The day we began the adoption process was one of my happiest. After suffering two miscarriages and longing to become a mom for several years, I felt like my out-of-control life was finally back on track. I was going to be a mom at last! Of course, adoption is not actually that simple. The truth is there are a few things no one tells you about adoption that you just learn as you go. My advice to you: Expect the unexpected.
The wait can be excruciating.
I remember our initial meeting with our adoption agency. Naturally, we wanted to know how long it would take before we would become parents. The reality is that no one can give you a set timeframe. Adoption is unpredictable. This is often disappointing for potential adoptive parents who have already endured so much in their quest to have a child. When I heard one couple at our agency had been waiting four years with no success, my heart sank. What if it never happens for us? In the days and months ahead I cycled between being excited and hopeful to feeling depressed and discouraged. Some days I smiled; other days I cried. It was not an easy ride. I’m sure you’ve heard many times that the adoption process is like a roller coaster — it is. No matter how long you wait for your child, you will experience many emotions and many ups and downs. The wait to adopt will seem like forever, and some days it will be unbearable. There will likely come a time when you feel like you’ve had enough. You will consider giving up. When you’ve reached this point, take a step back and remember: Good things really do come to those who wait. Most people who want to adopt are eventually successful. It just takes time. Having the child you so desire is definitely worth the wait. Don’t give up on your dreams. It will happen when the time is right.
You have very little control over the process.
As someone who is very organized and likes to plan everything ahead of time, this was really difficult for me. No matter how much I wanted to speed up the process and make things happen, I couldn’t. How do you cope with the lack of control over the adoption process? By taking control of what you can. For me, this meant pouring my heart and soul into preparing for our future child. I read parenting books, did a ton of networking to find an expectant mom considering adoption and — when I felt ready — decorated the nursery. I may not have been able to influence when our child came, but I stayed busy and focused while we waited. This can really help bring stability to an otherwise stressful and unpredictable time in your life.
Connections come in unexpected places.
Another interesting thing about the adoption process is how you will be connected with a birth mother. It’s unique to each family and each situation, and often surprising or unexpected. I had originally thought our match would come when an expectant mom came to our agency and chose us after viewing our profile. However, that’s not at all what happened. Our match came from a chance meeting with a stranger at a bowling fundraiser. She had adopted her children through our agency, so we talked about adoption and discussed all the networking we were doing to find our child. Afterwards, when a person at her church approached her about a pregnant woman considering adoption, she immediately thought of us. That chance encounter led to us bringing home our baby girl just a few months later. You just never know how your child will come to you.
You will feel sad the day your child is born.
New parents often talk about the pure joy they experienced the day their child was born. With adoption, it’s a double-edged sword. Sure, you will be happy that you are about to become parents for the first time. But you will experience a deep sadness too. Watching your child’s birth parents grieve and say good-bye to their baby is heartbreaking. Expect feelings of sadness and guilt. I remember discussing this very topic during dinner with my husband shortly after our daughter was born. I couldn’t seem to get our daughter’s birth families’ sad faces out of my mind. How could something that is about to bring happiness to one family cause such pain for another? It doesn’t seem fair. But that’s how adoption is: A mixture of happy and sad, joy and sorrow, loss and gain. When you’re experiencing these conflicting feelings, remember the most important part of adoption is ensuring the child has the best life possible, whether that means living with adoptive parents or birth parents. Some birth parents will change their minds after the baby is born; others will stick to their plan. Don’t forget that although adoption allows you to become a parent, it’s not about you. It’s about the child.
You will fall in love.
When you hold that baby in your arms for the first time, there is an instant connection. And when you bring him or her home, that bond will grow quickly and deeply. I remember trying hard to guard my heart in case the adoption did not work out. We had a nine-month wait before our adoption was final, and about a two-month wait before the birth parents went to court and relinquished their parental rights. I knew they could change their minds. I knew that bringing home a baby who wasn’t yet ours was risky. So, I tried really hard not to get too attached. I failed miserably. You will fall in love with that child. You will experience some of the most powerful emotions of your life. It’s all part of the unpredictable, mysterious journey to parenthood. Adoption is a ride like no other — seize the moment and embrace it.