What to Expect When You Adopt

November 16, 2017 China trip, first weeks home, Gotcha Day, Newly Home, November 2017 Feature - Preparing for Adoption, Rebecca 6 Comments

When You Adopt, Expect…

Your knees to be rubbed raw from time knelt in prayer.

That every step of the way, God has something to say, if you’ll only still yourself to listen.

That if He is asking you to wait, it is intentional.

That your adoption story will be completely unique from everyone else’s, but also very similar.

To have to learn to submit to God’s timing. And then, in the end, to find it perfect.

That your expectations are probably wildly inaccurate.

To have to release your grip on control, timing and outcome.

That your extended family and friends might not understand, or might have issues with a transracial adoption. Quite often, they feel differently when that child is in their arms.

Financial sacrifice. Sometimes God provides through others, and sometimes He asks you to feel the sacrifice.

That your application approval will gain you access to a community of remarkable adoptive families.

That the state of your heart is God’s priority, even over the state of your adoption. 

To discover the wonder and release of yourself being small, and the Lord being big.

During Your Adoption Trip, Expect….

To feel all manner of feelings, some that make sense, and some that don’t seem to. Let it be OK. Feel the feelings that rise up. Give yourself grace and know it has been felt by those who have gone before you. Know it is part of the process.

Your “gotcha” moment to be different than you expect. Maybe it will be harder, maybe easier.

That though you’ve longed for this child, your child wasn’t expecting you. They aren’t prepared to be taken from the only world they’ve ever known.

Your feelings to fail you. You are human.

Surprises. Whether by birth or adoption, every child has unique and developing emotional, mental and medical differences. All of us come with ever evolving needs. No checklist, plan or preparation can prepare us for this. Sometimes grieving our expectations is the hardest part of any relationship.

That when you hold your first orphaned child, everything changes.

To grieve over the children you have to leave behind in the orphanage.

That your child might have developed some coping skills to survive orphanage life. It might take time to release these behaviors even though they are safe, loved and fed.

For a fierce momma bear love to rise up either immediately, or over time.

During Your First Weeks and Months Home, Expect…

To be surprised by how hard it is, and what a gift it is.

To find yourself missing life before the adoption. It has nothing to do with love and commitment. You aren’t a horrible person. It’s a natural part of reconciling change.

That parenting an adopted child is the same as parenting a biological child, yet entirely different.

It to look more romantic on social media than it feels in everyday life.

That you can’t be anybody’s savior. You don’t have it in you. Trust God for that.

To have to intentionally work at attachment at a skin to skin, eye contact to eye contact, heart to heart level.

That sleep won’t look the same for a time.

That you’ll need some time to attach to your child, and to reconcile your feelings for the human placed in your arms.

God to show you your weaknesses and the reality of being a messy, in-process human, and then expect Him to replace all your fleshy weakness with His heavenly strength.

Life to feel both turned upside down and right side up.

After Some Time Passes Post-Adoption, Expect…

To occasionally have your heart absolutely gripped as you watch your child play. God’s sovereignty over time, place and the intersection of each of our stories is almost too wonderful to fathom.

To feel deep in your bones that you’ve experienced a beautiful miracle.

Tears to swell at teacher conferences, because only you and your husband fully know how far your child has come.

Strangers to tell you that your child is blessed, but you’ll know differently. It’s you that is blessed.

Your child, and their siblings, will use family adoption truths as hurtful ammunition when they are angry.

Kids on the playground to ask the most intimate and honest questions about your family.

To mourn all that you missed. The tummy kicks, the first cry, the first days, words, solid food, steps, or whole months and years.

The word abandoned to rub your heart’s sensitive place.

That being a transracial family will be a bigger thing than you might think it is, especially as your children get older. Though you might only see them as your child, it is a thing. Their race, culture and birth country don’t melt away when they gain your last name. It comes with great responsibility.

To realize, sometimes too late, that aspects of their story is theirs to tell and must be protected.

That your child’s academic, emotional and developmental milestones won’t always match up with the other kids’.

To start to wrestle with birth family preservation and adoption.

To develop a passion for orphan care.

Your heroes to shift from sports stars to orphan care workers.

To be a bit sensitive to the term “real mom and dad”. After all, you are quite real and your everyday love and care for your child is too.

Strangers to be both ignorant and awesome in how they respond to your adoption.

That parenting kids from hard places will till up the tender soil of your heart, creating fertile ground for new growth and wilder faith.

Only other adoptive parents to really “get” what adoption looks and feels like.

To be annoyed by the endless orphan story lines in children’s movies.

That the world will ask you probing, personal questions about your family, usually directly in front of your child at the Target check-out line.

That your child will have questions about their birth parents, usually asked at random, unexpected moments, like when shopping for jeans at Kohl’s.

That with adoption comes great loss. That regardless of the age, losing birthparents is traumatic and hard, and your whole family will feel it. It’s a loss they’ll always grieve and you will too.

That you won’t always have the answers to your child’s questions, and that is OK. They just need to hear the truth of their story and the truth of God’s great love for them. Only God can redeem broken stories.

God’s plan for your life to be more wildly beautiful than you ever could have dreamed up.

To have a fuller understanding of the gospel, of God’s relentless pursuit of your heart, long before you were aware of it.

What “expects” could you add to this list, adoptive friends?

(A big thank you to Karis McEllroy, Michelle Wahe and Jennifer Sheets for sharing photos of your kids!)

6 responses to “What to Expect When You Adopt”

  1. Jane says:

    Love this! All of it is so true😊

  2. Julie says:

    Thank you for putting words to the feelings of my heart that I cannot yet express. ❤️

  3. Anne says:

    Thank you for saying all of this, and particularly…
    “To be annoyed by the endless orphan story lines in children’s movies.” YES! Why do Nemo and Ratatouille (okay I get it for Bambi and won’t watch it) and all these movies have that theme? Plus the “send you back” plot element in Curious George? No need to answer. Thank you again for writing this.

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