Congratulations. By reading this, you have overcome doubts, fears, and hurdles that keep so many people from even considering adoption. So, again, congratulations.
Full Disclosure: My husband and I chose to build our family through adoption. I am an advocate for loving, healthy adoptions. Everyone will have their definition of what that means. So, take my opinion as just one of many.
The decision to adopt is not singular and isolated. It is ripe with other choices that will start hitting you the moment you tell someone you want to adopt a child. When I chose adoption, I also chose these seven things.
- You are choosing to be an open book whose fine print is constantly under a microscope.
When you choose to adopt, you are also choosing to open up your entire life. At some point in the process, you will need to document everything about your health, finances, career and education, relationships (good and bad, past and present), and future plans. You will document it all, sign it, and probably get it notarized (and, if you’re adopting internationally, then apostilled as well). This will happen multiple times for different entities, and once you feel like you’ve done it all, you’ll have to go through it all again with regular updates. People will ask you questions about how and why every detail of your life is the way it is, and you are expected to explain in clear, concise terms. By the end of the process, there is little (if anything) left about you that will feel like private information.
- You are choosing to rise above the judgment of others.
Adoption means being judged based on all the information you give to complete strangers. It also implies fielding positive and negative comments from others in your life. A common nuisance among adoption parents is being seen as a hero or a savior. As tempting as it is to correct people when they say things like that, you quickly learn that you cannot correct everyone and that how you feel about yourself is none of anyone else’s business. The positive and negative judgment runs rampant during the adoption process and lingers around long after the process is over. As an adoptive parent, you choose to rise above the judgment, compliments, and criticism and focus on your family.
- You are choosing to spend money…a lot of money.
Adoption is expensive. It is like having a biological child but without the option of insurance coverage or public assistance. Some forms of adoption are advertised as free, like adopting from foster care, but even those routes come with expenses you should be prepared for. What surprised me the most about the cost of adoption was how often we were expected to write big checks to people we barely knew when we didn’t understand what they were for. The agency had fees that were never truly explained, although they all had fancy titles and labels. But, then, there were little expenses, LOTS of them, that added up very quickly. I recommend talking to people who have walked your specific path to adoption and being genuinely prepared with a contingency budget. Thankfully, several grants and loans are specifically for people choosing to adopt, and they are not necessarily awarded based on income.
- You are choosing to campaign and possibly date.
I was surprised by the amount of marketing and salesmanship involved in the adoption process. Prospective parents, especially for domestic adoptions, make photo books and other materials to promote themselves to potential birth parents. Children available for adoption are presented in profiles similar to online dating. Information is cleverly highlighted or left out based on the package’s overall appeal. As I type this, it sounds disgusting. And yet, it is a reality of the adoption world.
- You are choosing to be different.
I would love to tell you that adoption has become so mainstream that it is not considered “different” anymore. But the truth is unless I am talking to a fellow adoption parent or someone who works with different types of families, I still get “the look” when I tell people that I adopted my daughter. I still have to educate people about what it means to adopt and how that impacts my daughter and my family. At times, especially at the beginning, it also means parenting differently to help facilitate bonding, address healthcare needs, and transition into a family. Finding a community that “gets it” is key to understanding that you are not alone because traditional mom groups and discussion boards will not work.
- You are choosing to love above all else.
Adoption has a way of bringing out dysfunctions in all areas of your life. You will encounter plenty of reasons not to do it, maybe even thinking that you are not good enough to handle it. There are arguments from all sides of the triad (birth parents, adoptive parents, and adoptees themselves), both for and against adoption, and all those arguments are valid. However, when you choose to adopt, you choose to love in place of all the doubts, all the arguments, and all the potential outcomes. If you can master this alone, you will master the mindset of the adoption process.
- You are choosing to parent.
You choose this first, and then in the process of everything else, it gets lost until the end. Adoption is a long, heartfelt, dramatic journey for many. It is so easy to get lost in the process that you lose sight of what you are choosing long-term. For first-time parents who choose adoption, this last part seems so apparent and yet comes as a slap in the face. When you decide to adopt, you are choosing to parent a child. That means you are committing to being their person, their family, and their everything. You are choosing to parent through the inevitable trauma that makes adoption necessary in this world. You are committing to it for life. As a dear friend told me, “Motherhood is who you are, it is not something you just do.”
The decision to adopt is a big one. The steps involved can be intense. The experience will test you on all levels. Now, on the flip side of a complicated international adoption, I will happily share my experiences with anyone looking to bring a child home. I will not lie and say that the challenges seem small in retrospect or that it wasn’t a big deal. What I will say is this: it was worth it.
Adoption is a big decision. Before you jump in, make sure you have answers to all your legal questions. To book a no-cost coaching call with me, click here.