November is National Adoption Month. When my husband and I struggled with infertility, we decided to dive headfirst into adopting. I admit, though, that my knowledge was very limited. The end goal was simply to become parents.
Now that I’ve been a parent and am navigating an open adoption with my son’s birth family for five years, my knowledge of adoption and empathy toward my son and his first family has grown exponentially.
5 Lessons About Adoption
Whether you are considering adoption or you simply know someone who has been adopted, I encourage you to learn more. Starting out can be very overwhelming, so I put together some of the biggest lessons I have learned in the last five years.
- Listen to adoptees. I know this post is written by an adoptive mom, but when you are looking for experts, turn to adoptees. There are a lot of adult adoptees sharing through books and social media. In the process of adoption, they are the only people who typically have no say in their adoption. They can speak to the trauma within adoption and the deepest emotions (good and bad) felt toward their personal experience.
- Adoption is trauma. There is no way around it. When a child is removed from his or her biological family, at birth or years later, the child will experience trauma. No, a baby will not remember the trauma, but their brain changes and their bodies remember. Understand that they will need time and support to process it. Love is not enough.
- Adoptive families are not saviors. This narrative puts parents on a pedestal and doesn’t allow adoptees to feel anything other than thankful for their adoptive family “saving them.” My son’s birth family entrusted me with the honor of raising our son. I promise you, I am the lucky one.
- Not all adoptions are ethical. Before choosing an adoption agency or consultant to work with, do your research. Ask questions. Talk to others. Look up articles. Listen to adoptees and birth parents’ experiences. Do the work now, so you don’t have regrets later.
- Be willing to be as open as the situation allows. I know an open adoption is not always possible, but your child will want to know you did everything to keep that door open. Whether it is just sending updates to the adoption agency in case a birth family ever checks in, or visiting them regularly, your child deserves the chance to know his or her family.
- Find a community. As my son gets older, I think he will benefit from knowing other adoptees. Personally, finding other adoptive moms has been instrumental in my growth as a mother. Only those within the community can truly grasp the depth of adoption, and I’m so thankful to have found others who just “get it.”
These tips are not meant to scare you off from adopting. I wish someone would have walked me through some of this from the start. I believe I could have walked this journey even more prepared. There is so much to know, and I will never stop learning as adoption is forever. But starting your education early will only help you.
Adoption gave me one of the biggest blessings in my life, and for that reason, I will continue to advocate for ethical adoptions and support for adoptees. You will never regret putting the work in now to give your child and family the best start possible.