You’re going to be a parent! After years of wishing and hoping, you’ve decided to adopt a child. This is no doubt an exciting time in your life, filled with new challenges, new opportunities and lots of learning experiences. To prepare you for what lies ahead, here are five important lessons you will likely learn throughout your adoption journey.
1. Not Everyone Will Be Supportive.
When you tell friends and family you’re planning to adopt, you expect them to be excited right along with you. After all, you’ve taken an important step toward parenthood. While it’s true some loved ones will be thrilled for you—showering you with hugs, smiles, prayers, and words of encouragement—others will be less than enthused. In these cases, you may be met with blank stares, concerned faces, and lots of questions. “Are you sure you can love someone else’s child?” “What if the birth mom takes her back?” “Don’t you want a baby of your own?” “Isn’t adoption expensive?”
During these times, you have the perfect opportunity to educate skeptics on adoption and clear up any misconceptions they may have. Often, their concerns are based on a lack of information or on the inaccurate way adoption is sometimes portrayed on TV and in the media. Once your friends and family members have a better understanding of adoption, they will likely be on board with your decision.
2. Patience Is Critical.
Adoption often entails long waits and unpredictability, so be sure to practice patience. Even on days when you are feeling discouraged, take a deep breath and trust in the process. Most people who decide to adopt are eventually successful. Try not to spend your time worrying about when it will happen and instead prepare your heart and your home to welcome your child.
To help pass the time, you might want to consider reading parenting books, decorating your future child’s room, shopping, exercising or doing anything that keeps your mind busy.
3. Things Aren’t Always as They Seem.
Be alert and aware of potential red flags when dealing with adoption professionals and expectant parents. If an agency requires large sums of money upfront or promises you will adopt within a certain time frame, look elsewhere. A reputable agency will work with you and never make guarantees or promises they can’t keep.
Also be cautious when dealing with expectant mothers. If a situation seems fishy, trust your intuition. I learned this when dealing with a young woman from Texas who discovered our profile online. She said she wanted us to adopt her baby boy who was due to be born in about a week. She seemed very sweet and called me many times crying about her situation. My heart ached for her, and I wanted to do whatever I could to help.
Then one day she woke us up at 6 a.m. with an emergency. She said she was in the hospital and needed us to send her money right away to cover her diabetes medication. She wasn’t working with an attorney or agency and seemed reluctant to contact someone to assist with her adoption plans. It turns out she wasn’t even pregnant. She was an experienced con artist who contacted numerous potential adoptive parents in an effort to receive gifts and money.
If something similar happens to you, remember to always contact your adoption agency or attorney and, for your protection, never send gifts or money directly to an expectant mom.
4. Some People Will Hate You for Adopting.
I know it sounds harsh, but one of the biggest lessons I learned is that not everyone is in favor of adoption. A couple of years ago, I wrote a heartfelt article about adoption. It received more than 2,000 Facebook likes and numerous comments, with many people agreeing what a wonderful blessing adoption is. Only not everyone felt that way.
Along with the positive feedback, I received some negative comments and a nasty email that made me cry for hours and consider giving up ever writing about adoption again. Using an anonymous name, one woman told me what a terrible person I was for “stealing” someone else’s child. She said I wasn’t a “real” mother and should be ashamed of myself for the pain I had caused. I was shocked she could say such horrible things about me when she didn’t even know me.
What I quickly came to realize is that her anger wasn’t about me; it was about her and what she had gone through.
No matter how smooth and successful an adoption is, it always involves sadness and loss. This loss can be unbearable and may result in a birth mother regretting her decision to place her child for adoption. Unfortunately, some birth mothers even have bad adoption experiences and feel they have been misled or coerced by professionals.
If you find yourself the recipient of cruel words, try not to take it personally and keep this in mind: Adoption results in a deep, lifelong grief for birth mothers. Their words and actions come from a place of suffering and hurt. What they need most is our understanding and empathy. Remember, in order for you to become a parent, someone has to say goodbye to her child—the baby she carried, gave birth to and held in her arms.
5. Having No Control Doesn’t Mean You’re Powerless.
You never know who or what you will encounter on your journey to parenthood, and there’s no way of predicting how long you will wait. This uncertainty can leave you feeling helpless and discouraged. But just because you can’t control the adoption process, doesn’t mean you can’t affect the outcome. Research agencies, educate yourself on adoption and parenting, and talk to others who have been through the process. The more you know, the less stressful it will be.
Also, be sure to do some networking to increase your chances of adopting sooner. Tell friends and family of your desire to adopt and have them spread the word. Create an online profile for potential birth parents to find you easier. Stay in touch with your social worker. Every extra effort you make will bring you one step closer to your future child.