5 Ways Adoption Might Be Different For You

Choosing to adopt is a very different path than having biological children.

Jennifer S. Jones September 11, 2017

Like all new parents, when we found out we were having a boy, we discussed how we might decorate our son’s room. I spent hours on Pinterest looking at different designs. My husband trolled Etsy looking at various wall decorations. We wanted something he could grow into. Nothing that was “too baby.” After much deliberation, we decided on an outer space theme featuring monkeys and our son’s name. I was as excited as any new mother could be.

Then I froze. My husband came home one afternoon to find me sitting in our spare bedroom staring at a canister from Etsy filled with children’s wall decorations. We had the LOA (Letter of Acceptance) from China, but we had not been issued Travel Approval. In truth, we were still waiting on our I-800 Provisional Approval. What if we decorated our son’s room only to face a change in law or policy or a paperwork fluke? What if instead of weeks we were facing months upon months until we could journey to China to meet our son? In that moment, I realized again how choosing to adopt is a very different path than having biological children. Here are some ways it might be different for you, as it was for me:

You May Be Unsure Who to Tell
1. You May Be Unsure Who to Tell

On September 24, 2014, my life changed. With one click of an attachment I saw the little boy who would become my son. Eighteen months old, shaved head, in loose fitting jammies, he glared suspiciously at the camera. I wanted to shout our good news from the roof top. I wanted to print out his photo and tack it to our fridge, like my best friend did with her sonogram. But there was no “wait until the end of your first trimester” rule. We still needed to accept the referral, still needed to be accepted by China, still had to go through court and immigration processes. From family members to work colleagues and even your boss, deciding who to tell and when can be a difficult choice.

You May Not Have an Infant
2. You May Not Have an Infant

“But you will miss his first words. His first steps.” I received this reaction often when I shared the news of our match with our toddler-aged son. While domestic adoption typically places infants, with international adoption the children tend to be older. Although you may not have those moments of holding a newborn, the first time your child takes your hand and means it, you will swoon. The first time your child says the word “Mama,” you will hear bells. And the first time your child runs to you, and only you, because you are their source of comfort and protection, there will be nothing like it.

You May Need a Welcome Shower Instead
3. You May Need a Welcome Shower Instead

“Can you have a baby shower if he’s not a baby?” A well-meaning friend asked me this question. True, our son would be 22 months at placement, but the answer is unequivocally YES! Whether your child is an infant, a preschooler, or even a teenager at placement, a welcome home shower is a way of honoring your new child. Though he was too young to appreciate it at the time, having the support of our friends and family meant the world to us. And all those notes and cards addressed to my son? Carefully copied and preserved in his lifebook as a reminder of how much he was welcomed by our family and our community, and how very much he was already loved.

You Will Need to Cocoon
4. You Will Need to Cocoon

“So we won’t be able to touch the baby???” My family is confused. It’s not that you can’t ever touch the baby, I remind them, but we are in the cocooning phase. Regardless of how they joined your family, adoptive children have faced trauma and endured loss. Cocooning allows the adoptive parents to meet their child’s every need while establishing themselves as a family unit. People want to help, so suggest other ways for family and friends to support you. I am forever grateful for the food trains, cleaning service, and offers to come over and do laundry that met us when we came home.

You Will Realize Time and Again, This Is a Lifelong Journey
5. You Will Realize Time and Again, This Is a Lifelong Journey

My son sobs hysterically in his car seat, asking over and over for Daddy. I comfort him as best I can. I remind him that we are on vacation and Daddy just had to return home early for work. “I thought he was fine,” my family says, and I know what they mean. We’ve been home two and a half years now, but still my son has moments of panic. They happen rarely, but they are still there. We Facetime Daddy. We show my son his house, his cats, his room are all still there. He settles down and finally falls asleep in my arms.

And perhaps that’s the biggest difference of all. Your adoption journey does not end when you meet your child. It begins. For all those ways in which your family is just like any other, you are and will always remain different. There will be times you’re unsure if your child just doesn’t want to go to bed, or if he’s struggling with attachment issues. There will be questions about identity that are hard to answer. There will be school projects which ask for family trees and well-meaning strangers who ask overly personal questions about the construction of your family.

And through each of these moments you will walk and you will learn. Because just as you did that first day when you accepted your child’s referral, every day you will choose to be a family. And that choice to love and accept unconditionally? There is truly nothing stronger in this world.

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Jennifer S. Jones

Jennifer S. Jones is a writer, performer, storyteller and arts educator. She holds an MFA (Playwriting) from NYU Tisch. She has written numerous plays including the internationally renowned, award-winning Appearance of Life. Her amazing transracial transcultural family was created through adoption from China and India. She is passionate about the adoption community and talks about the ins and outs, ups and downs, joys and "is this really us?!" whenever she can. She writes about her experiences at www.letterstojack.com.

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