The saying “ignorance is bliss” has been around for so long because it is partially true.
When we were in our late 20’s and decided to form our family through adoption, we were so excited to begin the journey. When our social worker asked us to come down to the office, we were presented with the most adorable picture of a little boy who we immediately loved to pieces but hadn’t even met yet. We rushed to my parents house to show them the picture of their first grandson. It was pure joy!
When I look at it from my son’s perspective, I now know how completely self-centered and self-absorbed we were. Yes, we were excited and joyous, but for a child and the families involved, it can be a very difficult and sad experience. As we have walked down this journey with our two children, there are so many things I wish I had known.
Adoption is a tragedy, and a blessing.
My love and excitement to love this little boy was born out of tragedy and broken attachments. My children are my children because they lost their first family and two foster families each. By the age of 2, they each had been with three sets of parents. This early trauma will stay with them. The loss of birth parents is huge in a child’s life and not easily fixed by love alone. My children, by the nature of their circumstances through no fault of their own, are more susceptible to conditions like ADHD and more likely to commit suicide. I wish I had known how early trauma affects, and stays with, children who have been adopted.
Nice people say hurtful things.
I am open by nature. However, I am protective of my children’s birth histories because that is not my information to share. But I am open about our part of the process. In conversations I have heard well-intentioned people say hurtful things: How much did you pay for them? Do you wish you had any real children? Are they really brother and sister? How could anyone give up such precious babies?
First, I didn’t pay for them. I paid for the paperwork and costs associated with their care. Second, they are my real children. Third, yes, they are brother and sister but thanks for asking that in front of them. As for the last question of what kind of person could give up such a precious baby? A woman, so strong and scared, yet determined to make a decision she probably absolutely dreaded in order to provide for her child. A woman who I am eternally grateful to that she chose life for my son and my daughter. A woman who I hope can be reunited with her child one day so she can again gaze into the eyes of her baby. A woman who made a decision to complete our lives but lives with a hole in hers. Forever. I’ve never met her, but a birth mother is to be respected not ridiculed. If I long to know her, I know my kids must as well. I wish I knew her.
Books can only prepare you so much.
There are books on parenting, attachment, trauma, sensory processing and every other topic you can think of on adoption. Many of this is filled with scientifically valid and helpful information. But, no adoption journey is like a chapter book. There’s no beginning and no end. You have to look at the information you have been given, take it into consideration and invite that information into a delicate dance with your maternal instincts. Sometimes these two worlds of knowledge dance, sometimes they sit peacefully next to each other and sometimes they wrestle like two teenage boys over the last ice cream sandwich. I wish I had listened to my gut more often.
November is National Adoption Month, which naturally highlights the joys of adoption … and there are so, so many joys in adoption. But, in the adoption world, ignorance is not bliss because preparation can help ease the transition into a family. Above all, I wish I had known how absolutely worthwhile it is to walk this journey and how absolutely blessed I am to be able to be a mommy to these amazing little people.