For a hopeful adoptive couple, parenthood is constantly on the brain. The application process is peppered with questions on parenting. Questions like: How do you plan on disciplining?  What are your thoughts on spanking? How do you plan on telling your child about their adoption story? Who will be the sterner parent? The pushover parent? This is an understandable part of the application process. However, it’s hard to answer these questions without having the experience. Sure, we all have an idea of the parents we want to be before children, but some things are bound to change once we are in the thick of it. Here are a few things I’ve learned about parenting after placement.

First, parenthood is no respecter of persons. I say this because I’ve heard a bucket load of comments over the years about how I shouldn’t complain about parenting because we adopted. Meaning that because we “wanted to be parents so bad,” having a hard time parenting wasn’t allowed. I would even feel guilty when I complained to myself in my head. I eventually learned that this is ridiculous. That fact I adopted my son does not mean I will be free from parental strife. My child is like any other child. He gets cranky, he yells, he disobeys, pushes my boundaries, and has even sworn on occasion. (I give him a high five before time-out if the swear was grammatically and contextually correct.) And what about the individuals who told me I wasn’t allowed to express myself when parenting was hard? (And let’s be honest, it’s always hard.) Well, let’s just say we aren’t friends anymore. No parent or child is perfect. Parenthood is going to be awesome at times and awful at times for every single parent. We are all on the same playing field.

Second, your first moments of parenthood are going to emotionally hurt like hell. There isn’t any doubt in my mind that placement is more difficult on the birth parents, but it will hurt for the adoptive parents too. Watching my son’s birth mom place him in my arms simultaneously mended and broke my heart. Watching her in pain made me feel physically sick. How could I be so happy while she was hurting? Placement is such a reverent, sacred exchange. It was my honor to watch Harley’s birth mom, Sadie, sign away her parental rights without hesitation. I was in a cycle of crying because I was so happy to finally be a mother, as well as crying because I knew Sadie was hurting.

Third, don’t get lost in what you think others think you should do. Because I am an adoptive parent, I feel like my parenting is put under a microscope. This is part reality and part all in my head; however, I spent a lot of time making certain parenting decisions because I was afraid of what others would think. Let’s be honest here: there are a lot of judgmental moms out there who are really good at making others feel bad. I know there isn’t a 100% judgment-free zone in this life, but regardless, don’t let it steer your parenting. I am all about asking for advice, picking up a parenting book, or talking with a pediatrician. I am also all about following your gut (especially when it leads to ice cream), and doing what is best for you and your child. You are their parent. You know what they need because you are with them day in and day out. I’m going to go with a cliché here, but seriously, follow your heart.

Parenting is hard no matter what you do or don’t do. There will be happy tears and sad tears. I bet there will even be times you question your own sanity. I also know that there isn’t anything more amazing than the day when all the hard work, the applications, and the waiting, are worth it.