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When I used to dream about becoming a mother, I’ll admit I never imagined it happening through adoption. I assumed that one day, I would get married and then pregnant, and be the only mama my child would ever know.
But life doesn’t always work out as we plan. And while I had no way of knowing back then that I’d battle infertility for much of my twenties, I’m actually grateful for that journey — because it led me to my little girl.
Still, there are plenty of challenges to being a parent through adoption. And a lot of those challenges are things people never talk about. Things no one could ever really understand until they’re faced with them.
I think that’s probably why I love the Freeform show The Fosters so much. I’ll admit to being a little addicted to shows catered to teenagers anyway. (What can I say? I like to be brought back to my youth!) But this one is about so much more than just typical teenage angst.
It’s about a family built on love rather than blood ties. It’s about the unique (and sometimes incredibly difficult) circumstances surrounding foster care and foster care adoption. And it’s about two moms, just trying to do what’s right for these kids they love so much. Even when what’s right for the kids is sometimes what is so much harder for them as parents.
That’s the part I can relate to the most. I do have my foster care license, and there was a point in time when my goal was to foster (and potentially adopt) pre-teen and teenage girls. There is still a big part of my heart holding on to that goal, and I still believe it will be a part of my future. But as luck would have it, on the very day I completed my foster care licensing, I was given the opportunity to adopt a newborn girl, who’s been with me ever since. And in the process, my foster care plans were more or less put on hold as I adjusted to being a newborn mom.
That little girl is 4 years old today, and we maintain a very open relationship with her other mother. Most of the time, I’m incredibly grateful for that relationship. My daughter’s other mother and I have a very similar way of communicating and approaching each other. We are both very respectful of the other’s needs, and also really in-tune to each other’s feelings.
I honestly couldn’t ask for a better relationship with the woman I share my daughter with.
But I also have to admit there are parts of sharing my little girl that are really hard. There are things I know I do differently from how her other mother would. Things I know are probably hard for her to swallow and ignore. Just as there are things she does that I’ve had to request she not do around our little girl. And there have been times, especially in my first year of motherhood, when I’ve had to battle a lot of insecurities about allowing this other woman to remain a part of our daughter’s life.
I’m glad I did. I’m thankful I pushed past my own feelings of jealousy and fear and allowed this relationship to remain as open as it is. But nothing about that came easily or naturally.
Over the last few seasons of The Fosters, the kids’ bio parents have all entered the scene. Jude’s dad had to sign off on allowing him to be adopted. Meanwhile, Callie’s dad actually fought for custody — and the fight was bitter. But this season, Callie’s moms actually asked her bio dad to take a more active role in her life.
Other characters faced their own hardships when coming into contact with their birth parents — like Jesus and Mariana, who sought out their birth mother in Season One, and were heartbroken when what they found was a woman plagued by addiction. That didn’t stop them from seeking out their birth father too, though. And this season, their moms, Lena and Stef, actually allowed him to move into their garage while he gets his own life together.
For the record, I’m not sure that’s a step I could ever personally take. But that’s the thing — even on the show, the characters are quick to acknowledge how difficult it is to open their hearts and their home to these people who haven’t always made the best decisions when it comes to their kids. Stef has been especially vocal this season about how hard it is to keep those relationships open and to continue giving chances, even in the face of addiction issues and threats to fight for custody.
Obviously, this is a fictional show. And clearly not all adoption situations would even allow for this level of openness. Not all bio parents are safe for the kids to be around, particularly when foster care is involved. But it’s something that I find really refreshing to watch. Because there’s a whole lot of honesty in how The Fosters presents those relationships and the challenges (and blessings) they bring. And I can’t help but appreciate the fact that it puts a public face to what are often very private issues. After all, the more we see adoptive relationships portrayed for what they truly are in mainstream media, the less strange and scary they’ll become to those who aren’t living within one themselves.
For my part, I know that making room for my daughter’s other mother has benefited us all immensely. The good far outweighs the bad (or the difficult, in our case). And for that, I remain incredibly grateful.
Watch The Fosters, Tuesdays at 8|7c on Freeform.