Adoption is special. Having a natural family is special too. When a family is created, it’s inherently special and a unique experience for the individuals involved, no matter the means. Adoption is not better or worse than having a natural family; it is just different. What I love about adoption and what makes it different are three things: the community, the humility it brings, and the transformations it cultivates.
The community you gain when you adopt is a definite plus. Sure, all natural moms gain the community of other moms when they are raising their children. The adoption community, however, is much smaller. Smaller but still powerful. We appreciate each other so much because adoption is such a unique experience. It’s something you can’t really understand unless you go through it, so having others to look to and knowing they “get it” is really comforting. The other great thing about the adoption community is that, since it is small, each member truly has the power to shape it.
Over time, the adoption community has changed itself to become less secretive. We now promote openness in adoption and celebration of the process. That cannot come from a simple law being passed or one person deciding that’s the way it should be; that change comes from a majority of the people involved willing to make a movement, a change, and to stick their necks out to defend that change.
For those involved with adoption, explaining the process can seem like a burden. Natural families do not have to deal with all the extra questions. They don’t have to defend their choices. When you’re in the adoption community, you will have to face this.
The community itself is also becoming less divided and more inclusive. It’s not adoptive parents being present in the media and birth moms being ghosts anymore. We now include birth families as an equal part of the adoption triad (birth family, adoptive family, and child). It is our job as individuals in the adoption community to advocate for everyone in the triad. This will lead to a better understanding in the community at large.
When all members of the triad matter, change will happen over time. The things we are still working on in adoption (like some agencies having incredibly high fees) will start to change. To quote Kelsey Van der Vliet, a birth mother, “Your adoption is not beautiful because of the system. Your adoption is beautiful because of the individuals and the love in your own triad.” In the small community of adoption, each individual voice matters, not just what lawyers or agencies voice to the public.
Your adoption community can consist of those you meet in person, like at your agency’s family picnics or trainings, but it can also consist of those you’ve never met in person. Now, everyone likes to say Facebook friends that you’ve never met aren’t real friends, but I disagree to an extent. With social media sites, you can meet others involved in adoption and have some really powerful discussions.
I especially encourage you to be on Instagram if you’re not already because this has become a really popular place for adoption to be discussed. There have been hour-long live videos done with a birth mom and an adoptive mom, for instance. I even watched one that counted towards my adoption training hours. I was watching anyway, though! I love to hear others’ stories and see what the news is in the adoption world.
On Instagram, you can follow birth moms, adoptive moms, and adoptees all willing to put their hearts out there and be vulnerable and share their story. These stories are powerful because they aren’t just words on a page, they’re videos where you’re seeing real emotion and tears. Insta Stories are a great way to hear people’s stories and for people to gather information. Maybe you want to see how many adoptive families see their child’s birth mom only vs. their child’s whole birth family—you can create a poll for that where viewers can vote. I will include a list at the end of this article of some people I recommend following on Instagram.
Your adoption experience as a birth or adoptive parent will be humbling. In addition to it feeling surreal, another common, very fitting word people use to describe the experience is humbling. It often feels like God or the universe, or even just something beyond yourself is directing your steps (atheists adopt too). In that humility, you are on bended knee to whatever is thrown your way. You may not like the bumps in the road, but it will all be worth it.
It was humbling for us on our first adoption journey to be matched and suddenly realize that a seventeen-year-old girl was going to decide whether or not we became parents. Letting that sink in was surreal. It was humbling again when on our second adoption journey (which we’re still on) we were matched and then told months later she decided to parent and we were not going to be the parents of this baby. So, we wait again.
When I met my son at the hospital for the first time, my first thoughts were that he was small and he was real. His birth mom was holding him up for us to see. Overwhelming feelings came when I realized we were responsible for this little guy. It was bittersweet because of birth mom’s loss. We wanted to be excited and take pictures; however, I felt that I should not get carried away. It felt wrong to be showing off my gain while birth mom sat there going through this grief. We wanted to remain humble. She was so strong keeping a brave face the whole visit. We did take a few pictures, of course, but we knew we’d have time for that later after he was home.
When we left the hospital, we knew she legally still had the option to keep the baby. The humility we felt was great, knowing he could not be ours, but hoping he would. We returned to and brought him home from the hospital the next morning. It would be ten days before we fully celebrated that he was our son after the time had passed in which she was allowed to change her mind.
It’s important to not forget to be humble after placement occurs. In the years to come, you will repeatedly have to humble yourself to the fact that an adoptive mother does also share motherhood with the birth mother. Perhaps not parenting, but still motherhood of one child. That in itself is humbling. You honor her whenever you have visits or contact. You honor your child by recognizing her.
Feeling like you “want [your] child all to yourself” will not serve anyone. I hear that phrase sometimes with people who are new to adoption and haven’t fully understood it yet. When you raise your child, it’s your child. You aren’t going to feel intruded upon by a birth mother who sees the child every once in a while or only has contact by email. Even adoptive parents with more frequent contact who might have visits once a month or so with birth mom still will not tell you they feel intruded upon.
I guess I do get a little jealous that natural parents don’t have to explain their situation or defend it. But I also know we have a special connection with the birth mother and a shared interest in our little boy which natural moms don’t have. I feel honored to have this extra person in our lives. We never felt entitled to the baby, just honored to be his parents. In addition, we also have other people in our lives now too, like his biological grandma, grandpa, aunt, and uncle. Some people never get to meet the rest of the birth family, but we did.
In getting to be his parents, we recognize that a great loss was endured by his birth mom. When she chose adoption, what a transformation happened for everyone. She made a powerful choice with love. We chose to go through the adoption process. We met her based on our respective choices and if you believe in it, God or the universe allowed it to unfold.
When she found herself in an unplanned pregnancy at a young age and the birth father was not going to be there to parent with her, she decided on another route. Turning to adoption meant taking a hard situation and turning it into something good. Her choice transformed the baby’s life into a different one. By placing him for adoption, she transformed our lives.
Unexpected pregnancies are incredibly difficult because all three choices you have are hard. Parenting when you’re not ready is hard. Abortion is hard. Adoption is hard. Out of the three, I see the most transformation take place in adoption. Adoption created our family, and it created a larger group of people that love our son because we have contact with his biological family.
The adoption took strength on the biological family’s part as well, not just his birth mom’s. They went through a lot of pain in the months leading up to his adoption. Ultimately, it was her decision, but her family was there wondering what this whole open adoption would look like too. It’s such an emotional time. Our son’s biological grandma also told me later how thankful she was that we were so open. We had known from the start that she preferred that the birth mom keep the baby, but she is accepting of how things are now. I don’t want to speak for the birth family, but I hope we have met their expectations as our son’s adoptive parents.
As with any family, there will be times where you might disagree or not get along so well. There may be seasons where birth moms want more contact and seasons where less contact is better. That bond, though, is always there, and I believe it is best for everyone to meet and know each other. The mystery of the birth family in the days of closed adoption is ending. As long as you’re committed to ongoing communication, I believe things will be ok. The child will have the opportunity to ask the birth family questions and know them.
I can only remember two or three times in nearly four years where we’ve had an issue within the birth family relationship, and it wasn’t even about adoption. It was about normal family stuff like scheduling or poor communication. One time I even messed up, so I apologized. So, hopeful adoptive parents, don’t let the fear of adoption itself stand in your way of building your family. It is complex, but it’s not as scary as you might allow it to become in your mind pre-adoption.
Going through this process transformed me by softening my heart. In researching adoption, in seeing kids in foster care, and shedding tears over everything, it just had softened me. During those first meetings with the birth mother I held it together on the outside, but inside I was a mess. My anxiety was through the roof. It helped to try and put myself in her shoes and think what she’d want me to be—confident and calm. Like a rock. A solid parent.
I will always have a soft spot for her in my heart. I feel a bit maternal towards her too because she’s young, but she has her own mom. I don’t need to be that for her. But I do feel like I always want to have her back and root for her. It has driven me to also want to help other birth moms in any way I can. I want to be involved on all sides of the triad.
Adoption is one of the things I’m most grateful for. Through the transformative process of adopting and by having humility, a family and a new community are gained. Adoption isn’t something you go through and finish; it’s lifelong.
I encourage you to connect with the following people on Instagram for all things adoption:
@_stacey_s @adoptwell @lanaya.graham @heloge @fromanothamotha @tiedattheheart @_allysonwall @bigtoughgirl @kristindiane22 (me!)