The first moments of bringing your child home are filled with two equal parts: terrifying and joyful. I have had two very different experiences with the first few hours of being home with my babies.

Here is what to expect when you bring home a newborn:

When we left the hospital with our son, it was downpour raining, and we had an hour and a half ride home. We had spent the previous day and night with him, his birth parents, and some of his extended birth family in the hospital. We were overjoyed and overwhelmed with the profoundness of the situation. Building your family through adoption is a unique experience, especially at the hospital. The ride home was the first time we were 100% alone. By the time we arrived home, we were emotionally exhausted and starving.

The very first thing I did was text my son’s birth mother a picture of him home, letting her know we made it, and all was well. The second thing I did was eat takeout sushi, standing at my kitchen table in awe of the tiny miracle still strapped in his car seat and heartbroken for all that he lost. I wasn’t prepared for how small you feel when your greatest dream comes true, and you witness the cost. It was surreal to be caught between everything you have ever wanted and the impact it had on another family. Those first few hours home alone, settling into what was and what is, foreshadowed that adoption never really stops. It is an ever-changing, evolving piece of my life forever. Adoption is so much more than a way to build your family. Adoption is always with you.

I was a little bit lost in the joy and pain, as well as contemplating how on earth you can function on so little sleep. On top of feeling all the feels, there is a lot of work that comes with adoption in the first few hours or days. There are social worker visits, doctor visits, court hearings, and just a lot to keep up. And that’s not to mention caring for a tiny, beautiful baby that you’ve been anticipating for years. I would strongly suggest staying as close to home as possible in the very beginning. It is a struggle to handle the joy mixed with the fear that it won’t work out, mixed with the work of it all.

Expect to feel many, many things. In the first few hours of bringing your child home, expect that it will be greater than you can ever possibly imagine. Expect that you will be lost simultaneously in grief for everything that was lost and in fear of everything you could lose. Also, expect to feel braver, stronger, and that in the journey up to this point and forever, it is worth it.

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