When Infertility Makes You Feel Inadequate as a Woman {Adoption.com article}

I recently wrote an article for Adoption.com regarding infertility and the feelings of inadequacy.  This topic is so near and dear to my heart.  I know too many (including myself) who have struggled, or are struggling with insecurities about themselves based on the confusing and conflicting feelings that infertility and barrenness can bring to one’s life.

Dear friend, if you are struggling with the feelings of inadequacy, please know that you are not alone, and you are far from inadequate.

Click on the link to read the article:  https://adoption.com/when-infertility-makes-you-feel-inadequate-as-a-woman

 

 

You Are Not Ready To Be a Foster Parent If…

In my job, I often speak to families who are curious about foster parenting.  Some of them come to the decision to foster as a way to fulfill what they believe to be a calling in their lives.  Others have adult children, are now empty-nesters, and continue to have the desire to parent.  There are also many who start the journey of foster parenting after years of infertility, and in hopes that fostering might eventually lead to adoption.  All of these reasons are significant.  They all carry a deep motivation to help meet the needs of at-risk children in our communities.  However, not everyone is right for foster parenting.

To be brutally honest, I cringe a bit when I hear people speak about their desire to be foster parents.  I hear them say, “We really want a baby that is ready to be adopted, and does not have any major issues…”  I just want to say, “Bless your heart”.  And, I mean it.  I really do.

However, there is a great distance between the desire to foster/adopt and the knowledge of what all it will take out of you to do so.  And, that’s okay.  The first step is to ask questions.  The second step is to listen.  I mean…really listen to what professionals, foster parents, and others in the field are saying.

Entering into the world of foster parenting is exciting, but definitely presents a huge learning curve.  Because of this, let’s take off our rose-colored glasses for a bit, and get real.

Presenting my list:  “You Are Not Ready To Be a Foster Parent If…” 

(Disclaimer:  I had some help from other foster/adoptive parents with this one…just want you to know that these opinions are not just my own; although, I agree with all of them.  Also, this list pertains to foster parenting in the United States.  Other countries/areas of the world may have different laws/expectations of foster families.)

  1. You are not ready to be a foster parent if you do not see the value of the required training.  Most agencies/governments require training in order to be approved as a foster parent.  If you believe that “I’ve raised children and it is common sense”, I would challenge you to consider that the training is not only required, it is important.  Of course, you understand basic child development because you have parented, but you need to understand that the children who are in foster care have experienced trauma, separation from family of origin, and lots of changes.  Parenting a foster child IS different than parenting a child you have raised from birth.  The training does not stop when your license is approved.  You will be asked to participate in on-going training.  Even after adoption, you may need to seek additional training, information, and resources. Trust me on this.  My husband and I have both attended various training in order to give us better insight into our kids, and our last adoption occurred in 2013.  Adoption really is a lifelong learning process.
  2. If you desire to find a child for your family instead of offering your family to a child, then you are not ready to be a foster parent.  Children who have been brought into the system because of abuse and neglect may not match your expectations of an “ideal” child.  Switch your thinking from finding the right child for your family to giving your family to a child, despite the history and issues the child is facing.  It may not feel perfect (because parenting never is), but foster children should never have to live up to the standards of your home that is hopefully free of abuse and neglect.
  3. You are not ready to be a foster parent if you believe that love fixes everything. Please don’t get me wrong.  Love does help, and I’m all about love, peace, and rainbows, but if love was enough to undo the trauma, then social workers would be spending less time finding new placements for foster children who have disrupted, and I dare say that abuse and neglect would not be an issue.  Pouring love into a child goes a long way, but fostering takes so much more.  Love is also not always about feeling good all of the time.  Love takes it all…the sweat, the tears, the hard work, and the dirt.   It takes tenacity, resourcefulness, humility, understanding, and humor.  If it didn’t, would it even be called love?
  4. If you have firmly picked a side in nature versus nurture debate, then you are not ready to be a foster parent.  Oh, this one.  I’ve been asked about a gazillion times where I stand on this debate.  In my twenties/early thirties and before parenting through adoption came around, I was headstrong about nurture.  However, as a parent, I know that nature and nurture are equally important.  I also know that children who have experienced trauma, have on-going developmental delays, or come from high-risk situations need extra nurturing, patience, and stability.  I cannot tell you the number of foster and adoptive parents who, after having children in their homes, shake their heads with a fervent “YES” that genetics and nature are incredibly important and absolutely impact a child’s development.  For example, one of my kids does this certain little thing with his mouth, and I recognize it immediately as resembling the same thing his birth mother does.  He has never lived a day of life with her, except in the womb.
  5. You are not ready to be a foster parent if you believe that children should not have a connection with their birth parents in some way.  Even if adoption has occurred, you must remember that your children have a history that does not include you.  I know that does not feel good, but that is the reality.  For my children, their primary histories only include being in the wombs of their biological mothers.  However, these histories are important, and so is the fact that they all have biological parents who love them, think about them and miss them.  Regardless of how you feel about your child’s biological parents, it is your responsibility to share with your children what you can about their biological families.
  6. If you cannot find it in your heart to forgive the birth parents for what they may have done to the children, then you are not ready to be a foster parent.  Forgiveness is one of those things that we love to soak up, but man, we have a hard time dishing it out.  When you think about the drug exposure, the lack of supervision or protection, the physical and sexual abuse, or the chronic neglect of children, the first thing that does not come to your mind is “Let’s just forgive them for what they have done.”  I know what you are thinking because I have thought the same thing!  More than once!  However, if we take a step back and remember that the biological parents were also children who had dreams for their futures or who may histories full of abuse, it is much easier to be empathetic to them.  I’m not saying to forget what has happened, but I am saying that you have to get past it, reconcile with it, and choose to reach out in support to the birth parents.
  7. You are not ready to be a foster parent if you do not have a support system. Fostering can take a lot out of you.  With natural childbirth, you have leave time, people bringing dinner over, others offering to clean your house and lots of support.  With fostering, you may not have any of these things.  I have spoken to so many foster parents who, in their first few months of fostering, were completely worn out.  They cannot go on date nights because they cannot just drop the kids off at a family member’s or friend’s house without prior approval.  They may not be approved for leave from work.  It can be quite overwhelming.  You need to build a support system that includes approved childcare and someone to just let you unload your frustrations on.  It is so important.
  8. If your only goal is adoption, and you are not willing to help parents get their kids back, then you are not ready to be a foster parent.  If this is the case, then there are a tremendous amount of children (necessarily, not babies) in need of adoption in the United States.  There is a federal law that mandates states to work towards reunification with biological families when children are brought into custody.  This is not just something that is taken into consideration or viewed as a recommendation.  It is expected to be upheld by the courts, caseworkers, and foster parents, and this can be a very difficult pill to swallow.  I’ve been there and done that.  I know how hard it can be, but it is not impossible.  Like a lot of things in life, we cannot control how other people respond to circumstances, but we can control how we respond.  I just know that if my children were in care, I would certainly want and need foster families who supported me and the goal to reunify with my children.  I suspect you probably feel the same way.
  9. You are not ready to be a foster parent if you are not willing to accept ambivalence and lack of gratitude from the children in your care.  Children who end up in foster care are generally not happy about it.  Why would they be?  Even with the tough situations they are in, they love their parents and want to be home.  Because of this, it is completely unrealistic to expect a child in your home to appreciate what you are doing for him or her.  The same goes with their feelings towards you.  Children and youth might be ambivalent about how they feel about you.  If you are a “feely” kind of person, it can hurt…a lot…to think that the child you are caring for may never (or, at least not for a long time) show you affection and concern.  My advice on this:  Don’t take it personally.
  10. If you lack patience with people and processes, then you are not ready to be a foster parent.  When asked what the average length of time a child is in care before potentially being available for adoption, I usually let people know that there is no average.  Each case and situation are different.  The US federal law dictates a length of time (typically between 15 to 22 months) that the birth parents can work towards reunifying with their children.  It is also important to remember that there is a ton of paperwork involved.  Most caseworkers and court officials are overloaded with cases.  Attorneys are also extremely busy.  All of these players and their workloads absolutely can affect how quickly or slowly things progress on the case.  Also, the biological parents deserve the time to rectify the situation that brought their children into care.  Again, if the tables were turned, I suspect we would all feel the same way.
  11. You are not ready to be a foster parent if you are not willing to remember that God loves the biological parents, whose children are in foster care, as much as He loves you.  Ouch, right?  It is super easy as a human being to administer our own versions of grace, or what we think God should feel about people who abuse/neglect children, or live a different lifestyle (whatever it is) than us.  Jesus entered into places where others did not want to go.  He offered care, compassion, and hope to the people who society disregarded.  He also gave instruction.  When we learn about the details of why a child enters foster care, it is hard not to get angry.  However, the passion of Christ was for us all…everyone.  Let us not forget that.

I hope this list informs and inspires you about foster parenting.  I certainly do not want it to dissuade anyone from foster parenting, or seeking information about it.  However, one must remember that when you choose to become a foster parent, you are choosing to jump into a world of many imperfections.  It is not a fair system.  Not for anyone.

Biological parents are faced with quite difficult circumstances.  They absolutely need our concern and compassion.  Foster families will also deal with frustrating situations beyond their control.

For the children and youth who fall into the system, life is anything but fair.  At the very least, they deserve foster families who are willing to commit to the goal of reunification or permanency through adoption (if this is what the court decides), who understand the need for children to have a connection to their biological families, and who realize that trauma can present many challenges both in the present and the future.

So, are you ready to be a foster parent?  Oh, friend.  I hope so.

 

Why You Should Never Say “You Can Always Adopt”

Many people have lots to say about infertility.  Some sentiments are of comfort while others are shallow and insincere.  Soon after my hysterectomy in 1983 (at the age of eleven), I lost count early on regarding the number of times someone said to me, “You can always adopt.”  “She can always adopt” were also words that my parents heard regarding my illness and subsequent hysterectomy.  This statement was definitely a running theme in my life.

Don’t get me wrong.  I do believe that people tried to encourage us.  However, in the early to mid-1980’s and subsequent years, the topics of barrenness, infertility, and adoption were often whispered, and not spoken out loud.  Adoption was also in the far off distance of my life.  Sure, I thought about it.  I knew that if parenthood would come, it would do so through adoption.  However, telling me that I could always adopt did very little to help in my understanding of the strong and complex emotions I was feeling.

The reasons why these words fall flat on the ears of people dealing with infertility and pregnancy loss are just as varied as the emotions people feel when facing the issues.  For some people, adoption is not even on their radar.  Others may fear being rejected or not matched for an adoption.  The time it takes, the waiting, the approval, expenses, the desire to adopt, and heartache are all factors that one must take into consideration.

For me, the reason why I never appreciated the words “You can always adopt” is simple:

These words negated the grief and loss I felt about losing the ability to have a biological child.

I suspect others may feel the same way.

Although adoption seems like an instant resolution to barrenness and infertility, it is not.  It is a separate experience in life, and should be considered so.  Telling someone they can always adopt (in reference to infertility) ignores the importance of grieving over the loss of having a biological child, and minimizes adoption as a second choice.

With any great loss in life, there is a process to recovery.  Infertility, barrenness, and pregnancy loss are no different, and yet, so many suffer in silence.  When we are comforting someone who is grieving over the loss of a significant person in their lives, we do not offer that they find someone else who is of equal importance.  The same should be considered when supporting a friend or loved one who is infertile, or has miscarried.

Instead, know that you will never understand their experience and emotions unless you have gone through a similar experience.  Realize that while you are offering quick answers, they are still in the process of asking a multitude of questions.  Some may be in shock or confusion about their situation.  Life is different from what they once thought it would be.  It is important to recognize this.  Understand that infertility is a big deal, and should never be minimized.  It is a life-changer.

“You can alway adopt” are well-meaning words, but they are ones that are better left unsaid. 

There’s Something About Grief

Today snuck up on me.  Or, maybe I should say that yesterday snuck up on me.  Yesterday, April 6th, was the birthday of my cousin Kelly who passed away nearly twenty years ago at the age of twenty-three.  To be honest, I’ve been a crazy person this week.  With activities for the kiddos, work stuff, and the regular rigmarole of life, I only thought of it being Kelly’s birthday a few times.  Until today.

There’s something about grief that doesn’t seem to go away.

It sneaks up on you, catches you by surprise, and for a moment, you are back in the world of reliving what life would have or could have been like if one of your favorite persons was still walking on Earth.

Grief caught up to me today.  In the car.  Driving on a busy road. Tears streaming down my face.  Wishing she was here so that we could scavenge the ground of parenting together.  I found myself longing to see her smile, hear her laughter, and giggle at the things that the two of us found so amusing.

Kelly would be forty-three-years-old this year.  Who knows what her life would be like, but I’d like to think that it would be one full of children (she loved them, so).  She would probably have a gaggle of kittens and pups that she rescued.  Her yard would be covered in tulips (her favorite flower).  I’m sure she would still enjoy a big ‘ole iced tea and the Sunday newspaper. In my mind, she’s still twenty-three, wearing baby doll dresses, hitting the flea markets, rooting for the underdog, loving tulips, and struggling with the issues she faced.

There’s something about grief that keeps us locked in time.

Shortly after she passed, I had a dream.  The two of us were driving, windows down, music blaring, huge smiles, and no words.  It was our “Thelma and Louise” moment.  Kelly, dressed in all white, the sun kissing her face, her eyes sparkling with light, and the wind whipping through her hair, looked at me, looked towards the sun, and smiled a smile that kissed her cheekbones.

It may sound odd, but I’ve prayed about dreaming of her again.  I’ve longed to see her alive in my dreams, to converse with her, to share laughter, and to just be us.  But…these dreams have not come…not since 1996.

Forty-three years ago, my cousin, one of my first friends, and my best friend was born into the world.  Twenty years ago, she left.  My last visual of her was in the dream, smiling, laughing, happy, and free.

There’s something about grief.  There’s also something about life.  Each time I see a tulip, I think of her.  I think of life, and how precious it is.

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Finally! (little meme about a big announcement)

 

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Our youngest child has finally decided that he is done with diapers, and moving onto bigger things…like pull-ups and going potty in the Pirate Potty Seat!  I had to announce this.  No more diapers for this Mama to change!

For all of the Mama’s out there still changing diapers and/or starting the process of potty-training, I salute you.  Hang in there.  Our little guy will be four in July.  FOUR IN JULY…and just started potty-training.  With Kindergarten in the not-too-distant future, I was starting to get a little anxious.

My “babies” are all growing up.  It is so incredible and challenging to watch children bloom into themselves.  What an honor and a reminder that parenting needs to be intentional, full of determination, and saturated with humor.  ‘Tis the reason for this meme…

We.Are.Straight.Outta.Diapers.  

Yay!