November is National Adoption Month. Both my sons were adopted at birth, and this month more than others I tend to reflect on my journey to becoming a parent. Adoption is a step-by- step process that can at times seem very transactional. Taking custody of someone else’s child is the definition of adoption and I don’t like it at all. Now that my sons are growing up and we are talking more and more about adoption, the last thing I want them to come away with is that it was a transaction. Certainly, there were fees associated with legal costs and birth parent expenses, and finalization had us coming before a judge who had us confirm the total amount we had spent on the process. These are the parts of adoption that are soon forgotten once you begin parenting. If I were to redefine adoption, I would say something like “making yourself completely vulnerable. Experiencing raw emotion and opening your heart, completely exposing it to not only risk but also incredible joy.”
The risk of not being chosen by an expectant mom is very real. My anxiety was through the roof lying awake at night knowing that someone had our profile book and is deciding if we were going to be the parents of the baby she was carrying. She could change her mind even after signing the surrender. I thought I’d never survive the period where she could revoke. Then there was the joy of seeing this tiny baby being born; being among the first to see him and hear him cry out. The love I felt for both of my sons at birth almost knocked me to the floor with intensity. I was crying for joy. I still remember every detail of their births. Our love and gratitude for their birth mom (they have the same mother) is deep and complicated. We made the decision to welcome her into our family and have an open adoption. This makes us vulnerable, too for disappointment but never regret.
As the boys get older, hearing them ask questions about their birth mommy and how my husband and I were chosen – how we met her and how we said goodbye to her, too – can often break my heart. We have been telling them their adoption stories since the day they were born. The questions will get more complex as the years pass. I hope we are ready when they come.
If you are considering growing your family through adoption, I can give you some advice. This advice was given to me by my best friend’s mom. At the time, it applied to going out to gay bars in the ’90s (!) but it’s life advice that I followed throughout the process of adopting our sons, now 6 and 2 years old. I still heed it today.
“Be safe, be smart- use your head, guard your heart.”
Making yourself completely open to the intense joy and deep pain that can come with the adoption process and parenting an adopted child is the stuff of life. I never knew I could love so intensely. I remember our mentor Scott calling me when our profile was being looked at by Nicole, the boys’ mom. He said “listen honey, I want you to be so excited and hopeful and all the wonderful things that come with this, but remember to just take a little piece of your heart and guard it. Just in case.” It made me think of what my best friend’s mom used to tell us. It’s the perfect advice for any adoptive parent wherever they are in the process.
If you’re considering adoption as a choice for your family, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me at email@example.com.
Dad and Adoption Advocate