My daughter was a day old when we met and I remember when, for the first time, she opened her eyes in my arms, looked at me, seemingly relaxed (and in my memory she smiled) and went back to sleep. I remember thinking she saw me and thought:
Hi mom. I am happy you are here. I am safe now.
I came to adoption, as most people, as a last resort to having kids. But knowing what I know now, it really shouldn't be the last resort. Adoption should be an option early on in the process of creating a family.
Families are ultimately people close to us who we love. Knowing what I know now, I would have skipped some of the fertility heartache (and fees) and chosen adoption sooner.
But maybe it was meant to be: I had to go through what I did in order to get the child meant for me.
If you're considering adoption — and I hope you do — here are 10 things I wish I had known about the adoption process when I got started:
1. It can take a long time
I adopted domestically. I wanted a newborn baby and thought that was my best chance. But I didn't know that the process would take so long. It took two years for me, although you can get lucky and it can go faster. This is the basic process for domestic adoption:
- Find an agency (or adoption lawyer) and submit an application.
- Go through a home study process which includes filling out many forms and getting many documents you need, some of which are your assets, your insurances, your health documentation, letters from friends recommending you, and more. There will be a few home visits to see how the child will live and where the child will sleep. You will not necessarily need to have the room completed, but maybe have a crib and cover those radiators and make sure the surroundings are safe for a newborn.
- Attend trainings through the agency and perhaps meet some birth moms and some adoptive families to tell you how their process went and to answer any questions you may have.
- Be assigned a caseworker who will let you know if you have been chosen and will accompany you on visits with birth moms.
2. It will be a really emotional ride! Stay strong!
Keep in mind your end goal: A beautiful child to love and share your world with.
I did not know that I would be chosen many times within a two-year period, but each potential adoption would fall through. It's the heartbreaking part. You may have met the young birth mom with her parents and then you get the call she is giving birth, and rush to the hospital with flowers, only to get a call when you are close by that she changed her mind.
Or perhaps one birth mom couldn't pay her rent so you paid it for her, only to find out a few weeks later that she too changed her mind. You may get that call while you are at work and may have to run to the bathroom for a good cry.
Keep in mind it was not meant to be. These were not the children meant for you. You will know that for sure when you ultimately get your child. But there may be a few of these near misses.
And, if you're like me, you will shed tears. But remember your goal and believe it will work out.
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3. The call for your child could come today, tomorrow ... or in two years
You are on call. Be ready. Be flexible. Yes, it can be stressful during this waiting period. Find a way to relieve your stress — exercise, meditation, whatever works for you. You may get a call while at work and need to go the next day to meet a birth mom. You might have months to prepare. Either way, you'll need to stay flexible and always be prepared to get THAT call.
4. Don't keep it a secret
Be proud of adopting. In the past, people have kept adoption a secret. I have a friend who found out they were adopted at age 40. I still feel like there's a bit of a stigma attached to adoption. The more you're open with others about the process you're going through, the more it helps take away the stigma. Remember: You are doing a great thing for yourself and your future child!
5. Have a baby shower
Sometimes people forget to give adoptive parents baby showers. If no one offers, ask someone close to you to host a baby shower on your behalf. Having that celebration, surrounded by your close friends and family, is a great experience. Have fun and register at all the baby stores! Enjoy the process!
6. Most adoptions can be considered 'open adoption'
There are different levels of open adoption. You and your caseworker will negotiate how 'open' the adoption will be with the birth mom, although ultimately it is your decision.
You may decide you don't want the birth family in the life of the child. That's OK. But remember one day your grown child may be curious and might be able to find a birth parent through DNA testing, which is so common these days. Support them in that process if that's what they choose.
Another possibility: The agency might suggest you send a letter once a year about the child with photos to the agency which will be then sent to the birth mom. This can be a healthy option for both parties.
Or the other extreme: I have friends who are Facebook friends with their child's birth mom and have vacationed with them.
Whatever makes you comfortable is what you should do.
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7. Come prepared when meeting birth mom
Take notes. Take videos and pictures. Come prepared with questions. Write down the answers. Don't be intimidated thinking she won't give you the baby if you ask the wrong question. When your child is old enough, you will go over this meeting with them and tell them what was said. It will be important to your child. Remember everything you can. And take a lot of photos with the birth parent. Take videos and have the birth parent speak on it. Your child will be so happy you did.
8. You're in great company!
When I adopted my child I used to cut out any magazine articles I could find about adoption. There were not that many. Occasionally I would read about a big celebrity who had adopted. That sort of made it more legit and acceptable, I thought. Being a single mom, I love the fact that Diane Keaton, Sharon Stone, and Sandra Bullock all adopted as single moms. We are part of a special team!
tanukiphoto via Canva
9. You may experience post-adoption depression or insecurity
Yes, it is possible! I had no idea. But I experienced something I feel was similar to postpartum depression right after her birth. It's commonly known as post-adoption depression, and can be just as debilitating as postpartum depression.
Nobody discussed this with me beforehand, so I felt blindsided by my feelings. Seek help if you feel depressed or insecure after adoption.
10. Check with your health insurance company
Make sure your child is covered by your health insurance even before finalization takes place. (Finalization is when you go to court to be officially the new parent to your child.) I had to fight the company where I worked to get coverage before finalization occurred.
There are so many kids who need loving homes and so many options in adopting. My family was formed through adoption. I cannot imagine having a different daughter. She was truly meant for me. I hope you will consider adoption too!
Tatiana S. is the publisher of Macaroni KID Five Towns-Valley Stream-The Rockaways, N.Y. and Macaroni KID Long Beach-Oceanside-Rockville Centre, N.Y.