Adoption is hard. The journey to building a family through adoption can be long, exhausting and heart-wrenching. The first days, weeks, months, and even years with your child can be an unsettling time of transition. If you are reading this, you likely have a friend who is somewhere along this journey. And you want to help. Great! First of all, don’t worry about doing something wrong. I know there are lots of posts about what not to say or do regarding adoption. This isn’t one of them. It’s your friend. Just show up and do a thing. A few ideas:
Waiting is a big part of almost every adoption journey. I know some hopeful adoptive parents say that they get tired of people asking, “Any news?” But, if you want to really be a friend, it’s always appropriate to show up in someone’s life. I remember at one point along my journey, a friend invited me over, fed me brownies and then just asked, “So, do you want to talk about it or do you want to talk about something else?” This was perfect. Other friends realize how tricky childcare can be for me and come sit in my living room after my kids go to bed. This adult conversation can be a lifesaver. Show up. Be kind, respectful, and honest . . . you can’t go wrong.
No matter where we are in our adoption journey, parents crave affirmation. When your friend comes to mind, send them a text letting them know that you are thinking of them. If you say a prayer for them, let them know. Social media, e-mail, and texts are great. But if you really want to be awesome, find a card (or, really, any old piece of paper), write some nice words, and send it in the mail. I don’t know about you, but I save these kind of notes and reread them when I need a dose of encouragement.
Do something practical
Whether your friend is overwhelmed by the paperwork, the wait, the sleeplessness of a newborn, or the potentially challenging behavior of an older child, it’s always a good idea to do something practical. Don’t say, “If you need anything, let me know.” That puts the responsibility on your friend to ask for help (at a time when they are most likely desperately trying to convince everyone—including themselves—that they can do this adoption thing). Just say, “I’m going to bring you dinner. What night works for you?” Bring food (in disposable containers), chocolate, wine. Clean their house. Ask if you can take the other kids to the park. If you’re feeling brave, ask if you can spend a night and take care of the newborn feedings. (My sister did this once, and it was one of the most blissful nights of my life!).
Bring them something beautiful
When survival is the order of the day, beauty tends to go out the window. But everyone loves little touches of beauty in their home, right? I have a friend who created an incredible painting for me during a particularly difficult stretch of my adoption journey. It hangs in my entryway and I love seeing it every time I come into my home. So channel your inner artist and create a masterpiece for your friend. Or, if that’s not your thing, send flowers. Or take a beautiful photograph and frame it for them. Or write a song and record it for them. Or bring them a book you know they will love (just make sure to offer free childcare so they have a hot minute to read it!).
And last, but certainly not least, thank you. Your friend might be too exhausted to send a thank you note. But know that your help makes a difference. Adoption is hard. You can make it a little easier, a little more beautiful for your friend. Thanks for showing up and doing a thing.
Adoptive parents, what would you add to this list? How has your village supported you through your adoption journey?