image from Holt International National Adoption Month page
I want to tell you about my journey to motherhood. I want you know that it's ok to be scared during the process or even just thinking about it. I want you to know that many people will say really stupid things to you, but so many more will say lovely and beautiful things. You will realize what a small place the world really is when you make friends with people all over the world. I believe knowledge is empowering and I want to give you information that you need to pursue this or to help children find a home in your own way. I want you to know that someday after your child comes home you will look at them and feel like your heart is going to burst because you love them so much and it will literally take your breath away. Of course, if they are anything like my children, two minutes after that you will be explaining to them that next time it might be a good idea to keep your eyes open when running laps around the kitchen and perhaps going forward instead of backwards would be an even better idea. Oh, and googling all the entrances to the Bat Cave, because you have no idea whether there really is one in a water fountain or not.
Anne Lamott's classic advice for writers is to just take it "bird by bird", in other words start at the beginning and go one step at a time. So here I go….this is going to be a long one folks.
Like many people we had talked about adoption as something we wanted to do "someday". For some reason I had it in my head that I needed to know what I was doing as a parent before I could adopt. We decided to get pregnant…and then we couldn't actually get pregnant. There were so many tests and none of the doctors could figure it out. They laid our options out for us, but it would mean lots of medical procedures and lots of uncertainty. We talked about it. We took a break from "trying". We did what we needed to in order to think. I read books, he flew airplanes. At the end of it, we realized that continuing down the same path wasn't doing us any favors. We weren't hopeful or excited anymore. One of the books I had read was about adoption, and we realized that we didn't need to be experienced parents. We didn't need to be perfect. I started a consulting job around this time and it turned out my boss was an adoptive mother. I shyly asked her one day if we could talk about it, and she promptly took me out to lunch and talked my ear off. It's amazing how much easier something becomes if you have a mentor. Somehow, without even realizing it, we were excited about parenthood again. We had hope again.
There are so many types of adoption programs and agencies that it can be completely overwhelming. Domestic is broken up into private infant adoption and state based foster adoption. International has many different countries, each with their own rules. I want to stress something here. Every family who undertakes adoption is different. Every program and agency is different. You have to find the right fit for YOU. Age, health, what state you live in-these all effect which one will be best for your family. No one, and I mean NO ONE has the right to tell you that you "did it wrong" because you chose domestic/international/baby/older child adoption. You chose what was right for your family and they don't get an opinion. I can't tell you the number of people who told me that if I was going to do this, then I really should get an "American baby". Sometimes I was polite in my response, sometimes I was not.
We chose South Korea…twice. That says enough about how we felt, and still feel, about the program. We worked with many, many wonderful people who did not focus on finding a child for us, but for finding the right family for the child. It's an important distinction, and one that tends to get glossed over.
Before you make a decision, do your homework. There are lots of forums online-Facebook, Yahoo, etc, to ask questions. Check an agency out. Ask for references, check with the Better Business Bureau, check with your state adoption licensing agencies. Read, read, read. I listed some of my favorite adoption books here. Nia Vardolos' book Instant Mom has a huge list of resources in the back.
There are so many good websites online and these are a few of my favorites. Please put your critical thinking cap on before you google search adoption information. Make sure it's a legitimate source that is giving you the info, just like you would if you were searching for health info.
Adoptive Families Magazine- Great articles that cover the whole journey-before and after your child comes home. There's a forum now too, though I haven't used it yet.
Creating a Family- Dawn Davenport wrote what became my bible during our international adoption process, and her website is equally informative. She also runs a Facebook group and a great podcast.
AdoptUsKids.org-This site focuses on US adoption, and foster adopt in particular, but there is just so much information here.
Childwelfare.gov- The federal adoption site. Again focused on US adoption, but lots of relevant info.
NationalAdoptionDay.org- It's November 23rd this year! Great ways to volunteer and work towards getting children into permanent, loving families.
Rainbow Kids- More of an international focus, but this has information on waiting children, articles about adoption, health information and more.
Is adoption hard? Yes, parts of it. Are there struggles you will face that you might not with a biological child? Here's the thing. Parenthood is not easy, no matter how you create your family. There will be challenges and struggles for all of us. The thing with parenthood is that you don't get to give up. Sometimes the battle is a secret one that no one else sees, but that doesn't mean it's not there or it's not important. When it's about your kid you know you are going to fight for them with every ounce of your being. That's how I see the adoption process and life as an adoptive family. Some parts of it are a piece of cake and some are really really hard. We face different challenges with each of our children, just like my friends face different challenges with their biological children. You just face the challenges and fight through them. It doesn't matter what the challenge is. Like Dory says- "Just keep swimming". It's amazing what you can accomplish.
Our adoption journey has been long and hard and exhausting, but there is not one second of heartache, one struggle I went through that I would not go through again for my boys.
Adoption isn't the right road for everyone, but even if it's not the right way for you to build your family, you can help in other ways. Read books to your kids that embrace the idea that all families are different. Help raise awareness in your community or your church. Just learn about it. Talk to adoptive families-most of them are always happy to talk adoption…as long as you are nice.
And if you made it all the way to the end of this post-you deserve a cookie :)