Over the years, I’ve had the privilege of meeting so many great women along the way. I have learned to admire so many of them, and Megan is one of them. Megan is not only a supportive wife, she has the strength of a tornado in full force when it comes to motherhood. The type of strength and resiliency that many of us hope to have one day.
In this feature of Women of Strength, Megan shares her story of adoption, the challenges and blessings of it. Thank you, Megan, for sharing your journey with us!
I'm a 31, wife to a pretty great husband, and mom to some pretty amazing kids. John and I have been married over 12 years. We married at 19 and waited awhile to before we decided to expand our little family. In my early 20's, I was diagnosed with PCOS in addition to a bicornuate uterus. In the face of this diagnosis we pushed forward with fertility treatments and were blessed with the most amazing little girl. She was the answer to so many prayers. In time though we felt our family wasn't complete and decided to grow our family through adoption from foster care. We found after adopting that we couldn't stop there and we've been an open foster home ever since.
- Your adoption story has inspired me since you first shared your journey. What made you consider adoption in the first place? Adoption was something we had discussed before we were even ready to have our own children. John felt very strongly about adopting at least once and while I heard him out, I wasn't completely sure yet. In the end I was the one who brought it up years later. We both felt our family wasn't complete, but neither of us were up to the emotionally and physically draining process of fertility treatment again. Adoption kept coming up, but we hadn't really pushed forward. I had began doing research on both private and foster care adoption when I stumbled on the states heart gallery website. The heart gallery shows photos and short bios on children from all over Arkansas who are "legally free" for adoption. (A child in state foster care who is "legally free" for adoption is a child whose birth parent's rights have been terminated by the state. This means the child is a ward of the state and has no legal parents.) I scrolled through pages and pages of beautiful faces and came upon a little boy I couldn't pass. I text John, "How do you feel about adopting a little boy?" He immediately text back, "Yes! What do we need to do to get started?" Within hours we had called and started the process of having packets sent to us to start the background check process. Within a few weeks we were sitting in a room filled with foster and adoptive parents who were there to share their experiences with families interested in foster care and adoption. Behind the speakers at this event stood a wall, spanning the front of the room and down the back, roughly 7 feet tall, covered in photo after photo of children waiting for forever families. We learned statistics about foster care adoption and how the chances of being adopted go down as a child ages, how gender and race make a difference, how children in groups with siblings are harder to place, how health conditions and backgrounds also play a part. It was eye opening and heart breaking all at once. A quote that always comes to mind is "You may choose to look the other way, but you can never say again that you did not know. - William Wilberforce " We knew this is where we would find our son(s). John and I discussed more and more what we felt we had to offer. We decided we were open to older children and then we went from looking at single children to small sibling groups. We did more and more research, prayed a lot, and waited, as we went through the process of classes, background checks, and such to open our home. March of 2016 everything completed, signed off, and our home was officially opened as an adoptive home. Our adventure was really just beginning.
- What would you say has been the most challenging aspect of adoption for you and your husband? My personal experience is with adoption from foster care, so I can only speak from there. I've typed this response over and over and I still keep coming back to it. Adoption comes with trauma. The loss of the child's first family, their siblings, their connection to where they come from, and whatever traumas caused them to come into foster care (neglect, abuse, drug use, or any of the other million reasons). Trauma affects us all on different levels, and it changes us and how we respond to things. Many kids coming into care suffer from anxiety and stress disorders from their experiences. As their mom I've learned things I took for granted with our daughter. She was born into a family, a home, and a life she trusted. She's always known she was loved, that she belongs, and she's never had a reason to doubt or question these things. Our sons didn't get the same start in life. As their parents, a large part of our job has been showing them over and over that they are loved, teaching them to trust, and assuring them that they are a valued member of our family, forever. As their parents, our job is to get down into their trauma with them and let them know they aren't alone. The things that weigh heavy on their hearts and minds aren't things a child should have to worry or stress about. It is heartbreaking for them and us, because as parents we just want to fix it and make it go away for them. Our boys have been home almost 2 years now and while in some ways they've adjusted, in other ways there are still struggles. These are things we'll be facing with them and working through. We've always been very honest with our boys about what we do know, and we've kept their story for them to choose to share. Even with what we do know, we can't always give them the answers they want and need. They'll always have the questions of what if and why. They'll think of the siblings they may or may not see again. They'll always have the questions we just can't answer, but my prayer for them is that they never doubt our love for them or that we'll forever be there for them.
- What has been the most amazing aspect of adoption? The most amazing aspect of adoption, for me, has been seeing the changes in our boys and our family as a whole. If you didn't know, you would think they have always been here. Seeing them fight with and for their sister comes so naturally. The three of them took to each other so easily. The boys fell right in step with their cousins and became quick best friends, they've been inseparable during their summers. They've grown so much in the almost 2 years they've been home, and they've come into their own. Even at their ages when we met them (7 & 9), we've got to experience many first with them. We've got to be part of their first experiences at the movies, baseball, boy scouts, real Christmases and birthdays, buying new clothes, picking out new shoes, braces, and so much more. Seeing them get excited over things they've never experienced before is so rewarding. Watching them just get to be kids building forts in the yard, climbing trees, and just being carefree makes my momma heart happy. Seeing them go from insecure little boys to young men who are becoming more and more secure in themselves, the security of their family, and more has been amazing.
- What would you tell those considering adoption or foster care? Fostering and/or adopting from foster care doesn't require a huge home, tons of expendable income, or the best of everything. In our state, it simply requires at least 50 sq. foot of bedroom space, enough income to cover your expenses, and taking the time to fill out stacks of paperwork and attend classes. If you have the room and a heart for kids, go for it! I won't lie, it's hard somedays. There are late night and early morning phone calls or text. There are the kids you can't take for various reasons and it hurts to have to say no. It's hard to see babies (I use the term babies loosely, we've had them from days old to 17) come to your door often very dirty and always hungry with nothing more than a plastic bag of various items and a car seat. The first bit is usually rough, as they're scared and uncertain about what's going, why they're in a strange home, and where their parents or siblings are. But let me tell you, after a few weeks in a stable environment, with consistent food, love, positive interaction, and comfort a new child emerges. You'll notice them start to smile, you'll hear them really laugh after a while, and they repay you with love and cuddles. There are still struggles along the way in various forms, but I always remind myself that they've all been raised differently or lived through circumstances that my children and I have never had to experience. Getting to see them blossom is worth every bit of the struggle. Fostering long term placements are a bit harder for me because I get so attached after seeing them grow, watching their first, and seeing them overcome so much. However, seeing them go home to their family, when their family is ready, and seeing the joy on their faces when they go back to their parents makes it so much easier. I love those babies like they're my own, but I know in my heart, they are only with me a short while, so I'll love and care for them the best I can, while I can and pray for them and their families often. If you are interested, look into it! You don't have to commit immediately but do some research and pray about it. As for adoption from foster care, I'd say the same thing. If you have the heart for kids and the desire to give your family to a child, do the research and go for it. There's no guarantee it will always be easy, but when has raising a child ever been?
- Do you believe in family-work balance for women? Why or why not?
I believe for every family there is a family-work balance, it's a matter of finding what works for your family. I worked full time for a while when the boys came home, and overtime John and I came to decide that for our children it was better for me to be home. My husband is currently active duty as a geo-bachelor, so I'm the primary parent at home. It’s given me the opportunity to be more active in our children's school activities, their after-school sports, and every aspect of their lives. Being home has also given me the opportunity to be more involved with my bonus babies also. Also, some of the babies we've had in our home come from situations where they've had very little human interaction and they're behind on many milestones. While foster care covers the cost of daycare if needed, I've always been the mom who prefers to interact with my babies at home. While I know this isn't for every family, it works well for ours and my husband has worked hard to give me the ability to do so. With our surprise baby boy (and last baby, lol) on the way, I'll probably be home with our kids for some time and I wouldn't want to be anywhere else. For me, many career opportunities may come and go, but my babies are only little once.
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