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.