Tuesday, March 27, 2018

5 Things I Used to Believe About Adoption That Weren't True

Over a decade ago, we went from a married couple to a married couple waiting to adopt a baby.  (We were babies ourselves...holy moly!)


Choosing to adopt was a big step, but it was also one we were head-over-heels for.  We couldn't wait to be parents.  But like most of the general public, what we knew about adoption was limited to the few kids we knew who were adopted, to a movie or two, and several misconceptions and stereotypes.  

We did commit to learning, but experience truly was the best teacher of all.  Because wow, did we believe some things that were simply not true.  

If you're new to adoption, whether you are considering adopting or are waiting, or you are new to adoption, here's what you need to know:

What I thought:  Young children are nearly blank slates.

The truth:  I believe life begins at conception, so I believe that a full-term baby has forty (give or take) weeks with his or her biological mother prior to birth, plus the days or weeks between birth and placement.  That counts.  

After a decade of parenting (and four open adoptions), I know that my children have some very strong personalities, quirks, talents, preferences that were all shaped by their DNA. 

I've shared this story a few times, but it's worth repeating here.  When my oldest was one and her older biological brother was two, they met for the first time.  At one point, all of us parents were chatting and getting to know each other, our backs turned to the two toddlers.  Suddenly we heard a laugh and turned to realized we didn't know which kid laughed:  because their laughs were the EXACT same.  Two kids raised by two different families, sharing one biological parent, had the exact.  same.  laugh.  

What I thought:  Love is enough.

The truth:  Love is the best foundation.  It is a necessity.  It is wonderful.  But it doesn't solve every problem, soothe every ache, or answer every question.   Yes, you need to pour love upon your child, forever and ever, but you also need to be prepared for the challenges that can come with adopting a child.  Read books that prepare you for parenting an adoptee.  Books such as Telling the Truth to Your Adopted or Foster Child, In Their Own Voices:  Transracial Adoptees Tell Their Stories, and Dear Adoptive Parents:  What You Need to Know Right Now -From an Adoptee. 

What I thought:  Semi-open adoption is the best option.  

The truth:  We thought semi-open adoption would be the easy solution, the perfect compromise.  Safe.  But that half-shut door was thrown fully open the day we met our oldest daughter's biological mother.  We committed to open adoption right then and there, we've never looked back.  Now open adoption has plenty of challenges, and I've written extensively about some of the ups and downs our family had dealt with, along with tips.   

What I thought:  I should be polite and answer people's questions about adoption.

The truth:  Ladies, we are taught to be polite and respectful and kind, and unfortunately sometimes this means we believe we have to attend every party we're invited to.  

It is perfectly fine to tell that nosy stranger "that's private," with no other explanation.  Whether the question be about your fertility ("Why didn't you have your 'own' child?"), about your child's adoption story ("Why was she put up for adoption?"), about your child's race ("Does he look like his father...?"), your child's need, ("What's wrong with her?"), the cost of adoption ("How much did you pay for your child?").   Yes, generally people are just curious, but again, you aren't responsible for educating the world on adoption AND, above all, your job is to protect your child's story, holding it sacred.  Because it's not YOUR story to tell.   Being proactive is really important.  Decide NOW what you are and aren't OK sharing so you aren't caught off guard in the future.  

What I thought:  We'd be chosen by an expectant parent quickly, since we were a childless, educated, financially stable couple. 

The truth:  We waited 14 months, from the time our homestudy was complete to the time we were placed, for our first child.  We had about fifteen profile showings during that time.  And I about lost my mind.  Why? Because I made the waiting part of our journey ALL about ME.  MY desire to be a mommy.  (It didn't help that I'm a control freak and usually anxiety-ridden.)  Talk about tunnel vision!  

Adoption should be first and foremost about the child (the adoptee), even BEFORE that child is known and is placed.  How is that possible, you might wonder.  You pray for the child.  You pray for the child's biological family.  You pour your energy into preparing yourself for motherhood-by-adoption.  You prepare your heart for loving a baby you didn't birth but love, maybe even before you know him or her.  

What is something you believed before that you learned to be false?  

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