I held my brand new baby girl in my arms, tightly, as she slept sound. She had been ours for just 3 short months. Our house was a flurry of people, stopping by to see her for the first time, celebrating our new-found parenthood, loading us up with diapers and meals, the usual after a baby is born. We were young, wide-eyed, and exhausted. We breathed a sigh of relief once her adoption was final. We had found peace. It was short-lived for me.
I was afraid.
Nearly every night for the first few months of our adoption journey I laid awake consumed with fear. The what-ifs piled up in my mind like a snowflakes in a blizzard. Some of my thoughts were silly, even foolish at times. The normal inadequacies of becoming a new parent. But others? Well, others were real and understandable.
Facing your fear.
What if I fail? What if my child rejects me? What if she ends up wanting her birth mom or dad more than me and my wife? What if people judge us or criticize us? What if we end up regretting our decision to adopt? What if her birth parents show up and want her back? What if I can’t find it in my heart to love her? These were all fears I faced. And they were all real.
Perhaps you identify because you’ve been there, or you’re there right now. Here’s what I discovered, in-spite of fear, that gave me peace, and helped me start sleeping again…
- What if I fail? The fear of failure is as common a tale as any. It plagues every parent, not just adoptive parents. Here’s some encouragement: You and I will make a billion mistakes as parents, whether biological or adoptive. After all, we’re human. We’re imperfect. We will screw up. The question is, will you fail backward or forward? Failing forward means you grow, you learn from your mistakes, and you work to do better. You won’t fail as a parent if you live with an attitude of growth.
- What if she rejects me? I remember the first time our daughter told my wife she wanted her “real” mommy. Kristin was devastated. I remember the first time our daughter told me she hated me. I was devastated. We both felt rejected and useless. The fear of rejection is a real and honest fear amongst adoptive parents. Our hearts are on the line big time with this type of parenting. To be honest, you will have moments where your child will push you away and it will hurt. As hard as it is to do, stay the course, stay consistent, and keep loving them unconditionally.
- What if she wants her birth mom or dad more than me? I lived with this fear for a long time. What helped me overcome this was a realization. I realized my child wants her parent– The person who clothes her, feeds her, wipes her tears away and holds her close when her heart has been broken. That was us, and no one else. I understand this fear because it kept me awake early on in our journey. But then I realized what a parent does and who a parent is. Your child and mine know who their parents are. Sure, there will be times when they throw a fit and say they want their real mommy or daddy. And, sure, it will hurt. But deep inside they know who their parent are.
- What if people judge us? Newsflash- the world is judging you, and me, all the time. It’s a natural fact of being a human being, let alone an adoptive parent. This is a truth that you have to live with and ignore when it happens (because it will happen). Have some fun with it, and celebrate your weirdness. Most importantly, don’t give people who have no investment in your life, any ounce of power over you.
- What if her birth parent’s show up and want her back? In the State of Indiana, where we live, the adoption laws are rock-solid. Once birth mom or dad signs, and the adoption is finalized in court, it’s a done-deal. I know some adoptive parents live with this fear because their state does not have laws like ours, and I hate that for them. The best advice I can give you is, have faith, keep hope alive, and love your child fiercely every day of their life!
- What if I can’t love her? This is a common fear I hear from adoptive parents (mostly fathers). I understand because I went through this. Often, the question I’ve heard is, “What if I can’t love them like I love my biological children?” (If you have biological children). Even though we didn’t have biological children, I worried our differences would cause me to love less. That was the farthest thing from the truth. Can I share something with you that I’ve learned over the years? Your ability to love is not a question of capacity, it’s a question of choice. Fact is, you’ve been hard-wired to love. It’s in your DNA as a human being. But will you choose to love? That’s the question. When I realized that I had the capacity, the choice was easy.
Overcoming your fear.
As I said in the beginning of the post, fear is a natural part of the adoption journey. Really, it’s a natural part of any parenting journey. But it only becomes all-consuming and crippling if you allow it to. The thing about fear is this- it only has the amount of power that you give it permission to have. It all comes down to your choice. That means that fear is easy to overcome.
So, adoptive parent, hold on. Your fears have no power over you. You were called to love and lead the children who are a part of your family. It’s your destiny. Never doubt that for one second. Your family is telling the world an amazing story of love and compassion. Most importantly, you are telling the world a story of triumph!
What kind of fears have you faced on your adoption journey? How did you overcome them? Share your story in the comment section below.