5 Things I Wish I’d Known Before I Adopted

Adopted as a little girl, I thought I had adoption figured out.

Turns out, I was wrong.

When, as a first-time parent, I brought my 4-year-old son home from Thailand, I felt like I was living in the Twilight Zone. Apparently, experiencing adoption as a parent is different than experiencing it as a kid.

Here’s what I wish I had known before I adopted—


1. Grief is expressed in 1,000 different ways.

You already know that grief and loss are a natural part of the adoption journey, but I had to learn that grief doesn’t look the same for everybody. It isn’t always crying and lament.

Sometimes, it’s outbursts.
Other times, it’s quiet reflection.
Sometimes, it’s really hard questions asked at totally random times in adolescence.

The National Council for Adoption says it this way:

“Loss is inherent in adoption, but it is not the whole of adoption. Feelings of loss or sadness will ebb and flow for all those whose lives are touched by adoption, interspersed with feelings of great joy and celebration.”

The key to healing is to take it all as it comes with open hands.


2. Not everything you learned in training will apply to your story.

For example. I was told my son would likely cry all night, alone in his new room for the first time.

And frankly, it made sense. He was used to sleeping in a room full of cribs.

So the first night home, I didn’t sleep a wink. I stared at the ceiling, waiting for the first sign of tears from the room next door, ready to pounce at a moment’s notice.

But I was the only one who didn’t sleep. He slept through that first night and every night since.

Silly example maybe, but in a million different ways, your family’s journey will be unique to you. And that’s okay. It doesn’t mean anything at all is wrong.

3. Most people who talk to you about your child’s adoption have good intentions.

Sure, with time you’ll get a few awkward comments or questions. But you’ll also meet a host of kind-hearted people who are:

1) curious
2) considering adopting
3) truly interested in you and your child.

I was sitting in a diner outside Detroit eating breakfast with my son when a very intimidating man walked up to our booth.  (Legit, I was rehearsing my escape strategy.)

“I assume you adopted him?” the man asked.
Obviously I had no choice but to tell the truth. “Yes.”
“Thank you,” he said. “I was adopted, too.”
And then he walked away.

Adoption really will introduce you to some of the very best people. It’ll open a world you didn’t know existed.


4. You may feel differently about the adoption in different seasons.

Guilt. Grief. Joy. Gratitude. Sorrow. Inadequacy.

Conflicting emotions don’t make you crazy; they make you human. It proves you understand both the great tragedy and the extravagant grace of it all.

If you’re like me, you may find that you see the fingerprints of God’s goodness in other parts of your story because of what you start to understand on this complex adoption journey.

Every new emotion or season is an altar to meet with God. What does He want to teach us?


5. Love can be instantaneous.

I know, I know. Sometimes love takes time. I never want to minimize or sanitize a person’s experience with love or bonding. Nor do I want to heap guilt where it doesn’t belong.

Bonding isn’t always easy. But it’s not always as scary as it sounds, either.

In my case, the love I felt for my son was immediate and overwhelming. I would have done anything for him … except share his Hon Mhai (fried silk worms) from the street vendor.

Love, after all, has its limits.


When it comes to adoption, I’m still learning right along with you.



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