Adoption is in the news again because of the halting of adoptions in the Ukraine (or Crimea, if we’re counting that separately now) and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). As always this calls attention to the plight of the 150 million orphans in our world today. Barna Group put together an article called “5 Things You Need to Know About Adoption” for last November’s National Adoption Awareness Month. Here are 5 additional things I know about adoption:
1. It will be harder than you can imagine—Love inspires most of us who choose to adopt. In our case we knew our girls for years before they came to live in our home; we did all sorts of fun things together. We loved them and they loved us. They were excited to become part of our family. So we foolishly believed it would all work out beautifully. Debby walked out after a year and a half, the day our final custody papers arrived. I felt my heart break and thought it might never heal. Joy caused us all sorts of problems as she dealt with her own anger and feelings of abandonment. Any parent who has been up all night with a screaming infant knows how hard parenting can be—no matter how your child arrived.
2. It is incredibly expensive—Home studies, background checks, medical tests, and lawyer fees are just the start. If you’re adopting a newborn, you will likely pay the expectant mother’s expenses. International adoptions require travel, agency fees and in-country requirements. And once your child is home, the expenses simply multiply (as every parent of any child knows). For us, it wasn’t only the addition of mouths to feed and clothes to buy; it was our desire to give our girls all the experiences they had missed out on before coming to us—zoos, circuses, trips to Williamsburg, an evening with the Harlem Globetrotters.
3. There will be moments when you wish you hadn’t—I’m pretty sure most parents, if they’re honest, have moments of wondering what possessed them to procreate. But when you adopt, when you really, consciously, over and over again—as you filed each piece of paperwork, paid each fee, collected each reference, took every class—choose to adopt, you have no one to blame but yourself. There were plenty of moments to back out, and you chose not to. The day will come when you ask yourself: What were you thinking? And that’s okay, you simply get up and move forward with the forever family you chose. And if you’re lucky, the next day, or at least when that child is 30, you’ll be really glad you made that momentous choice.
4. There are no guarantees—Every parent (biological or adoptive or step) should know this, and yet we put it out of our minds. We want to believe that if we make this amazing change in our lives, bringing this little (or bigger) person into our homes and hearts, all will be well. He or she will grow up to be healthy, work hard to get a good education, marry the perfect person, and find a job that uses his or her passions to make a difference in the world—curing cancer would be nice, but we’ll settle for the Nobel Peace Prize. Unfortunately, children aren’t robots we can program for our desired end. They have wills of their own. They make foolish choices (just like we did), and they may never have a good job or marriage. And with adopted children you have the added possibility that they will turn their back on you and all your good intentions for them and instead return to the disfunction of their birth families. There. Are. No. Guarantees.
5. If I had known then what I know now, I would still have done it—We had some hard days. Heck, who am I kidding? We had some hard years. But I can’t imagine life without Joy. Or Debbie. Or Ashley, the adopted granddaughter who was part of our lives and then maneuvered and manipulated to have her adoption terminated. Or our adopted grandson, Hunter. Or any of the other kids who lived with us for a short time, even though it never led to adoption.
What do you know about adoption? Feel free to share with us? I’d especially love to hear from those of you who were adopted, as to what you wish potential adoptive parents should know. And if you’re considering adoption, I salute you. It’s a beautiful thing. Really.