When I knew that I was ready to take the first steps in my adoption journey, I could feel the previous chapter of my life close and a brand new one begin. And even though I was confident in my decision, it’s still a big leap to take; there’s a lot to learn, consider, and do. Thankfully for me, my best friend offered his support from the very beginning, and there was nothing that I felt uncomfortable sharing with him.
My best friend just happened to be my husband. He’d known about my thoughts on adoption well in advance. He knew that adoption would someday be front and center on my life radar—and on his, too.
A researcher with an investigative reporter’s drive at heart, that I started to dig a bit deeper into adoption articles and websites. I think with any big decision in your life, the very beginning stages tend to be difficult to voice or explain until you fully understand the choices yourself.
My adoption journey had begun early on when I’d known that I was open to the option and hoped to pursue it someday. As a teenager, I’d felt comfortable enough to share with my then-boyfriend and future husband that adoption was something I was interested in. I recall our first conversation about it and him nodding his head in approval. I have no idea if he thought that we’d even be together years later, much less starting a family.
We did wind up getting married, though, and we lived the lives of a happily married couple for several years before the subject was mentioned again.
And so when he arrived home one evening nearly 15 years later to find me holding my laptop, excited to share some newly-discovered information about adoption, it wasn’t a total blindside.
“Look. What do you think?” I was holding up the laptop and showing him photos of children who were waiting for forever families. Looking back, that was probably a bit forward—who knows what kind of day he’d had at work? Meanwhile, I had spent hours reading and viewing and learning. Instead of easing him in, I’d unwittingly pushed him across the starting line without the benefit of a “Ready, set, go!” But still, he’d smiled and looked excited.
He’d later admit that he’d been nervous as all heck because he knew this was it. I’m an all-in kind of person and we were about to start our adoption journey together. Looking back, I guess there’s no perfect way to announce, “I’m ready to adopt” any more than there is to announce, “I’m ready to get pregnant.”
But from that day on, I made sure to include him in everything I was looking at and reading about from adoption options to the agencies to what we would need to do next.
We attended our first adoption learning session together shortly afterward with a private agency that facilitated local, domestic adoptions. And then another meeting with two lovely women who walked us through the foster care system and the foster to adopt process. Later, e would sit and talk about what we’d heard and learned about in the car, over dinner, in our finished knotty pine basement.
We talked freely about the pros and cons. We were honest and open about our hopes and fears and expectations. He was super supportive even as we learned about the high financial costs that came with private adoption, as well as the uncertainty of fostering with no guarantee of adoption after opening our home and heart to a child we would no doubt fall in love with.
And while I was the cheerleader of our adoption journey itself, I was also more worried about the reality of it all and whether or not we could afford it and make it happen. I was also worried that we weren’t prepared to properly care for a child who had found themselves in foster care who might need a more seasoned parent to help them through a difficult time. We were going to be first-time parents, after all. What did we know about trauma or special needs?
In truth, I never felt alone in my adoption journey because we’d had each other from the start and learned together as we went. We also had agreed to keep our journey to ourselves in the beginning, unsure of what our family and friends would say. As well-meaning as the feedback may have been, we didn’t want to hear the negatives or the worries or the “why aren’t you doing this or trying that?” comments.
So we supported one another and held each other up and reassured one another and kept it real with each other through each slow, small step of the way. We wanted to learn what we didn’t know and feel confident in our decision, both for ourselves and the child who might become part of our family. We also wanted to know what we were getting ourselves into and be able to talk about it before we were riddled with questions and concerns by the well-meaning masses.
Looking back, I feel grateful and fortunate that we did wait because truth be told, people can be extremely forward and confrontational when they talk about things they don’t know or understand. They can be quick to assume and judge. And if you’re not comfortable in your own shoes, their lack of confidence in your choice can quickly make you question your own, causing you to trip up mid-stride.
To add a little extra to our journey, we wound up going the route of international adoption. We didn’t choose intercountry adoption by chance. It was an option that had been introduced to us a couple years earlier by friends. We’d thought about and then quickly dismissed the idea because how could we ever pursue such a huge undertaking that seemed difficult enough to do stateside? How could we ever afford it?
But then, as we learned more and more about adoption and what it really meant—not just from the perspective of a hopeful couple, but from that of a waiting child, of a birth family—we discovered this particular adoption path seemed to be in alignment with our values and what we’d hoped for long-term in becoming part of the adoption community.
And while it made perfect sense to us—especially after attending that first informational meeting and realizing that, despite some logistical and financial issues, it was our perfect fit—our choice seemed to open a floodgate of additional questions from the well-meaning, curious, and simply nosy.
And so we waited right up until we had been pre-approved, gotten through the basic information, and begun our paperwork to share our plans with family and friends.
I’m glad we waited because by now, we felt more solid—well, as solid as a new waiting adoptive couple can be. We felt like a team, though, and were in it together. We had each other’s backs and it was great to be able to freely share what we thought and felt with one another. Above everything else, we were there for one another and no matter who asked an inappropriate question or tried to shove a stereotypical concern in our direction, we digested it and handled it together. We were there for each other when we weren’t sure what was going to happen next, when it would happen, or if it would happen.
Make no mistake, while we were there to hold each other up, we were also there to keep each other in check. Preparing to adopt a child is no time to put on rose-colored glasses. It is a time to be real, honest, and vulnerable.
All too often, adopting parents are made to feel as if they are living out a Hallmark movie and should be patient. grateful, and accepting what comes their way. Yes, adopting parents do walk away with a child. A family. While there is loss on the part of the birth family who is saying goodbye to a child. And for the adoptee themselves who is losing one family while gaining another.
In truth, adoptive parents experience a lot of highs and lows, not just at the start of their journey, but throughout the adoption process and for the lifetime that follows. Adopting is not easy, and neither is parenting. Like any other parents who decide to start a family, adoptive parents need and deserve support, but sometimes their journey to parenthood is treated differently by their support community. Many times this is simply a misunderstanding on the part of those who have not been touched by adoption.
While the vast majority of our family and friends offered their support, there are always those few Debbie Downer types. It’s naive to think that everyone in your life is going to be fully on board with a huge life choice like adoption. And that’s fine. While it’s not always pleasant to hear the horror stories people love to share about a “friend of a friend” who had a horrible adoption experience, it’s always good to acknowledge that these folks exist. It’s a boot camp to prepare yourself and a waiting child for the inappropriate questions and statements that will be hurled in their direction so that they, too, are ready for the day someone asks them about their real family, or how much adoption costs, or whether they’re happy to be adopted, or do they feel lucky about the whole thing.
Having someone by your side to support you and navigate through all of this makes all the difference. Being able to support and be supported by your best friend is everything when you’re making your way through the adoption process, as well as years later when you’re making your way through being an adoptive family. Sometimes it’s just a look. Sometimes it’s an encouraging word. Sometimes it’s running away from it all for dinner and drinks to talk through the “Can you believe she said that?”
As mentioned, I held off on sharing my news with my family and even my closest gal and guy pals until we were absolutely sure of our decision to move forward with our adoption journey. There was one group of friends, however, that I did share the news with. Looking back, I know this outlet made all the difference for me and probably took some of the pressure of supporting me off of my husband who had enough on his plate dealing with the journey in real-time right alongside me.
Full disclosure, a year or so before we started our adoption journey, I’d met a group of amazing friends online through a social media chat room that discussed a particular show. They would become some of my closest confidants. Writing it out, it sounds a bit sketch and probably goes against every article ever posted about staying safe online. However, our friendship began like so many do. We’d found a common interest (the tv show) and then slowly began sharing little bits and pieces about ourselves as we discovered what else we had in common, which in our case, turned out to be quite a lot.
The best part about having this group of friends was that there were no preconceived notions about who I was, why I was adopting, or how my decision would impact them. They just liked me and I just liked them, and we gave each other our support. There were no expectations or judgments. And whether it was noon or midnight, someone always seemed to be online, ready to share a story of their own or a word of encouragement.
None of these virtual friends ever told me how I should be or what I should do as a parent. Instead, in the most encouraging and supportive way possible, they shared stories of their own experiences in becoming first-time moms, and in some cases, grandmoms. And although none of them had experience with adoption, all were excited about my journey and kept the focus on the next steps, not the whys or what-ifs.
Fortunately, thanks to my supportive husband, I’m not sure that I held many doubts about our adoption journey, but that’s not to say I didn’t have my moments. Especially once the paperwork had been filed and we waited and waited to hear whether or not we would be approved, and then waited and waited for a referral, and then waited and waited for the necessary international documentation to process.
My online friends stayed the course and didn’t poke or prod during this time. These women knew me without judgment. They helped me to see beyond the short logistical roadblocks, as well as any limitations that family or friends who have known us for years tend to hold us to.
The day that we received our adoption referral (and what an amazing day it was) after sharing the news with both sets of our parents, I quickly hopped online and shared with my online family who had been there to support us from even before the very beginning. The response was amazing. These women who had been there at all hours were laughing and crying happy tears right along with me.
Spoiler alert, we finally met in person a few months after our adoption was finalized and I’m happy to say our virtual friendship is as real as any real-life friendship. Our bonds had grown, not just due to my adoption journey, but due to our shared interests in a tv show and the events from all of our very full and rich lives. We would go on to meet in person a few times more and are still tight online as much as people can be with busy family and work lives.
In the real world, my husband and I were also supported by a network of other adoptive families in our local area who had chosen the same international route as we did. Not only were we happy to have this support as a waiting adopting couple, but we were grateful that our children would also benefit from knowing so many other adoptive families with similar stories whom they could relate to and hopefully find similar support from for years to come.
Fifteen years into our adoption journey, although not every day is a rosy one as we enter the teen years, I’m thankful to still have the support of my best friend, “virtual” friends who became “real-life” friends, and the many family and friends who have stood by us through the years. Not everyone is open to adoption or learning about or accepting the reality of what it means for an adoptive parent, an adoptee, or a birth parent. We appreciate those who have been open to and understanding of our continued growth and learning, as well as open to learning themselves in support of our family and adoptive families everywhere.
Having the support of my best friend from the beginning of my adoption journey made such a difference and I can’t imagine taking the journey with anyone else.Looking for support beyond your best friend? Let us help you on your journey to creating your forever family. Visit Adoption.org or call 1-800-ADOPT-98.