My husband and I have two children. A 5 year old son and a 4.5 year old daughter. They’re 8 months and 3 days apart. I’ll pause while you try to figure out the math on that one…
When people find out how close in age they are, we either get the “woah, you guys were busy” kind of face, or the “I’m not even listening to you anymore because the math isn’t mathing” kind of face. I love both reactions because it usually opens the door to a beautiful conversation about how we became a family.
When my husband and I were dating, we talked about how someday in the future we’d eventually like to adopt a child. Before meeting my husband, I had never considered becoming a mother that way. But, after many discussions, I knew it wouldn’t be an opportunity I would be against, should it come our way.
Fast forward 7 years, and we find ourselves at a craft fair whose proceeds benefit a local organization that supports foster care and adoption here in Hawaii. We chat real quick with the pastor and his wife that run the organization and leave our contact info to continue the conversation another time. A couple weeks pass by, and we have the wonderful opportunity to grab coffee with that couple. We tell them about our interest in someday adopting a baby. They ask us if we had ever considered becoming foster parents, which we hadn’t. They must have seen something in us that night, because they continue the conversation by telling us about this teenager that goes to school in our neighborhood that was removed from his home and placed in a shelter on the other side of the island. The couple asked us to please keep our eyes and ears out for anyone that might be able to provide him a safe home for the next few months. We agreed and then headed home.
That night, all I could think about was the teenager. I didn’t really know anything about him at that point, but felt so strongly in my gut that we needed to provide for him. The next morning, I talked with my husband, and we agreed to give it a shot. We called the couple and asked how we could get the process started to become resource caregivers (foster parents). Within days (it might have been weeks, but it felt like days), the teenager was moving into our home. We were becoming “parents” to a child that was only a little over 10 years younger than us. What a learning experience!
Getting back to the point of this post…every child in foster care is assigned a Guardian Ad Litem (GAL), an attorney that serves as an advocate for the child. So, one day, the teenager’s GAL comes to our house for a routine visit. On his way out the door, he mentions that he just had a newborn assigned to his caseload whose birth parents had already terminated their rights. My husband and I both look at each other, knowing this could be a real possibility to adopt a baby. My husband gives me the “holy moly, I could jump out of my skin I’m so excited face”, while I’m standing there thinking to myself, “we talked about adopting, but I didn’t expect it to potentially happen THIS soon. We’re not ready!” My husband walked the GAL to his car and got all the details about the baby, and let him know we were very interested in adoption.
Within a couple weeks, we met the baby for the first time. We visited multiple times per week, loving him and caring for him, growing in our eagerness to make him part of our family. About one month later, the teenager we were fostering was reunited with his family, and the baby boy was able to come into our home as our foster child. I should mention that about one week prior to this, I found out I was pregnant. So, here we are, becoming first time foster parents to a teenager, fostering a newborn, and also navigating a brand new first-time pregnancy, all within the span of a couple months.
Four months later, we were able to legally adopt our almost 6 month old son, while I was almost 7 months pregnant, which explains how they’re only 8 months and 3 days apart.
Now that the kids are getting a little older and more inquisitive, I’m beginning to question my “enough-ness” more. The other night, my daughter was asking how she didn’t get blood all over her when she was in my tummy. Remember, she’s 4.5 years old, so doesn’t completely understand anatomy. I told her about the amniotic sac and fluid, describing it like a balloon with water inside of it. She was satisfied with that response and continued on with what she was doing. My son then made a comment about him growing inside my belly. I reminded him that he actually grew inside a different woman’s tummy. He has a developmental delay, so cognitively, I’m not sure that he’s quite able to understand what that means fully, yet. My daughter, on the other hand, immediately asked why the other woman didn’t want him. I gently corrected her, letting her know that it’s not that she (the woman) didn’t want him, but rather that she couldn’t take care of him. My daughter seemed satisfied with this response also, continuing what she was doing.
Me, on the other hand, went into a semi-shame spiral. I started questioning myself…did I answer my daughter’s questions right? Am I explaining this all in a way that expresses the love I have for my son, while also respecting his birth parents’ decision? I’m not his biological mother; will I be enough for him as he continues to get older?
My hope is that the love and safety I provide for my son would make up for the fact that I didn’t carry him in my womb. But what if it’s not? He may look like us, but he’s not genetically related to us at all. Will I be enough for him as he grows into an adolescent and then an adult, finding and creating his unique identity along the way? Will he ever doubt his worth and question if he wasn’t wanted? Will he still love me once he fully understands he wasn’t born from me? Will I be able to meet his needs and fill the void he might someday feel, wondering who he truly is? I can’t help but wonder, will I be enough?
This blog post was written by Sarah Mercado. Follow her on Instagram @mixedplateohana.