Ten Things I wish I Knew Before I Adopted
- There’s a plethora of paper work and then more after that. If you are adopting/fostering, sharpen your pencil or do some hand exercises. There is a stack of paperwork to do. Totally worth it. Don’t get discouraged. Just keep filling them out. Checking them twice. Dot your is and cross your ts. And if you have a long Irish-Catholic name, like me (Mary Sharon Kathleen), you will get to sign your full John Hancock more than 56 times (signatures on the Declaration of Independence if you didn’t catch that). And just when you think you’ve filled out your last form, there might be just one more. Remember what is waiting at the end of the paper work. Don’t grow weary in well-doing and thank your handwriting or typing teacher.
- Some people think you are crazy I know. I am a little crazy, but I don’t think it has anything to do with my desire to enlarge my family through adoption. Other things, yes. Adoption, no. I was surprised at the number of people who thought I was crazy for taking in ‘strangers’. Hmmm. I don’t think my mother knew much about me when I was born. She had to figure it out along the way. And aren’t we supposed to be living, breathing epistles? Giving our coats, opening our homes, walking two miles and all that sort of stuff?
- It takes forever. Most women are pregnant for about nine months. Adoptive/foster moms can have super long ‘pregnancies’ although, I have heard of families getting ‘the call’ after two weeks, most of the time it is much longer. I researched some time lines, but none of them agree. So, be prepared to wait. Again,it is worth it.
- The system doesn’t always do the best thing for the child. I wish it did. That is not to say that social workers and care givers in orphanages do not want the best for the child. They are restricted by the confines of the system. We were almost not able to adopt our youngest, an infant at the time and part of a sibling group of four, because he was more adoptable alone. And there we were-willing to take all of them. It was the law, not the people. Let’s us people try to change the laws to help the children.
- Love is instant, but connection takes time. I loved my children from the time I first heard their names. When I met them I wanted to hug and squeeze them. But, I didn’t. I was a stranger to them. I did blubber on them a little. It took time for them to connect to me. Of course I am speaking of older children. My youngest at fifteen months, wrapped his arms around me in a squeezy bear hug. That was affection though, not connection. Connection takes time.
- You believe your adopted children are yours but others don’t. “Which ones are your real children?” is a question that grates on the hearts of adoptive parents. They are all my own. They WERE adopted. It’s a past tense verb. Not a qualifying adjective.
- Some friends won’t stick around after you adopt. If you enlarge your family exponentially through adoption like the Guires did (3 + 4= 7 children), your family may not fit in with the 2.5 children other people have. Don’t let it upset you. It might me overwhelming to them to feed all of you or squish you in their family room. Find some families you click with and stick with them. While my kids were growing up we did lots of things with some families who had more or almost as many children as we did (nine, seven, five). When we had an Easter Egg hunt at a friends, we looked like a grade school. Fun times. How many eggs was that (Kelley)? Or if you adopted one child and people are afraid of you, they don’t know what to say, let them be an acquaintance (they might change their view) and find some like-minded mamas for encouragement.
- Adoption is hard work. Raising children is hard work. Period. Raising children who come from hard places is tougher. Jumping through the hoops in the adoption realm is emotionally and physically taxing. You may be signing important papers after a ten-hour overnight flight and no sleep. You may be meeting the birth mother after eating your nails down to nothing because you are afraid she may change her mind. Your stomach is in knots and you cannot eat properly because you are waiting on ‘the call’. Hard is good. Take a deep breath. Eat a brownie. You can do this! Nothing is too difficult for the Lord!
- Rejection is infectious. I didn’t used to think this was true. If a child has been rejected by parents, hunger, war, famine, abandonment and you take that child home, he is rescued, right? He is in body, but not in soul. As parents, we must be proactive and not let their rejection infect us. What do I mean by that? Because they have been rejected, it can become their fail safe, their fall back plan. The child will push the parents buttons until the parent retaliates with rejection and the child says to himself- See, i knew you would reject me. In order to break the rejection chain, we must do number 10-
- You have to sort through your past before you can help your child sort through theirs, I.e. they can see right through you and they will find your buttons. When a child finds your buttons, he will push them over and over. Your job? You think Emmy winning, Bryan Cranston, (Breaking Bad- which I have never watched) is an awesome actor? Well, you can and should be too. I’m not saying stuff your feelings. I’m saying -deal with them when the time is appropriate. Pour out your feelings to the Lord. Vent to a friend or counselor or both. Write it down in a journal and burn it if you have to. Just don’t leak (vomit) your emotions on your child when he pushes. Act calm. Reserved. Mete out the consequences with a straight face. This way, your child has the opportunity to deal with his issues, not yours.
Knowing these ten things would not have dissuaded me from adopting. It would have helped my checklist personality have a teeny tiny bit more of a handle on things. So…here’s hoping it helps you out. And feel free to add your own “I wish I had known ______________ before I adopted.