I am not an expert in this. I am in this. This being our journey towards hearing that we are approved as adoptive parents and waiting to meet our small person. Along the way we have been asked by some people to voice what is helpful in terms of support and then an even more amazing question has been posed to me:
“and please tell me what isn’t helpful – we don’t know how to navigate this, so make a list, write a blog please.”
According to my Facebook feed there are a lot of do and don’t lists out there. Around adoption. Around marriage. Around singleness. Around *insert the most recent one YOU read here*. Some of them are helpful and some of them have frustrated lots of my friends. Here are my suggestions, rather than directives, discovered in collaboration with other moms.
Yip. I did what any modern day mother to be does and sourced some input from adoptive moms on Facebook (as well as in person). I hope this honours what the moms shared with me.
DISCLAIMER: “One size never fits all!” so different people will have different needs. I am writing this, not just for me, but with other’s input – who are not me. Out of relationship, in your space, with me, or someone like me, this needs to be figured out!
I guess that would be my starting point: What is your relationship to me and what will it be to my child? Out of this relationship space, with any new mom& dad, I would suggest that the following things are helpful:
- QUESTIONS & CURIOUSITY: ASK! Think about what you are asking though – one mom asked that people think about how they are asking as well as why they are asking. If it’s clumsy curiosity that can be navigated VS wanting to tell a potential adoptive parent how or why they should or shouldn’t do this. Part of why the adoption screening process is intense is to allow for things to be thought through and for parents to be prepared.
- JOIN ADOPTION SUPPORT groups: If you are on Facebook you can access these. It was noted that it can get tiresome having to answer questions around the details. Joining a support group on social media helps you process with us, as well as being a resource for you in terms of details and dynamics. It also shows us how much you are interested in and are wanting to support the journey!
- BE EXCITED with us – like you would for any prospective parent. Pregnant tummies and boobs don’t grow, but the process is intense in different ways as shifts, preparation, screenings and decisions are being made.
It’s helpful when people are excited with rather than simply judging the process or the potential outcome. Hearts are growing and making space for another human- some days these are more fragile than others, and so while not hormonally driven, we still need to work out how to honour them. Our process might seem intense to you, but it’s about making sure that our future children get matched as well as possible with their future parents. It’s about having healthy parents – much like your scans and screenings and nutrition, in hope and faith, help grow a healthy tummy baby – our prep process helps grow healthy families.
(P.s. Not all babies raised by their birth moms turn out uncomplicated, so adopted children may or may not either! “Children have glitches sometimes” to quote a child I work with: part of a good adoption prep process explores and prepares parents for these possibilities).
- Being EXCITED SPECIFICALLY FOR THE CHILD who is coming: Regardless of the reason why people have chosen to grow their family through adoption, whether it started by choice or infertility, a family is about to grow.
It’s hard for people who have struggled through an infertility journey to have to listen to well-intended comments that they will now fall pregnant. There might be lots of anecdotal stories to this effect, but this can offer intense frustration rather than hope for people who are excited about one child and people are already talking about another.
In chatting to someone about adoption, and how we can fall pregnant but are choosing this, the nearest they had which they could relate to was that once they had given up on a 2nd child and got a puppy, pregnancy followed soon after. so not really like us but this was well intended and meant to be a shared understanding. Instead it was a bit perplexing. The longing for a child yes – we both related to that but our choice in this wasn’t heard nor was the sad irony of comparing an adopted child to a puppy which wasn’t worth pressing into at the time – however, my social filters were 😉
- BABY SHOWERS: This might seem tricky as the due date isn’t quite as obvious as it is for a birth mom, but actually this is one rite of passage for most parents these days. It’s a way of acknowledging a shift (both in budget for most of us and identity for all of us!) on a journey to becoming parents. I was at a baby shower for a friend whose own story to growing her family had lots of pain and heartache in it initially – the baby shower however was one of the most joyous community oriented, celebratory events I have ever witnessed! Never mind the abundant gifts, the abundant support for this couple is what was overwhelmingly clear. Practical preparations (guest lists and so on) for the shower had started as soon as these friends were officially approved for adoption. The final dates and logistics were confirmed once they got the call. Other friends had their showers once their small person arrived. There are ways to make these things work.
- ACKNOWLEDGING STARTING POINTS: Our children’s starting point won’t be with us and while this is important to acknowledge, it is also important that we recognise that in this, adoptive parents miss out on the early days spent getting to know small people in the same way as a birth mom who has kept her baby does. This doesn’t mean that adoptive moms aren’t real moms – See below for clarification!
Adjustment, planning to be available in terms of meals and babysitting, as well as recognising that our kids need to attach to us AFTER they have attached to others matters. This attachment process might make us seem nit-picky or super aware of being the person who baths and feeds and does the majority of the cuddling – this is all an important part of our initial story. Starting points also include our child’s starting (birth story) – different families have different views on how much is shared around this.
Different families may do this differently – this is another relationship space which needs to be figured out!
- THE BIRTH MOM/ TUMMY MOM/ REAL MOM thing: The government paperwork refers to adopted children as ‘being yours as if born unto you’. That makes adopted moms A REAL mom. The birth mom still needs to be honoured too – regardless of her story. It helps our children deal with their two stories: pre-adoption and post-adoption to know that there is space in our worlds for us and their birth mom.
- If you are a person who PRAYS, PRAY for us. Pray for us in the process. Pray for us in the waiting. Pray for our child – wherever they are. Pray for their birth mother and carers who will be saying goodbye at different stages in their story, before we get to meet them. Pray for our families and communities to as they prepare to welcome a new person.
Finally to paraphrase one mom 🙂
‘Stop asking when the child is coming – when we know,
we PROMISE you will know too!’
The waiting season is a hard one for many reasons with no idea of when the due date will be. In this time some of us are able to carry on with work and life things as they are until we get the long awaited call. For some of us, plans need to be put in place in preparation for the call. I know I am one of them as my work involves processes with children and I don’t get to just stop these – so while I have work timelines I don’t have much else just yet! This isn’t craziness – it’s preparing for the next season.
We can’t wait for the official thumbs up call.
We can’t wait for the call to say there is a referral.
Thank you for waiting with us.