Things I wish someone had told me before I adopted

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Things I wish someone had told me before I adopted

People said a lot of things to us when we were getting ready to adopt our boys. They ranged from supportive and positive to things that made me feel bad. “Oh really? At your age? Why?” isn't something you say to someone who has just told you their adoption news, by the way. But, there are things I wished people had told me…things I wish I'd understood better way back then. I think some of adoptive parenting (and parenting in general) is just “learn it as you go along”  but here are the four things I wish someone had told me before I adopted. My hope is that we can add to this list and make it a resource for other parents who are out there searching for information or who just want to feel connected so please feel free to reach out to me if you have a suggestion for an add.

1. You don't have to share your child's adoption story

Most people are curious. Most people are curious in a loving way, even if it comes across as annoying or intrusive. People want to know things like details about the birth family or the reasons the adoption took place. And yes, we have heard the “Well why didn't his real mother want him?” and yes, that's just as cringe-worthy as it sounds and probably always will be. People want to know the timeline, the cost, and…well, it's been my experience that people want to know alllll the things about your adoption.

People want to know. That doesn't mean you have to tell them.

You don't have to get high and mighty and tell someone to mind their own business…although you might want to. Politely and firmly telling them “We keep that private” is your right and you don't have to make any apology or excuse for your decision to do so. 

2. Don't blow off your child's birth culture

I thought I understood this really well before we adopted a child from China. I got familiar with Chinese culture. We started celebrating Chinese New Year before we even brought Zack home. We bought books with Chinese characters in them…not as easy to find as you might think. We displayed Chinese art in our home. I don’t think I understood how important it was to maintain some ties to our kids' birth culture before we adopted and I don't think I fully grasped that my kids were losing something through being adopted…although I thought I understood.

We are not as immersed in Chinese culture as I'd like or as we should be. I make excuses to myself about lack of availability or lack of time. Even though we haven't blown off our kids' birth culture we can definitely do better. 

3. Don't Lie

I struggle with this one because I know so little about my kids' birth stories and what compelled their birth parents to give them up. Questions like “Did my birth mom love me?” and “What did my birth mom look like?” pose challenges for us because I don't know the answers. I know nothing and that's frustrating all around and yes, the temptation to make up a rosy story that will pacify an eight-year-old child is there. 

But making up a story or glossing over the ugly parts of a story you do know isn't the answer. Your child is eventually going to figure things out and processing something painful or difficult will be magnified if you've lied. Tell your child's story in an age appropriate manner…and if you don't know the answer to something, don't pretend you do. 

4. Learn to ask for (and accept) help

Adoption is hard in ways that I never expected it to be. I heard stories about post-adoption depression and attachment problems but I naively thought those things wouldn't happen to me.  Those things did happen to me and I struggled – badly – with how to deal with them. I got lured in by the “rainbows and unicorns hashtag blessed” adoption stories and thought that our adoptions would be seamless.

If you're drowning, overwhelmed, or struggling in any way, ask for help. And, if someone says “If there's anything I can do…” take them up on it. Maybe they didn't really expect you to ask them to watch your kids while you take a nap or to help you fold laundry and maybe it's hard to ask for help on that level. Don't overthink it. Just ask and let people help you if you need it.

Our two adoptions are the best thing that could have happened to our family. Connecting with other adoptive families is a privilege that I don't take lightly…I started this blog with the expectation that my mom and about seven other people would read it so it's exciting for me to see what it has grown into. If you've adopted and have something to add to this list, please get in touch with me in the comments or via email at rippedjeansandbifocalsblog(at)gmail(dot)com. 

Other posts you might like:

How I really want to respond to nosy adoption questions

Yes, we celebrate Gotcha Day. But, it's complicated.


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One Comment

  1. Wow, this is really helpful to those who would wish to adopt, I’ve learnt a lot through this piece. Thanks for sharing.