Three Unexpected Gifts of Adoption

I sometimes say that adoption chose me as much as I chose it. It’s certainly not that I just happened to adopt my daughter. No adoptive parent ends up here by accident. The journey is too much work for that! It just felt like one thing led to another and suddenly adoption seemed like the right path for me.

People say that the waiting is the hardest part of an adoption journey. Maybe it’s just my rose-colored nostalgia glasses, but I say becoming a parent overnight is the hardest part—and then parenting a little person who used to be a stranger, a little person who may have months or years of life experience that doesn’t include you. It’s hard. Beautiful, redemptive, and hard.

Here are three of the unexpected gifts that adoption has given me:

Loyalty

As I mentioned, my adoption was a little bit like baptism by fire. One moment I was a single girl with all of the freedom and independence in the world. The next, I was a mom completely consumed with meeting the overwhelming needs of a little girl who hadn’t known much stability in her young life.

I spent a while feeling overwhelmed and isolated. After all, I worked hard to prove to a social worker that I would be a good mom. I was scared to admit that everything wasn’t all rainbows and unicorns. I didn’t want anyone to think badly about me. Or my daughter. Or single-parent, transracial adoption from foster care. It was in this mess that my true friends showed up. They listened. They tried to understand. They didn’t think badly of me or my daughter. They stayed. I know many adoptive parents who have lost friends after bringing their child home. I wouldn’t say that I actually lost any, but it was very clearly apparent who chose to take the initiative to reach out to me during my difficult transition into motherhood. These friends saved my sanity. They showed their true colors, and I will be forever grateful for that.

Self-Awareness

Becoming a mom through adoption has made me one thousand times more self-aware than I ever was before. Lots of our kids from hard places are expert “people readers” and know exactly what buttons to push in order to get a particular reaction. In parenting my daughter, I’ve had to learn to pick my battles—which has clarified what values are most important in our family. I’ve also had to think about why certain phrases or actions bother me so much, which has helped me to realize parts of myself that I am working to change. Self-awareness as a catalyst for personal growth? Yes, please.

Family

You might argue that this one should not be unexpected. After all, folks certainly begin the adoption process with the goal of adding to their family. But here’s the thing: children do not exist in isolation. I do not have a traditional open adoption, but adopting my daughter did connect me with several of her biological relatives (and their families) as well as her foster family. In a way, all of these people are like our extended family now. It is important to both my daughter and I to foster these relationships because they are a very real part of her history. Our world is bigger, our family is bigger, because of adoption.

What would you add? What unexpected gifts has adoption given you?