5 Things to Do Before You Adopt
I did none of these things. I learned the hard way. I had to backtrack and figure these things out after we had adopted and experienced some of the most gut-wrenching days I’ll ever face. I believe there were many reasons I learned these lessons in this manner. I understand it served a purpose. But my passion has become to help guide other adoptive families along their journey. These are five things that I wish I would have known or discovered before our adoption journey began.
1. Find Support. I cannot emphasize the importance of this enough. You may think “oh, well I already have friends”. And that’s great. But, I can assure you, at some point you will need support and encouragement in a way so utterly different than anyone else can give you aside from those in the adoption community. Those that have lived it, feel it, and experienced it just as you will. So, I am telling you to find support within the adoption community. Some cities have local adoptive family groups, maybe people from your church, find a blog written by an adoptive mother or adoptee. For me, my online support groups on Facebook and Instagram were and still are my main forms of support during this never-ending journey. People that I have never met in person lift me up in ways that no one else can because they’ve lived through the heartache, pain, and beauty that I have. That is something that none of my “real life” friends can offer. Through half of our journey I felt alone, ashamed for my feelings, and unsupported by anyone who could relate to what I was going through.
2. Make Your Marriage a Priority. I did this wrong, too. We failed at this for many, many months. When we decided to adopt we were climbing out of the devastation that infertility had left for us. We were already broken and needed healing. We were dealing with the pain in very different ways which prevented us from being available for each other. But when you walk in to adoption you’ll certainly face hardships. Your spouse is the only one facing these decisions right along with you. You need each other. After we adopted our first daughter, my husband and I finally realized that now it was about so much more than just us – it was her. And she needed us. She needed our marriage to be strong and unwavering. This is when we started our weekly – yes, every single week and we haven’t missed yet – date nights. We began having intentional time without distraction together after our daughter went to bed every night. We went to couples therapy. This was one of the best things we could do for ourselves and our children.
3. Get Your Financial Ducks in a Row. I know, this isn’t fun. But it’s absolutely necessary. Don’t plan on waiting until you’re matched to figure out how you’ll pay for your adoption. Make a list of all resources that are available to you. This can include possible grants to apply for, possible loan options, fundraising options, help from family, etc. After you’ve made the list, put your options in order of importance. Figure out which routes make the most sense for your family. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a hopeful adoptive family get matched with a birthmother only to find out that the baby was due the next day, or week, or even a month, and they couldn’t get the funds that quickly. Adoption can happen so quickly and more often than not, you won’t get the luxury of having months to raise the cash.
4. Talk to Your Family. Tell them your wishes. Tell them what to expect – which is difficult because expect anything! But let them know that it could be a while before you’re matched. Once you’re matched you may have months before baby arrives. The baby may already be born and you’ll be in a frantic, chaotic whirlwind and it’s important to think about that, too. When we started this adventure, we had only been listed for nine days when we were matched…and our daughter had already been born. She was 10 hours away. It was chaotic, terrifying, overwhelming. Of course, our family was ecstatic. But they were overwhelming for us, too. We were in the NICU for 23 days. When we finally got home, everyone wanted to come. Everyone wanted to bring gifts and help and take pictures and hold her. I get that. BUT we had just met our daughter, a complete stranger, only 21 days before. She was experiencing her home for the first time. We were exhausted, depleted, and overjoyed just to be home after nearly a month. It would have been so incredibly helpful to tell our family beforehand that we wanted a few days alone with our new baby. Or some time to get settled. Time to bond. As adoptive parents, we don’t get the luxury of 9-10 month pregnancy to prepare. We don’t get to know our baby, feel them, bond with them. Our children, too, need stability and bonding, too. They hear your voice and it’s foreign to them. Everything about you is different to them, too. Tell your family ahead of time if you’d like time to cocoon, bond, settle in, after the wild journey to your baby.
5. Prepare Just as if You Were Pregnant. I hear contradictory advice often. I hear moms say that walking by a finished nursery is painful because they have no idea when they’ll fill it with a little being. That is absolutely valid. But the way I see it is filling your nursery or collecting baby supplies can spark that excitement in you. Do the things you’d do if you were pregnant (except you’re allowed to enjoy a few glasses of wine here and there). If a friend asks to throw a baby shower, say yes! Enjoy this time. Get yourself ready. Show the Universe that you’re ready, you’re open, to whatever is in store. For me, this is the one part I felt I could “control”. The whole process felt so reckless most of the time. That was difficult for my very type-a personality. When we were matched and our daughter had already been born I felt even more panic with an added Target run to collect the necessities. Manifest that baby right in to your arms.
Doing these things won’t make your journey easy – that’s not my goal. I believe we need the hurt, pain, and struggles to give us renewed faith and gratitude. Prepare for what you can. Take everything else only as it comes.