5 Things I Wish I’d Known Before I Adopted

They say that hindsight is 20/20, and that is especially true in adoption.

Rachel Galbraith September 22, 2016
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During our first adoption experience, I kept a detailed blog. I was honest and raw with my emotions, and was set on making sure I documented the realities of it all. Sometimes I go back and read through those crazy-emotional days and remember what it was like: the waiting, the worry, the financing, the hopefulness, and the thousands upon thousands of tears. Though I am thankful to have kept those memories, I also find myself cringing at certain things.

I was a newbie. I was uneducated on adoption and was doing my best with what I knew. But, looking back, there are so many things I didn’t know that I wish I had. They say that hindsight is 20/20, and that is especially true in adoption. I asked a group of adoptive mothers what they wished they had known before they adopted, and these are the responses they gave.

1. I wish I had known proper adoption terminology.

That was the most common answer. Most of us come into the adoption world having gained our “adoption knowledge” from the media. While things are slowly changing for the better, terms such as “gave up” are used in almost every adoption dialogue.

Everyone has heard the sentence, “She gave up her baby for adoption,” right? But in the adoption world, that phrase negates all that a birth mother experiences in making an adoption plan for her child. She did not “give up” her child. In most circumstances, she cried and prayed and thought long and hard about her decision. None of those things go along with just “giving up.”  No. Instead she “placed” her child into a loving home. She made an adoption plan for her child.

Other terms that are important to understand are: expectant mother vs. birth mother. A woman does not become a birth mother until she has actually given birth and placed her child for adoption. Until that point, she is an expectant mother who is considering an adoption plan. Referring to a woman as a birth mother before she has given birth carries a sense of entitlement and coercion. She has the right to change her mind up until she signs the adoption paperwork, and until that takes place, she is not a birth mother.

For more insight into adoption terminology, read this and this.

2. I wish I had known how much I would love my child’s birth mother.

This was also a common answer. When hopeful adoptive parents are deciding which type of adoption feels right to them, open adoption can seem frightening. Professionals are singing the praises of open adoption relationships, but most people feel very unsure about it. I wish I had known that I didn’t need to be afraid. Once I started to get to know my son’s birth mother, I couldn’t help but to love her. I felt her struggles and her heartaches and when all was said and done, I couldn’t imagine not having her as part of our lives.

3. I wish I had anticipated the guilt I would feel at placement.

What? Guilt? Placement is exciting, isn’t it? It’s the culmination of everything you have been dreaming and working towards. But many adoptive mothers don’t realize that they will watch as another mother’s heart breaks for her child—a child that you will be walking away with. Placement is a moment of extreme emotions, both positive and negative. You feel joy at finally being placed with a child, and utter despair for the woman who is walking away empty-handed.

4. I wish I had known that many times, adoption plans fall through.

Sure, I had heard lots of stories of failed adoptions. But I didn’t think it would actually happen to us. And then it did. Twice. The first time we experienced a failed adoption, I was shocked. I hadn’t prepared myself for that reality. The second time, I went into the relationship with the expectant mother knowing that adoptions fail all the time. When our second adoption failed, it still hurt immensely, but I had prepared myself for the possibility and was ready when it came. It’s important to go into adoption knowing that expectant parents have every right to change their minds, and that it can and does happen on a regular basis.

5. I wish I had found an adoption community to offer support.

Our first time around, it was all me. I didn’t have many experienced people to turn to when I had questions or needed support. Since that time, I have found a wonderful online community as well as a fantastic local support group. Developing these relationships has been invaluable. These people have been there (wherever there is for you). They are hopeful adoptive parents and parents who have already adopted. Some are adoptive parents with new babies, while others have been in the world of adoption for many years. They are a treasure trove of information, knowledge, love, and support. You don’t have to feel alone in this process. Check with your local adoption service provider for support group referrals. There are also many adoption-focused groups on social media. Look them up and find the one that is right for you.

No one expects you to know it all from the start. Someday you will be on the other side of things and you’ll look back and be amazed at everything you have learned as you moved through the process.

As an adoptive parent, what would you add to this list?

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Rachel Galbraith

Rachel Galbraith is a busy mother of five children, one of whom was adopted at birth. She has a Bachelors Degree in social work, and has worked as a medical social worker, specializing in the field of women and children. She was privileged to play a small role in the adoptions that often took place on her hospital unit. Writing has become her own personal form of therapy, and she is excited to combine it with her love of adoption. In her free time, she has a love-hate relationship with distance running. She readily admits to doing it only so she can eat chocolate chip cookies for breakfast.


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