The Top Ten Things I Wish I Knew Before I Adopted

10.  You will torture yourself with the question “is she mine yet?”  You will feel like you are playing house (maybe for a very long time) and wonder when the honeymoon will end.  Don’t worry, it will.  One day you’ll be stuffing her into the backseat of your car kicking and screaming and you’ll know that only her “real” mom would love her enough to not give in.  One day she’ll snuggle close and say, unprompted, “I love you, Mom,” and you’ll know that only her “real” mom would cry like a big sap at the sound of those words.  She’s yours.  She will be yours.  Don’t sweat it.

9.  Someone invented FMLA for a reason.  It’s ok to take all the time you can to bond with your child.  It’s also ok to send your child to school or daycare and take time to adjust to your new reality.  You can’t be a good mama if you don’t take care of yourself.  For real.

8. 60% of adoptive parents experience post-adoption depression.  I know you think this won’t be you.  You chose this path (and jumped through a lot of hoops to prove that you would be a good parent).  You got what you wanted.  Everyone else is happy.  It’s ok if you’re not.  Find a support group.  Find a therapist.  You did not make a mistake.  It will get better.

7. You will grieve.  Maybe for the biological babies you will never have.  Maybe for the loss of the dream child you imagined.  Maybe for the time “lost” while your child was not in your home.  It’s ok to own this, and to let your child see you express your grief in appropriate, healthy ways.

6. In some ways, adopting an older child may feel easy.  You might get to skip the potty training, sleep training, picky eating phases.  Be happy about that… I hear it’s not fun. 🙂

5. Nature matters.  When you adopt, you will be forever bound to another mom, a first mom, who (whatever other choices she made) chose life for your child.  You will know this deep in your bones.  It’s ok to speak her name.  To pray for her.  To tell your child the truth about her.

4. Nurture matters.  No matter how old your child is, hug them and hold them and tickle them and look into their eyes and smile (if they will let you do these things).  Tell them that they are beautiful and smart and resilient and full of endless potential.  These things might feel easy and natural to you.  Or they might not.  In the latter case, suck it up.  Do them anyway.

3. Lots of those people who say, “let me know if I can do anything,” really mean it.  Take mental notes.  I know it rails against every self-sufficient bone in your body to call them and tell them that you need dinner delivered or walls painted or grown-up conversation or five minutes peace.  Do it.  It will make them feel useful.  It will help keep you sane.

2. People will say stupid stuff to you and your kid.  For the most part, they are good people.  Model being nice to them—it’s fine to try to educate them about adoption or politely decline to answer their questions.  But never, ever let someone suggest that your child is not “your own” without making it absolutely clear that they are.  This can be awkward.  Trust me, your kid is more important than the awkwardness.

1. Adoption is beautiful.  It is a journey of hope, redemption, joy and forever love.  Surround yourself with people who get that.  Savor the beautiful moments.  Write them down.  Hold them close to your heart.  Breathe deeply and know that your family is beautiful.

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