Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Adoption 101 for Friends and Family

Hi friends! It's been a long while since I've written. And today, I came across something that I wanted to share. A good friend of mine from college is going through the adoption process right now and she wrote a post on her blog that I thought was written very well. It answers many questions and gives a little insight into what we as newly adoptive parents are learning and how we are feeling. I hope to walk with many people as they go through the adoption process. Let us all be an encouragement to them :)

Tiffany's Post:
What You Wish Everyone Else Knew About Adoption

Today Trey and I completed the last of our mandatory trainings with our adoption agency. One of the activities was to complete questions in small groups that addressed some of the things we wish others knew about adoption. Answering these questions made me realize how much my perspective has changed over the course of the last year. I thought I'd post some of the insights shared today.

1. If there was one thing you could tell your extended family or friends about adoption, what would it be?

The consensus on this one was that open adoption is a GREAT thing! A child who is adopted will want to know his birthparents regardless if it is open or not. The opportunity to build this relationship is vital for the emotional health of the child. I know many adoptive parents have the initial fear that the birthmom will want to come back and get her baby, but this is extremely rare. It probably happens more in made for TV dramas, than in real life. It's even unheard of when the birthmom receives appropriate counseling.

2. What could friends/family have not said/said/done/ or not done....

a) during waiting?

-Please don't say, "Now you will get pregnant." Although this comment is so well intentioned, as an adoptive parent it feels as if you are stripping away the excitement, anticipation, and legitimacy of this baby as your newest family member. The underlying message it communicates is, "This is good, but there's something better." I know this is not what people mean to communicate, but the truth is we will not be lacking in any way if we don't have biological children. Plus, it's just not statistically true. Even though most people know of a friend of a friend this happened too, it's actually more the exception than the rule. At the same time, we believe God has the power to open and close a womb, so we rejoice when that happens, just as we would rejoice in a finalized adoption.

- Do share your excitement of your own pregnancies and children. If you are afraid your friend or family member going through the adoption process or infertility may be sensitive to something, talk with them about it. Allow your friend who is going through the adoption process to tell you if they are having a hard time and can't go to a shower or birthday party. Don't exclude them because you want to be sensitive to their emotions. Most of the time they are already struggling with the isolation that comes with infertility as more and more friends have children, so to not be invited to something in an effort to spare their feelings can just add to the pain of isolation. Now on a side note, if you you just want to invite families with kids to an event, that is perfectly acceptable and understandable too. :)

- Notes of encouragement. I know for us it's been really cool to receive little unexptected congratulation cards or emails acknowledging we are "expecting."

b)at the time of placement?

-Understand if there needs to be a little distance for a few days, but be available for support. We are learning that placement day is extremely emotional. Your greatest sense of joy comes that day at a great cost to the birthparents and their families. It's common for new adoptive parents to struggle with guilt as well. With these experiences, it's easy to feel emotionally depleted, and it may be hard to come home to a big celebration. We really don't know how we will feel. We don't know even know what we want. We want to protect those sacred first few days as a new family, but we also desire to share the celebration with others at the same time. Please bear with us in the beginning as we figure this out. (Leigh speaking here: since we've already gone through this, we know how we felt. Felipe and I were very excited to have our family and friends around. We enjoyed your company, your meals and your encouragement. And we loved having our parents at the hospital with us. Thank you all).

c) during the first 6 months after placement?

-Understand that the biggest need of the child is to bond with the adoptive parents. Our agency recommends only adoptive parents hold and feed the baby the first few weeks and that the baby be worn to foster attachment. For us personally, we may be a little protective in the beginning about others holding the baby. That doesn't mean you can't sit close to us and touch the baby. Know that in our hearts, we love the idea of family members and friends holding and loving on the baby. We just have to use our best judgement as to when it is best for this to start.

after finalization and beyond?

-Use the term birthparents," not "real" parents. Adoptive parents are the "real" parents. This is what makes adoption amazing and how it reflects our adoption into God's family through Christ. God is our real Father even though we are adopted into his family, and we are His real children. Even co-heirs with Christ. I have a feeling that truth is about to become more real.

- Allow adoptive children to initiate talking about adoption. Be sensitive to the fact that it is not a topic they always want to talk about so be careful of questions you pose or comments you make in their presence.

- Talk positively about birthparents. We can't stress this one enough. The decision to place a baby for adoption is often the hardest decision they will have to make in their life. Adoption is one of the most loving, sacrificial decisions a birthparent can make. We want everyone to know how much respect and love we have for our birthparents.

3) What would you want your family or friends to say or not say to others about your adoption?

-The most meaningful things that family members have said to us are: "We are so excited to love on this baby and can't wait to welcome them into the family." Our families are so supportive!!!

-We would love to hear, "I had never thought seriously about adoption, but now I'm considering it." Ok, we don't want to hear that from everyone. I know I was totally scared of domestic adoption until I heard someone else's story, so hopefully our story will help curb some fears others may have regarding adoption.

4)What would you want your family or friends to say or not say to your adopted child?

-Don't say, "Wow, you are really lucky to be adopted by them." I know you are really thinking, "They are the coolest people ever and I want them to be MY parents," but imagine this through the ears of the child. It could make them feel like a charity case, like they are lucky to be wanted. Besides, luck has nothing to do with how they come to be a part of our family.

-Don't say, "You look just like your adoptive parents." Most children who are adopted don't like to hear that (especially in their teens). This denies their uniqueness and diminishes the characteristics they share with their birthparents.

-Don't say, "Who are your REAL parents?" That would be us.

Like I said, I've learned a lot the past nine months since we started this process. If any of this was surprising to you, you are in good company. My intent in sharing this is not to make you feel like you have to walk on eggshells around adoptive parents or feel the need to speak a certain way to be "politically correct." I just hope to give others a little understanding. We all need grace for the times we try to say something with good intentions, but it just all goes south the minute we open our mouth.

No comments: