“Adoption must be a mutual decision for both couple so that whatever may happen or whatever you issue that may occur in the future, it’s the two of you who’s going to face it. You need to avoid the blame game and stand on your decision until the end.”
Like the first-time pregnant woman who remains blissfully and intentionally naive about the pains of childbirth, my husband and I sat in many an adoption class grinning wryly at one another. “It’s not going to be like that for us,” said the grin. Except it was like that for us. It was like that in ways that even the classes, taught by qualified adoption professionals, could not have convinced us.
Now, eleven years into our journey of parenting, two by adoption and one by birth, I have cobbled together a list of things I wish I had known before adopting:
1. Adoption is a wonderful way to form a family.
2. No matter how simple or rosy your adoption might seem, all adoption is predicated upon loss. Even if you are the lucky one-in-a-million to “catch” baby in the hospital and you celebrate with the birth mother as she joyfully signs parenting rights over to you, your child will be affected by the adoption. Your child’s birth parents and extended family will experience loss. You will feel the sting of not having carried your child. Everyone will miss the medical history if there is none available. You will have to deal with the emotional scars of adoption. Even if it doesn’t look like there are any scars, there are.
3. Make sure you are surrounded by supportive people who will shower you with all the rituals that traditionally come with forming a family with children. The two showers we were thrown made us feel like we were a real family (despite the many messages out there that we were not).
4. Some people will treat you like you are not a real family. Our first social worker — I said SOCIAL WORKER — was pregnant. She constantly communicated to us that while she was forming a family, we were apparently playing house. When she did a home visit, 8 months pregnant, she stopped at the nursery and said, “Oh…hmmmm…I guess I wouldn’t recommend setting up room for a child since, you know, you might not get one.” Before firing her, I asked, “Do you have a nursery set up?” “Yes,” she said, pointing to her swollen belly, “But, you know, mine’s a sure thing.” Ouch.
5. Set aside two to three times more money than the agency tells you you will need for the adoption. If you need it, it is there. If you are lucky enough not to need it — college fund!
6. Make absolutely sure that somebody is there to visit/greet you when you bring your child home. If you adopt internationally, make sure people are waiting to welcome you at that airport. If you are coming home from the hospital or a foster home, make sure there are people who will come by and (appropriately) ooh and aah with you over your newest family member, whether the child is a few days old or 13. You need this. Trust me. We arrived from Haiti to an empty airport. The fact that we had just become parents did not feel special to us at all.
7. Most people, when they inquire about your children, really do have good intentions. Some are just curious. Some are considering adoption. Some have already adopted. Some are grandparents awaiting a grandchild through adoption (we meet a lot of these). Some are from your child’s country of origin. Many are innocently curious children. Be kind. Give them the benefit of the doubt when they are asking questions — until they have proven that their intentions are not good.
8. Occasionally, you will meet people whose intentions are not good. Feel free to tell them it is private, ignore them completely, or in extreme cases, ask them an equally rude question. Once a lady pointed at my kids and asked, “Where did you get those and how much were they?” Hoping to educate her on the language a bit, I responded, “They joined our family through adoption. She pushed, “I can see that, but what’d you do to get them? I asked, “Are you considering adoption?” “No,” she responded incredulously, “I just want to know where and how you got ‘em.” Sobering up to the …