You are adopting a child from another country… You have been focused on forms, signatures, notaries, fund-raising. You have stared at pictures of the child who will be your son or daughter, praying for him or her daily. You have waited and waited and waited. You have imagined what their personality is like, how they will respond to this huge transition they face, how you will respond! Because imagining is really all you can do.
And then comes the day your child is placed in your arms, in your family forever. You somehow survive the long flight home. And you begin the lifelong process of healing, bonding, loving.
But there are so many things about it that you just didn’t expect, even though you read dozens of books and blog posts.
Over the last few years we have asked our adoptive families to share some of these ‘unexpected’ challenges and blessings after bringing their adopted children home, knowing that their experience would be a huge blessing to families preparing to come home with their kids. Here are some of the things they’ve told us (in no particular order!)…
I was not expecting…
- how emotionally and physically exhausted I would be
- I wouldn’t feel a bond with my child when he was first placed in my arms
- how important a routine would be – both for our son’s sake and for our own sanity – and how hard it would be to get one in place
- how much our other kids would resent this new sibling and all the attention she was getting – dealing with this took tons of my energy, which I didn’t have much of!
- how important my time in the Word EVERY day would be to give me what I need to do this job
- that it would be tough to set boundaries for our daughter because we were afraid to make her unhappy
- how clueless friends and family can be, even with the best of intentions
- how long it would take for our daughter to feel loved and safe
- my son to completely prefer my husband over me – it was so hard
- our daughter to be terrified of our dog!
- all of the screaming and tantrums
- to gradually hear so many painful things in our child’s past
- how much this little person can eat
- how annoyed I would get with some of her behaviors
- I would have to teach my 4 year old son how to chew hard, crunchy foods and to wipe himself!
- my daughter would be completely overwhelmed by all the gifts and excitement of Christmas, even having been home for almost a year
- to feel like I was caring for a stranger for several months
- my child to have a completely different personality than we observed when we first met him
- how self-conscious I felt being a trans-racial family
- I would experience post-adoption depression – it seemed impossible before we got home with our daughter
- how hard it would be to cocoon and for our friends and family to respect that decision – and how isolated it made me feel!
- defiance from my sweet little guy and how personally I took it
- how many things in our house were broken – not maliciously but because he had no experience with taking care of personal property
- the fear and insecurity my son feels whenever someone in our family leaves
- how important professional help would be for us and how it was worth every penny that we didn’t have
- that I would doubt my ability to be her mother so often
- that after a year home, I rarely even think of our son as being adopted
It was unexpected at first that strangers wanted to touch our sons hair or ask him for a hug. It almost seemed endearing or cute until it sunk in that strangers are strangers. We have to set healthy boundaries that are grounded in safety not in fear. We have to be ok with kindly declining a stranger-hug. I wouldn't hug a stranger so our toddler shouldn't either.
It would be so nice to have some positive thoughts to balance this article. We can be realistic with expectations however maybe balance some of these things with a list of unexpected joys.
This last comment is a great point! Because this list was compiled mainly from the challenges we've heard about, it can make sound like there aren't any unexpected joys – so please do leave a comment with those as well. I know there are many!