‘We brought our newborn home from the hospital and she was showered with attention and gifts. When we brought our 1-year old foster son home, he was not.’

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“Adoption is not easy, it’s not free of stress, and it’s not perfect.

Since adopting, our family has most definitely seen first-hand some of the hard and some of the negative. The truth is though, most of the hard and negative comes from people who are uneducated in adoption or honestly are not empathetic or don’t think before they speak.

My life and outlook completely changed when we adopted. Why? Because, I knew that when my baby(s) were born, I would do absolutely everything to protect my children. I can only protect them and shelter them for now, but as they grow older, I fear for some of the things they will have to deal with, and none because of their own doing.

My children will always have a complex history. It will never be simple. Their stories will be different, and they will have found their way to our family through different ways. It adds stress, it adds discussion, and it can add trauma to their lives.

I love adoption. It built our family. Without it, I wouldn’t be a mommy. And being a mommy is my most cherished role. I fought to be a mom. It didn’t come easy. Whatsoever. It wasn’t conventional. It wasn’t ‘the way everyone else’ becomes a mom. But it has been beautiful. And I love my kids more than anything and I would not change a thing.

At times, adoption can be so hard. Why? Because it makes my kids different in a world that celebrates sameness. Because my kids have more to their stories, more hurt, more pain, more questions (that I may not have the answers to), and trauma.

I want to share these experiences because as someone whose life is touched by adoption, I see it. I am sensitive to things around me when it comes to my children and their stories, so I see things at a heightened level that others may not even see or realize. It’s important to talk about these things because that is what initiates change and that is what my kids (and all children) deserve.

I have experienced things (and am thankful that my children are too small to see, hear, and experience (so far)) that are painful to hear.

In sharing these situations, I hope it can shed light to others on ways to become more educated to the topic of adoption and become more aware of the world we live in where more and more people are adopted, have some sort of involvement in adoption, or are part of a family that has children whose story includes adoption.

The negative, inappropriate and misinformed situations I’ve encountered as a mother through adoption have been more than I wish I’ve witnessed, but I’m glad I’ve witnessed them now instead of my children noticing them at an age when they understand how they are being treated because of their birth differences.

The following situations are real and have happened to my children, my family, and people surrounding us. I hope reading this may help even one person to become more informed, empathetic, and less stereotypical.

• We brought our newborn daughter home from the hospital and she was showered with attention and gifts. When we brought our one-year old foster son home, he was not. People did not come banging on the door to see him and hold him for the first time. People did not shower him with gifts. People did not beg to hold him and ‘Oooh and Ahhh’ over him. Sure, he’s small and won’t remember. But the ritual of only ‘celebrating’ newborn status is quite sad and we as parents will most certainly remember.

• When we decided to become foster parents, we sent out a letter with our Christmas card explaining the process, what we were doing and why, and how any child that came to us would be considered our child 100%. So, when my family was at a party and I overheard a conversation where a close family member was asked about her relatives who were kids and every child (including the unborn child my sister was pregnant with) except my foster son (who had been with us for 3 months) was talked about, that was painful. Our kids are our kids. It does not matter that they are not biological or officially legal yet, they are our kids. We take care of them, we are raising them, we are there for them, they are our kids. If you are our relative, they are your relative, regardless of legal status. They are alive and breathing and if you count an unborn child you better for sure start counting our children.

• When we first told family that we were adopting (the first time), we were greeted with….’That’s scary!’ ‘Are you sure?’ ‘What if the mom changes her mind?’ ‘What if they take the kid back?’….and on. When most people who get pregnant get the amazement and the excitement, we instead got the questions, the hesitations, and the whys we shouldn’t. As a pre-adoptive parent, you get to hear the horror stories because you are forced to take classes, complete trainings, do readings, etc. If you are lucky enough to get pregnant, congratulations! You are qualified to be a parent based on your stellar fertility. If you are a family member of someone who is adopting, just be happy, be supportive, and be excited! There is enough worry and stress without the extra add on of the newest Lifetime movie storyline.

• For whatever reason, our world is obsessed with remarking about how a child looks so much like mommy or daddy or great uncle Sal. When, I’m sorry, but a fresh out of the womb baby does not look like anyone except a possible alien. For some reason people feel so compelled to always comment on how baby looks like mommy’s twin or toddler looks like a little daddy. What’s funny about it all, as someone on the outside of all of that, is really most of the time I don’t see it AT ALL. It’s like biological relatives have this pact to make sure to talk about who looks like who to make sure somehow their bloodline has been carried down because in our world that is what really matters. So, step back a second and think of yourself as a child who was adopted who continuously is surrounded by cousins who are always told who they look like in the family. However, you were adopted so no one ever comments on you but will comment on everyone around you. Does that make you feel like family? I doubt it. Have you thought about this with your offhand comment with children who have been adopted are around? Probably not. But if you are part of a family where there are adopted children, you may want to think twice about making a remark just to make it and instead of vocally celebrating sameness, point out something else that makes a child unique and amazing.

• I was sitting in a meeting as a school counselor surrounded by fellow counselors and administrators. The discussion was about at-risk students and in particular a student who had not been in school in weeks and no one had contact with was the topic. When giving information about the student the first piece of information given was a ‘Oh, well she’s adopted.’ As if that is a huge piece of information in why this child is truant and missing. The fact that they were adopted had nothing to do with the situation, but somehow that was brought up as a negative in this child’s life. I almost feel in this situation, saying what was said could be compared to saying something about this child’s race, but that wouldn’t be said because ‘professionals’ are educated in not being stereotypical when it comes to race… but what about being stereotypical when it comes to other differences people have? Like adoption? It honestly was sad to be a part of that table that day and witness what was being said about a child whose story started with adoption and having it be presented as the first reason they may be not cooperating when no one even really knew this child’s story.

•I have been asked multiple times where my children’s ‘real mom’ is. Every time I cringe and have to take a step back. I am 100% my children’s real mom. I am there when they wake up. I make them breakfast. I administer their medication. I plan their activities, stress, and play all day. I make sure they are loved, hugged, cuddled, kissed. I get up countless times at night. I nurture them. I’m raising them. Yes, I did not have the honor of carrying them and birthing them. If I could have, I would have. I wish I could have. That honestly would make things easier in dealing with all of this ‘extra’ that we deal with. I want that honor. I wish I had it. But….If I did have that, I wouldn’t have them because they would not be the people that they are, and I wouldn’t change them for the world. So, I will work with the harder to have these amazing kids. I just wish with this topic, people would think. Giving birth and passing along DNA does not make you a parent. Being there, always, all the time, the good and the bad, that is what makes you a parent.

• I read an innocent post on Facebook recently and I had to take a deep breath and not comment. The post was talking about a cute story about a toddler asking the mom if they weren’t really their mom and then the mom went on to say, ‘Of course I’m your mom, I gave birth to you.’ This is completely small and innocent, and no one would give it a second thought…unless you had adopted your child(ren). Why? Because giving birth and being a parent don’t always go hand in hand. I HAVE to teach my children this because it is their story. It would be nice to have others teach their children that families are all different and are formed differently (because it’s true) so that little kids already can start forming these ideas and not question their peers when their family may have differences from others. We should be teaching our kids about adoption. Not only if you’ve adopted, but if your relative has adopted, or you know a family that has adopted, or really everyone should because adoption has become more and more prominent in our culture and will only continue to become a more popular route of forming a family.

• Going to the doctor office can be daunting for anyone. When I step in and am handed the clipboard, that’s when some extra panic forms. The clipboard holds questionnaires asking about my children’s biological family’s traits. I know nothing. Even with having an open adoption with our first, we still know nothing. So, I can’t fill it out. Then we sit, and the doctor asks questions I can’t answer. Right now, my children don’t know, but they will, and I won’t have answers for them.

•Our entryway is a revolving door. We have so many people in and out of our house in regard to adoption, it can look crazy. We have multiple social workers, therapists, and sometimes the police walking through our door weekly.

Foster care and domestic adoption are two completely different situations. We have now experienced both and both our kids have completely different and unique stories. Both stories started with hours and hours of paperwork. It’s crazy that to become a parent through adoption there are hoops and hoops and hoops to jump through but if you are able to have a biological child the only qualification you need is really fertility.

That is, it though. God calls us for different roles and stories in this world. And I feel like I have been called to take in kids, adopt them, and love them beyond belief. Not everyone is called for this role. The Bible will tell us that if you are a true Christian, your life will not be easy. It will be filled with challenges, hurdles, and letdowns. Why? Because God wants us to call on him. If our lives on earth were perfect, we would never look to him. So, I consider myself one of the lucky ones. Our world maybe one where sameness and biology is important, but the world after this is where we are considered His children and everyone there is considered to be adopted by God. And that is the world I want for myself and my kids.

Adoption is not always perfect and not always beautiful. Would I do it again? Yes. A million times, YES YES YES. And we will adopt again. And honestly, we will probably adopt again, and again, and again. Why? Because there are children who need homes. And we are able to take in children.

When you have more than you need, build a longer table, not a higher fence.

So although our kid’s stories won’t be ‘perfect’, they are their stories they are beautiful, and they are told by God Himself.”

Mother and father sit on blanket outside with their biological daughter and adopted son

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Jaycie Stremkowski.  Submit your own story here, and subscribe to our best stories in our free newsletter here.

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