My husband and I were nervous, as most people who adopt are. I was initially doubtful if adopting would be the best fit for us. The entire notion of attaching to two children and loving them both with the potential of having them taken away from us, or have our adoption denied because we are gay, was very difficult for me to grasp onto.
Even with my own self-doubts the first night our son and daughter slept in their new beds was like a dream come true. All I did was watch them sleep. I was checking on them every hour. I asked myself many questions:
- Are they scared?
- Are they having a nightmare?
- Will they like us?
- Will they like their new home?
- Will they like their new school?
All those questions ran through my head so fast that I couldn’t keep up with them. To be honest those questions were driving me crazy.
After a few weeks I decided, probably in the best interest of my sanity, to let things happen as they will. There are times in life that circumstances are out of our control. I’ve had plenty of those circumstances and I had to accept that this adoption process was going to be completely out of my control and I was not the Captain of it.
One of my greatest questions was simple: Could my husband and I provide for these two little humans? Here after all those years, and looking at our children compared to the little and frightened children when they first arrived, made the challenges completely worth it.
Seeing how happy and content our children are, and seeing how much they have grown, made all those sleepless nights worth it. My children have left many everlasting imprints on my heart in such a short amount of time.
Through my children I have learned what truly matters in life: always communicate and grow as a family, be there for one another, and love each other.
As a father you realize how much of your personal experiences affect how you raise your children. When we wanted to start our family there were many questions. There was no one who looked like us, or had a family like ours (as same-sex dads) on any block where we live. Even as I was growing up I did not know anyone who adopted, let alone being a same-sex couple and adopt. We did not have anyone in contact with us who had been down a same-sex dad adoption. Because of this there were many times I did feel alone.
How I felt alone through our adoption. Those trenches of feelings!
I was never fearful in my life. Until adoption. Fear was anticipating the future with our children.
Will we be viewed as their parents when they become adults? I hope, as our children grow older, we will always be their real parents.
Will they seek out their birth parents and the rest of their birth family?
What will their birth parents and their birth family say to our children if they do connect with them?
Will their birth parents try and rip them from our family or feed them with false images and lies?
But should any of these questions worry adoptive parents? Adoptive parents are real. Adoptive parents raised their children and they will follow in our footprints. As with our love for our children, adoptive parent’s love is real and it comes without condition.
We are all nervous about what we don’t know. We then become fearful of this unknown.
One of my own biggest fears was if we could even provide for our children and give them everything they needed.
During the entire adoption process adoptive parents are struggling with so much. Whether it’s our job, relationships, our other children, errands and commitments, and everything else, but now we have our entire life under a microscope.
Too many people have their own make believe understanding about everything that has to do with adoption. This includes the deep scars, past experiences, and the children’s trauma that they may have experienced before being adopted.
No one, unless they have been down this road before, will ever be able to understand what adoptive parents go through and no one will ever understand what this isolation consist of.
Judgment is no misunderstanding. It is not a myth. Adoption puts adoptive parents into a classification of their own. Every moment. Every decision. Every movement. Every act of discipline. They are all exposed and every person around you find it’s in their best interest to know what’s going on, and they think they have the right to give their two cents.
4. Afraid to ask for help.
Especially during the adoption process there are prospective adoptive parents who are afraid to ask for advice and help. If I need advice or if I need help will that make me look weak? Will it lower my chances of becoming an adoptive parent? Will people think I am not a good candidate, as a prospective adoptive parent, if I ask for parental advice or help?
Sadly, when you do find the courage to talk with someone, they never understand. This is not completely their fault. You cannot talk about things you don’t know anything about. You cannot answer questions about things you have never experienced for yourself.
Or, when you finally trust someone with giving you advice they come back with their skewed and ridiculous opinions:
- What did you expect?
- Isn’t this what you signed up for?
- I couldn’t put up with or handle what you do.
- I could never adopt.
With these responses I think about how they can relay back to their biological children too:
- You chose to have your own biological children.
- You chose to marry.
- You wanted five kids.
- What did you expect by having your own biological kids?
- You didn’t think your biological children would ever get into trouble?
- You never thought they would miss curfew or sneak out of their home?
It feels like your hands are tied behind your back. This is because you may feel that no one else will understand.
If your children experienced any trauma you may feel helpless because all you want to do is erase their pain. As a parent you want them to forget about their trauma from the past. But this cannot happen. Parents must help their children get passed their trauma.
An adoptive parent may feel sadness because they cannot erase their children’s awful past. An adoptive parent may feel sadness because their child may have a learning disability and you cannot grasp or understand it or your child may be socially restrained and all you want to do is have people understand your child. If your children have same-sex parents, there’s sadness at what your children’s classmates, and even teachers, may be saying because their parents are gay.
The entire adoption process is overwhelming. It’s a long process that not everyone gets to experience and not everyone understands it. You can often times feel alone, in addition to being overwhelmed, because you have no control over the adoption process and you really don’t know what to expect during it.
This is not disappointment at yourself or your significant other. This is not disappointment towards your children. This disappointment is aimed at every experience and every trauma a child may have experienced in their past. This can include a child’s experience in foster homes or if they were un-adopted.
Perfection will never exist and I’ve always been raised to know this. Many parents, especially adoptive parents, don’t want to let their children down. Adoptive parents want to help their children tackle their past and their trauma. We have this tremendous burden to be perfect parents and many times we think this can only be done if we do everything without room for mistakes. But no human is perfect. We’re not even perfect with all the technology we have today.
None of this is to scare people away from being an adoptive parent. These are raw feelings I dealt with. Even dealing with these feelings I adore and love my children. I worked through these raw feelings and my children brought the most amazing gift to me: fatherhood.
Adoption is the most beautiful, magical, and the best life changing event you will ever encounter.
Brian Splater and his husband, Austin Karnatz, have been together since May of 2014 and they have two children through adoption. Living in Superior, Ne., they started their nonprofit “Ambassadors of Kindness” as a way to inspire and spread kindness around the world.
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