A lesson I learned early in our adoption journey was this: adoption isn’t about me.
Adoption isn’t about families finding babies. Adoption is about families being available and stable for vulnerable women and their babies or children.
I don’t know the circumstances bringing you to your adoption journey; we all land here for various reasons.
No one story the same, yet the truth that adoption is not about the adoptive parents remains key. We only know what we know, until we know better.
I polled one of the Facebook groups I am a part of (Joy Filled Transracial Families) and asked them what they wished they knew before they started their adoption journey. I wish I had read their words before we started our journey, too.
Here are their responses:
“I wish I had known how stupid it was to say we don’t see color. I wish I had known how important it is/will be to have racial mirrors for my kids. I wish I had known/valued more how VERY important it is to keep my kids stories their own, I totally over shared at the beginning with my first. I can’t take that back.”
“Our adoption agency did a good job of honoring birth parents, but I wish we’d been encouraged to also consider ways to effect change in our communities and society so that parenting rather than placing is a viable and supported option for birth parents.”
“I wish I would have had the chance to change the lens that I see the world through before I adopted my sons. I wish I had an opportunity to sit on my hands, listen, and learn about systemic racism, and and began the (still going) process of unpacking my own white fragility.”
“There can still be trauma with newborn adoptions. Cocoon your babies!! We did this without even knowing it had a term but kids need those bonds.” (Check out: What Is Cocooning? Should I Try It With My Adopted Child?)
“I wish I had sought out a support group. I wasn’t big on social media at all then. I didn’t know many people who adopted and I only told like five people I was pursuing adoption. I had zero support and no one to talk to. It wasn’t until my son was three before I started finding other women like myself to talk to. It has helped so much.”
“Immerse yourself in the culture of the children you’ll be adopting. You can’t or shouldn’t adopt kids of other races if you can’t/won’t provide mirrors in all aspects of their lives.”
“It will not be easy or quick no matter what anyone says. It’s also just plain hard–emotionally for the child and for you. It will be an amazing roller coaster ride. You need very close adoption friends–those who are going through it with you and have done it before. Unfortunately some people will not agree with you and will pull away. It’s sad but the truth–most people will love it but some won’t.”
“That the pain of having to leave your family of origin never really goes away (at least for children adopted out of foster care). My oldest child is an adult now and in some ways, he continues to be affected by it. The child learns to live with the pain, but the residual is always there. For me, this has been the hardest part.”
“How dumb people’s questions were going to be about adoption all. the. time: Why do we have to defend and argue that he is our son? Why do we always have to explain why our son’s hair is curly or he is brown and we are white with straight hair? Why can’t we just be a family without unending interrogations?” (This was my husband’s response.)
My response? I wish I knew before we started our adoption journey how incredibly important positive adoption language is. I wish someone sat me down and explained to me how the unintentional misuse of even one word can cause damage to so many humans.
Don’t start your adoption journey until you’ve: recognized it isn’t about you, began educating yourself with the appropriate adoption language, found families who have adopted, and immersed yourself in different cultures.
[If you are white] do not start your transracial adoption journey until you’ve sat on your hands, listened, and learned about racial mirrors, systemic racism, and the importance of seeing color as well as cultures.