Very early on in our adoption journey, my husband and I were sitting in a room, talking with two dear friends who were ahead of us in the adoption process. Cody and I were sure we wanted to adopt, yet we had no idea where to begin. My friends were open and honest and answered questions I didn’t even know I should have. It was like drinking from a fire hydrant. They spoke of domestic and international adoption, open and closed adoptions, home studies, and adoption agencies. I looked at their beautiful families and thought of the glorious path I was about to begin, overwhelmed as I was. Then each of them said something that I’ll never forget:
“You’re going to feel alone.”
I was confused because that’s not what I saw when I looked at them. I didn’t see lonely people.
Now, I’m three years down the road, and I understand all too well.
We brought home our baby boy and people rallied with congratulations, sweet comments, and gestures. But in a world where adoption is not the norm, sometimes the sense of community can begin and end at that celebration. But it doesn’t have to.
Three things to help battle the lonely places:
1. There are other adoptive parents out there.
Who else would understand the feeling of devastation to not be selected by a woman you never met to parent a child that was never yours?
Who else would understand that outwardly you answer positive things when asked about how your adoption waiting period is going, but inside you are dying to tell them you have been chosen by an expectant mom but are waiting to see if the mom changes her mind?
Who else would understand the appointments you are always attending for specialists to see your child because of the exposure to drugs they experienced in utero?
Who else would understand the physical abuse, sexual abuse, hunger, and other horrible things you can’t share with anyone, not even your child’s grandparents because you don’t want labels following your child around for the rest of his or her life?
There are other adoptive parents out there. And they understand.
One of the greatest assets you have in the journey of adoption is another adoptive parent. To be able to share of the uncertainties of upcoming court dates, open relationships with birth families, and talk about attachment and cocooning without having to stop to explain yourself is incredibly freeing. You can say, “this is wonderful, and this is hard,” and they will know exactly what you mean. When someone understands the depth of your joy and the weight of the brokenness because they’ve lived it too, you find a connection unlike any other.
2. Someone doesn’t have to understand completely in order to care.
Stories of adoption begin with brokenness. Because of that, we must work very hard to protect the stories of our child on their behalf. But protecting that story can lead to loneliness.
I had a hard time opening up to close friends and family. I was still so unsure of what to share and what not to share that I found myself not sharing anything. One of the greatest things in our life had just happened, but when those closest to me asked how things were going, my answers were short and shallow.
I believed the lie that they couldn’t care deeply for my family because they had never walked the road of adoption. Isolation is a scary place to be, and I was doing it to myself. I remember the hardest day of our journey, laying out flat on the floor of my bathroom, crying. It is bad enough to be scared, but alone and scared is possibly the worst combination. When I stopped crying, I called a friend. She asked me to do something I thought was impossible. She said to call up those I was closest to and invite them over to pray with me and for me. The thing is, the people I was closest to didn’t have the slightest idea the turmoil that was eating us alive.
As an adoptive mother, it is my job and honor to protect my child. Even though parts of the story are not mine to share, I had to learn there are some things I can share with those who care about me most. Just because I can’t share everything doesn’t mean I can’t share anything. I found out that day if I want to survive the hard, then I must be willing to share the burden.
3. Look for ways to compare, not contrast.
I know we are told not to compare our lives to others, but do you remember the assignments in school where you were asked to compare and contrast? Comparison was used to identify similarities where contrast was used to look for differences.
Feeling alone, at its basic definition, is to feel separated, to feel different than those around you. While it is freeing and needed to have your tribe where you can safely share the differences adoption can bring, we should also try to see the similarities of those around us. We could all walk around and find something every day that makes us different than the other person in the room. To battle loneliness, I try to find the things that make us alike. I want to be the person that finds empathy instead of discord. I don’t avoid people I know who may not understand adoption firsthand because we are MORE than an adoptive family. We are all parents, in it together, attempting to raise our children to the best of our abilities.
My friends said I would feel alone. Neither of them said I would be alone. Find your people. It is too hard and too good to walk it alone.