Friday, July 14, 2017

Adoption: What to Expect When You're Expecting

I remember my pregnancies with each of my three biological babies...sort of. I mean, I know there were times of nausea and insomnia, exhaustion and discomfort, joint pain and back pain, and all the other usual suspects. And I KNOW there were moments where I thought, I don't know how people do this more than once. It just felt so hard at those times, not to mention the months that followed the births. And yet, I birthed three babies. It's because the reward is worth the pain, the reward is worth the months of anxious anticipation, the reward is worth the wait. 

And now, we're adopting. And I've had the same thought at numerous times during our adoption journey. The one I had when I was pregnant those three times: this just feels so hard. How do people do this more than once? And yet, I know, without a doubt, the reward will be worth the pain, the reward will be worth the months of anxious anticipation, the reward will be worth the wait.

Now, I don't want to sugarcoat things here. Adoption is HARD. We don't even have our little lady home, and I am already trying to prepare: there will be trauma to work through, for years and years; there will be attachment to try to build and strengthen, for years and years. There could very well be undocumented medical and developmental issues, that will require intensive intervention, for years and years. There could be, and will be, so.many.things. that we aren't expecting. Isn't that the case with parenthood in general? But with adoption, it's just, well, different - the trauma, the attachment, the adjustment. Adoption is a BEAUTIFUL thing but it is a hard thing. And we haven't even adopted our amazing daughter yet!

I have talked to several people who are considering adoption, and I want to use this post to highlight some of what I've learned so far, as a total rookie in the adoption world. ;)  Further, much like pregnancy, I know that the details of these months leading up to our Bella's adoption will fade. I'll forget the steps that were required, the hoops we had to jump through, the tears that fell, the worry that persisted, the ever-present prayers for our girl. 

So. The point of this post is two-fold. First, I want to remember how some of these hard things felt, because they, too, are a part of the journey. And second, because I have friends who are considering adoption (and maybe others who are reading this as well), I want to offer my...ahem...*expert* (ha!) advice, being the rookie-adoptive-momma that I am. 

So, here we go:
  • Be prepared for the wait. All throughout the process, adoption is a series of hurry up and wait, hurry up and wait. Wash, rinse, repeat. This starts from the very beginning, when you are researching the standards, requirements, and timelines of various countries that allow for international adoption. One of the reasons we chose China is because we knew the wait time would likely be shorter than it would be for other countries, and we wanted all four of our kiddos to be close in age. Now, China is also a special-needs adoption program. Non-special needs international adoptions are no longer available as part of the China program (there are families that have been waiting 10 years now with no end in sight). So, pursuing a China adoption means pursuing a special needs adoption. However, there are other countries that do have non-special needs adoptions, in other words "healthy" children without any known medical conditions who are available for adoption. As expected, however, the wait times for these countries are longer. So. From the get-go, you have to decide, most importantly, where God is calling you to go - where you think your child is waiting, what you feel like you can take on as far as special needs or non-special needs go, and how long you feel prepared to wait until you have your sweet baby in your arms. Regardless, there will be a wait and it will feel like a lifetime.
  • If there is one sure thing in adoption it is that there is no sure thing. In China, several years ago, little girls were readily available for adoption, given the one-child policy. In recent years, however, that policy has been amended to allow Chinese families to have two children. This means that now, there are actually more boys available for adoption than girls (in China). What's more, children with minor/moderate needs who are available for international adoption are becoming a rarity, ESPECIALLY if families want a young girl (in China). This is actually great news for China, as more domestic adoptions are happening, and more kiddos are able to reside in their birth country/culture. However, it is also important for international adoptive families to realize that the wait for a young girl with minor/moderate needs has greatly increased, even over the last 18 months that we have been on our adoption journey. And actually, China just amended the adoption rules last week, which means that many, many families who were in the process of adopting no longer qualify. Hearts are broken. Dreams are shattered. :( So, as I said adoption is no sure thing. And this is why I won't take a full breath again until Bella is in my arms.
  • There will undoubtedly be bumps in the road and unexpected delays. If you are a planner like me, this will drive you crazy! You may have a timeline in your head, or an expectation of when something will be approved, and that time may come and go. In adoption, you have to expect the unexpected. 
  • The information you are given on your child will very likely be very limited. Very. For example, we have newborn and 18-month medical evaluations of our daughter. We have a few photos. We have a few videos. That's it. And, interpretations can get lost in translation. And, medical evaluations in China are not as thorough as they are in the U.S. And sometimes information is withheld. And many questions about your child just will not be known until you have him/her, are able to observe him/her in person, and have a comprehensive medical evaluation completed once you return to the States. We know what we have been told about our Bella. But we won't really know her complete medical picture, nor level of functioning, until we are home. And THIS is where it is absolutely vital to have faith that God has chosen your child for you and you for your child.  
  • Read. Read, read, read. All you can. Read. Read everything you can about adoption. And then read some more. 
  • It is very easy to become overwhelmed. By the process. By the paperwork. By the requirements. By the steps. By the finances. By the waiting. By it all. Therefore, I think it is critical to have a strong support system, especially of those who have "been there, done that." For me, I have two invaluable, local friends who have adopted their beautiful daughters from China and have been my lifelines. I don't know what I'd do without them. And I have "met" amazing women online who are praying and guiding me. Unless you've walked this path, you don't know how it feels, what it's like, how your life is about to change. So, these people are so, so important. 
  • Stay organized. Keep every.single.receipt. Document everything. Make a copy of every.single.piece.of.paperwork that you mail out. Trust me on this one. 
  • Accept help whenever it is offered! Whether it be fundraising along the way to help bring your little home, having meal trains lined up for when you return, getting offers for sprinkles/showers, and everything in between, accept it! Just as you would if you were pregnant with your little one, graciously accept the kindness and help you are offered. You are expecting! Life is about to be turned upside down. So, accept whatever is offered. <3
  • Cry when you need to. Pray even more.  
  • Be prepared for the same hormonal changes to hit, the same nesting instincts, the same anxiety and excitement, the same countdown til your "due" (aka gotcha) date, the same holding of your breath until the moment you see his/her sweet face. You're having a baby! Let all the joys sink in and enjoy this special time. It is a gift. 
So adoption. What to expect when you're expecting? The unexpected. 

          No comments:

          Post a Comment