"Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
    and do not lean on your own understanding.
 In all your ways acknowledge him,
    and he will make straight your paths."

Proverbs 3:5-6

A place to find encouragement when you're trying to trust God in the unknown. "In The Waiting" is the official blog of; a ministry that supports hopeful families seeking to grow through adoption.


Self * Friends & Family * Adopted Child * BIRTH FAMILY * Outside Factors

Adoption is a beautiful story about redemption, love, and grace. So often we only focus on the child though, and not where the child came from. It’s as if we want to box up the time before we knew our child and put it on a shelf and not come back to it unless a doctor tells us we must. However, let’s remember that a birth mother is a person too, with history, feelings, hopes, and a future.

I’ve interviewed a number of people who have adopted in hopes to pass on some words of wisdom they wished someone had told them. We’ve already gone through self, friends and family, and the adopted child. Today we will focus on the birth mom and family and what adoptive parents wish they had considered before they started the adoption process.

1. You know you’ll love the child, expect to love the mom too

Depending on the age of the child you adopt and the circumstances surrounding the child’s availability, you’ll not only get to read about the child but the mother too. What numerous adoptive moms told me was how they would first fall in love with the mother. They would see her as so brave and selfless and would want to do whatever she required so she would feel comfortable with the entire process. If they weren’t selected by the birth mom, they expected sadness due to the process of finding their child taking longer. What they weren’t expecting was the heartache of losing the mom too. Many adoptive moms pray for birth moms; so when the adoptive mom believes she’s found the woman she’s been praying for, it is almost like a break up to discover this isn’t the woman that will birth your child. I found this beautifully heartbreaking.

2. If you have the choice, choose an open adoption

This isn’t always possible, and sometimes the choice is made for you. However, when given the choice, the vast majority of adoptive parents said it is healthier for the child, in the long run, to not ever have to question where they came from. This brings more voices to the table that can be seen as drama or something to deal with. But remember, without this birth family, your child wouldn’t exist. Keep the conversations kid-centric and have well-defined boundaries. Open adoption allows for more family connections like grandparents, family trees, and for your child to hear why an adoption plan was made for them. Sidenote: even with a closed adoption, many adoption agencies ask for yearly updates on the child for the birth parents to see if they ever want to take a look.

3. Your child was not rejected

It’s important for you to know this. It’s important for your child to hear this from you. More often than not, birth families carefully consider what to do. Adoption was their choice. They believed this would be the best thing for your child and they chose you. Please don’t do them the disservice of believing anything but the best about them and definitely don’t talk bad about them to your child. International adoption can see cases where the parents died, but again, this isn’t rejection. Even in a Safe Haven case where a child was left at the hospital or similar place, the parent believes they are making the right choice for the child. Going into adoption and believing anything less about the birth family will only tumble out of your mouth as negativity later.

4. God will redeem the birth mom’s story too

Like I stated at the beginning, so often we only think about the child and the new family unit that was just created. But for the majority of adoption cases, there is a birth mom doing their best to deal with the decision they just made. God sees them. God has growth and joy and victory for them too. This decision might be the start of something for you, but it doesn’t mean it is the end of something for them. Pray for them always. Not just before and during the adoption process. Not just because you want a mature and put-together person for your child to meet someday. Pray for them because they are an integral part of God’s plan and their value and worth go beyond providing you a child.

5. Talk to someone who placed their child in adoption

This can be tricky as it’s not something people usually advertise about themselves and they usually don’t want to be the go-to person every family talks to before adoption. However, if you are able to talk with a woman who went through the other side of the process you are about to go through, it can help you tremendously. It will help you frame your mindset appropriately for when you communicate with the birth mom of your child. It will help put a picture in your mind of a successful adoption process. It will help humanize your birth mom as you get to hear some of the emotions she might deal with during her process. It will open your eyes to more perspectives within the adoption world. It will help you speak with grace when your child asks questions later in life about their own birth family.

Many parents said they never felt closer to God than when they were going through the adoption journey. The compassion you gain for the birth family is surreal. The trust you must have in the Lord is huge. The reality of holding your hopes and dreams in an open hand for God to give and take away is painstakingly vulnerable. But it’s so, so worth it. Every moment is unexpected and hard and beautiful all at the same time. But then, that’s parenting.

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Self * Friends & Family * ADOPTED CHILD * Birth Family * Outside Factors

You are in the middle of reading a series based on a number of interviews I did with adoptive families. The first piece was what you’ll need to know for yourself. You can find this piece here. The second piece found here is focused on your existing support network of friends and family and how they will help and hurt you simultaneously. This piece is all about your sweet adopted child. Whether you are still waiting to meet them, or you’ve lived with them for years, there is something for you in this piece.

What I’ve learned is each and every adoption story starts from a place of loss. I had never thought about this before, but of course, it does. Loss of a parent and family, loss of relatives that look like you, loss of family history… and if it’s an international adoption, the loss of language, culture, and tradition as well. But don’t fret, God is amazing at redemption! Below you’ll find some sage pieces of wisdom from those who have gone before you. Of course, each child is different, and each family should make their own decisions about what they think is best for those involved.

1. Redefine trauma

When most people think of trauma, scenes from their favorite hospital TV show come to mind. But trauma comes in all shapes and sizes and the worst thing to do to trauma is to ignore it or reclassify it so you can pretend it doesn’t exist. There is some research that suggests there is a “primal wound” of children who are not raised by their biological mother simply because the voice and heartbeat they listened to while being formed in the womb is no longer part of their life. I don’t bring this up to say it is true or not as there is a lot of discussion as to the validity of this claim; however, it does redefine trauma and when or where it can start. As we allow for trauma to take on a new definition, more and more experiences are allowed to be processed as they should. One teenager I spoke with said she didn’t realize what it would be like to get reconnected with her biological mom. She described walking into a family reunion and seeing so many people that she looked like. “It wasn’t traumatic at all, but it was something I kept thinking about. I finally told my [adopted] mom that even though I looked just like these people, I didn’t feel close to them. It was weird.” Similarly, those who have created bi-racial families through adoption said they’ve learned that society expects families to “match”. Even though biracial marriages have been legal in all 50 states for more than 50 years now, there is still a reaction when people see your family looks different than they expect. This is something your child will experience their whole life as they show pictures of themselves growing up and introduce friends to you, their family. This might not sound “traumatic”, but to those who are living it, it certainly can be. Talking about it and/or giving your child a safe person to talk with, like a counselor, is helpful.

2. Adopting older children can mean they’ve experienced more trauma

This should not be a deterrent to adopting an older child, but it should be something to be aware of as you start and grow your family. As you’ve prayed for this child, chances are you’ll love them almost immediately. This may not be the same for the child and this will have nothing to do with you. They want to love you and probably do, but they’ve had people in their life who have left and they could be fearful it will be the same with you. Allow bonding to happen on their terms and in their timeline. This can be frustrating, but it builds health and trust between the two of you. As they are part of your family longer they will feel more secure - but as their brain understands more complex things, they will test you to make sure what they know about you and your love is still true. One parent of a fost-adopt child explained how her son would lash out and verbally attack her only to apologize and give her a hug a few days later because he wanted to see if she would still be there for him. She knew she would be, but he felt the need to test this again. This had nothing to do with her, and everything to do with his past trying to fit into his future.

3. Puberty can restart insecurities in your child

This is true for all children, but I felt it warranted being said since insecurities can be different for adopted kids. You might feel like a certain topic is behind you, but Satan will whisper lies and their hormones will take control. A parent shared with me that their daughter had lived with them for almost 10 years, but one afternoon she was feeling sad their neighbor took the dog they were trying out back to the shelter. After trying to process with their daughter why she was so upset by this, their daughter blurted out with tears streaming down her face that she didn’t know you could return a dog and what if they ever wanted to return her? This parent was shocked and rather mortified their daughter would even consider this, so quickly and earnestly she told her child this was never a possibility and she was her mom forever. Grace and love and patience are key.

4. Holidays can be odd

This was shared by multiple families who have open adoptions. They explained there are specific times their child sees their birth family, but the holidays are not typically one of them. This can be because the holidays are already so busy, but mostly because they found this to be a healthy boundary as they built their own family traditions. Since the holidays are usually a time most Americans see the family they don’t normally get to see, adoptive parents learned it can be odd for the child since they can’t comprehend family or social dynamics. The child knows there is a family out there they aren’t seeing. This doesn’t need to change, but it does need to be addressed when the child notices. It’s easy to rush about during this time of year, but take the time to notice your child’s mood and emotions and give them the opportunity to talk and ask questions.

5. Figure out what decisions you can let your child control

As with any child, giving them choices is a great way to give them a sense of security. Your adoptive child is no different. One family told me they used to have a couple of pictures of their child with their birth family up at their house and their child finally told them they didn’t like them up. They liked thinking about their adoption on their own terms, and having pictures up in their home forced them to think about it all the time. So they took the pictures down and put them in an album that could be looked through at their child’s discretion. Another child learned about his country of origin at a school fair and asked if the family wanted to try some food from this country. These are great ways to let your child contribute to the family being safe and healthy for all. If your child feels the opposite of these examples, that is fine too. The point is to talk with them and allow them to decide.

Each family is different and gets to decide what is best for their child and their home. And each child is unique and will come with their own set of baggage. Adoption is something God has ordained and blessed. Be confident that when God laid adoption on your heart, not only did he choose you, but he chose your child as well. You are living out his redemption story, and it is beautiful! Our next piece will dive into the hidden world of the birth family.

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Updated: Feb 9

Self * FRIENDS & FAMILY * Adopted Child * Birth Family * Outside Factors

So you want to adopt? You’ve heard beautiful stories of redemption and love; you’ve heard horror stories of tears and family struggle. However, both types of stories fuel your desire to parent the parentless. As you move forward on this miraculous journey God has called you to, you are doing all you can to be prepared. Assuming you are starting from a point of prayer, the first thing people will tell you is to find your tribe. Gather your community. Identify “your people”.

What I have learned while writing this five-part series is friends and family are both a blessing and a burden. I started the series by writing what I learned about the adoptive parent. You can read more on that here. For now, I’d like to share with you the 5 things adoptive parents said they wish they had known about their friends and family before they adopted.

1. They will hurt you

Your friends and family mean well, they truly do. But this journey is yours, not theirs. So as they support you, they might (read: will) say something that inadvertently hurts you. They don’t mean to hurt you, or be insensitive, or be harsh. Their comments come from misguided love. One family told me of adopting a medically fragile child. When they decided to move forward with this child, the would-be adoptive grandparents made comments about how they weren’t sure they were making a good decision and didn’t think they could do a good job parenting a child with these extra needs. Another parent explained how one of their friends kept recommending adopting a baby instead of an older child because it would be “easier”. This parent knew the Lord called them to adopt an older child and eventually made a decision to not include this friend in their adoption journey. This decision was hard and even more painful to explain to the friend, but it ended up being healthier for everyone. Ultimately, your friends and family want to help, but they don’t always know what is helpful and what is hurtful.

2. They will not understand your decisions

As you go through the various steps of adoption, the road before you becomes more and more clear as to whom you are willing to adopt. You might choose to adopt a drug-exposed baby, a child with an incurable disease, a kid from an orphanage, an open adoption, or a baby girl when you have four boys, etc. Really, whatever you choose could be listed here because no matter what you choose, someone will disagree with this decision. Remember, you are the one called on this journey, not them. So you need to make decisions based on you, your spouse, and what God is telling you both. But like one mom said: “God is in every detail. The process won’t look like what you expect and you will probably end somewhere you couldn't even fathom. But he is a faithful God, and you can trust his goodness.” So stay rooted in God and he will affirm your decisions.

3. Grow your support circle

As you can tell from the first two points, those who have always supported you simply don’t understand what you are going through because they have never gone through it. Every single person I interviewed for this series said they highly recommend finding others who have adopted and asking them to walk this tear and joy-filled road with you. Yes, each adoption story is different, but you’ll find comradery among others who have gone before you. There is a freedom to say things within this group that people outside this group might think are awful or crazy. There is no judgment here. One dad said he didn’t understand where his parents were coming from when they told him to not adopt a black child. Having others in his support circle who had created a bi-racial family through adoption gave him a safe place to process his feelings. Another mom told me when she first heard God whisper adoption to her, she was grieving her most recent miscarriage and it infuriated her that God was telling her she wouldn’t carry her next child. It felt shameful to her that her adoption story started with grief and anger - and yet, as she spoke with others who had already adopted, she was able to speak freely and get over herself.

4. Figure out who you will share with and how

This is a long journey. Your friends and family will be excited for you and when you are down, they will be there for you as well. But since they aren’t part of the process, they will need to be updated and when it’s a happy update, it can be fun to keep re-experiencing the excitement. However, when it’s a sad update, you’ll have to go through the rollercoaster of emotions with each new person you update. Some families found having a close friend as a point person was helpful. They could share the latest with just one person and then this point person would update others for them. Some families created a social media group where they could simply post updates as they happen and those that wanted to be updated could join or follow the group. Still, others found it more therapeutic to create a blog and be able to write out how they were feeling at each stage as a kind of memoir they could look back on. No matter what you choose to do, keep your mental health in mind while you choose rather than what your friends and family are asking for.

5. People ask stupid questions

I know, you think there are no stupid questions… just wait. Most families that spoke to this did so with a smile and a laugh. As if they could now expect these questions and it was a private joke among the family. They explained the questions can be about the child’s past and they didn’t feel it was their place to be forthcoming with an answer while their child didn’t have a voice of their own yet. Or it could be a question about the child’s medical condition that comes across as ignorant, and you’re not clear why educating them falls to you, nor do you want your child to be the “poster child” for this condition or disease. One family confessed that truly, they aren’t stupid questions, but when you get the same one over and over it becomes grating. Like the caucasian parent that constantly had to answer if she did her African daughter’s hair each time they arrived at church. What she wanted to say was: “Yes, since, like you, I don’t have a lot of time in the morning. I’m not sure how I would fit a salon visit into my busy Sunday morning schedule.” What she actually said was: “Yes.”

Above all, find humor in the process and people who can process it with you. You will discover these people might not be the people you think they will be. But your people are out there. Make sure creating the best support network for you and your spouse is a priority! Come back later in the month to read the five things people wish they knew about their adopted child before they adopted.

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