As a parent to kiddos adopted out of difficult situations, here are the things I totally wish someone would have said to me prior to adoption:
1) It’s not gonna feel good all of the time.
2) Nurture is awesome, but genetics are huge.
3) You might have days where you wished you had made a different decision. (don’t guilt yourself about it)
4) Raising children with extra needs causes you to live life around a schedule of medicines, appointments, triggers, and other issues.
5) It does hurt when you are told that you are not their “real parent”. (even though you pretend it doesn’t)
6) Fear causes you to overthink…a lot.
7) There will be things that come up in your child’s life that you never had to deal with.
8) Don’t compare your own upbringing or the way you were as a child to what you expect or wish of your child.
9) Adoptive parenting can be very lonely and isolating.
10) Don’t underestimate your voice in all of it.
11) Never underestimate your child’s voice in all of it.
12) Get used to advocacy. It will become one of your best assets.
13) Adoption = loss. It just does.
I never want to paint a rosy or perfect picture of adoption – not even during National Adoption Month. Instead, I want others to know that while adoption is incredible and totally life-changing, it is also hard.
In order for us (people who work and live life within the realm of adoption) to make a difference, we need to take off our rose-colored glasses. We need to tell it like it is. We have to understand that adoption is wonderful but also challenging. The gavel’s declaration of adoption does not mean that hard stuff ends. If anything, it is just beginning.
For any of you who are parents through adoption and are struggling, I see you. I get it. I am right there with you.
Keep your chin up. Keep it real.
November is National Adoption Month in the US. We set aside this month to focus on adoption stories as well as the plight of many children waiting for families. I’ve been an “official” adoptive parent now for a little over ten years. We’ve stretched out of our comfort zone, dealt with issues that we never thought we would face, and we’ve laughed…a lot.
Even on the hardest days – the ones where we have really struggled – my husband and I do not regret our decision to adopt our children. We would have missed so many precious moments.
Ones like this,
Or, this one…
Thinking back to my “(pre)adoptive mother self”, I totally wish I could say that I was 100% prepared for parenting – not just parenting in general, but adoptive parenting. I know that there are many similarities, but I also know there are many differences.
If could go back, here are a few things I would tell myself:
- When the gavel falls and adoption is declared, that is when the real work begins. Meaning, adoption can get much harder. Sure, there are difficulties getting to the place where you are on the eve of adoption, but oh boy, all of the trials we experienced during that time seem kind of trivial compared to some of the issues we now face on any given day.
- Don’t take it personally. There is a special kind of guilt that seems to tag along with adoptive parenting. It is hard to not take things personally when you witness your child struggling or when your child says things to you that take your breath away (I’m not talking about the sweet statements, although there has been some of those). When you work tirelessly advocating for and managing your child’s life to the point of not being able to capture just a glimpse of forward movement, it is hard to not take it personally. Just don’t. Or, at least, try not to.
- Listen. Like, REALLY listen to others who have walked in the shoes you are about to walk in. Learn what you can about trauma (in the womb and out). Be prepared to have a host of professionals in your life (doctors, specialists, teachers, therapists, etc). Definitely advocate and ask questions but also choose to listen and learn. It will serve you well.
- It is not going to feel good all of the time. The reality is that parenting (of any type) can break your heart from time-to-time. With adoptive parenting, the things that break your heart tend to be ones that you really do not fully comprehend and certainly cannot control. I’m talking about genetic issues that come into play as the years go on. I’m speaking of the damage done in the womb that is hard to explain to someone. I’m thinking of the challenges that you never faced growing up but now dwell in your home because your children face them. Nope. It does not feel good all of the time.
- No matter what, don’t give up and don’t you dare second-guess your importance in the life of your children. Don’t do it. Never do it. Your kids need you. They don’t need another set of parents to not come through. It will get rough. You will think, “Am I really being the best parent I can be? What if I didn’t answer that question the way my child needed me to? Maybe, I’m the problem? What if I tried a little harder?” These questions have circulated in my mind a lot through the years. They are made up of guilt mixed in with a sliver of grief. Just don’t go there.
Looking back to my “(pre)adoptive mother self”, I totally thought I was prepared for all of this. I thought I had a grasp of trauma-informed parenting, adoption issues, loss and grief, and a whole host of behavioral issues. I totally was not. I can’t even pretend that I was.
Yet, would I do it all again? Absolutely.
Can I imagine a life without my children? No way.
Without (foster parenting) and adoption, I could have missed this: