles and cries you know you’re going to hear soon enough. If you’re open as a foster home you probably will hear those sounds sooner than later. However, it’s going to be a huge shock when these children don’t come in calling you mommy and daddy and smiling at you. They’re going to be scared of the new surroundings and confused as to what has happened.
Their rejection is going to instantly throw you into a flashback of the several times you just “knew” you were pregnant, but the test just wouldn’t show up positive. The frustration you feel towards their biological parents is going to feel exactly like the bitter feelings you tried so hard to suppress when you were around another pregnant 15-year-old.
That hope you start to see when the case worker tells you there’s a good chance of termination and possible adoption is going to feel exactly like that positive pregnancy test. You’ll be shocked and excited, but you’ll try not to be too excited. You contain yourself for a few weeks, but then you get over confident and convince yourself that it’s a sure thing so you start to envision the future with your new child. Then, when there’s a turnaround and the child goes home, you’re going to be hit with that emotionally shattering feeling that you got when you started spotting or were told that there wasn’t a heartbeat.
Then you hit rock bottom. You grieve at the loss of the foster children and the future you thought you could have together. You simultaneously start to grieve over your infertility and pregnancy loss all over again because all of those feelings you thought you’d suppressed have come right back. You’re mad because you’re in that same place you told yourself you’d never be again. This is the point when you don’t feel like you could ever be happy again or ever foster another child again. You can’t allow yourself to feel this way again.
It seems impossible, but this is why it is so important to work through the grieving process regarding infertility and pregnancy loss before starting the foster/adoptive process.
How do you do that though? And how do you know you’re ready?
The first step (and the biggest step) is to take it to God. Take your bitterness, your sorrow, and your questions to God. Do it daily. Do it hourly if necessary on those tougher days. You will slowly start to see things in a different light. God will reveal to you in time when you’re ready to move forward and what moving forward means for your family. Allow yourself to move through the stages of grief at your own pace.
Eventually there will be a day when you will see a woman pregnant with her 5th child or a pregnant teen and although you may feel a slight twinge, it doesn’t send you into a spiral. Eventually there will be a day when you walk past the pregnancy test aisle and don’t have flashbacks of all the times you grabbed as many of as you could with hopeful thoughts. You’re able to truly be happy for other couples having babies without feeling bitter that it’s not you.
It’s at that point that you can start to feel emotionally ready to start the foster/adoptive process. There will still be rough days as there are with anyone who is a foster parent, but you won’t be consumed with flashbacks and past grief if you’ve been able to work through it ahead of time.
You can do it. You can get through it and you can be a great foster parent or adoptive parent. Give yourself the time to do it.