Dear adoptive parent-to-be,
Wherever you may be in your own unique adoption journey, I want to cheer you on and let you know you’re not alone.
While it may feel lonely and uncomfortable and even intimidating, there are some similarities in the process for many adoptive families that might encourage you.
The leading up to the decision to adopt is its own special story for each family. For my husband and me, the initial desire emerged from an unexpected struggle with infertility. But it didn’t take long for us to see our decision to adopt not as a Plan B but as the definite way we wanted to start our family.
The reality was though, that pursuing adoption was a very different way to become parents compared to almost all our friends who tried for a few months, took a test, and came home from the hospital with a baby nine months later.
When my husband and I were in the early stages of the adoption process, I realized that while there were a few aspects of adoption that mirrored a real pregnancy, we were taking on a role with its own kind of symptoms and milestones.
I dubbed the moment we met with our social worker to begin the process and the following months my paper pregnancy.
These are some of the notes I jotted down during that time. I don’t know how far along I was, but here are some of my paper pregnancy symptoms and discoveries:
Instead of sore boobs, I’ve got sore wrists from typing so many emails and working on our profile book design.
Instead of fatigue from raging hormones, I’ve got fatigue from staying up way too late working on paperwork and reading our adoption literature.
Instead of checking a website to see what fruit size my baby size compares to, I’m wondering what color skin my child will have.
Instead of going to doctor appointments, I’m setting up home inspections, fire inspections, and background checks.
Instead of looking forward to sonograms, I’m looking forward to phone calls.
Instead of being hungry all the time, I keep forgetting to eat lunch because I’m so busy checking to-do items off our home study list.
Instead of labor and delivery classes, we are meeting with social workers.
Instead of worrying if we’ll have enough money for our child’s college, I’m researching adoption financial aid.
Instead of peeing every 10 minutes, I am checking my phone and email to see if there’s any news from our agency.
Instead of asking a doctor all my pregnancy questions, I’m answering questionnaires about my personal history, beliefs, and plans for the future.
Instead of packing a hospital bag, I’m packing a suitcase since I don’t know how long we will be out of town if we get called out of state.
Instead of losing sleep because of a growing belly and squashed bladder, I am losing sleep trying to imagine all the unknowns that lie ahead.
Instead of having to take a gestational diabetes check, I have to get my fingerprints done.
Instead of worrying if my labor will go smoothly, I’m worried about meeting the birth mom and if she’ll like us.
Instead of making sure we have gas in our car in case of a rush to the hospital, I’m bookmarking airfare sites so we can buy a plane ticket in a snap.
Having a home study to complete with items to check off a list was such a relief compared to the wearisome months of negative pregnancy tests and sadness. Even though my paper pregnancy was very different from my girlfriends’ pregnancies, I made it a point to celebrate the big milestones and involve my little tribe of supportive family and friends in the process.
After months of work, finally, our drivers’ license and background checks were done, home inspection submitted, medical surveys sent from doctors offices and received by the agency, adoption literature read, references submitted, home visits completed, rounds of payments made, and after many, many prayers we were finally home-study approved.
It was one of the hardest things my husband and I had ever done.
The administrative part was manageable, the financial part took a lot of faith, but it was the vulnerability and emotional toll of giving our all for something that we couldn’t quantify–was there really a child for us at the end of this process? Would we experience more heartbreak if the adoption fell through? We had people inspecting every corner of our lives: our finances, our home, our background, and character. Unlike most of our friends who rejoiced at an unplanned, positive pregnancy test, we had to prove we were worthy to be parents and pour all our hearts into a process that was foreign and had an uncertain end.
What we didn’t know was that throughout my entire paper pregnancy, our little daughter was being knit together in her birth mother’s womb and being prepared for us to love.
Her conception was most likely around the time we had our first conversation about pursuing adoption. We met with a social worker around the time the birth mom may have had her first doctor’s appointment. If our daughter’s birth mother had a 20-week anatomy scan to determine the gender of the baby, that would have been during the height of our paperwork and appointments.
The point is that the whole time we felt blind and uncertain, there was a baby girl being fearfully and wonderfully made in another woman’s body. I may not have carried her in my womb, but she was certainly being carried in my heart. We may have felt uneasy with the uncertainty of the process, but the little baby girl that we would meet only a few months later would be worth all the discomfort and unknowns.
If you are in the adoption process now, it may feel never-ending. But it will end! The child who was meant for you will be worth every long appointment, every tough conversation, every dollar spent and every tear shed. Right now you may not even be able to imagine what the future may hold, but don’t give up!
You’re not alone in this crazy process. There is something unique and special for those of us who choose this path. We get to tell our adopted children, “We chose you! We worked so hard for you! We wanted you with all our being! We chose to make you ours forever.” Like my husband and me, you too will have a special story to tell and a remarkable opportunity to support others who will follow this unique path.