November is Adoption Awareness month, my friends!! There are many lovely and educational blog posts about adoption all over the place. But today I'm going to share what I've learned about adoption in the US; what it's been like for me being paper pregnant. (You can read more about our decision to adopt here.)
(International adoption tends to take much, much longer, so huge props to those pursuing that!) You attend classes or training (8-10 weeks), then you have your house evaluated to see if it's safe, then you have a few interviews here and there, then you have a forever long interview with a state appointed psychologist. And in the mean time between all these things; you fill out a mountain of paperwork. Not exaggerating. Sometimes they may lose some of your papers, so you fill them out again. Or for some reason, you are asked to fill out the exact same papers 3 different times. (And I still have no idea why.) Oh, and you're waiting the whole time to make sure the mountain of paper work is making it to who it's supposed to go to. You check your email a million times and your phone almost as much; waiting for them to tell you what to do next. And THEN, even when you find the children that you potentially want to adopt, there are steps still to be taken- ending with the kids living with you for 6 months before you can actually adopt them.
2. Unlike being pregnant, there is no good excuse to go buy new outfits. Or excuse away why you're eating so much. (although some people buy "stressed" as good enough! lol) Or why you're so emotional and moody all the time.
3. No one can just look at you and know that you're expecting a new child in your home, so you may or may not get a chance to talk about what you're going through. (The flip side? No strangers come up and try to touch my stomach. That would be weird.)
4. Not many people are going to randomly start bringing you gifts for your future child/children. Mainly because we have no idea what gender/age our kids are going to be; so I get it. But I remember people buying cute shoes or special toys for Chaz and Hannah while I was pregnant. It helped make it more real and celebrated this new life we were expecting as we waited! (Not to dismiss the awesome bunk beds we now have from Grandma and Grandpa!)
5. I can't protect them or take care of them right now. While I was carrying Hannah I was very careful about what I ate and how much I ate because I had gestational diabetes and I didn't want to take medicine like the doctor thought would happen. I made sure that I was very healthy because I knew that HER health depended upon me. I did everything I could to make sure she was safe and healthy as she grew. Unlike my 3 other children…who are walking around in this crazy world somewhere. At BEST, I can pray that they are in a safe, loving and nurturing foster home. I pray that even now they have foster parents who tell them they are loved, cherished and important (at least!) (Praise God for those foster families, seriously!!!) But I am helpless when it comes to their safety and health (physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually) at this time in their lives. So, I pray. A. Lot. And I can do that while we wait.
6. I could be passing my future kids in the cereal aisle and not even know it. Once I delivered my sweet babies, a nurse slipped a bracelet on their tiny wrists that matched mine to say that they belonged to me. With adopting, I have no idea how to know which kids belong in our family. I know that our case worker (with CPS) can take all our paperwork and compare it to children's paperwork and try to find a match, they do their very best….and we're waiting on this to happen. But did you know you can go to a website and search for kids that are available for adoption?? (this website is not exhaustive, there are many kids who haven't been put up on the site yet. And many of these kids have been on the site for years because they are "too old" or have special needs) Please pray that we'll know which kids are ours soon.
7. I mentioned the interviews, paperwork and state psychologist earlier. When I was pregnant, no one questioned my mental health nor my ability to parent. I never had to talk about my past to see how that would affect my parenting. I remember the first time I was alone with baby Chaz all day, I couldn't believe that all these people just left me alone with a baby…I felt like I had no idea what to do with him. So scared I was going to drop him, or not know why he was crying. The hospital just wheeled me out, made sure we buckled him up, and then that was it! I completely understand WHY in adoption this happens, I'm just saying it's different. You will have to prove that you are mentally sound, physically and financially able to care for these children when you adopt. (Though financially, the adoption process through CPS is very, very affordable.)
8. Statistically, more people have been pregnant than have adopted; therefore, it's harder to find people who can relate. When someone is pregnant, I can think back to my experience and have compassion, offer advice and just in general relate to them in sympathy. Thankfully, I DO know people who have adopted and/or foster/adopted. And I pray that God will use our journey to do the same for others!
9. You have sadness for the moments you missed. I have stayed home with Chaz and Hannah their whole lives. I witnessed their first steps, first words…I know what they're favorite foods are. I know how to hold them just right in my lap to comfort them. They each have a special song I still sing to them. Most likely, with our 3 future kids I will have missed all those "firsts" for all 3 of them. I will have no idea if they like their sandwiches cut into rectangles or triangles. I may or may not be able to tell them stories of what their first word was, or what special toy they liked to sleep with when they were babies. I have no idea what their special song was, or if they had a "special" anything. Believe me, we will make many, many wonderful and important new memories…but we will have missed much. And I would have loved and treasured those early memories.
10. You will continue to need help once they're all home! Just like in pregnancy, whether it's your first or fifth; it's so helpful and nice to have people bring meals to you so that you don't have to worry about cooking meals. You're going to be emotionally stretched out enough, paper plates will be a God-sent gift! You'll need friends to take you out for coffee to give you a break and listening ear. You'll need babysitters, so you and the spouse can be alone outside the house to remember how much you love and need each other in this crazy journey. I know this is crazy bold, but I pray that some of you will consider doing some of these things for Daniel and I when the time comes? You have no idea how much it will help us survive and thrive during that time.
So, there you go: ten things I've learned about adoption through CPS. A lot of this can apply to adoption in general though. If you have any questions, I'd be glad to try and help! If you have anything to add, please comment below!!