November is National Adoption Awareness Month in the US. It is a month when we celebrate and advocate for adoption. Being an adoptive parent myself, I fully understand the highs and lows of it. If you are considering building your family through adoption (especially after years of infertility), here are a few things I’d like for you to know.
- Even with the joys of adoption, there is sorrow. You will find that you love your child or children so much that you grieve for their life stories. You know that they have come to you after a tremendous amount of hardship and despair of their birth parent(s). With adoption, comes loss. Helping your children understand and grieve this is part of your responsibility as a parent.
- You won’t and can’t have all of the right words at the right time. People may say things to you that just throw you off. You usually find the right response hours later and after the moment is gone. There are also questions and statements that your children will state at the most random of times. Just be prepared to not be prepared times like this, because they will happen.
- Adoption doesn’t stop at the declaration of the Judge. I’ve said it before, but in many ways, adoption is an evolutionary process. As your children grow up, they will yearn for answers from you, and they will want to know more about their histories and birth families. This is natural and should not be taken as a negative. Your children love you. They just want to know more.
- You will have moments when infertility still sneaks up on you. Let me give you an example. Recently, I spoke at an infertility conference hosted by a local church. I had prepared what I was going to say and tried to stay on target. About mid-way through, I found myself struggling to hold back tears. I said, “I would not trade my kids for anyone else’s. I just wish I would have carried them in my body.” This statement was not planned. It hit me like a ton of bricks. These feelings and waves of emotions will stick with you long after adoption.
- You have to be flexible and adaptive in your approach to parenting. As much as family members adore and deeply loves my children, I still catch them saying things like, “You never acted like that as a child.” Typically, the way we parent is either very similar to our parents or it can be the exact opposite (if raised in an abusive, neglectful or troubled home). I recall being a sensitive child and just the thought of making my mother cry was enough for me to stop whatever I was doing. I’d like to be able to parent the same way or have the same expectations of my children, but I’ve learned that I cannot and must not do this. I’ve had to adapt and be flexible about my expectations and approach to parenting. What works for my friends’ kids or worked for me as a child, won’t work for mine, and that’s okay.
- Adoption is so amazing. There is a deep joy that dwells within you when you look at the children whom God picked for you. It is hard to describe and a bit ironic in how you just know that your kids were meant to be yours. Is it perfect? No. Does it always go smoothly? Absolutely not. However, it is hard to deny that adoption is an amazing and incredible experience.
In celebration of National Adoption Awareness Month, we should focus not only on children and older youth in need of adoption and adoptive families but also on the authentic and honest sharing of experiences and lessons gained through adoption.
Adoption is not perfect, but my friends, neither are we.