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Grown In My Heart is a series written about the adoption process from a mom who has been through it. She will be sharing her entire experience with you all in hopes to help other parents who are looking into adoption or going through the process.
“For those considering adoption, you may already realize how convoluted it seems. There are so many options and it often feels like there is not a lot of support out there. When we began the adoption process, I vowed to help other women who were considering adoption, or were already in the process. Let me start with a small disclaimer. First, I am not an adoption professional. I am simply an adoptive mom who wants to share her story. Second, I am speaking only about my experience. While I know many that have a similar story, each process is different. My goal in sharing this is to help other women know where to start and to have some idea of what could happen.”
I’ve often said that we felt very prepared to go through the adoption process, but had no idea how to be parents. We realized that very quickly after sitting down with our son in the hospital nursery. Looking back, I can see quite a few things that we weren’t prepared for prior to our son’s arrival.
I can distinctly remember feeling the need to prepare our home for his birth. I always heard about pregnant women needing to nest, but I didn’t think I would experience those feelings given that I wasn’t pregnant. We (as with many adoptive parents) were hesitant to prepare a nursery on the chance that the birth mom would change her mind. The last thing we wanted was to have a nursery prepared, and then not have a baby to put in it. Ultimately, we chose to paint, buy a crib and changing table, and decorate a little. Our thinking was that even if this child was not meant for our family, we would eventually need a nursery. While it was difficult, we had to prepare without attaching those items to that child.
Many women ask not to have a baby shower until after placement is complete. I initially shared that mindset. I didn’t want to risk having to return the gifts if something went wrong. A good friend really wanted to throw a shower, and reminded me that I would have to have some basic necessities (i.e. blankets, diapers, onesies, etc). I eventually agreed, and I’m so glad that I did. I asked that she remind everyone that this was not a guarantee, and for them to understand if it fell through. Even after receiving those gifts, I did not take off tags or do any laundry. Just before my son was born, a coworker asked about my preparations and I told her that we had been blessed with most of what we would need, but I was too nervous to wash clothes, burp cloths and blankets. She helped me to see that (as with the nursery) these were items that I needed to have prepared. That night, I went home and ran my first load of baby items. I have to say that it was very cathartic for me. It was another step toward feeling like a “real mom.”
Also unexpected was feeling like an invisible expectant mom. What I mean is that although we were expectant parents, no one knew it. I didn’t have the belly to indicate that our family was about to grow. I couldn’t get the close parking spaces at Babies R Us, no one said any sweet words of encouragement, and I had no good reason to ask my husband to run to the grocery store at 1am for ice cream. Trust me, I don’t feel the need to be in the spotlight. Nevertheless, it was hard being so excited, but feeling like it was hidden. While I don’t have any advice about how to handle this, I hope that you’ll feel comfortable to share your news with others and celebrate the fact that you are about to become a parent.
People have very little experience with adoption. A lot of people realize that there are big differences between adoption and having a biological child (duh!), but some people assume that the differences are minor. You also have a group of people who base their knowledge of adoption on Lifetime movies, and we all know how accurate those are.
The best thing you can do is to be proactive with those closest to you. Let them know what you are comfortable sharing, what questions you are open to answering, and how you’d like them to address adoption in front of your child. Remember, this is YOUR child, and you need to make decisions that you feel are best, regardless of what your friends and family think. From the beginning, I told my friends that I would be an open book when it came to our adoption experience. I saw no reason to hide anything. I am not ashamed of it and I am definitely not trying to hide anything. It is the story of how our family came to be, and I’m proud of that. People are not mind readers (at least not in my family), and it isn’t fair to expect them to know your thoughts and feelings.
When we were preparing for our son’s arrival, we let our friends know that we would probably not invite them over for a few weeks, to give us uninterrupted time to bond with him. Ultimately, I missed my friends and decided to start inviting people over after a week and a half. Had we not set that boundary we could have gotten unexpected visitors.
Many new moms receive advice and critiques from complete strangers. Being an adoptive mom is no different. It is important to remember that they are not pinpointing you, they are simply rude to anyone who will listen. You’ll have to decide how you’d like to respond – be nice, be rude or have a little fun with them. I’ve been told all sorts of fun things – that my son looks like me, that he doesn’t look like me, and that he needed to breastfeed. I’ll explain the last one. We were waiting at a restaurant and he started nuzzling into my chest (he was really tired). She leaned over and told me that he was hungry. I leaned back and told her that “he wouldn’t know what to do with these things.” She was a little embarrassed and our conversation stopped there. I never had the chance to tell her that he was adopted, not that she deserved to know.
It can be very hard not to take offense to the weird things that people say. I know that I often questioned myself as a parent, and so some comments really got to me. I finally started writing things down and using them as funny stories for my friends and family.
The most important thing to understand is that no matter where you are in the adoption process, you are an expectant parent. Find ways to celebrate that, and give yourself the chance to prepare in your own way.
The Grown In My Heart series is brought to you by Katie, a stay-at-home mom from Las Vegas and amazing older sister to our own editor, Emily. After years of trying to conceive, Katie and her husband Matt welcomed a son to their family on January 11, 2011 through adoption. She will be sharing her story through the month of November , so check back for more and leave comments if you have any questions for her! If you are interested in more of her story and following along in the future, you can find the entire blog account HERE.