Becoming a mom is an incredible journey that comes with plenty of joys and challenges. Alas, it is an experience that comes with no set of instructions, a lot of uncertainty, and the opportunity to become a parent to a child who needs one. As someone who has been on this journey, I want to share my confessions about the ups and downs of being an adoptive mom while sharing some key things to keep in mind when preparing to adopt a child.

Confession #1 The wait is not the hardest part

You hear this a lot—about the wait being the hardest part. Yes, the process of adoption can be long and hard. The waiting period can feel especially difficult (as you have absolutely no control over when you’ll be matched with a child). It can be difficult to stay hopeful and patient during this time. But, it’s important to remember that the wait is worth it in the end, when you finally get to bring your child home. I tried to remind myself that while it was difficult waiting to be matched, it was no less difficult for my waiting child who was waiting for a family. It also must’ve been a hard time for the birth family. Adoption is hard overall and for everyone involved. So, no, I don’t agree with the wait being the hardest part. Honestly, adopting a child is just the beginning of a lifetime together of easy parts and hard parts as well as good days and bad. That long wait will soon be overshadowed by your daily life together becoming a family. So, difficult as it may seem at the moment, learn to embrace all of it and stay focused on what you can control rather than what you can not, because the ride goes fast.

Confession #2 Bonding can be challenging

One of the biggest challenges of adoption can be bonding with your child. For me, there was never a doubt how I felt about my adopted children. From the first moment, the love I felt was undeniable. However, parenting is a two-way street. It’s important to remember that for your child, you are someone new being introduced into a life already in process. Whether they are an infant or an older child, to expect some sort of instant, unbreakable connection may be asking a bit too much (not that it doesn’t happen and not that it can’t or won’t happen). It’s important to be patient and consistent in your efforts to build a bond with your child, especially if your child has come to you from an institution such as an orphanage or through international adoption. It’s crucial you not push faster than your child is ready to receive. In cases where special needs are concerned, including any sort of issues involving communication, take a deep breath and know that your child has already gone through a loss and may be recovering or may need therapy to be in a place to accept you into their life. Eventually, with love and care, you will be able to develop a strong relationship with your child.

Confession #3 Adoption doesn’t erase a child’s past—so don’t even try

Adopting a child doesn’t erase their past experiences. They may have lived in difficult circumstances or have had traumatic experiences that can impact their behavior and emotions. It’s important to be sensitive to your child’s past and work to create a safe and supportive environment for them to heal and grow.

I’m not sure why any parent would want to erase any part of what makes their child their unique self, but it is not advised to do so. I was fortunate to have a strong support group around me sharing experiences and advice. Based on this, rather than trying to erase who my child was or what they’d experienced before me, I worked hard to assure them that all of them were being embraced and loved for who they are. Part of adoption literally involves adopting your child’s past into your present. To do otherwise is nothing less than cruel.

Find ways to celebrate your child, their culture, their tradition and empower them to become who they are rather than who you (or others in your life) would like them to be.

Confession #4 People ask intrusive questions

As an adoptive mom, I’ve been asked all kinds of intrusive questions, like “Why didn’t you have your own children?” or “Where did your child come from?” It can be frustrating and hurtful to be asked these questions, but it’s important to remember that most people don’t mean any harm. You can choose to answer these questions honestly or simply deflect them and change the subject.

Admittedly, in the beginning, some questions really threw me (way more intrusive than the examples here), and I struggled to figure out how to respond or whether I should. But, in time, you begin to realize that ignoring ignorance is a wonderful option allowing you to focus on whatever it is you were out doing with your beautiful family.

Don’t give negativity space in your life and, should you choose to respond, remember to do so in a way that feels right for you on your terms while also teaching your child how to be in charge of their privacy.

Confession #5 Adoption comes with a lot of paperwork

Yes, adopting a child involves a lot of paperwork, from filling out applications and questionnaires to obtaining clearances and certifications and a bunch of other formal/legal/technical things I’ve long since blocked from memory. It can be overwhelming and time-consuming, but it’s all part of the process. Make sure you stay organized and on top of all the paperwork to ensure a smooth adoption process. Really.

While there’s no getting around what amounts to an extremely cumbersome process in the name of becoming a family, it does not have to play out like a soap opera. Again, it was during this time I often kept my frustration in perspective by remembering I wasn’t alone in this process and others were also going through their own trials and tribulations. You will make it through. And your adoption paperwork woes will be replaced soon enough by school paperwork, sports team paperwork, college prep paperwork, etc. In a way, you can look at adoption paperwork as bootcamp to parent life.

Confession #6 You’ll become an expert on adoption

When you become an adoptive parent, you’ll become an expert on adoption. Seriously. Unless you plan to go live under a rock, you’re about to learn, You’re about to learn about the different types of adoption, the legal process, and the emotional journey that comes with it. You may even become an advocate for adoption and educate others about the benefits and challenges of adopting.

One of the reasons I started writing adoption-focused articles was because I found myself reading so many adoption-focused articles. As you become a full fledged adoptive mom, you realize how very little you know about being an adoptive mom as you and your child grow together and experience all the changes life brings as a family.

Embrace the research. Embrace the journey. And don’t be shocked when someone approaches you for advice on adoption. You may surprise yourself with how much you learn along the way if you’re open to it.

Confession #7 It’s worth it

Despite the challenges that come with adoption, it is ultimately an incredible lifelong journey. Watching your child grow is nothing less than rewarding. The path of adoption may be bumpy—I mean, let’s be honest, being a mom is a bumpy road whether you’re parenting in the infant, toddler, child, teen, or young adult stage. 

It’s important to have realistic expectations when preparing to adopt a child. It’s not a magic solution to your problems, your child’s problems, nor a guarantee of a perfect family. It’s important to understand there will be many ups and downs along the way, but that with love, patience, and commitment, it’s all worth it in the end.

Confessions of An Adoptive Mom