Six months after my husband and I began the adoption process, we were in the hospital holding our baby girl.

For us, the adoption of our daughter was a whirlwind.

For others, it can be a long process.

Each adoption is unique in its own way. Each adoption has a roller coaster of challenges whether it is financial hurdles to overcome, learning how to cope with a long wait or navigating through mounds of paperwork.

Here’s a list of five things to consider before starting the adoption process:

1. Adoption is a life-long commitment. 

The adoption process doesn’t end when relinquishments are signed and the judge bangs a gavel in the courtroom at a finalization hearing.

Adoption is a life-long commitment. It adds a layer of complexity for parents and children who are adopted.

As an adoptive parent, you’ll need to be prepared to be your child’s best advocate in school, in the neighborhood, in your family and within your circle of friends.

Respect and honor your child’s birth family and his or her birth story.

Commit to a lifelong open door policy with your child by allowing your child to feel comfortable and loved while expressing feelings associated with his or her adoption.

2. Support systems are important. 

Some people will not treat you like a real family.

Most of your friends may not understand what it’s like to go through the adoption process.

Find people that do.

It’s important to surround yourself with supportive people, forgive people who don’t even know they need to be forgiven, and find hope in families built like yours.

3. Expect the unexpected. 

Maybe computer glitches will delay your adoption paperwork, or you’ll have to resubmit your fingerprints five times before you’re approved to adopt in your state.

Be patient and remember, the adoption process is a marathon, not a sprint.

While you’re waiting, plan and prepare for your child’s arrival as much as possible.

When it comes to affording the adoption process, expect and set aside more than the average adoption fees. If you have funds leftover, put it toward your child’s college fund!

4. Keep learning. 

There are many resources to support you no matter what phase of the adoption process you’re in.

Online forums allow you to connect with adoptees, birth parents and other adoptive parents from the convenience of your own home.

There are social media sites tailored to engaging people in specific situations like trans-racial adoptive families, same-sex adoptive parents and adopting children with special needs.

Use these electronic avenues to glean insight from others, ask questions and learn about how you can become a better parent.

5. It will be worth it. 

The adoption process can be difficult yet rewarding.

It can be exciting and terrifying.

But the moment you meet your child, it will be worth the mountains of paperwork, the waiting and the uneasiness of the unknown.