I am new to this. Let's be clear on that. I have never adopted before, I hardly know anyone personally who has adopted, and every step I take is a new one. But I have learned a few things along the way so far, and since I think it would do you all a little good to learn right along with me, I thought I would share some of my newly acquired adoption wisdom.
We are expecting a baby. We are not pregnant, but we are on the road to having a baby join our family. I am slowly learning the vast difference in being pregnant with a baby, and expecting a baby through adoption. There is a difference in how people treat you, the resources available to you, the cost to bring the baby home, the wait time, the knowledge of the wait time, the expectations of what your baby will look like, act like, be like.
In the past, whenever I got pregnant (now that, I am an expert on) I have had about twenty thousand books and limitless internet resources to show me exactly what stage of pregnancy I am in, what to expect in that stage, what my baby looks like in that stage, and what stage I will be in next week. There are discussion forums, phone apps, and websites devoted entirely to informing you about your pregnancy and the little one growing inside of you. You have a due date, and barring any complications, you can expect that your family will be Plus One on or around X day, of Y month, of Z year.
Adoption...not so much. I have no idea, NO IDEA, when we will be Plus One. I have no clue what stage my baby is in in his or her development. I don't know if he or she has even been conceived yet! I do not have books called, "What to Expect When You're Expecting Through Adoption". I don't have a phone app that sends me a cute little email every time I get a copy of something back to my caseworker or we raise enough money to complete the next step of the adoption process. Just like a pregnant mama, I am waiting for my baby to be born and handed over to me, but I cannot tell you with the slightest bit of accuracy when that will be. I am expecting, but I am clueless as to when I am expecting, how I am expecting, and who I am expecting.
I have my own ways of learning more about the adoption process, and one of those ways is by delving into the blogosphere and blogstalking every adoptive journey I possibly can. Man, there are a LOT of adoptive mommies blogging out there, and let me tell you, they know their stuff. They have ridiculous resources, advice, encouragement, knowledge, wisdom, experience, and LOVE. They can answer every question and offer research and resources better than any librarian possibly could. They've been there, their friends have been there, and they know what they're doing. Thank God, because I do NOT.
Another way I prepare myself in this process is by reading everything I can get my hands on. I read and I read and I read. I did that when I was pregnant too, except now instead of studying up on what not to eat when you're expecting and how to prepare yourself for natural childbirth (haha yeah right, I never read anything about that, but I'm sure some women do), my reading includes topics such as open adoption and inter-racial families and fundraising ideas. Just like a pregnant mom, I try my best to educate myself so I can be better prepared when issues arise. And issues always arise, no matter how you're expecting.
Another huge difference I have noticed between expecting through pregnancy and expecting through adoption are the comments. If you have ever been pregnant, I'm sure you have some doozies of your own to report, and let me tell you, being pregnant with the twins brought out some of the most ridiculous comments from people's mouths that I still shake my head at. Below is a video I personally love to send other mommies of twins because they have inevitably seen the dumbest side of humanity just like I have when pregnant or out and about with their multiples. It has nothing to do with this post other than it just goes to show you how people say things without thinking, and think things without knowing, and how a bit of restraint and education can go a long way when talking to others about their children (adopted or not).
Wasn't that fun? If I had a penny for every time someone told me I was "done" since I had a boy and a girl in one sha-bam, I would have enough money to fund this adoption. But I digress.
In following some other hopeful and successful adoptive mommies' blogs, I had read some of the things people might say about your adoption when the topic came up, and I am trying my best to prepare myself in the event that one of those things is said to me in the future. I think naivety is the root of careless comments, and that's why, before we get too far into this process, I thought it would be good to share some of the things you shouldn't say to an adoptive family. I imagine that this will be Part One in a series of many on this topic, but that's fine! I am learning right long with you all, and promise to share my wisdom as I acquire it. ;)
Disclaimer: I have said some of these things myself, so I in no way judge you if you have too, but now that you know what is hurtful or careless, you can no longer play the ignorance card, and neither can I.
Do not refer to the potential birth mother as the "real mom" or my kids as my "real kids". When we do finally add a baby to our family through adoption, I will be the mom, birth mom will be the birth mom, and they will all be my real kids.
The decision to surrender a child for adoption is absolutely heart-wrenching, difficult beyond imagination, and the most selfless act a mother can commit for her child if she feels she cannot raise that child the way he or she needs to be raised. They did not "give their baby away" and they didn't surrender because they "just didn't want the baby". I never, ever want my child to hear anyone say he or she was not wanted. In case you haven't noticed, getting an abortion is as simple as going to the dentist these days. This woman could have made a very different decision, and didn't. She chose to carry this baby to term despite the consequences, judgement, and heartache it caused her and her family. She then chose to give that child their best possible chance, even though it went against every fiber in her being. She LOVED that child, and therefore made a choice to surrender them for adoption. Respect those mothers, love those mothers, appreciate their sacrifice, and pray for their strength, but do not judge them, and if you do, don't ever let me hear you do it.
When first finding out about someone's adoption, don't let the first words out of your mouth be negative ones. Immediately saying things like, "Aren't you afraid you won't love the baby as much as your biological kids?" or "I know someone who took the baby home with them and then the mother wanted her back!" Trust me, adoptive parents have thought through each possible scenario, even the awful ones. We have done our research, we are aware of the risks, we have heard the horror stories, and we are choosing it anyway. If your friend or family member told you, "Guess what!? I'm pregnant!" Would you immediately say, "Congratulations! But what if you have a miscarriage? I know three women who have had miscarriages." I truly hope not, because if you would, you are a crappy friend. And also not that bright.
We would never say this to a pregnant woman because we assume she knows about the risk of miscarriage and certainly doesn't need it to be shoved in her face when she is already worried about a million other things, including losing the baby. Adoptive mommies are no different. We do not live in a bubble, and yes, we have actually heard of failed adoptions and are not blind to the fact that it is a possibility. Certain questions are definitely valid! But negativity straight out of the gate is uncalled for, and be sure to interject some encouraging words along the way!
Adoption Education Nugget: Birth mothers are required to wait 72 hours after giving birth (and must be off all drugs for this amount of time) before they can sign papers relinquishing their child. Once it is done, it is done. There is no turning back, there is no changing your mind. That child's adoptive parents have all rights and responsibilities for that child from there on out, forever. This is one of the many reasons Josh and I chose the agency that we did. They really do their due diligence to make absolutely sure that these birth mothers cannot and do not want to parent prior to signing anything. The mothers are counseled through the process, and that is where part of our fees go. If a mother chooses to parent, that is the best situation for that child. Josh and I do not want to adopt a child who could have and should have been parented by their birth family. If a mother changes her mind in those 72 hours, after we've brought baby home, it would be heartbreaking for us. But we do not want to separate a child from a mother who wants to and has the resources to raise them. Josh and I have dealt with staggering loss. We are not naive to the possibilities of loss in adoption just like we can no longer close our eyes to the possibility of losing a pregnancy. It happens, it is heartbreaking, and we are aware of it. There is no need to remind us.
As you may have guessed from some of the things I've said in previous posts, Josh and I are open to adopting a child of a different race. We are also open to adopting a child with various health issues and backgrounds and genetic pre-dispositions. This was not an easy decision, mostly because we don't know anything about being a multi-racial family or raising a child with health issues. We are very uneducated about it, but are doing our best not to be. When we were filling out our "Child Deisred Form" for the adoption agency, it was one of the hardest things we have ever had to do. We would look at the list and think, am I not checking that box because I'm afraid, or because I know that we would not be the best fit for that child?
The form I'm talking about is a lot like ordering a sandwich at Which Wich, if you've ever been there. If you haven't, it is a sandwich shop that has bags with various sandwich options, and you use these red markers to check each box of the things you want. This form had a million different options for children and their backgrounds, and Josh and I had to go through each one item by item and check the boxes we'd be comfortable with getting a phone call about. I will not go into detail on these options because I think it is a private decision between me and Josh, but I will disclose that we did choose "Any Race". Again, not a decision we came to lightly, but one we feel good about. We do not want to limit God and close the door on the child He has for us because we are scared of a new situation. What we need you to understand is this; We did not come to this decision lightly, we made it, and we need you to support it.
Ask questions. Don't be shy! If you don't know, ask! We are learning too, and we love fielding questions from people who want to be involved and learn more about the process. And a little nugget of advice from my friend Dwight Schrute:
"Before I do anything, I ask myself, would an idiot do this? If the answer is yes, then I do not do that thing."
Same goes for talking to adoptive families. Ask, encourage, pray, but tread lightly. Be thoughtful of the words you use and sensitive of the things you say. Just as you would be sensitive to a pregnant mother as not to upset her, be sensitive to the expectant adoptive mother (and father), as you might upset her too. We are in an emotionally fragile state just like other expectant parents. There are worries, fears, unknowns, and a lot of waiting. Encouragement goes a long, long way.
So that will end my lecture for today! I hope you learned something, just as I do every time I read an entry similar to this on another blog. Josh and I know we have a lot more to learn and will have patience as our friends and family do the same. We are all in this together and we do not expect everyone to be completely educated on the topic of adoption. We do, however, hope you get educated. Keep reading this blog, keep asking us questions (we might not know the answer but we'll find it!), keep praying, and keep supporting us just as you have done from the start.
Our families love our children harder than any family loves any child anywhere on this earth, and I have every confidence that this baby, no matter who they are, will be loved just as hard. It might take actually seeing the baby and holding them to fall head over heels in love, but this will be one very, very lucky baby. Our children can't comprehend bringing a baby home after one surprise phone call and suddenly having a new sibling. Our mothers do not have the inside advantage of watching my belly grow and falling in love with fuzzy ultrasound pictures. Our fathers have a hard enough time imagining a new grand baby when I'm pregnant, let alone when we are adopting. Our brothers and sisters can't imagine loving a new niece or nephew as much as they love Jake and Eisley, because how does that much love exist? Our friends have never experienced adoption first-hand and aren't sure of the right things to say or how and when to say it. But when that baby finally arrives, when they lay eyes on him or her, no matter who that child is, there will be a ridiculous amount of love added to this world. We have felt the support from them, know they back us 100%, and know they are in prayer for us every day. And though this adoption process is so very different than expecting a baby through pregnancy, one thing remains the same: This. Child. Will. Be. Loved. LOVED. No matter how they get here, when they get here, what they look like, or who they are.
And I can't wait.