Adoption is a difficult road to navigate. When we chose to pursue adoption, we didn't know many people who'd been down this road before and who could provide us with the basics on what to expect along this new phase of our journey.
These days, I read a number of adoption blogs that I'd wish I'd known about before we traveled this road. Lori at Lavender Luz is one of these bloggers, and she wrote an amazing Crib Sheet that tackles a few of the topics I wish we'd had direction on and support in at the start of the adoption process.
It's a Marathon, Not a Sprint
When we became home study approved and we signed with our first adoption agency back in the fall of 2011, I thought we were well prepared for the wait ahead of us. After all, we'd been through several years of waiting. What were a few more months?
The reality is that the adoption wait is much different from the waiting we did during infertility treatments. Infertility treatments were like sprints. We would go full speed for a few weeks, then rest, then go full speed again the following cycle. The adoption wait felt more like a marathon. Lori's advice about taking up various activities is perfect. We immersed ourselves in schoolwork, running, and volunteering. It helped pass the time when there wasn't much we could do or control on the adoption front.
Wait to Buy
One of the things we did before we even became home study-approved was buy baby necessities. We had our nursery furniture in place before we mailed our paperwork to the social worker. It wasn't necessary, but I felt at the time as if we were doing the right thing to prepare for our future baby.
In the end, we needed the furniture fairly quickly, so I was grateful to have it. Yet, part of me wished we hadn't purchased it so soon. It sat in our nursery for months before it was used. Instead, I wish we'd done as Lori suggests, which is focus more on the emotional preparation for having a child come into our lives so suddenly. Having so many baby items in our home for that extended period of time was simply too much to handle on those "low" days.
Emotional Roller Coaster
We kept our family members and friends informed during every step of the process, yet as Lori suggests, we were cautiously optimistic in our sharing of information. This kept us, and our loved ones, from getting too emotional one way or the other, but it also allowed us to gain support through the good times and the not-so-good times. It gave us a chance to educate our family and friends on adoption, as well, which helped us avoid some of those awkward questions.
I love that Lori recognizes and understands post-adoption depression syndrome (PADS). When our daughter finally came home from the hospital after a five-week stay in the NICU, I felt depressed and defeated. I couldn't understand. I'd waited so long for this moment. Why wasn't I in a constant state of sheer happiness?
Turns out, I wasn't alone. Once I opened up to a couple of people about what I felt, they suggested I go see my doctor. I had PADS. I felt ashamed at first, but the more I opened up about it, the more support people offered. It's important to understand before starting the adoption process that these feelings are normal so that you know when to reach out and get the help you need.
Your Child's Story
Lori hit the nail on the head: Start sharing as soon as possible! Our daughter is only 7 months old, and we re-tell her adoption story to her on a regular basis. Even though she can't understand yet, it's good practice for us to share openly how she came into our lives and it reminds us of the wonderful gift her birth mother gave to us.
Being a Mom
Part of me was worried that, once our daughter was born, I wouldn't feel like a real mom -- especially because we were only matched with our daughter's birth mother for 13 days before she gave birth. There wasn't much time for things to "settle in." Yet, everything sort of fell into place.
I remember about a week after her birth, I called a meeting with the head nurse on our NICU floor to address some issues we were having with our daughter's care. In that moment, I realized how much I felt like a "real mom," because this is what real moms do. Sure, they change diapers and rock their babies to sleep . . . but they also become their child's biggest advocate and protector. Sounds scary, right? It is. But it's also the most amazing adventure you will ever experience.
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