Two weeks ago, a couple from our foster-to-adopt training cohort got their license approved by the state. A few days after that, a 9-year-old girl arrived and turned Britani and David's world upside down in the best possible way. Meanwhile, we wait.
Britani and David are first-time parents. They're experiencing the exact same crazy-making, sleep-depriving, heart-exploding symptoms of any new parent. I've been there with my own two boys.
I wasn't expecting to feel that way again. But that same night Britani texted about their foster daughter, I was overcome by what clinicians call IPATS: Irrational Prepare All the Things Syndrome. Aka nesting. Aka the urge to go buy new twin-size sheets.
Me: Hey Noah, we need to take that door off Ethan's closet so we can clean out the craft supplies and get the dresser in there. And hang a curtain instead.
Me: So...do you want to?
Noah: I don't think we need to do that tonight.
Me: But there's a child on the way. [true-ish, but factually false; we're still waiting on our license approval]
Noah: I know [humoring me; this isn't his first rodeo], but the child can get here with that closet door still on. In fact, we already have two children living here with the closet door still on.
Pregnancy: super cool, but it also betrayed me
Pregnancy wasn't a barrel of laughs for me either time. I've had a litany of problems, including intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy, hyperemesis gravidarum, gestational diabetes. Oh and a few months ago I was diagnosed with lupus. Blah blah blah.
The thing is, if it wasn't for my health, I would have another baby. So I’ve got this internal conflict: the desire to love more children, but the hesitancy to birth them.
All this is to say, I feel like I’ve got a surplus in my mother-love bank. For his part, Noah is a doting father.
Carrying a pregnancy and giving birth is incredible, a personally rare experience that intimately connects you to the mysterious cycle of life. If you can and want to, I say give it a try. But it's not what makes a family. Everything afterward is.
But why foster-to-adopt?
This isn’t particularly easy to answer. The decision can't be rooted in a savior complex, or a religious compulsion, although these notions may contribute. If you're not prepared for the full reality of a child who may view you as untrustworthy or a usurper, disaster ain't far off.
For us, part of it is wanting to remain rooted in our own community, giving aid and love to a child in need right here. But that’s not all of it—because our not-yet-here child isn’t a service project.
Part of it is the desire to help, because we have a loving, stable home and a little extra room to spare. But that’s not all of it—because our not-yet-here child isn’t a charity case.
Part of it is wanting to share my mother-love with more children. But that’s not all of it—because our not-yet-here child already has a mother, a father, possibly siblings, extended family.
For me, here’s the main part of it:
I look at my boys, who I love with more expansiveness than can be expressed, and I see their past and the possibility of their future, and I think: if I couldn’t do it, I would want someone else to care for them, help them, love them, take them in, cherish them as precious. Someone nearby, so they wouldn’t have to lose every single familiar thing. Someone to choose them not as a service project or a charity case or a place filler. But because they’re individual, beautiful humans who need and deserve someone to love them more than anything. They need and deserve a witness to their breathtakingly wonder-full little lives.
Some of my greatest joy comes from watching my sons make discoveries, like bugs in the garden or eggs in the hen house. Listening as they try out new words with abandon (and the resulting malapropisms that become part of our family’s vocabulary). Observing their quirks, their freckles, their habits. It’s all art, and it’s glorious. I feel drawn to children whose small but precious lives are going unnoticed; I want to be the one who notices.
Are you scared of the dark?
There’s a child out there right now, nearby, going through God knows what, who needs to be helped and loved and sheltered and adored. I can do that. And if you think, "Gosh, I don't think I could," I would beg to differ.
It’s not that you couldn’t love somebody else’s child. If you have a child or love a child now, you could certainly love a child from foster care. It’s that most of us are afraid of their traumas.
I am too! I recoil at the darkness these kids have experienced: neglect, abuse, addiction.
But I am whole. I have reserves of strength. I can face the darkness head-on for them, be a windscreen against their storms.
If a child in need were to show up on your doorstep, I’m certain the vast majority of stable, healthy people would figure out a way to help. That typically doesn’t happen, though. Kids don’t just drop into your life. They're hidden in plain sight.
By becoming a foster-to-adopt family, we're not being heroic or humanitarian. We're just turning the porch light on. Saying, We’re at home. You can come here.