Very few things in life turn out exactly how we expected, and adoption is no exception. It has taken me places I never planned on going, and I couldn’t be any more grateful.

I expected the joy, I expected the heartbreak, and I expected the fierce love. I knew it would always be worth it. But still, many things have caught (and continue to catch) me by surprise. These are just a few of them.

1. Parenting is still difficult.

Our journey to parenthood took a bit longer than expected. Between a year and a half of trying to conceive and a couple failed adoption matches, we desperately wanted to be parents. Friends would complain of sleepless nights and crying babies, but I would have traded with them in an instant! When I finally have a child, I’ll be too grateful to complain, I naively thought.

Regardless of how parenting comes to you, it’s hard. Lack of sleep, crying (you and the baby), stubborn toddlers, discipline issues, sibling conflict—adoptive parents do not get a pass. I was and am immensely grateful for my children, but I found I was doing myself a disservice by thinking that by adopting I had no right to be anything less than thrilled 100% of the time.

2. Adoption is complex.

We knew that we wanted to have an open adoption with our future child(ren)’s birth parents but did not expect the complex emotions involved. When it came time to sit across from a real person, a mother, who was choosing us to parent her child—it was (and is) immensely humbling. Everything changed. Our gain came at great expense to her.

It has also been surprising how incredibly natural these relationships with our children’s biological family feels. They are a part of our children. How can we not love and accept them? It is our joy to have these relationships. We would not choose to have things any other way.

3. The adoption community has been a source of support, but also friendship.

As we began the adoption process and connected with people walking the same path, we formed many lasting relationships. In fact, some of my close friendships today are a result of our mutual involvement with adoption!

Some of those connections came about in surprising ways. At one point during our first adoption process we met with an expectant mom who had narrowed it down to us and one other family. When she ultimately chose the other couple to adopt her son, we were of course disappointed—but glad that she had found a good fit. Later on a mutual friend connected me with a fellow adoptive mom, and it turned out to be the woman from this other family! It was a beautiful way to remember the bigger picture of adoption.

If you have adopted, what are some things that surprised you? 

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