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I’m still fairly new to the world of adoption (my oldest is *only* 5) and I’m still learning. I’m sure I will always be learning. This year, we finalized our 3rd adoption. Having been through trough the adoption process 3 times, I’ve learned some things along the way.

10 Things Adoption Taught Me:

1. Adoption starts with a loss. So often, adoption is portrayed as a win for everyone. But it really isn’t. Adoption might be a good option, but it starts with a loss. A loss for the first parents; saying goodbye to the child they created. A loss for the child; being taken from the only family they knew and losing those biological connections. And maybe even a loss for the adoptive family; losing their hope for making a baby the good ol’ fashioned way.

2. One phone call can make you a mom. On a Saturday, ironically, 9 months to the day when we first contacted the adoption agency, my cell phone rang. There was a baby boy. Already born. And I was his mom. We were his parents. That phone call instantly changed my life for the better. In the years following, I got a couple more similar phone calls. Such sweet memories!

3. Babies don’t need much and what they do need can be picked up at Target. We didn’t have the traditional 9 months to prepare. We had no idea how long we would wait. Weeks? Months? Years? Maybe we wouldn’t ever get chosen. It’s hard to know how much to prepare ahead of time knowing you may or may not ever bring home a baby. With our oldest, we had 48 hours’ notice before we picked him up. We had a carseat (that we didn’t know how to use!), diapers & formula. With our youngest, we only had 24 hours… but it all came together. My daughter and I ran to Target while our oldest was at preschool. I picked up a couple of preemie outfits, preemie diapers and formula. We borrowed a carseat from the agency. And just like that we were ready to bring home a baby!

4. If mom is pregnant, she is NOT a birth mom. During pregnancy, my babies belonged completely to their first moms. The moms who helped create them. I was not their mom. I had no rights, no decisions to make. While pregnant, they are expecting moms. Just like every other pregnant woman. The decision to place their child for adoption has to be made after they have their baby. They might think they’re making an adoption plan but they could easily change their mind after the baby is born. And that’s okay. It’s their baby! (I may or may not have learned this lesson the hard way.)

5. I can do hard (for me) things. I don’t consider myself to be particularly brave or strong. I’m one to choose the easy way. But adoption has given me the opportunity to do hard things. For starters, I had to get over my shyness. During the process, you have no secrets. Social workers learn just about everything there is to know. Another hard thing (for me) was the hospital experience. We found out about 6 weeks before our second was born, that we were being considered to be her parents. This would be an out of state placement. It was decided that we would be at the hospital for discharge. And that the mom wanted us there at the hospital. This was something I did not want. I’m not a big fan of hospitals to begin with. I knew the hospital experience would be extremely emotional. We did not go the day our daughter was born. We wanted her first family there to have time with her. We were at the hospital when our daughter’s first mom said goodbye. Watching a new mom being wheeled out of the hospital without her newborn is so incredibly hard. It was a moment I was dreading. I knew it would be hard. But as hard as it was for me, it was nearly impossible for the young mom. I mean, think about it. UGH. It causes me physical pain. While it was hard, I’m glad I saw that heartbreak because I can honestly tell my daughter without a doubt she was loved & wanted since the beginning.

6. Adoption truly is bittersweet. I know we toss that word around a lot. I think it can be used for a lot of things. But adoption is one heck of an emotional roller-coaster; full of bittersweet moments. So incredibly sweet because it led me to my babies but at the same time bitter because so many were affected by the loss. There were so many times I cried and I didn’t even know if they were happy tears or sad tears.

7. Love at first sight is real. I’m not sure if I ever believed in love at first sight. Until I saw my kids. It really was instant love. I laid my eyes on each of those sweet babies and my heart melted.

8. Adoption has blessed me more than I ever could have imagined. It gave me my happily ever after. I have my kids because of adoption. My family has grown way more than just those 3 kids. We consider my kids’ birth families to be part of our family. I’ve met some of my best friends because of adoption. There is a bond between adoptive families and that bond created friendships. I knew adoption would be good, but I had no idea it would lead to so much good. Sometimes I have to pinch myself to make sure this is really my life. And how in the world did I get so lucky?! (People tell me how lucky my kids are to have us as parents; but my kids aren’t the lucky ones. We are!)

9. Love isn’t enough. Way back in the day, on my AOL profile I had “All you need is love” listed as my favorite quote. Well, The Beatles had it wrong. Love is a good starting off point, but sadly, it’s not all you need. If love was enough, I wouldn’t have my kids. They would be with their other families with their other moms. The moms who helped create them, carried them for 9 months and gave birth to them. Those moms loved our babies. They loved them so much. But love wasn’t enough.

10. Adoption has many voices. Adoption is… loss, beautiful, love, hope, heartbreaking, tragic, life-changing, a dream come true, a nightmare, trauma, an option, family, brokenness, a miracle, the best thing that happened to us (or the worst). Adoption can be so many things to different people. Our experiences with adoption shape our opinions. What it is for one might be something totally different to the next person and that’s okay. Whether we’re an adoptive family, birth parents or an adoptee our voice about adoption is real. Because it’s ours and no one can take that away.

Click here to go to the list of National Adoption Day stories.

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Alissa Kay

Alissa was born and raised in the Midwest and currently calls Wisconsin home. She's happily married to her college sweetheart and she's living out her dreams of being a stay-at-home mom. Although, let's be real, she's hardly ever home. She's the mom to 3 kids who all came to her via adoption. A boy (8) and 2 girls (6 and almost 4!). The kids keep her plenty busy, but when she has free time she enjoys a night out with friends or curling up with a good book.

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