Taking the Fear Out Of Your Journey To Adopt A Baby

adoption-fearsHalloween is coming up later this week. And for bloggers who write about adoption, it’s the perfect hook for a story.

Not just a story for this time of year — for any time of the year.

Because let’s face it, adoption and adopting a baby are scary, especially when you’re just starting your journey.

So forgive me for taking the easy way out. I know there are other, more interesting ways to get into this post.

But I hope you’ll stick around and keep reading because you may find parts of it useful. 

Generally speaking, I’m not much of a risk taker. I love certainty as much as the next person.

But the process to adopt a baby isn’t like that.

It’s unpredictable, full of unknowns. People will tell you to “expect the unexpected” and they’re right.

When we first started our adoption journey, I was terrified.

I kept thinking about all the ways it could go wrong. I had no reason not to.

Although we had always wanted to become parents, adopting a baby was never part of the plan.

I knew nothing about it. So whenever I heard or read something, I believed it. Even the bad stories. Especially the bad stories.

Blame it on our brains. We’re wired to seek out the negative. It doesn’t matter if the story is true or not.

We believe what we want to believe, and negative stories are more memorable than positive ones.

And if you know anything about adopting a baby, you know this: there’s no shortage of bad stories to go around.

But as scary as adoption was, I knew it was our best shot at becoming parents.

So one day we decided to take the plunge.

It wasn’t easy. We made our share of mistakes.

We got scammed, we had a fall-through, we had our hearts broken, and through it all we kept waiting.

But in the end, we managed to get through the process in one piece, and today we have two boys who are more amazing than I could ever have imagined, along with two great birth families.

What helped us become parents is a long and complicated story. But mostly it had to do with not giving in to our fears.

Not believing everything we read and heard at face value, and doing a lot of digging, and hard work, on our own.

Yes, adoption is not all sweetness and light. No process rooted in loss is.

But it’s not all bitter and dark,  the way some people will lead you to believe, either.

Even in the darkest moment, there are glimmers of light. You just have to look for them.

And the deeper I got into the process, the more light I found.

I realized that a lot of the stories I heard were just stories. Some were true. Some weren’t.

At first, I didn’t know how to separate the two. However, what I came to discover is like us, most people didn’t know a lot about adoption.

Either they passed on rumours and myths they had heard from others or they made up their own.

But building a family, whether it be through adoption or another means, is too important a task to leave to others.

If you want to succeed, you need to go beyond the rumours and myths and replace your fears with facts.

We all have questions. We all want answers. Adopting a baby isn’t any different.

Before you start the process, you want to know what you’re getting into. You want to know it will be worthwhile and have a positive outcome.

You don’t want to invest your time, money, energy and emotions into something that will end in failure and disappointment.

But when you’re adopting a baby, you’re not going to get all of those answers right away.

There are just too many unanswered questions. Too many things that will go differently than you expected.

So the first thing you need to do is let go and embrace the uncertainty. Embrace your fears. Know that you won’t have all of the answers at your fingertips.

You may get some, but there will be many more things you won’t understand until you’re well into your journey.

No matter which way you do it, starting a family is always a gamble.

The second thing you need to do is to educate yourself.

Instead of attending an agency information session or signing up for a home study and then sitting back and waiting for things to happen, you need to make them happen by being engaged and proactive and finding out everything you need to know.

That means researching online, reading books, speaking to adoptive parents, bringing your family and friends on your journey with you, and finding out about the unique challenges (and joys) of being an adoptive parent because as you’ll eventually discover, raising an adoptive child isn’t the same as raising one you’ve given birth to.

And the third thing you need to know is you’ll make mistakes. Everyone does and we were no exception.

Looking back, I still can’t believe how naive and unprepared I was when we first started our journey.

Even though I knew about the delays and the red tape, somehow I had convinced myself that we would be different.

Those setbacks and detours that happened to others  wouldn’t happen to us. We would get matched right away and adopt a baby in record time.

Well, it didn’t quite happen like that. And when things didn’t go according to plan, I found myself at the other end of the spectrum, wondering if it would ever happen at all.

What I didn’t realize is that mistakes are part of the process.

Adopting a baby is a journey, and there are all kinds of challenges along the way. No sooner will you get over one hurdle than another one will come your way.

Some parts of the process you’ll ace. Others you won’t.

Some things will go quickly and make you feel like a genius. Other things will be difficult, and leave you feeling stupid and embarrassed, wondering what you signed up for and whether you’re really cut out to become a parent.

I mention these three things but they’re just the tip of the iceberg. There are many, many more.

As an aside, I always chuckle whenever I come across one of those blog posts entitled “Three Things You Need To Do Before You Adopt A Baby” or “The Three Things You Must Do To Have A Successful Adoption.”

Just three, I’ll ask myself? Never mind that the three things mentioned in the post are completely different than the ones I would have chosen.

No matter. I’ve written those list posts myself. I understand their purpose. Everyone wants a quick fix. “The 103 Things You Need to Do Before You Adopt A Baby” just doesn’t have the same ring to it.

Letting go, educating yourself and being prepared to make mistakes — you don’t have to do them all at once. You don’t have to do them right away. But you should do them.

I genuinely believe they will help you adopt faster and easier and make you a better parent. And if nothing else, they will make the time go faster while you wait.

Because if there’s one thing you can count on when you’re adopting a baby, it’s the wait.

Actually, it’s more like hurry up and wait.

From the time you start the process until your child joins your family, you’ll encounter all kinds of starts and stops along the way.

Preparing for your home study. Waiting to complete your home study.

Staring your adoption profile. Waiting to finish your adoption profile.

Sending out your adoption profile to prospective birthmothers. Waiting to hear back from prospective birthmothers.

Being chosen by a prospective birthmother. Waiting for the birth and the placement.

Starting the adoption revocation period. Waiting for the  revocation period to end.

It would be great to be able to create a schedule for yourself — to tell yourself that you’ll adopt by Christmas, Easter, Mother’s Day, a year from now, or whatever timetable you set. And then slot everything in accordingly and wait it out.

But adopting a baby doesn’t work that way.

You’ll have your deadline, and adoption will have its own. And more times than not, its schedule will look nothing like yours.

So knowing that, you’ll need to take charge of your journey.

And at the same time, you’ll need to go on living your life.

Because no matter how much planning, preparing and predicting you’ll do, no matter what you think your adoption path will look like, at the end of the day your journey will be unlike anyone else’s.

And that’s probably the scariest thing of all about adopting a baby: the uncertainty.

Knowing when you’ll bring that child home. But it’s also the most exciting thing, too.

So for now, put your fears away. Hop aboard and enjoy the ride.