In my first post I wanted to cover some of the things that I wanted you to know about the foster and adoption process. In this post I want to cover things I want you to know about what happens after the adoption is finalized.
More than likely things will just go back to normal for your child. Unless you are adopting an older child, they likely don’t understand the weight of everything they have just been through. You, however, will breathe the biggest sigh of relief you have ever sighed. When we finalized the boys adoption, I felt like a ten pound weight had been lifted off of my shoulders when we walked out of the court room. I literally could have skipped out of there. Even though both of them had been living with me all of their lives, it finally felt like we were really a family and I was really their mom.
I worried a lot about if I would love my adopted children right away. Being that they weren’t biologically mine, I wondered if I would immediately bond to them like others described when they had a child. I was surprised how quickly I fell in love with them. We always say that in an adoption you choose to love one another each day.
Birth Parent Relationships
We opted to have a semi open adoption when we were adopting my second son. We both really wanted to have a relationship with his birth mom and hoped that he would be able to have a relationship with her one day too. I don’t think I fully grasped what this would look like when we were planning it out. Looking back I wish that we had both been more specific about what we wanted and how we were going to communicate. Sometimes I felt like I wasn’t giving her pictures or stories as often as she would have liked which led me to start feeling pressure in the relationship. In the end, some simple rules may have let the relationship develop more organically. I also was told by our attorney that his birth mom may need to take a break from communication now and then as she was processing the situation. This did end up happening and she needed some time around his first birthday. We always tried to be as accommodating as possible to her feelings and also the feelings of our son. I know several adoptive families who have lovely relationships with their birth family and I know some who don’t have a relationship at all. The running theme is just being open and honest with the child and making sure that any questions they have are answered because that person is biologically related to them they will want to know about them.
Things Will Matter to Them
My last point leads right into this one. I remember having a conversation with a friend who had adopted internationally. She told me how much skin color had come up with her kids. I was surprised thinking that growing up with that family from a young age that they wouldn’t even notice. But they do. You can be as accepting as possible and they are going to notice little differences. My middle son was two and a half when he started asking why he had dark eyes and I had light eyes. The first time he asked me that I was shocked. He said everyone has light eyes but I have dark eyes, who will have dark eyes like me. It was the first time that I realized that it meant something to him to see himself in me. We of course talk about other people in our family who have eyes like him and that his birth family had dark eyes but the little things matter to children, and you need to be prepared for that.
You Will Have Different Challenges Than Other Families but You Will Also Have Different Victories
Raising our kids hasn’t always looked like how other families raise their kids. We have a different set of challenges with each child because our kids are biologically different. They also think and process things differently than you too. We are dealing with some attachment issues and also behavioral issues that are sometimes hard to understand. At the same time there are victories that we have as a family that are different too. The first time the boys responded to someone proudly that they are adopted sent my heart soaring. I have heard them use other terms like birth mom or birth family. These things settle my heart because I know that I am fostering an environment of acceptance. They are listening to what I am saying and starting to understand it.
I feel like this is a worry that never gets easier. No matter how thorough of a medical history you get you still don’t know it all. When sicknesses come up, you worry that you don’t have all the answers. Having a conversation with your pediatrician prior to adopting and getting a list of things that they would like to have in the child’s file is helpful. My pediatrician and I worked on this prior to adopting my second son. It was good to go to his mother with specific questions that she could answer. I also felt like I wasn’t imposing on her when the information was requested from our doctor.
Reaching Out for Help and Services
I am a question asker and it has severed me well in this process. I have made myself a little network of adoptive moms and they are the ones I go to when I have an issue. A lot of times they have been through things that you are experiencing and will have life experience to offer. I also strongly advise getting involved with a family counselor. This has proven to be very helpful in situations when we have had to talk to our boys about something hard and we weren’t sure how to bring it up. I imagine as our life progresses we will meet with him as a family. There are also services available to families especially fostering families. With both of my older kids there had been some trauma at birth. Having resources like Early Steps helped me a lot. My oldest son worked with them until he was three and they were so helpful to our family. We have also sought out help over the years for evaluations and therapies. It has been helpful to me to deal with therapists who know our story and our boys’ background. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Definitely don’t be afraid to share struggles and history with your providers. We always say adoption is brutiful being that it is both brutal and beautiful at the same time. Remember that whether you are thinking about the process, beginning the process, in the process or ending it. There are ups and there are downs.