Have you heard of that book, What To Expect When You’re Expecting for newly pregnant moms-to-be? Have you ever wondered why there isn’t a book written on what to expect when adopting? Hmmm…..I think it’s because the adoption process is about letting go of expectation and putting plans on hold….or embracing detours. It’s a wild ride, and not for the faint of heart! Here are few things I didn’t expect during our adoption journey.
I didn’t expect to have such big biceps
“Surprise, it’s gonna be a boy!” was never something I intended to hear while in the process to adopt our daughter. During the (seemingly never ending) paperwork process, we received the surprise of a pregnancy with our third son. I cried. No lie. But after a good weekend of tears and prayers, we finished up our dossier and sent it to China fully knowing we’d be waiting longer to be matched.
I couldn’t have known then what a joy it would be to have two babies so close together.
My youngest son and daughter are now both two years old (almost five months apart). They are comedy, tragedy, joy, and disaster all rolled into one. I love them, but carrying them both around for the past year has given me some nice biceps. Wrangling them is pretty much the bulk of my exercise. Let’s just call the bigger than expected biceps a pleasant surprise.
I didn’t expect to become a medical student
My husband is a cardiologist and I’m an occupational therapist. Our list of potential special needs was pretty long but our expectation was that we’d be matched with a girl with needs in our realm of expertise. Maybe with a heart defect or limb difference. Makes sense, right? Nope! A precious girl with an extra wide smile graced our email and stole our hearts.
Plastic surgery? Orthodontics? Speech therapy? Craniofacial abnormalities? We had no clue. And still don’t, which is why we read copious medical articles on the various treatments, therapies, and timelines for children with cleft lip and palate.
Just last week my daughter and I took a less than 24 hr trip out of state to consult with an expert. Our daughter will need more surgeries in her future, and she’s already had three. I’m certainly no expert, but I know my daughter, and I want to know as much as I can about her special need to best advocate for her care.
Knowing what questions to ask and who to ask them to is such an important part of parenting a child with cleft lip and palate. I think for any special need, you cannot fear getting a second opinion or seeking more explanation. Advocacy is a love of heart and action requiring tenacity, fearlessness, and work!
I didn’t expect my sons to become such heroes
Our sons were five, three, and 20 months old when we got home with our 16 month old daughter. I expected rivalry, jealousy and some decent tiffs (don’t get me wrong, there is that too) but on the whole they’ve fully embraced their sister without missing a step. The two youngest hit it off and within days the 20 month old was showing baby sister how to empty out cabinets in the kitchen and throw odd things down the toilet and even helping her color on walls with markers. Aaaaah! It was kinda cute and really hard! And still is.
I never expected these boys to champion so well for their baby sister. They kiss her when her face is extra gooey, and hold her hand when she gets anxious, and cheer her on when she makes attempts at communicating with new sounds. They’ve become such great encouragers because of her. And though I think everyone needs to be thoughtful in considering artificial twinning, for us it had come with many surprise blessings. The exception being their joint efforts to destroy our house…;)
I didn’t expect to need a village
Following the surgeries, there was regression, increased anxiety, and decreased sleep. But one of the more difficult aspects of the care of our daughter’s cleft lip and palate has been managing the care of my other children when we have to be in the hospital or at therapy or in follow up visits.
The logistics of caring for multiple young children increases significantly when even one has a medical need. I consider myself a rather stubborn ball juggler, and to need help was a tough one for me! I let go of my need to do it all and embraced our need for the village.
Don’t underestimate the support you’ll need, and accept that others sometimes know what you need before you know to ask for it.
There are a ton of other things I could share like…
I didn’t expect to be at speech therapy twice a week.
I didn’t expect to grieve so hard for her birth parents.
I didn’t expect to have to beg surgeons for explanations.
I didn’t expect my heart to grow so much that I thought it might burst.
But that’s the truth. There are a lot of exceeded expectations and some unmet ones, too. I’ve learned that adoption is a redemption story full of beauty and ashes. Expectations have little place in such stories.
I choose hope instead.