As a parent to kiddos adopted out of difficult situations, here are the things I wish I heard 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. These things are what I wish I heard prior to adoption, but I’m thankful to have learned them along the way.
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, dealing with issues that we never thought we would face, and we’ve laughed…a lot. To say I’ve learned a lot is an understatement and there are several things I would tell my (pre) adoptive mother self.
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 my (pre) adoptive mother self:
- 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 have 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:
There are plenty of things I would tell my (pre) adoptive mother self, but perhaps the best thing is not missing any of these moments.
Hi there! November is almost over with and Christmas is on its way, but we still have a few days left for National Adoption Awareness Month. This year’s theme is “Teens Need Families, No Matter What”. It is such an important theme and speaks of the reality of older youth in the system who are waiting for their permanent families.
To learn more, click this link for an article I wrote about this subject: Teens Need Families, No Matter What
Wishing you all well!
In the US, November is National Adoption Month. The goals of this month include increasing adoption awareness on a national level and bringing attention to the needs of children who are still waiting for their permanent families.
To read more about this subject, click Why National Adoption Month Matters
November is a special month for those of us whose lives have been touched by adoption. May we all continue to fight the good fight for children. May we all seek wisdom in decisions that need to be made and dwell within grace in each and every moment. Let’s never cease in our efforts to find families for children around the world.
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.
November is National Adoption Month and I LOVE it. Do you want to know why? Because it dedicates a lot of attention to the need for adoption and the diverse stories of adoption that are out there in the world.
What we usually see during this month are wonderful images of adoptive families smiling for the camera. What we don’t see are the tears, hardships, and struggles of adoptive families. I think it is only fair that if we set aside a month of celebrating adoption, we should also include conversations about all that encompasses it; not just the smiley, cute, feel-good moments.
Here is the truth: As an adoptive family (and I don’t mind that label), we are very normal in our basic rigmarole of the day. However, our days probably look a little different from other families. There are moments when we don’t have the right words, we recognize that genetics is a mightily powerful thing, and we wonder “will this get better?” There are times when one of our kids says, “You’re not even my real mom!”, “I bet you wish you didn’t adopt me.”, or “Why couldn’t I stay with my birth mom?” These things, my friends, are not what we often see or hear about during National Adoption Month.
So, let’s get real. Adoption absolutely changed all our lives. It made me a mother. It made my husband a father. It gave our kids permanency and the opportunity to grow up without the threat of abuse and neglect. However, adoption is certainly not for the faint of heart.
It hurts when your child tells you or asks you the things mentioned above. It is heartbreaking when you don’t know or have answers to questions that doctors are asking. It is alarming when you think about whether your kids will have anger about being adopted as they grow up. It takes a whole lot of energy and patience to handle the issues that come up during the day. It stings when you are rejected or verbally abused or disregarded by the very child that you would give your life for. Like I said, adoption is not for the faint of heart.
Before you go and wonder about the state of parenthood for me, let me explain that I fully believe in the blessing of my kiddos. I adore them. I cherish them. I love them to the moon and back and know that God fully weaved our family together, but I also strive to be authentic about our journey. If I were to tell you that everything is peachy all the time and we are all so in love with each other all the time, I would be a liar.
If you are considering adoption, I want you to know that it is truly a miracle in life. You will recognize a humbling love that is freely given. I also want you to know that there will be moments and days that it doesn’t feel good. You will shed plenty of tears in the corner of your room.
You will pretend that you are having the best of days while knowing the distress that occurred just moments before. You will discover some truths about yourself, and you may not like them. You will feel the vulnerability of others and it will hurt.
Let’s get real. Adoption is not for the faint of heart, and therefore I know it is an absolute blessing to be a mother through adoption.
Here is a meme I created in honor of National Adoption Month (US) and Orphan Sunday. I love the notion that with every adoption, the hope in a better world is released. Adoption changes lives. Families matter.
My prayer is that we will rise up to the calling of adoption, and that the cries of orphans around the world will be met with the love, tenderness, and protection of parents.
If adoption has ever crossed your mind, please consider taking the first steps to learning more.
“What Adoption Means” Post #7-
This message came to me from someone who felt the calling of foster care and adoption at an early age, and then as an adult, chose to be obedient to His calling for her life. Her life is truly blessed because of it!
“I have been processing this concept for a few days of what adoption has truly meant for me. The one word that immediately brought to my mind was OBEDIENCE! At a very early age, the concept of foster care was brought to my attention through a research paper I was writing my junior year of high school. I began to study and learn about children in the foster care system and knew the Lord would somehow make this happen when the time was right.
Several years passed, graduating from college, starting my career, marriage and then it happened. I was driving along a street, and read a sign that said Foster/Adoption Information Meeting. I went home and spoke with my husband about the desire in my heart to foster/adopt. We were in agreement and went to our first meeting on a cold January night. I had peace in my heart after the meeting was finished.
The journey began with classes, and eventually the license came. The Lord blessed me, and has fulfilled my life with two children. We provided respite services for our little guy when he was one-month-old, and then he was permanently placed at six-months-old in our home. My little girl was just five days old when I brought her home from the hospital. Our adoption anniversary of two years for both children just happened in November. Since then, we have added one of my children’s siblings to my home, and the State Children’s Division is in the process of termination of parental rights.
One word – obedience – has brought three little blessings in my heart. God entrusted me to raise them, teach them about Jesus, and to ensure they know where they came. They were not an accident, and me driving down that road one January evening was not an accident either.
When we obey God, He will bless us. It’s as simple as that, and we never know when those blessings will happen.”
“What Adoption Means” Post #5. This message came to me from a woman who watched her sister’s journey through adoption. She considers herself a proud and blessed aunt!
“My sister desperately wanted to be a mom and was struggling to get pregnant. When we were in high school, my sister would talk about wanting to adopt children. It was an idea placed on her heart early.
I remember one conversation with her when she said “I have always wanted to adopt. Does it really matter if I adopt before I have biological children?” I agreed with her and watched from a distance as my sister and her husband began the challenging task of navigating all of the requirements, background checks, health screenings, and home visits to be approved to be put on a list of parents wanting to have children. The process is lengthy-it took about two years to go through all of the requirements.
The transparency that the adoptive parent offers is so amazing and challenging. They had to answer what seemed to be crazy questions such as “Are you willing to parent a child that is a different race than you?”, “Would you be willing to parent a child with illness and if so, what level of illness can you handle?”
As a non-adoptive parent, these questions seemed to be so strange, yet I saw that they were necessary, but I thought about the fact that if my children would have been born with health challenges, I wouldn’t think twice about keeping them and loving them.
Around Christmas, my sister and brother-in-law received their much-anticipated letter-they were approved and pregnant women would be viewing their profile in hopes of choosing them as parents. They put that letter under their tree as their most prized gift.
On April 1st, my sister called me. She was choked up and tearful as she told me “We have been chosen!” My first thought was “this is the worst April Fools Joke ever!” but I burst into tears as she assured me that this was real and that they would have a son. He was born about fourteen to fifteen hours later and three days after that, they were at home with their son. My nephew.
That first month of a waiting period for the mother to change her mind was rough, but the time came and went. They have a semi-open adoption with the birth parents. They exchange letters and pictures. When they lived in the same area, they would meet up with the birth mother. They went to her high school graduation. My nephew knows that this woman is his “tummy mommy.”
When he was 3 months old, my sister found out she was pregnant. Two shocking phone calls in one year! She had a daughter.
People asked questions and insinuated that one child was their real child and the other was not. This probably fired me up more than it did my sister (maybe all that adoption training had prepared her). They are both real!
Fast forward 4 years. My sister got another call from the adoption agency. A young woman from Guatemala had delivered a baby girl in the United States and could not parent her. She left her with the hospital. My sister and husband prayed a lot about this. We prayed a lot about this. This adoption was very different from their first experience. There was no family history, no medical history, and there would be no contact with the birth mother, and this child looks the most different from the family. The conversations my sister and brother-in-law will be having with each of their kids will be so different.
Adoption is hard, it is scary, and it is costly. The journey isn’t over when the baby is placed into the adoptive parents arms.
If you have a family member that is on this journey, support them in any way that you are able.
I love being an aunt to this crazy trio. I am so thankful to the women who acted so incredibly unselfishly and put the needs of these two babies ahead of their own. They have given us all a gift-not just the adoptive parents-but the extended family as well.
I am proud to say that I am the blessed aunt of three awesome, very real, kids.”