dear friends of waiting adoptive moms: some things to know (also, we’re sorry)

1. Your friend is not crazy. (She is adopting.)

There is, I will admit, a fine line between those two but still it’s good to remember. The international adoption of a child requires enough paperwork to kill a small forest. And more governmental red tape than you can believe. Imagine your longest, most frustrating trip to the DMV. Now quadruple that, add in twelve more governmental agencies in two countries, and remember it’s not a driver’s license you’re waiting for but the final piece of paper that says this family you’re creating can finally, finally be together. Yeah. Not crazy. But close.

2. She loves a child she’s never met.

It’s possible. So possible. It’s irrational and crazy but it’s reality. Does she love them like she will once she gets to know them? No. But she loves them. She wakes up loving them and goes to sleep loving them. She drives to the grocery story and aches to have them safe and snug in the carseat waiting for them. She pushes her cart around the store and hears a child cry and her heart pounds wondering if her child is crying? Alone? Hungry? She might even have to leave an entire grocery cart full of food in the yogurt aisle to go home and cry because it just is too hard. Way too hard.

3. It’s difficult having your heart on the other side of the world.

To people on the outside they don’t look like our kids, on paper they might not be our kids yet. But in our hearts we love these children like they are and yet we’re not together. We’re moms without children. It’s an ache that doesn’t go away. It starts before we see their faces and only ends when they’re in our arms. So we walk about with half our heart missing. It’s hard to breathe, to think, to speak. Something always feels missing. Because they are.

4. She is addicted to her email.

It’s okay. This is a temporary condition and most make a full recovery. It can be diagnosed by refusal to allow separation from her smart phone, or glassy-eyed concentration as she clicks “refresh” over and over and over on her computer. Other signs may include: waking up in the middle of the night to check because it’s X time over there, and muttering aloud “must get home, must check for update, must get home” while out in public.

5. Her child has been through trauma.

If she’s like a lot of moms she won’t be advertising that fact everywhere because she respects her child’s privacy. But children don’t come to the place of needing a second family because they were placed in a cabbage patch by unicorns and leprechauns. Adoption comes from loss. Loss she will see in her child’s eyes and in their heart. Loss that as a mama can make your soul curl up in a ball for an ugly cry. So don’t tell her the kids are lucky. You wouldn’t tell a person who lost an arm that they’re lucky to have a prosthetic one would you? I mean yeah, they are lucky to have that replacement. But you know what would be luckier? Not losing that arm in the first place. So please be understanding. Also, maybe instead of asking for her child’s story outright ask “are you sharing about his history before you?” That gives her a chance to either answer you or bow out graciously.

6. Adoption isn’t pregnancy.

It just isn’t. Well, it is in that at the end of it the hope is to have a new son or daughter in your arms. But I’ve yet to meet a pregnant woman who wonders how old her child will be upon entry into the family. Adoption is different. There is no due date for us. Let that sink in. No due date. And even given preemies and late arrivals with the baby by stork method you have a narrow months-long window of time in which the baby will arrive. That brings us to point number seven.

7. She probably doesn’t know when the child is coming home.

And she has probably been asked this approximately twelve times that day. Because you, her awesome friends, care about her! (And also you secretly worry she’s going a little nuts, see point #1.) And I get it. It’s hard with adoption because you don’t know what to ask. I feel that way with pregnant ladies, like what am I supposed to say? “Your ankles really don’t look that bad do they?” Recently I learned the always safe phrase “you look great – how is baby doing?”, the adoption equivalent is “I know you must miss your kiddos, how is the adoption going?” Or, if you don’t have time to have her break down and cry all over you try the even safer “can I see your latest update pictures?” and then ooh and aww over their cute faces. Even if the pictures are horrible say something positive. I mean I don’t tell people that their sonogram pictures sometimes look like aliens made of bread dough. (Except yours Amy B. Yours is the cutest thing I’ve ever seen.)

8. She isn’t sure they’re coming home.

This is the part of the adoption process that makes you want to crawl under your bed and not come out until it’s safe again. This is the part that tears your soul in two. This is the part that you wake up in the morning remembering and going to bed at night fearing. Because there are no guarantees. And that’s hard. No, not hard. It’s gut-wrenching. It’s not just the fear that your child might die before having a family, it’s that this child you love with every ounce of your being might grow up in an orphanage, on the streets, or worse.

9. Your friend is kind of stupid.

I know. That’s harsh. But it’s true. You try operating on a daily basis with only half your heart and half your brain, because that’s what it’s like. ‘Cause the other half of you is wrapped up in a tiny person who is half a world and what feels like a lifetime away. Also, because of the time zone difference it means that half of you is awake pretty much all the time.

10. She doesn’t need to hear your HAS (horrible adoption stories.)

Yes, I know, everyone knows of someone’s uncle’s neighbor who adopted a child and then the child burned down the school with the power of her mind after her classmates dumped a bucket of pig blood on her. (Oh wait, that’s the storyline of “Carrie” isn’t it?) But sharing these stories are the equivalent of telling someone hopping in a plane for their first sky-diving session “I watched this video on youtube where a guy skydived. He died. And his body was all smashed and stuff.” Maybe it’s true but it’s also not overly helpful. Unless you’re the kind of person who also goes up to pregnant woman and says “I know of a lady who got pregnant one time, she gave birth to a kid who became a serial killer and sewed a suit of clothes out of his victims’ skin. (Shoot, that’s the storyline of “Hannibal” isn’t it? Well, I tried.)

Do “Adoptive Kids” sometimes grow up and do horrible thing? Yep. You know who else grows up and does horrible things? “Vaginal Kids.” So really, the warning should be more along these lines: “You’re going to be a parent huh? Good luck with that.”

11. She has probably done her research

Don’t assume she’s going into this because of a driving urge to be mistaken for Angelina Jolie. Unless she is also demanding everyone call her husband “Brad” it probably comes from some deeper place. Or you know, her husband’s name really IS Brad. Chances are she’s read books on adoptive parenting, has agonized for hours over which adoption agency to choose from. Made a decision. Then agonized some more. She’s thought about the ethical questions. And if you don’t think she has then maybe ask. “How did you pick your agency?” “What led you to X country?”

12. She looks brave on the outside, she’s brave on the inside too. But she’s also a mess

Which, I think is what mothering and loving is all about. Being a mess. Throwing your love out there and not knowing if you’re ever going to get it back. It’s scary. It’s vulnerable. It feels like you can’t breathe and when you can it hurts to do it. And you don’t want to complain about that because you picked it. So you pick up the pieces of your heart and you keep going. You keep going because at the end of the day what you go through as an adoptive mother is nothing compared to what children go through when they live their life without family. And that’s what this journey is all about.

dear friends of waiting adoptive moms

{{picture of my son and I taken by the talented Melanie Pace}}

edited to add this note: When I hit publish this morning it didn’t occur to me that this post would spread so far beyond the small group of friends and family who read my blog. Beyond the group of women who’ve become my friends during this adoption journey and who helped me think of topics to add to this post. I’m honored that each one of you have come here and read my thoughts, and honored that you saw fit to share this post with your friends. For those of you who haven’t read posts before I’d like to offer links to a few that I believe will present a more complete picture of my thoughts on the adoption process.

Adoption is an imperfect answer to an impossible question. I happen to wish that all Babies could be raised by their first mothers & fathers, the people who brought them into this world, the people whose blood history they share. But we don’t live in a world where “shoulds” always happen. Life is messy and painful, life includes loss and heartache. And so adoption exists.

All throughout the process of adoption I tried to be careful about calling our life here “home” for Nat. Even on his birth announcement I put “together” instead of “home”. I’m not sure all the reasons for the hesitation. Certainly I thought it, I believed it, I wanted it. But I also knew it wasn’t. He wasn’t coming home, he was leaving home. Leaving home to come live in a strange place that yes, would eventually BE home. Sometimes I think I over think things.

I’m ashamed to admit this but way back when, shortly after we heard the first child we were matched with was dying, I wondered why our adoption journey had to be so hard. So painful and soul-rending. I wasn’t expecting a rose petal covered path but I was hoping that some almighty power would at least keep the thorny brambles cleared off of it. But here’s the thing: if there was any fairness in this world my children would never have needed me in the first place. And there is something quite horrific about the arrogance of believing that God would make this easy on me when it wasn’t easy for my children’s other parents.

282 replies »

  1. okay. wow. this is so, so perfect. your words make me feel slightly less crazy :). i love knowing that i’m not alone in all of this and i think this is so helpful to share with friends & family who try, they really try, but will never fully understand. {and, i know they’re all worried about my crazy-adoptive momma-in-waiting self}! I’m definitely sharing this!!

    • You know, I’ve been watching the response to this little post. It’s gotten so many reads, like SO many and it tells me this: we’re not alone.

      Thanks for sharing it. 🙂

  2. BEATIFUL, brought tears and giggles! You did an awesome job capturing the WAIT!! LOVE, LOVE and will share… The picture at th end was a tear jerker 🙂

    • Thank you for the comment. And that picture made me tear up the first time I saw it on the back of our photographer’s camera. Suddenly the fact he was *with me* became so real.

  3. Yep. I super, big heart, love you. There. I said it. Thank you for the gift of this blog. It has blessed me and made me feel slightly less crazy many times. And that photo… be still my heart. One day!

    • Thanks for stopping by. I feel like I’ve gotten so much unexpected company this weekend and it’s been kind of fun and kind of intimidating. Thankfully it’s not at my actual home because I have unpacked suitcases all over my living room. 😀

  4. Yes, yes, yes! Well done and thank you! And also, when they do finally bring the kids home, don’t say things like, “Oh, it’s just like having a new baby!” (because it isn’t) and “I’m so glad this journey is over for you!” because…it’s not. It’s just beginning, and they will need more support and understanding then ever.

  5. So very, very true! Especially to moms who do not wish to spend a single hard-earned penny to adopt (but will do so if gifted cash by others!), illegally pre-selected an illegally photolisted kid which they really, truly feel The Lord has called them to (mortal laws of Ukraine, Bulgaria or Latvia be damned; why yes, all those Reeces Rainbow and Rainbow Kids kiddos are illegally photolisted) and feels it is perfectly okay to kick the adopted kid to the curb if they’re not quite what they expected.

    It is also perfectly okay to encourage folks to adopt kiddos who are very likely to have been trafficked … after the kid gets home, the new momma will say stuff like “oh no, I’d never adopt from (country with long and extensively documented history of adoption corruption) now”, meaning “now that she got her little muffin home”.

    • Kaytee, yes of course adoption isn’t the perfect answer. There are real problems that must be addressed. But, when your 9 year old son, who was with a foster family for 6 years (until they decided they couldn’t keep him), then in an orphanage for 2 years where other boys beat him up, and on a waiting child list along with 2000 other children for months upon months, tells you that no one wanted him because of his problems (he has spina bifida), but he’s so glad that you wanted him, you cry your eyes out and you start to think that though adoption comes with loss on all sides, it is a pretty great answer in this very imperfect world.

    • I am sorry, I am probably misreading your post. Are you saying that kids photo listed on Rainbow kids are posted illegally?

    • Kaytee, I appreciate your post because I truly deeply care about ethics. I too have noticed the many parents who adopt and then say “don’t do what I did”. It’s partly thanks to that trend that we waited so long to adopt while doing our research. It made me aware of things to watch out for in our adoptions. I truly feel I am accountable to my sons for the actions regarding their adoptions.

      I have read about the problems with photolistings on RR. It’s very sad.

      As far fundraising, we didn’t fundraise and received no grants so I don’t feel like I can speak to that issue very well.

  6. Love it. LOVE it. My only complaint (and it’s a small one but…) is that this is pretty specific to international adoption. I know a lot of parents waiting for domestic adoptions which, of course, work pretty differently on several of these points. Maybe do a “domestic adoption” version, too. 🙂

    • I’m afraid I have no experience with domestic adoption so I wouldn’t know where to start. Write it and then add a link here in the comments pretty please? 🙂

      • I have two girls through domestic adoption, and I can honestly say that the sentiments of patience, understanding, acceptance and love are very similar to what you expressed. I related to your story and your advice throughout. I guess the logistics are different, but how you feel about your children, the agony of waiting, not knowing, and raising them as your own while being sensitive to what their unique situation brings to their lives are all very pertinent to domestic adoption as well. This is especially true as more and more domestic adoptions become open. I am a huge advocate for positive adoption stories, news and education. I enjoyed reading this post and feel like the more education and exposure we offer to our family and friends about any type of adoption, the better off they will be as well as adoptive families. Isn’t adoption wonderful?

  7. Very true. The horrible secret is that you don’t suddenly get sane again when you get home. Reentry has been so much harder this time than last time.

  8. It used to be all of them. Now it’s just #8 and it is a horrible, horrible place to be stuck in. I pray that others never travel and fall even more in love with a child once meeting them and spending time with them only to have the country shut down and tell all of those parents waiting that these children are better off being raised in institutions. Part of my heart will forever live in Russia now. And I pray everyday for a miracle that someone in her country will love her for me. Now my friends think I am even crazier 😦

    • I feel like anything I say won’t be good enough to convey how sorry I am for this situation. It’s heartbreaking. I don’t think love is ever a mistake and I’m sorry for people not understanding your pain. Hoping with you for her sake.

  9. It’s like you peeked into my world. Thank you for writing it down. It’s so good to hear I’m not the only one who feels these things!!

  10. perfectly written and incredibly accurate. every single one of these things is so true… will definitely be sharing this post!! thank you for capturing these very real moments… xoxo- another waiting mama.

    • Good luck to you in your own wait. I am so glad my “waits” are all over that I feel a little guilty. The wait is so very hard, and so worth it.

  11. Domestic mom waiting for an older child placement and everything here is true. I cling to every update and yet am exhausted by people asking me, “What now? What’s the update?” They mean well but it’s just another reminder that with every update I’m still waiting. Thanks for capturing what I haven’t been able to articulate.

  12. Wow, thank you! So many points were spot on and more are to come for us. #2 and #3, we don’t even have a face yet, but it’s so good to know I’m normal, even if I’m fighting back tears in the middle of a store because, this little person, who’s name we don’t even know yet is so loved and so missed! Thank you!

    • The moment you see that face is one of the best moments of all time. Maybe this is silly but both times we took a “family” picture with their referral picture up on the laptop and us holding it. Such a happy moment to remember and my son really loves looking at pictures of us holding pictures of him while he was in DRC. 🙂

  13. I am the mom to a son we adopted domestically and so much of this applies. And that which doesn’t, I still get. I love this so much. Thank you for writing it.

  14. I’m adopted. Any time I hear about what it’s like for parents, I want to find everyone I know that’s adopted a kid and hug them and say “thank you”. (Especially my own folks, obviously!) So I don’t know you, and will probably not ever meet you, but here’s a hug. *hug* And thanks.

    • You’re awfully sweet to say that. I feel like I am the luckiest person in the world to get to be a mom to my sons. I’m guessing your mom feels the same about you. 🙂

  15. What an awesome post! My pastor and his wife are waiting for travel approval and I have a very dear friend who has adopted internationally twice. I have seen these things in both of these women’s eyes many times over. I have always said, a pregnancy was created by design to be 40 weeks…a mom’s womb is big enough for that and has everything it needs for such a journey. A mother’s heart is so much smaller, and with no definite end in sight…carrying a child there is MUCH more difficult and painful. Adoptive mothers are heros in ever sense of the word. I don’t know how they do it. I admire their every move during the waiting period because even the smallest task of getting out of bed can be overwhelming when the wait just keeps going on and on…

      • Their journeys have been an amazing testimony of how God, and only God can sustain a person through the hardest emotional times. A mother’s love is painted so beautifully through an adoption.

  16. Thank you, thank you so much for this post. I really hope my friends/family read it and can get a better understanding of what we have and we are going through. Our son came home in March 2010 and we are currently waiting for our daughter to come home, our referral came in April. Both are from South Korea

  17. I shared this post on my Facebook and thought of a couple who I met through a friend of a friend. They have comitted to adopting a baby almost a year ago . This baby girl will soon be one. She is adopting from a country were adoptions don’t really take place. There is no agency even allowed in this very Muslim country. My heart breaks for her as she rush and was passionate to complete all her papers , just to wait for things to be moved Mali. She is still waitng for lawyer . I too am a adopted mother and from this country as well. I know she is probably experiencinguch of what you wrote. I did.

    • I also adopted transracially through foster care, and this post made me cry too. I think most of us can identify with it regardless of whether we adopted internationally, domestically, privately or publicly. Congrats on being freshly pressed, and thanks for speaking up not only for adoptive parents but also for adopted kids!

    • I think the majority of it applies to all adoptive mammas. Hub and I have been therapeutic foster parents for a few years, and have a heart for older kids. We brought home our eight year old daughter in February. It was a domestic inter-state adoption, but even the red tape between states can be exhausting.

  18. Yup! Your post hit every nail right on the head. As a mom of three beautiful adopted children, thanks for so eloquently putting into words the things I couldn’t.

  19. My husband and I were blessed to adopt two beautiful children through foster care. Thank you for speaking out so openly and honestly about how adoption affects us. And I especially appreciate your candidness about how fair would mean our children not having to go through what they do before being placed. A lot of people don’t understand. Bless you and your family.

    • Thank you for your touching comment. The post you referenced is actually my favorite thing I’ve written, not this one so it meant a lot to me personally that you said that.

  20. The trial of waiting is one of the hardest things we went through as parents. I remember buying only cargo pants so I literally had my phone ON me 24/7! It took us 1 yr 6mo 4 days to bring our 2 Haitian daughters home, but a close friend has been waiting over 3 yrs for their Haitian children. Our comfort was being able to pray and knowing that God saw them even when we couldn’t. To all of you waiting moms: sending love and prayers that your children soon will be in your arms. I attached our adoption blog, if interested.

    • I laughed at the cargo pants thing. Brilliant. 😀 The things they don’t tell you about in training huh? I will for sure be over to your blog.

  21. Thank you for posting this! I’m glad a friend of mine (with biological and adopted children) shared this on Facebook. It’s good for us non-adoptive parents to read!

  22. I am a friend of your mom’s. How beautifully written. As the aunt of two adoptive nephews, I know what it was like watching my brother and sister-in-law go through this process. One day, one day, you will have that precious child in your arms, and your world will never be the same again.

    • I wasn’t as clear as I could have been but both our little guys are home and we consider our family complete for now. 🙂 And you’re right – our world has pretty much been turned upside down and we love it.

  23. whew…crying. I am that woman…waiting to learn if my child (also in the Congo!!!) will get to come home. I live in BC and Congolese adoptions here have been put on suspension. Thanks for this…I’ve shared it on my adoption page (through fb) so people will, just maybe, begin to get it.

    • If you don’t mind send me an email about where in BC you are. I know a few people up that way if you don’t already have contact.

  24. so well written…I think you must have been with me on both journeys to bring home my boys. I’m re-posting… bless you. thank you.

  25. This is so helpful and insightful — thank you, and I will recommend it to others too. So many are still waiting . . . and I am so sorry, and that is SO hard!

  26. So, you have totally and completely captured everything that I have been feeling over the past 2 years of our adoption process. The wait is so excruciating and tough sometimes that I feel like the only person in the whole world that feels the way I do! After I read this article I told my husband, “I’m not crazy! Yay!” Thank you for capturing The Wait so beautifully and accurately!

  27. As a momma of two foreign born children, adopted 8 years ago and the aunt of 2 foreign born nieces waiting to come home, I thank you. You said this with humor and yet with grace…. and all of it is spot on.

  28. Wanted you to know that your blog post also reached its intended audience. I have a friend who is adopting overseas & I’ve tried to be supportive even though I didn’t really know what was going on behind the scenes. After I read this, my mind & heart opened up with a great, big, “Oh my goodness! I never realized. Now I get it!”. I love my friend. I treasure her big heart. And now, I also stand in awe of her patience, strength & perseverance in the face of her “WAIT” to be together with her precious babies. Thank you for helping me to be a better friend to this awesome lady!

  29. I’m the adoptive mom to stateside kiddos – and there isn’t much that you’ve listed that doesn’t apply to the domestic side as well. 🙂 Great read – thanks!

    • I guess us moms are all pretty much the same in our crazy love for our kiddos – no matter how they arrive, stork delivery or otherwise. 🙂

    • Thank you. The piece itself was just written as a humorous thing for my friends to kind of explain why I’ve been nuts for a few years and then when it got shared so many times I felt like I needed to add those to round out my feelings about adoption and the wait. Thank you for understanding that, it means a lot to me.

  30. Wow. Thank you. It’s like you read my mind but then took it that one step further – moving past the part that I couldn’t articulate through the tears and ugly crying. I have to share this. It’s like a compulsion – something I need to share with my family and friends in the hope that they one day ‘get it’.

  31. Eloquent and full of truth…I am the adoptive mom of a boy and girl who are now 26 and 27. They each now have their own family and they have given us 2 beautiful grandsons. The pain of infertility doesn’t ever really go away, you just have so much love to focus on with these little ones that you rarely ever feel that ache again. Someone asked me, “What is the unacceptable thing?” “Childlessness,” was my answer. We are blessed to have been able to raise these amazing young adults.
    Praying for our friends Sarah and Will who are at the adoption threshold for peace, comfort, and favor in every step of the process.

  32. I have adopted two children from Ukraine, so I truly understand the International part and I have adopted two from the American foster care system. All of them “older” children. The youngest was nine, the oldest was her brother 16. I lost a job over the adoption of the 16 year old. I can so relate to checking my email constantly to see if there were any updates. I love this blog, so true, so true.

  33. I waited four years for my child, who turned out to be a baby girl from China. She was worth the wait. I totally loved this post; all of the points were so true. I loved my daughter even before she was conceived. If you ever want a guest post about my adoption experience, feel free to leave a comment on my blog:

  34. I was in tears reading your blog. This is so true! Thank you for sharing this. It is hard for others to understand what you go through as an adoptive parent. We have been blessed with 3 precious children from South Korea, whom we adore

    • Thank you for the comment, I agree it IS hard for people get it. My mom really encouraged me to get to now other adoptive parents between our two adoptions and that support and understanding was such a blessing to have from people who DID get it. And congrats on your darlings. PS: your username is so cute.

  35. ” And there is something quite horrific about the arrogance of believing that God would make this easy on me when it wasn’t easy for my children’s other parents.”

    OMW. Truer words were never spoken. Thank you.

  36. I have several friends who have, or are in the process of, adopting a child. Thank you so much for helping me understand what they are going through. I am in awe of how they manage to hold it together with so, so much uncertainty and pain of worry. I hope this blog post gets spread far and wide. 🙂

  37. 16 years and 3 international adoptions later and I still vividly remember all those feelings and will always be grateful for the gift of these children.Very well said and blessings to all the wanna be parents and the waiting children

    • It’s interesting to hear it’s still so vivid for you. I know others say it fades but for me it hasn’t so it’s nice to know how many others feel the same.

  38. My daughter has been home a year and a half and I can still feel the heart ache of not having her with us. I don’t think I will ever forget that kind of hurt. It’s gone, but it’s still so close to the surface. This article is SPOT ON..

    • OMW yes. You just echoed how I feel. Sometimes I look at Tal (with us five months) and I can barely breathe it’s so amazing to realize he’s in my arms.

  39. Thank you. My son and I are in the end stages of waiting for his new sister to come home from Haiti (at least we hope it’s the end stages). This sums up perfectly how I feel and what so many don’t understand.

  40. I was just telling my husband how I wished there had been a book written about the waiting period of adoption. He suggested that I compile my journal ramblings, but I tend to be writing less these days as my motivation seems to be completely depleted. There are times I wish someone had warned me about this part. Not that I would have done anything differently, but I foolishly think from time-to-time that I could have prepared myself. Silly me.

    Not only is your journal entry speaking the hearts of adoptive mothers, but it has also inspired me tremendously. I have been crying over the last few days to the point where I have seen a therapist and called my M.D. because I thought something was terribly wrong with me since I couldn’t get a handle on this. There is in fact something very wrong with me, my child isn’t home. “… pick up the pieces of your heart and keep going.” I have read this part over and over and will probably write it down and place it on my night stand. It gets me and for this I thank you for finding the motivation to write it for me.


    • What a lovely thing to say. Thank you. And you are totally right, there at once IS something wrong with you and nothing wrong with you. Or as my therapist says “you are normal for someone going through what you’re experiencing.” I love that.

  41. Reblogged this on Katie's Adoption and Fitness Journeys and commented:
    This is an awesome post about the thoughts and feelings that waiting adoptive moms have. It is focused mainly on international adoption but it totally applies to any type of adoption!

    #8 is the fear we never talk about.
    #12 – Looks brave on the outside, but that’s about it for me. Lately I don’t feel brave. It’s hard when all you can do it to get through the day not falling apart because your kids aren’t home yet.

  42. Hello,
    a friend of mine sent this to me and I think you pretty much nailed it. We are in the process of adoption and waiting to be matched to our children after 1 1/2 years of non stop paperwork. Your writing was encouraging and spot on with the emotions involved.

  43. You beautifully stated everything I’ve wanted to say but couldn’t. I actually sent an email out to folks with the subject line “what the crap” and told them I know you’ve been asking what the crap is wrong with me – well this says it perfectly. Thank you for that.

  44. Ahhhhhh…very well stated, sista! I am a single adoptive mother of a beautiful little Vietnamese boy but was previously matched to a Vietnamese girl so for months I dreamed of Lily and then was told our whole adoption group could not adopt our kids. Man, have I lived all of your points and yes, agonizing and awkward months for my loved ones and associates. No one had a clue what to say, least of all me. Yes, it heart to breathe and even to hope but there was nothing else to do and yes, it was all worth it when I finally held my boy. 🙂

  45. Unless, of course, your friend is irresponsible enough to demand others finance her adoption (particularly if she managed to save $25k for a down payment on a house, that she REALLY wanted, but unwilling to do the sane to adopt a kid she claims to want to adopt) by insisting if it is God’s will, it is God’s bill.

    Unless she’s determined to adopt multiple unrelated kids at once, particularly if they have special needs — as this significantly increases the odds her adoption will fail. And, really, shouldn’t she want to give kid(s) who’ve already been abandoned once the very best chance of attaching to their new forever family??

    Unless she’s chosen to adopt from a country known for rampant and well-documented corruption and human trafficking for the purpose of international adoption – Ethiopia, DRC, Uganda and Haiti. The latter 4 effectively have no functioning government or justice system and the odds of getting a trafficked kid are sky high. It’s why adoptions from Guatemala, Nepal, Cambodia and Vietnam got shut down. Just google EJ Graff’s research published in Foreign Policy “The lie we love” and “anatomy of an adoption crisis” or EJ Graff’s “finding Fernanda”

    Unless your friend is adopting via an ethically-challenged adoption “ministry” like Reeces Rainbow or rainbow kids, who illegally photolist kids and illegally encourage adopters to pre-select a particular kid to adopt. It really is illegal – go to the state depts website and see for yourself. Ukraine, Bulgaria, Serbia and Russia (well pre-ban) all required a dossier to be registered in-country and government officials to formally natch the adopters with a kid.

    • I would never expect someone to support a friend they thought was doing something morally wrong. To me, that goes without saying.

      I care passionately about ethics and discussed it earlier in this thread in the comments.

  46. #9 should say absent minded, forgetful, your friend has brain overload… it’s something much different, not stupid.

  47. After failed IVF, 3 failed matches in the foster care system, and a stillborn via private adoption, I can’t express the uncertainty, pain and anguish this process has caused to my friends or family. Thank you for giving me something to share with them, so I don’t have to express it.

    • Aww, I hope it helps. I’m so sorry for all the losses. Especially the stillborn, can’t imagine how hard that must have been for you and the other mother. 😦

  48. Beautifully captured and written. We are in the home study stage at present but I’m saving your link to share closer to the “waiting” time; your blog has helped me to anticipate a little more of our journey ahead. Bless you, from readers in Dubai 🙂

  49. WOW WOW WOW! This all hits home! We adopted two older children who are now grown and possible looking to adopt again. This was beautiful! My friend once deemed adoption and “emotional pregnancy” 🙂

    Also, “The Connected Child” is by far the best resource I found for any adoptive parent out there.

    Many blessing to you! Thank you for writing this!!

  50. as an adopted child, this is an interesting list for me to read. you specified international adoption in this post, but I think your observations are super relevant to domestic adoptions like mine as well. a thought I’d add – referring to the biological parents as the “real” parents. I’m not sure who gets to determine who’s more or less real, but in my mind, everyone is real despite the different roles they play. I don’t know if that irks everyone the way it irks me, but I’d be happy if I never heard that phrase again.

    • As an adoptive mom I can say I too cannot stand the phrase:”real parents” and we have heard “real children” too. Both are frustrating and hurtful!

    • Ugh. I agree. Hate that term. Both are real. Absolutely real. Wish people could realize the implications of their words when they say sstuff like that.

      (If an adult adoptee chooses to use that term to me that’s something else but it’s something no stranger should be saying.)

    • One of my daughter’s classmates kept teasing her that I was not her real mother. I talked with him (and the teacher) and explained that I was very real and was at every game, surgery, piano lesson, school function, helped with homework ect, just like his real mom. I also explained that she also had a real mother that gave birth, so that she had two real moms.

      • Well, yeah. 🙂 Don’t know how we’re going to procure a kid but I can’t wait to see it’s face. My partner grew up in Botswana and we’re seriously discussing adopting from Africa so this post felt a little like a glimpse into our future. I can’t wait to feel all the emotions, too, even the sucky ones. And, now I have a guide for my friends, lol.

  51. This post is so cute and amazing ! I have never experienced the things you talked about but I would come and read your post again when I would be hoping to experience it 😉 Thanks for such excellent post !

  52. Extraordinary post. Not in either position yet (as friend of or adoptive parent) but I hope to visit both posts one day. 🙂 Still, what an education.


  53. This post is absolutely b-e-a-u-t-i-f-u-l! Although my husband and I did not adopt internationally, but rather, from our state’s foster care system, we were met with much of the same responses as you describe. It was almost as if people did not quite know how to respond to what I suppose they viewed as a radical decision. It is difficult for some to understand the love, the relationship, the bond that develops from such an act but it is nonetheless very real! I shared our son’s story on my post, “Fighting to be Heard” in hopes that it would shed some light or understanding on this topic. Great job and thanks!

    • Yes. You can adopt from foster care. You can adopt in a private domestic adoption. And there are a limited number of sending countries that will allow you to adopt internationally. See Rainbow Kids website for which are currently open to single men.

  54. Thank you for this. In the waiting stage now for domestic adoption. While your post focuses on international adoption because that is what you know, it does apply to domestic adoption as well. Thanks so much for writing this. I’m sharing with my friends so that they can have some sort of understanding of what is happening in my brain and heart.

  55. I love this post – I have always wanted to adopt (maybe someday I will). My close friend just adopted and I know she would appreciate this post as well. It’s so important for people to understand how to respond to adoption, adopted children, and adoptive parents! Thank you!

  56. I’m adopted and every time a read something about adoption it touches my heart. Your post was good to read. I can’t fathom how my parents felt during the adoption process. Thank you for your post.

  57. What a touching tribute to this crazy roller coaster we all ride on in hopes of building our family. It is a journey that can drive us crazy at times…but one that we must continue on as without it we would not have our sweet daughter nor our second child for whom we wait. Thank you for your words. You have put them together in such a way that I could never have done. If you don’t mind, I would like to link a portion on my blog. We have recently been told our wait for our daughter has grown longer and it is hard to explain some of the craziness to our family and friends when there are times when we ourselves struggle with the “why?”

    • I’m sorry to hear the waiting timeline has grown for you and your daughter. 😦 That’s so hard. Please feel free to share whatever you’d like. I’m sorry I haven’t responded until now. I had out of country guests in town and cousin time was high priority around here and I’m just getting caught up on things. Or pretending I am anyway.

  58. To me, adoption means compassion – shown to your “self” and to the baby you are adopting. I think, if there is anything called destiny, it must have made the two souls meet – for each other. Motherhood – Biological or adoptive, is motherhood – beautiful and pious.

    Many times in life, it is good to face the painful reality and take it head on. It becomes easy for tears to turn into smiles.

    A beautiful and honest post. Loved reading it. 🙂

    • Thanks. I’m still early on in this motherhood journey but it’s a blast. Of course that’s probably because I think my kids are the greatest children in existence, but what mom doesn’t? 🙂

  59. Thank you for sharing such thoughtful and inspiring words!

    My parents adopted me when I was a newborn baby, the adoption itself having been arranged when my birthmom was pregnant with me. It is really interesting to read and hear about the hardships of the adoption process from the perspective of an adopted person. My parents have told me they had to wait TEN YEARS, as many agencies in the 80’s told them my dad was “too old” to adopt – He was born in 1940 and is the best dad the universe has ever known, as far as I’m concerned. I know it’s selfish, but I’m so grateful the agencies they initially went to turned them away, otherwise he wouldn’t be MY DAD! 🙂

    Now, I’m 27 and living with my husband in the Middle East. We have talked about adopting from nearby India, but the process sounds grueling. I really admire the men and women who have the strength to persevere!

  60. I just wanted to say thank you, like many other readers here. I am not a mama in waiting but this might be something I have to go through at some point and I found your words inspiring and beautiful and it definitely brought a tear to my eye. I wish that children didn’t need to be adopted but I am glad that there are some loving families waiting for those who don’t have one any more…now if only the red tape could be a little thinner. Good luck to all the parents-in-waiting. There is no greater gift than the gift of a child’s smile and one day, they will.

    • I wish the red tape was thinner as well! I think it’s such a hard thing because there have to be these safeguards in place to make sure that adoptions are ethical and that adoptive parents are indeed fit parents. So it’s a necessary frustration really. Thanks for your comment.

  61. You nailed it! I loved my nephew before I ever met him. He was eleven months old when my brother finally brought him home. He is now seven years old and is a pure joy. Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed! 🙂

    • Thank you. Love is so interesting. That love before you meet them is a different love then when you know them but it’s all love isn’t is?

  62. My son married an adopted child who was raised by good people. She turned out great and is my daughter-in-law. If you are given the chance the input can make a person great. Does it take a lot of work? Hell yes, but it is worth it.

    • Parenting is a massive amount of work, I agree. 🙂 I keep having new appreciation and dare I say sympathy for my parents on a daily basis these days!

  63. Reblogged at with this comment, “Excellent thoughts from a mom in the process of international adoption.”

    As an orphan care advocate, I can relate to all of these. As a man, much of my relating is second-hand. However, I totally get #3. Part of my heart longs for February, when I will re-connect with the part of it I left with 13 amazing kids in Jacmel, Haiti.

  64. Thank you for such a beautiful, heart-rendering post. It is so honest and real, and I appreciate it. God bless you on your journey. Adoption might be in our future, and I am grateful for the realistic picture

  65. I’ve been a sidekick on the surreal adventure/soap opera of international adoption with close friends more than once. Your advice is wonderful and I have only happy adoption stories to share.

  66. Such a beautifully written post! Your blog just popped up for me, and I’m so glad I’ve found it.

    I’m a photographer for Red Thread Sessions – an organization that works with adoptive families. I can only imagine how busy the families are while going through their adoptive process – this organization joins them to a photographer that captures their early moments. Feel free to check out their website:

    I’m so excited to see what you’ll be posting in the future!

  67. What a fantastic piece that hits home, especially to those who casually toss out the question, “Why don’t you just adopt?”. As painful and unreliable as infertility treatment may be, it’s got nothing on the emotion, financial burden, time, blood, sweat and tears that adoption has. Apples and oranges, perhaps, but true nonetheless. Best of luck to you and your family.

  68. Hi, stumbled across your blog. We are completing our first adoption next week. We also stumbled into adopting…we didn’t stumble, more like God dropped a toddler into our laps. We were asked to take on a little boy over three years ago and in the process, became foster parents. There are so many incredible children in your city or town who need a “second family”. (Not that there is anything wrong with foreign adoptions). Many of the same principles apply to both types of adoption. It can make you a little crazy. When our baby first came to us a friend (also a foster parent and now adoptive mom) told me that I was getting too attached to him. I was a little snarky in my response which was, “That’s the problem, no one in his young life has ‘attached’ to him.” Everyone needs attachment to someone. Thanks for writing. God Bless you!

    • What a story. And I agree. There are children everywhere who need love, attachment. We all do don’t we? Thank you for sharing.

  69. I really enjoyed reading this! This is extremely biased toward foreign adoptions in a couple of the points. As someone who has decided to adopt if I ever want children (pregnancy has never appealed to me and I would rather give a loving home to a pre-existing child in need than create a designer baby) I enjoyed the candor with which you describe the process.

    My favorite point was that adoption is not pregnancy. I predict that a lot of people who can’t concieve think of adoption as a stand-in. Which it can be. It can definitely be a second option BUT it is indisputably NOT pregnancy and a lot of people around adopters try to treat it like pregnancy. That HAS to be annoying.

    Also, for those of use who prefer the option of adopting to pregnancy, it is insensitive of people to say things along the lines of “but don’t you want one of your own? ” and “are you unable to have children the regular way? ” That is no one’s business. One would think that people wouldn’t be so mortified that a woman would rather adopt than pop out a baby with half her genes.

    • I feel the same way about pregnancy as you! Everyone around me shakes their head at my opinion, even my family. I’m just so glad that there are people in the world who think the same way. They exist. Yay.

      • For sure! My family and friends think ill change my mind, but i havent in a decade. There are probably more of us than we realize. I think lots of us settle for having biological kids because that’s what our partners want though. I refuse to do that. Lets not ever let anyone talk us into doing so.egging with our bodies that we really don’t want to.

        Also, check out permanent birth control. My top pick right now is called Essure.

    • It always struck me as odd the people who tried to talk us into having genetic offspring. I think for some people it’s just not important. And that’s ok. Families come in so many shapes and forms.

  70. Hi! I’m 20 years old. Well, I’ll be turning twenty one in a few days so…I guess I’m a 21-to-be. Since I was 15, I have dreamed of adopting a child. All these years, I have knitted small stories in my mind. How I’ll feel the first time my child sleeps, cuddled at my side and the first ice cream adventure that we would go on and things like that. There are still quite a few years left for me to be independent and f7nancially stable to raise a child but the wait already kills me. Your article made me realse how much more waiting there is, and also affirmed my believe that it will be all worth it. And more.
    Love and respect 🙂

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  72. This is really sweet – from one of the ones waited for…
    Obviously I wasn’t there for my mom waiting for me, but I do remember celebrating my sister’s 1 year birthday before she came and she didn’t actually arrive until 18 mos. I appreciate this perspective though, as I was too young to see it this way.

  73. I love this. I felt like you looked into my heart and wrote every single thing I am feeling. I would love to be able to share this on my blog ( to share with my readers this amazing post. Of course I would link the post back to your site giving your total credit. Please let me know if this would be okay! Amazing!!

  74. This is an incredible bank of thoughtful information. Thank you for posting this. I’m an adult now, but I was adopted when I was 3, and my mom has said many of these things were challenges she faced as well. I hope to be blessed with an adopted child as well some day, and will definitely be pointing people to this post!

  75. Thank you so, so much for sharing this! While we are not in the process yet, we are heading there. To be honest, my experience is that it’s everyone else who should be apologising. While we have had some incredibly supportive friends, we have also had looks (and comments) conveying complete horror. God bless people like you who are prepared to make a difference in the life of someone who they did not push out of their vagina! It really isn’t the important bit. X

  76. Wow, what a neat and very accurate list! I’m on the “being adopted” end of things, but I was able, through your descriptions, to understand what my parents went through as they adopted my sisters and me.

    One thing that you touched on that I think is difficult for non-adoptive parents and non-adoptees to understand is that sense of loss that, no matter how much you are loved – and we WERE loved! – there’s still loss in some shape or form surrounding your worldview the rest of your life. It touches every part of your life.

    I wrote a memoir about my parents and the three of us kids they adopted after my mama died in August 2012. It’s on Amazon and is entitled “Fields of Gold: A Love Story.” You might like to read what a journey through life with adopted kids who are ever after your own looks like. Lot of love, lot of laughter, lot of commitment, and the bonding that eventually happened that enabled me to take care of Mama and walk with her through Alzheimer’s Disease, Lewy Body dementia, vascular dementia, and congestive heart failure, side-by-side, all the way through to her death.

    • I really appreciate your comment, especially the part about loss. I am so grateful for the adult adoptees who share their stories. Not just because I think each person on this planet has a unique gift to share with their story but because I think it helps adoptive parents to be more open to the feelings and emotions their children may face one day. I think the loss thing is hard for parents to accept because we want so badly to keep our kids from pain, on the flip side at this point in my journey I wonder if I focus on it too much? If I’m projecting feelings on to them? I just don’t know. I will for sure be looking into getting your book. Thank you.

  77. I take issue with the point “adoption comes from loss”. Actually plenty of adoptions come from gain. A child who was not on this earth has been born to a parent who can see the child needs more help than they can provide. They make the tough call to put the child up for adoption, where parents who can support and love this child can adopt them. This is not a loss

    Not to mention plenty of children have come from unfit, uncaring parents as traded UP to loving caring parents. Adoption is not always from loss, it is not always a negative thing.

  78. Thank you for this post, I have shared it with many. Feels like you read my mind! I am in the waiting for referral period and it feels like forever, but reading your blog shows me there is indeed a light at the end of the tunnel. Congrats on your lovely family!

  79. Beautifully written! I’m not an adoptive mom myself but have many friends who are – thanks for giving us a better understanding of exactly what it is that you go through! Heartbreaking and heartwarming all at the same time!

  80. ❤ ❤ ❤ We adopted internationally nine years ago and then domestically nine months later. I always wish I had blogged during our experiences but if I could have described what I was feeling then it would have read an awful lot like this. Definitely hit the nail on the head. Thanks for sharing.

  81. Wow – almost perfect!! I have adopted twice – once from China and once from Guatemala and this brought back so many memories and just absolutely said it so well.. Found myself smiling and saying yes to almost every point. Beautifully done!!!

  82. I feel everything your spoke about. I have not adopted myself but my daughter has. And thing is so very true for both of us except for the waiting and emptiness until that baby is in your arms. After 37 years of parenting I c an tell you that once he/she is home in your arms that’s when it all begins. Then we can relate. Because buckle up your in for the wild ride of PARENTING. Enjoy every minute it goes by much too quickly. Good luck to all of you who are in the process I hope it goes quickly.

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  84. Just came across this blog from another adoptive mama on facebook. Seriously, it is PERFECT!!! #9…yep, totally relate!! LOL We are getting ready to spend our third Christmas without our children home and the pain seems almost unbearable at times! Lord willing, it will only be a few more months. Famous last words, right? Thank you so much for this!

  85. Good list , but don’t forget the other side. Twelve things I wish adoptive families knew about adoption. ***1. The child will forever be part of the birth families’ lives, especially the mom. ***2. You are not more entitled to the child than the birth mother, so celebrate for her if she chooses to keep the baby. ***3. You are not fully equipped to be the parent of your adoptive child because much of who the child is as a person is absolutely generic, and you simply cannot understand. Understand this first when you realize you can’t understand your child. You can’t change genetics. ***4. Your adopted child needs you to keep good ongoing information on the birth family If at all possible. The facts of their life when they surrendered or lost their child, do not remain the facts of their life. Your child needs access to the whole story. ***5. The willing to surrender birth family will most likely regret their decision eventually, if not instantly. This happens most often in a heart breaking way at ten to twelve years post adoption. ***6. You are not necessarily better than the birth family. Maybe you have more money, time, or resources, but that doesn’t mean squat when loving a child. ***7. Your adopted child will be curious about the birth family and might want to be part of their lives. Allow it. Adopted children often end up with serious emotional or legal issues. ***8. Your adopted child’s natural siblings love them and want to be at least a little part of their lives. Honor that. ***9. Don’t brag that your child is adopted as if you saved your child from a bad situation. Even if your child WAS in a bad situation, you most likely just wanted a child no matter what the situation. ***10. Don’t treat your adopted child like a rock star or cancer patient because your so glad to have them. Adopted children often grow up to be ego-centric brats who don’t have a REAL grasp on the natural and logical consequences of life. ***11. If your child desires a relationship with their birth family at any point, embrace it. Blend the families at times to help out seem more normal in order to keep jealousy and resentment at bay. ***12. If your adopted child was taken away from his or her mommy and daddy, educate yourself. Many times there was no valid reason for the removal or the termination of parental rights, and the child and the natural family are victims of an exceedingly corrupt child “collection” service. If you don’t do everything in your power to help that child maintain a relationship with the family, you’re a monster, and your adopted child will likely end up hating you and being a dysfunctional adult.

    • The title “Twelve Things…” is not an accurate portrayal of the point of this post, it was not chosen by me and had I known HP would change it to that I would not have allowed it to be reposted.

    • Deb, in reading your comment I feel like I see a lot of pain in your words. I wonder if you are the mother of a child who is not living with you. Or if you’re one of those children who were taken away for no reason.

      Whatever the case please know my heart goes out to you. In my ideal world every baby would be raise by the parents who gave birth to him/her. But my ideal world doesn’t exist. And that is a heart breaking thing.

      Family is important. All family. I thank you for reminding us of that. I just wrote about that yesterday because I do feel passionately about it:

  86. Number 8 kiiled me and brought tears to my eyes. There’s a little boy here in IL. I’m currently trying to adopt and it’s so true…you never know if they are coming home or not. If someone else gets this little boy, it’ll break my heart, but – I KNOW IF the lord wants him with me, he will be. 🙂 Good luck and God bless.

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