There are several ways to grow your family through adoption. I firmly believe that each adoption experience will change you and your family in some way. Those changes may be negative, but I dare say that more often than not, those changes will bring positive growth to your family. We have adopted through domestic infant adoption and the foster care system. These are the top 5 ways that adoption has affected me and my family.
It Has Made Me Less Judgmental and More Empathetic
It’s easy to write off someone who has hurt his or her child as unworthy to be a parent. In some cases, it’s absolutely necessary to do so, and I understand that. But it was so hard to walk away from and write our second son’s birth mom off. It has taken a lot of patience and a lot of give, but we have managed to create a bond. That sometimes includes our son, but oftentimes it does not. We navigate each relationship as necessary. Two of our children’s biological moms are really wonderful people that add so much value to our children’s lives. We travel long distances to see them, and they respect our family, our boundaries, and our rules for our children.
Another struggles with mental health; healthy boundaries are not things she much thought into because she isn’t familiar with them. I feel for her. I’m human, and there are times that she also makes me very angry and frustrated, but I know she doesn’t do it intentionally. Having empathy and understanding what they’ve been through has been challenging, and I’ve had to learn to establish firm boundaries. Sometimes, that’s harder than it may seem.
It Has Made Me an Advocate For My Children
I have learned through the years to be an advocate for my adopted children. It started with our oldest, who was adopted through domestic infant adoption at about age two. He had all kinds of strange habits that, alone, were no detriment until added into a greater whole of his day. These things eventually led us to an Occupational Therapist. A few years later, we took him to a neuropsychologist for more testing and learned about all the ways that make him special and unique. A few years later, we took his siblings to the same neuropsychologist and got answers for them as well. This has led to IEPs (Individualized Education Plans), special education services, and just special instructions for their teachers based on their needs. It has helped me see them more completely, and it has helped me understand their personal, emotional, and educational needs more entirely. It can sound scary, but they’re my kids, and this is how I can help them achieve their goals and dreams.
Adoption Has Made Me a Realist and Not a Dreamer
Don’t get me wrong, I still have dreams for my children–and myself–but being a parent to children from hard situations has helped me see that those dreams may honestly never come true. I have grieved for them, and probably will continue to do so in the future as well, but I know that they are capable of wonderful things. They are capable of anything they set their minds to. They can and will amaze me with their own dreams. Their own plans. Their own ways of living and making their lives successful. They will face challenges that others won’t, but it’s okay. I’ve learned to define success very differently than when we started this journey. They are their own individual people, and they will have brighter futures ahead of them than I could even imagine.
Adoption Has Opened My Heart for Biological Families
Before we adopted, I had very little experience with open adoption. I didn’t have much contact or conversation with my friends that had adopted. When my husband and I began talking about adoption, I called up those friends and listened intently to their advice, so I felt like I was pretty well prepared. What I didn’t expect was the love that I had for the biological mothers and their families. We have different levels of openness with our children’s biological parents and their families. Some relationships have had to end, and that’s really hard. Others come and visit us regularly. Some choose not to have a very involved relationship with us or our child, but it’s friendly and open.
Adoption Has Made Me An Educator
After adopting our children, it became infinitely clear how much adoption education our friends and family needed. Some of our family had never experienced adoption. Others had antiquated views and opinions on birth families. We faced many hurdles in education, and sometimes still do, as sometimes they cannot see our children’s challenges and disabilities, and in some cases, it’s all they see. We don’t leave our children alone with anyone for long periods of time. Each one has challenges, and we only feel comfortable leaving them alone with someone if they truly understand the challenges we face with each child. Most of our friends became wonderful caretakers with time, and I would trust any of them at just about anytime. They walk through life with us and understand how “small” things can become big things quickly.
Family is a bit more complicated due to distance and their inability to see a disability for what it is. Our children are beautiful and have faces of angels, which allows them to exacerbate a lot of their behaviors and/or disabilities. Because they are able to “behave well” in serious situations, it makes it hard for some family members to understand how unhealthy that behavior is and that it will lead to defiance and behavioral issues with us later. We continue to try to educate without damaging relationships. Sometimes, that’s just plain tricky. We have wonderful, fun children that have challenges we have to allow for and be aware of. I don’t have the luxury of having lax rules. That’s been hard for some members of our family to understand.
Change can seem, and be, scary, but I want to assure you that all this change and growth is a beautiful process that leads to beautiful and fulfilling relationships. It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it. And your journey will likely look very different than ours.