I recently had a conversation with a friend about the difference between couples preparing for their wedding vs. couples preparing for their marriage. Group A seems to place its energy on the act of getting married–by that I mean focusing on the fairytale aspect of the relationship and the details of everything from flowers to linens leading up to the “big day” to ensure it’s picture perfect. Group B seems to invest itself into the long-term commitment of marriage–beyond the perfectly planned honeymoon and right on through to the till death do us part part–even if that means accepting some rough waters along the way. Can you guess which group is more likely to find a happily ever after?
Will Adopting Make Me Happy?
In trying to think of a way to respond to this question, I see two similar scenarios–the anticipation and build up of the act of adopting with a focus on the struggle leading up to vs. the act of adopting to become a forever family for a child. The day the paperwork is complete and your child is placed into your charge is very similar to a fairytale wedding day, in that, it can be planned for and anticipated and even celebrated, but it’s what comes after that–the days, the months, the years–that follow that require that same planning and anticipation when the cute, button-nosed beauty you so carefully cuddled on presentation day starts to spread her wings, as children are known to do, leading you into territories you’d never expected to traverse.
As with any commitment worth committing to, adoption comes with all the feels, the good and the bad. So while adopting has the potential to make you extremely happy, it also has the potential to make you extremely sad because adoption, like marriage, is not something you do, but rather something you become over time with time and in ways you could never predict. Just as your wedding day was the first day of your life as a married couple, the day you adopt is the first day of your life as a family–for better or for worse.
And like marriage, becoming a family through adoption is not something you can keep fresh and perfect by sealing the best parts away in a photo album to look back on and “remember when” when the going gets tough. Both marriage and family is like tending to an unruly garden to be worked daily, not viewed from a comfortable distance, so expect to get your hands dirty. Creating a family, be it biologically or through adoption, is not the beautiful wedding gown or handsome tuxedo that you slip on with excited anticipation to serve a purpose and remove when it becomes stained or starts to fit a smidge too snug at the end of the evening and then to be put away for safekeeping in a hope chest. Creating a family, rather, is tenderly tending to that garment as if it’s the most precious fabric on the planet–because it is–and one that you will wear for the rest of your life.
Adopting is ups and downs and late nights and early mornings and sickness and health. It’s too many silly, wonderful moments to be counted. It’s things not going as planned. It’s things going better than planned. It’s your sunniest skies and your darkest days. It’s remembering that while we’re a unit, we’re a unit made up of individuals with different wants, needs, and opinions. Families through adoption face additional challenges depending on the situation (and there are many) and if you’re planning to adopt you should take all of these realities into consideration long before you complete your paperwork or commit to becoming a parent to a child who is expecting to become a forever-term family rather than a short-term picture perfect presentation day.
If you’re hoping that adopting will make you happy, it’s been my experience that it will–more than you could ever imagine and not necessarily in the ways you would think. It will rejuvenate your soul and faith in humanity and empower you (for your child) like you never thought you could be empowered. Adoption also has the capacity to smack you down to reality when you least expect it, both during and after the paperwork is complete. Even more so, it will challenge the child you love. And your want and need to make her or him happy will take precedent on many occasions over the want or need for your own happiness–because that’s what becoming a parent is, not just on the day you become one, but happily (and sometimes unhappily) ever after.
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