My husband and I married in 1992 with dreams of a large family. When we discovered we were not able to conceive on our own, we were shocked but we carried on and looked towards adoption. Like many other people, we always thought we would adopt one day so this seemed the natural progression to extend our family. First, we had to decide if we wanted to go international or domestic. We personally chose domestic due to financial constraints and our need to support the community we lived in. We immediately signed up for adoption classes through our local Department of Social Services and became foster parents with the intent to adopt.

Our first placement was a 9-week-old baby girl. She had been removed from her parents for a multitude of reasons. I will never forget the first time we got to meet her. She had a chubby face and contagious smile. I couldn’t believe she was ours. We took the parenting classes but we really had no idea what we were doing. As we cared for her we gradually learned bits and pieces about her birth parents. We knew many of their struggles were potentially genetic. However, we were two educated, loving, active and very motivated parents that could handle any issues presented to us and our love would cure all.

When my daughter was 2, we were blessed with a second child through adoption. A newborn baby boy! We couldn’t believe our blessings. First a baby girl and now a baby boy! One of each! We felt so privileged. The information provided about the birth parents of our son were lacking. But again, we felt we could handle anything. The transition from one to two was a little challenging at first. But we managed and became confident in our abilities to parent. When our son was 18 months of age we had another wonderful opportunity! This time is was a private adoption. We were made aware of a birth mother needing to place her child with a family but this time it was a private adoption and across the country.

We went through an agency in her state and completed all the appropriate paperwork. The timing was great. My husband was between jobs. He had finished up his job at the hospital and had a month off before starting his new endeavor as a clinic director. Unexpectedly, our son was born 5 weeks premature in the same town that our extended family lived in. It was a crazy coincidence. It was meant to be. We flew cross country with our two young children and lived in the bedroom of our families home for a month. It took that long for our son to be released from the hospital and for our attorney to get our paperwork in order.

While we were out of state and caring for our premature baby we felt over-the-moon. We gradually learned things about his birth mother (the father was unknown) and we felt we could handle all the information provided. We eventually returned home and had an amazing support system from our friends and neighbors (our immediate family were either out of the area or estranged- so the support from others meant the world to us). At this time we were the proud parents of a 4-year-old, a 2-year-old and a newborn.

Life was good.

Over the course of the next few years we had fostered several children that were eventually returned home. My children also started school. We moved to a larger home so that we could provide our children with land to run and be kids. Then one day we received yet another opportunity to care for a child. Another boy! He was 10-months-old and technically a foster child, at first. As time went on we had the opportunity to adopt our fourth child. We couldn’t believe how blessed one family could be. We were officially a party of six.

As my children made their way through grade school we started to notice some educational and social delays. We reached out to our pediatrician, speech and occupational therapists and fortunately my husband is a physical therapist. We felt very well equipped. As the children moved through school their delays became greater. This became a little more challenging each year. Each child had different problem areas. Some were academic. Some were social. Some were behavioral. Some were all of the above. As their issues became more challenging our support system slowly diminished. Friends stopped having us over. Friends stopped coming over. We felt very alone with the exception of a few close friends. We did not blame our ‘friends’ albeit heartbreaking. Our children were struggling. We were struggling. Nature was winning over nurture. There were hospital stays for mental illness, broken windows, holes in our walls, calls daily from the school, psychiatry appointments and we had stock in every flavored micro-brew available. We felt lonely, discouraged and lost in our children’s illnesses.

To make things more challenging our financial situation changed dramatically. My husband had a significant decrease in his salary due to health care reform. So much that we could no longer afford health insurance. “Who doesn’t have health insurance?” we thought. Well, we didn’t and it was an added stress with four special needs children. Our medical bills were going up with every hospitalization, doctors’ visit, prescription refill and counseling appointment. We currently have in excess of $20,000 owed from those visits.

About 2 years ago I didn’t think our marriage and family would survive. How did we get here? We had such high aspirations for our children. We are educated, outgoing and loving people. We were heartbroken to see our children ‘shunned’ because of their learning disabilities and struggles socially. My husband was our rock although I know he often cried at night. We both did. He did research, read every book and prayed for us all.

Our children and family have come a long way and we are moving forward in a positive direction with the help of doctors, the school system and close friends. As of October 1my family has health insurance and we feel extremely grateful. We have our small circle of friends that have stuck by our side through it all. We may not have much but we are survivors and we are rich in love.

So, why am I sharing this? Like the title says: Adoption…it’s not for the weak. It has many moments of joy and heartache. But in the end our children have enriched our lives more then we could have imagined. We were given an amazing opportunity to change their lives. But they have changed ours even when we didn’t know it.

Kathy Rau

Kathy is raising four beautiful children with her husband, Mark. She loves living in the historic area of Fredericksburg, VA. For over 20 years, Kathy has been a Licensed Veterinary Technician and currently works part time in emergency and radioiodine medicine. Kathy runs a small business called Your Girl Friday, FXBG. Kathy has been blogging for less then a year but loves to share her stories. She has been published on Her View From Home, The Mighty, America Adopts and has had a variety of other guest posts. Her niche is Motherhood, Friendship and Adoption. You can find Kathy at: IG: krau67 Twitter: @kathyrau Facebook: Your Girl Blogs.