Differences between birthing and fostering…

Is there a difference between having had my biological son and fostering with the hopes to adopt? Or adoption in general? Yes, there are several differences. There are many, many more similarities, but the reality is there are some differences and I think it is important to be aware of them and talk about them. Some times I think the adoption world is too passionate about acting like things are 100% the same and I think this harms both the beauty of adoption and the beauty of birth. Both children are equally, 100% your children whether you adopt them or birth them, but how they come to be your children are very different experiences.
Differences (for me, of course others may have a different list!):
 #1) Energy Level. I have way more energy mothering a newborn child that I didn’t birth then I did with Judah. Let’s be honest, for most women, childbirth is like getting hit by a truck (and for some of us…then having that truck reverse back over us).  It takes a month for our body to stop doing strange things (I’ll spare the details for those who have yet to experience this) and for the pain to subside, then several more months to be completely back to “normal”. If you nurse, you are tired the entire first year of your child’s life (at least I was).
   So of course I am still very tired, still waking up throughout the night to comfort our precious baby. But even in my tiredness, it is much easier not having the physical pain to recoup from along with the chemical imbalance from hormones needed to produce milk.
   Now this shouldn’t make adoptive moms feel any less “motherly” (trust me, you will be plenty tired if you are caring for a newborn…we don’t have to be the most tired possible to feel like we’re doing our job as mamas) nor should it be a reason to only adopt, because mothering requires much greater sacrifice then a few months of pain.
#2) Nursing. Nursing was an amazing, wonderful experience and I am sad that I wasn’t able to experience nursing my older two children. If you have adopted children and been unable to have biological children, don’t feel guilty for feeling sad about the loss of nursing your child. It is natural and normal to desire to nurse. Being sad about this loss, does not mean that you  love your adopted child any less and either does wishing you could experience having biological children. Birth is the most natural thing in the world and that is why my children that I adopted tell me sometimes that they wish they could have come from my tummy. Because they love me and I am their mama. They know that the most natural way to come to us would have been through birth. But I tell them that while I also wish that was possible and would have been wonderful, that I would not trade the experience to adopt them for anything in the world. Because I didn’t get to choose my biological children, but I got to choose them. Also, I tell them they wouldn’t have the beautiful skin, eyes, nose, toes, or even process information the way they do had they come from my body. So it’s not that I love my children I adopted less because I didn’t get the experience of nursing and birthing them, it is that I love them so much that I wish I could spare them from every ounce of pain this world has to offer, including the loss of their biological family. However, I know that sparing your children from pain is impossible, so better to equip them for it.
    Sidenote: some adoptive mamas are able to nurse their children-it is expensive, challenging, and typically you still need to supplement…AND MANY moms who birth children and want to nurse are unable. So-again, this is not a good reason to adopt only or not to adopt at all.
#3) Exciement from loved ones.  This has been the hardest one for me emotionally. When I was pregnant with Judah everyone (EVERYONE) was ecstatic and talked non-stop about our coming baby.  Every week people asked me questions about how far along I was, what the gender was, etc, etc. This just wasn’t the same with deciding to foster baby #4.
    With fostering/adopting we have had to deal with a small group of people telling us we’re crazy, that we can’t save the whole world (duh!), that we have Savior-complexes, and stating their disagreement with our decision. Also, it has just been hard to have people in our inner circles who were excited about Judah being born, but were silent/asked no questions, showed no interest about the coming addition to our family. I am SO excited about what we are doing and naturally want people to be excited with me. But thankfully my husband, Vermon, is wonderful about pointing me to all the people who are excited and helping to remind me to love and overlook the offense I am tempted to take.  Not to mention, we do not live for the approval of man and after much prayer and processing, I am now thankful for a minority disapproval from people, because it shows me how easily I can put my trust in people, instead of the Lord.
   All of that being said, MANY people were equally excited (and each of them now have a special place in my heart for that!) and people who I barely even know offered to help and serve us because they wanted to be a part of orphan care too. The blessings of those who have cared and surrounded our family with love and support far, far outweighs the few who haven’t.
#4) Opportunity to Share the Gospel.  This is what MOST excites me. There are many, many more opportunities to share the gospel when you are fostering/adopting. Of course this happens in parenting, in general; however, I get asked ALL the time why we we are doing what we are doing.  I have been able to talk to my neighbors, starbucks employees,  family members, my children, the mailman, the grocery store clerk, and the guy sitting next to me on the airplane about WHY we decided to open our family to children who many people wouldn’t. It is more then just the great need, it is more then feeling sorry or trying to change the world or be a good person.  It is because Christ found me when I was on a path headed to destruction, rescued me from the pit of hell, and poured out his blood as a sacrifice to atone for my vast sins against God. Then, because of Christ’s blood, God adopted me and made me his child and a co-heir of Christ. I was dead, now I am alive. I was blind, now I see. I had a heart of stone, now a heart of flesh. I was an enemy of God, now a child. We do what we do out of an abundance of joy for the salvation offered to us in Christ Jesus!
#5) They aren’t mine. 😦 This is different for those who get to adopt their children without fostering, but as a foster parent…these babies aren’t “mine” legally and won’t be anytime soon. It is really hard, painful, and sad to have a child leave that you love. I love each child as though they are mine, attach to each child as though they would be mine forever, and pray for each child as though they would be mine…but at any point the baby we are loving may get placed with a biological family member. This is hard, but it is worth it for many, many reasons (I’ll save those reasons for another post). The reality is…even my oldest three don’t belong to me and only the Lord knows the number of their days–so I just live obediently in the moment God’s given me and try not to spend too much time thinking about what our family will look like a year from now!Next post: Some of my favorite SIMILARITIES between birthing and fostering…
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About dennaepierre

I am the executive director of The Surge Network and am the founder and president of Foster Care Initiatives (www.fostercareinitiatives.org). Most of my foster care/adoption related blogging has been moved to that site. This is my personal blog that I use to reflect on aspects of theology, culture, and our day-to-day life that includes being married to the pastor of Roosevelt Community Church, having a house full of kiddos (biological, adopted, and foster teens), and living in downtown Phoenix.
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9 Responses to Differences between birthing and fostering…

  1. Natasha says:

    I love your post! Adoption and birthing a child are different. You said it so well. I've been enjoying following your blog. I rejoice in the way the Lord is your top priority. What a light to the world! We've adopted 3 out of foster care. Grateful to God for giving them to us.

  2. Thanks Natasha…I just got to look at your blog- I love the title alone-mom of 7! Blessings!

  3. ecross says:

    Quote of the day: "Lets be honest, for most women, childbirth is like getting hit by a truck (and for some of us…then having that truck reverse back over us)."I like #4 the most. It is kind of like when people ask me what I studied in college, and I can say Religious Studies – opens all kinds of doors in the conversation! I am looking forward to someday having this tool to aid me in my own conversations. :)More and more, I am using adoption language when I share and ponder the Gospel, rather than just the stuffy – albeit beautiful – theological/philosophical explanations. Being a member at Roosevelt and a friend of some of our adopting families has helped this intellectual Christian feel the emotion of what our God has done for us! Your lives have served to illustrate a type of love that was previously unfamiliar to me, assisting in my appreciation for a love of the same type expressed to us by our Father.Thanks for your thoughts!

  4. I really enjoyed this post. Thanks for sharing your thoughts! 🙂

  5. Great post Dennae! I'm excited for you & your family and for the precious baby who will call you Mom.

  6. Carrie says:

    This is a great post! I appreciate the honesty and the wisdom that comes from your experiences. My husband and I are currently waiting to be chosen by a birthmom for an infant adoption. We are coming from 3 years of infertility and miscarriage, which means that even though adoption is an amazing miracle and blessing for us, we still carry pain and loss. So yes, I mourn the fact that I cannot carry my soon-to-be-adopted babies in my own body and physically birth them. There's nothing that can make that particular loss go away, just like you explained. One small note- it is possible, as you wrote, for a woman to induce lactation naturally, without expensive drugs, but yes she may need to supplement with formula or donated breast milk. So I wouldn't say at all that inducing lactation to nurse an adopted baby is expensive, that's just not true. God has made women's bodies so amazingly and I encourage any adoptive mama who is interested in nursing to do her research and get support and go for it!

  7. Carrie, you're right…it might not be that expensive for some women and even "expensive" is relative when you look at how much formula cost. I had to induce lactation in order to be able to breastfeed our biological child and it cost several hundred just to rent the pump-but it was worth every penny…and if we are just comparing $'s, about the same or less $ then formula. I guess my point was that there is no guarantee that you will get to breastfeed a child even if you go through birth…for a small percentage of women, their bodies really struggle to produce. Thank you for clarifying that statement!

  8. Anonymous says:

    Awesome post – very thoughtful and insightful. I am so thankful for that precious little girl we have now and I still miss the precious little one we had first. I am so thankful to God for His amazing grace that is evident in your care for these precious little children. Dennis "Grampy"

  9. Anonymous says:

    I just happened upon your blog and I love this post. But I'm wondering, how does it affect your older children to have a baby live with you for a long time and then leave? I have two children (ages 4 and 2) and we are thinking about fostering a baby but I am worried about how it will affect my two older kids. Any thoughts on this?

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