What Adoption Is When You Parent Kids From Hard Places

Adoption is the seed planted in your heart the first time you hear of children without a home. It’s the moment seared into your heart when you saw the face of a child and you knew they were yours.

Adoption is love at first sight, and scared to death. It’s wanting to run away and never say goodbye all at once.

Adoption is coming home with your new child for the first time. Its surreal and amazing. Your world collided with theirs and now you are forever intertwined.

Adoption is the late night researching of attachment disorders, trauma, fetal alcohol syndrome and pouring your worries out in online support groups so you can have the strength to get up in the morning and try again.

Adoption is having your eyes forever opened to the fact that this world is full of pain, suffering and injustice. This precious child you love so much is now safe, wanted and loved, but you know now there are millions who are not. Their sad faces and hollow eyes haunt you. “Can you find us a family?” will echo in your memory forever because you once thought adoption was like a puzzle with each child fitting into a family. Now you know it’s not true. There are families, but not enough want to take a risk on a wounded child.

Adoption is having the rose colored glasses ripped from your face because you thought adoption was a fairy tale, but instead, you have realized its a battlefield. Not everyone can do this. It’s hard. It’s messy. It will require things from you that you could never have imagined.

Adoption is knowing that children are not “lucky.” Losing their first family is not lucky; it’s unimaginable, heart wrenching loss that never, ever goes away. It’s knowing they may call someone else mom, and being OK with it.

Adoption is worrying about your child until 2am, wondering if you’ve tried hard enough, second guessing everything. It’s worrying you aren’t spending enough time worrying about your other kids because you are so worried about the one. It’s wondering if things will ever get better. Will any of us actually be OK?

Adoption is advocating for your child to receive therapies, special education evaluations and medical treatment. It’s sitting stoic and strong in IEP meetings, then crying all the way home. It’s emails and phone calls to advocates and social workers, begging for help. It’s watching time tick away from a child who already started behind the clock. It’s feeling like you are failing, and hating how broken the system is.

Adoption is entering a world so different from the one you lived in before that it’s hard to relate to anyone anymore. People talk about being upset their favorite show got cancelled while you are re-reading a 35 page neuropsychological evaluation through tear filled eyes.

Adoption is feeling misunderstood. People wonder why you are so edgy, defensive and unavailable these days. They don’t see the late nights, the trauma behaviors, the crying every day over school, endless meetings, judgmental teachers and never ending therapies.

Adoption is feeling as if you can never ask for help. After all, you wanted this, and people warned you it would be hard. Admitting that some days it’s just too much would be admitting you’re feeling like a failure — wouldn’t it? Or even worse, would you be admitting you can’t parent this child?

Adoption is joy. It’s the first time your child draws a picture of your family with themselves in it. It’s that first little note that says, “I love you, mom.”

Adoption is finding out who your real friends are and being indescribably grateful for them while being far too busy to show it.

Adoption is finding a whole new tribe of people to connect with. They may be online, but adoptive moms have your back like no one else in this world. They will fundraise for you, cheer for you, send your kids gifts from states away, call in pizza to your house and give you a safe space to vent without judgement. They get it like no one else and they understand why we all choose to do it again, and again and again.

Adoption will expose the worst parts of you that you never wanted anyone to see. You will be forced to deal with past hurts in your own life so you can help your kids deal with theirs.

Adoption is pain and loss mixed with healing and redemption. It’s the best and the worst of humanity at the same time. It’s wishing a person you may never meet would have had enough support in their life to lovingly parent the child you now call yours.

Adoption is knowing you are not a “special person.” You learn something new every day you wish you had known years ago. You cry, research, cry, advocate, cry, go to therapy, cry, and try, try again tomorrow! You are a mom, and moms do anything for their kids.

Adoption is making it through the adjustment period and coming out on the other side. Maybe years have passed full of days that felt like they’d never end, but you can finally see your child is healing. Hope turns to excitement as the good days begin to outweigh the bad. Eventually a feeling of normalcy is reached, and you remember what it feels like to breathe again.

Adoption is knowing love doesn’t care what color your skin is or if your eyes match. Love opens its doors, its heart and its arms. Love says, “I want you for who you are now and whatever you will become.” Love sees past the behavior and says, “I hear you.” Love sees the worst, but never gives up.

Adoption is love.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.

Related to Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Toddler girl holding hands with her father outside

How I'm Being the Parent I Want to Be While Struggling With PTSD

For most, there are times when parenting is overwhelming. Sprinkle in a newly diagnosed mental illness and you have a recipe for loneliness, isolation from the other parents, depression, an enhanced fear of screwing up the kids and an exhausting (sometimes bleak) future outlook. Depending on the age of the children, there is a fluid [...]
Watercolor of Glasses Girl

10 Things People Don't Realize I'm Doing Because of PTSD

There are so many articles on post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and its consequences. Most discuss why it happens and common symptoms. But I want to focus on the things that often happen behind closed doors. The things nobody talks about because we are embarrassed or scared nobody will understand and we will be abandoned. Fear [...]
Evan Rachel Wood portrait 2009

Evan Rachel Wood's PTSD Tweets Might Resonate If Sexual Assault News Is Hard for You

On Friday, “Westworld” actress Evan Rachel Wood tweeted about how recent news concerning sexual assault can be triggering when you live with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). She said, “Has anyone elses PTSD been triggered thru the roof? I hate that these feelings of danger are coming back.” Has anyone elses PTSD been triggered thru the roof? I hate [...]
woman sad

If the Election Anniversary Is Hard for You, You're Not Alone

Anniversaries have always been a difficult part of my PTSD experience. Traumatic memories can resurface at any time, but studies have shown that “on the anniversary of traumatic events, some people may find that they experience an increase in distressing memories of the event” (U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs). For many of us living with [...]