Our adoption journey began like many others – first battling the fiend of infertility. I know not all couples who adopt have traveled that road. However, most people assume you’ve adopted because you can’t have biological kids. So, yes, we adopted because we found out a biological birth would not happen for us.

Here’s some truth. At the beginning of the course, before the test results were in, way before we began the adoption process, it upset me when some (well-meaning) person would say, “Well, you can always adopt.” At that point, I was so raw, still fighting for answers and emotional processing, I didn’t want to hear that. Pursuing adoption seemed to be acknowledging that we hadn’t succeeded, and that we would never become pregnant.

Ultimately, it became apparent that adoption would be the path by which we became parents. We first had to grieve the loss of having a biological child, of course. But, following that, when we faced the future and began making plans, I felt differently. We were and are proud adoptive parents. We absolutely believed that any child of ours, however created and brought into our family, would be completely loved.

And maybe even extra loved – because, of course, “You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.”

It’s a valid point that, having been through infertility, miscarriage, or loss of a child, you are über-aware of the gift that each child is. I would see someone with an unplanned pregnancy, and I wondered why they would be blessed with a child when we wanted one so badly. If a couple got pregnant without difficulty, I was sincerely happy for them, but inwardly, I was hurting and, I’ll say it, jealous for the effortlessness of their reproduction.

If I saw a mom looking stressed out with her kids, getting groceries or at the park or outside at school, I would immediately think, “If I had children, I would never get stressed out because of them. How can they take for granted what I want so badly?”

And I honestly felt that way. At that point, we wanted children so incredibly much, that it seemed like that would be the answer to everything. You know, the old “if only”? If only I had a boyfriend, if only he would propose already, if only I had a good job, if only we had more money, if only we could have children. I thought that once I was a mother, that heartache and pain would go away, and the wonderful awe of being a parent would overshadow any of the daily problems that would come my way.

Once I got this fixed, life would be okay again.

Because I was in a really bad place during that time. Infertility is a stressful experience, emotionally and physically. I dealt with some situational depression. I felt hopeless and impotent. Getting through a regular day was difficult. I developed shingles due to the stress. I didn’t know how to express my feelings to my friends and family. I went to a counselor to help process it in a healthier way – which was a good decision. Ultimately, though, I felt like being a mom would help everything be okay again.

It took seven months of adoption classes, training, and interviews, and two months of waiting before we got a call for our first child. We were smitten instantly. She was beautiful, sweet, and oh-so-huggable. We settled in as first time parents do – joyfully, awkwardly, unsure of ourselves, but with the shining patina of finally being “mom” and “dad.”

Fast forward seven years. We now are the blessed parents of four kids through adoption – three girls and a boy.

Guess what. Adopting them didn’t solve every problem in the world.

Guess what. My kids stress me out sometimes.

Occasionally, I’m that mom I self-righteously thought I would never be.

The always loving, ever-patient, eternally grateful mother I wanted to be isn’t present all of the time. She’s busy with dirty laundry, facilitating meal times with young children, and playing referee to these active monkeys, while maintaining a positive relationship with my husband.

I love my kids. I couldn’t imagine my life without them. Please hear that.

As I ponder this, I realize something. This doesn’t make me a bad mom. It makes me a real one.

My kids are just like any others. I am just like any other mother. Yes, we took a crazy path to get here, and yes, I have baggage from the journey that will always stick with me. But, hey, I’m here! I’m a real mom! A real-life, sleep-deprived, coffee-chugging, Target-shopping, homework-helping, bedtime-story-reading mom, living the insanely eventful parental life. My every problem wasn’t fixed, but the dream of motherhood came true.

Adoption wasn’t a fall-back plan, or something we had to settle for. We are now a real family.

Just like Pinocchio or the Velveteen Rabbit, I’m real. Not perfect, but a real mom.

And it feels so good.

Angela Erickson

Born in Colorado, Angela married a handsome Texan and spend ten years living down in the South before recently moving back to her home state. She and her husband Kyle spent seven years fostering children in the state of Texas and have adopted four - three girls and a boy. She has served as a youth director and as a middle school teacher, and is currently enjoying a season of life as a full-time mama. Angela loves reading, writing, music, running, and spending time with family and friends. She is borderline addicted to puttering around on ancestry.com, and is also a enthusiastic anglophile. Her blog can be found at http://fosteringjourneys.blogspot.com/