Since brining Ereylah home there is a realm of new insights and experiences we have gained. Obviously each adoptive parent has a different story and set of experiences they have learned and has helped to shape them. And man oh man am I still learning. Here are my top 13 things I have learned through our adoption. I hope they help, make you laugh, make you think and most importantly move forward on adopting and bringing home YOUR child.
- How much I love my daughter’s Birth mom
The love we have for Nicole was an unexpected love my heart wasn’t planning. It is not some weird competition or emotional tug of war in my head that I play with her. I know I am Ereylah’s mom but that could have never happened without Nicole. God knew Ereylah was to be my daughter. There is no way she would be mine without Nicole’s selfless and brave decision to give life to this beautiful girl. Yes, Ereylah already has my mannerisms and even says things the way I do, but there is so much genetic makeup that I could not have given her that makes her, HER, that could only come from Nicole.
*We have changed our Birthmothers name in this article
- I prefer open adoption verses closed
The term open adoption use to scare me; repel me actually. But the more I learned, the more I saw the full value. The term ‘open adoption’ can hold a lot of different variables. When Ereylah was 2 weeks old we met Nicole and our social worker at a Chic-fil-a. I think this was a healing process for her and possibly even for me too. We have not seen her since but certainly would if she asked.
We currently send quarterly updates, per our agreement, to her social worker who then passes them to Nicole if she wants them, and we are told she reads all of them.
This open adoption is important for all of us. Of course for a birth mom to see the child she birthed loved and thriving, but it is also good for me. I am still having a hard time articulating why I yearn for it, but it does something for me that I feel my heart needs. Of course our open adoption is pretty limited at this point, but the fact that there is a door open for communication is so important. She has not expressed a desire to see us recently, and that is okay. I understand that the heart needs to move on to heal to live life fully.
This open adoption is important for Ereylah. Perhaps not yet but it will be. We read her books on adoption and talk about Nicole too. When her brain wraps around the fact that she did not come from my tummy, I want her to know that I am her advocate and not a speed bump in her learning and emotionally understanding where she came from. This open adoption really makes me be a better parent….which is something I never would have anticipated.
Nicole is an intelligent and kind woman. I know other adoptive moms have to consider other factors such as a birth mothers drug habits or unhealthy behavior. However, even if it is not healthy for the child to have a relationship with his/her birth mom, it is vital as a parent to be an advocate for your child and show them that you are willing to help them gather info. In fact, beat them to the punch and get some pics and updates from a social worker for them! And for goodness sake, never, I mean NEVER, talk bad about your child’s birth parents. Facts may come out that could be ugly but they need to be delivered in a way that is not to be demean the birth parent. In our case, there is nothing bad we can say if we wanted to! Which I know is a blessing.
- The risks are so incredibly minimal in terms of an adoption falling through or adoptive parents coming back
Adoptions pan out all the time. Birth moms keep their word and place the baby. We do hear the horror stories, however, they are few and far between.
An even scarier fear is a birth parent or relative coming back after the adoption is final and contesting. This RARELY happens, like less than 1%. And if it does, our legal system has now learned to do proper due diligence before the adoption is final.
- Anyone’s medical history on paper looks like a train wreck.
I hear the shortsighted point made often about children through adoption being “messed up” due to unknown medical factors. My response is….. “Look at our prisons folks. They are filled with a lot of bio babies raised by their bio parents.”
Okay, now laugh…..but also breathe in reality, while understanding that I know the root your fear is coming from. People have crap in their lives and DO crap in their lives, that can affect a baby’s health, and you are scared that you will bring home a ticking time bomb.
From MY personal experience, I have more friends who have bio kids with Autism, terrets, ADD, and bi-polar, than I know from kids who have been adopted. I get that adoption can have unknown health hazards AND if you are adopting an older child they may have been through trauma and extreme attachment issues, which is a very valid topic for another discussion. My goal is to have you see from a clearer angle that the hazards of health issues may not always be much greater with adoption.
Read this Mother and Fathers Health History….
Has had episodes of extreme low BMI and extreme high BMI. Currently suffers from anxiety and is on 10mg Paxil, which she still takes during pregnancy. She understands the possible risks of the Paxil on the Fetus but has chosen to stay on the medication due to the possible damaging risks of chronic anxiety.
In the mothers early 20’s she had an eating disorder and at times thought about death. There is a genetic history of schizophrenia, bipolar, and depression in multiple family members however the mother has not experienced these symptoms directly.
Healthy BMI but has a chronic family history of cancer. Both of his parents died at an early age due to cancer. He experienced bouts of depression in his 20s. There was a history of ongoing abuse in his early teen years.
Depression, suicide, alcoholism, substance and sexual abuse have been in the birth fathers family history.
Scary, right? Do you know whose medical history this is? Ours! Katie and Josh Finklea! Yep! Although we are not perfect, I would say we are pretty great contributors to society. Josh runs a successful business, I work in finance and have 2 masters degrees and we have a 1 year old and we are pretty darn good parents! Family histories give insight, but they do not define the child.
The goal of this is to offer clarity and to put fear into perspective. Yes it is important to read a medical history and take it into consideration. Realize that a baby is not imprisoned to what their parents have done. Realize that God’s mercies are new every morning and that family cycles can STOP! Realize that environment plays a huge if not much larger role than Biology. Also remember, that healing can happen.
- You will have people say the most jaw dropping, dumb and hurtful things…..But they don’t mean to.
Last week I was at a dinner and I had a women go on and on about how I will understand “motherhood” when my biological baby arrives, (I am currently 22 weeks pregnant) suggesting that I’m not ‘truly’ a mother since my daughter is adopted. I am paraphrasing the 20 minute conversation of repeated unintentional insults. I went home and cried out of pure frustration. After the emotions calmed down, it became clear how she had no clue what she was saying. She didn’t mean to be hurtful….even though she was.
Other things are said often like “when are you going to have “your own”. This makes me cringe. Newsflash! Ereylah is MY OWN! But of course what they mean is “are you going to have biological children.” They don’t mean it to be cruel, but they also don’t realize what they are saying is implies that my adopted child is not as much as my child than a biological child would be.
A close family member recently referred to our adoption with Ereylah, and our current adoption process in China, as “putting in our order”. “Katie, when are you going to put in another order?” ….as if the child is some shirt being ordered from a catalog.
Bottom line, people say hurtful things. But, so do I. We all need grace! I would rather a person come to me and say those stupid things, rather than avoid talking about adoption all together. We all need to be educated in areas of ignorance.
- I worry
Referring to #5, I worry often about Ereylah. I worry about what she will hear others ingnorantly say about adoption and how she will process that. Of course we will educate and prepare her the best we can, but the time will come when something is said we can’t protect her. And even if whatever is said will not be said in malice, it still does damage, and it still hurts.
So this mama has to be wise, and also turn it over to the Lord.
7. I forget I didn’t birth her
I know. So weird! Especially since I have not actually given birth before.
When Ereylah was about 3 weeks old, I was going through our clean laundry and found a dead mangled lizard (courtesy of my cats). I cringe just typing this. So, I had to give myself a pep talk before I removed that little reptile from the pile of whites (which went right back in the wash). I found myself saying “come on Katie, you can do this, you went through childbirth.”
After laughing about it, then telling my husband, who looked at me like I was lost my mind, I have come to this conclusion. Motherhood is empowering. It is a testament to the power and strength of motherhood; however it comes in your life. It shows us how much we can love someone else. A sacrificial love that will fight to the bitter end before anything hurts my kid. It gives me a strength that can only be God breathed.
Clearly that strength may not translate to picking up dead lizards.
- I forget we don’t look alike
A kindergartener asked me why Ereylah had dark skin. It was the sweetest most innocent and inquisitive question. My immediate response was, “Oh, we are tan because we are Lebanese”. That poor confused little girl probably walked away and didn’t even know what to think. About 5 minutes later I realized she was looking at Ereylah and wondering why she was darker than ME! And I totally forgot that E was darker than me AND that we don’t have the same genetic make up….At ALL!
But I am not the only one. My awesome sister-in-law, JoAnn, came home laughing the other day. She was talking to one of her kids about how Ereylah walked so early in life. The conversation turned into a response something like “It in their genes! Josh walked early too.” She didn’t realize about what she had said until the next day. And it didn’t dawn on my nephew either! ………We all shared a good laugh and it is just a testament to how strong a bond we share with our baby girl and how much our daughter is “our own”!
She is such an extension of me, and I of her. That does not absolve the fact that I need to be truly cognizant that she has a different heritage to celebrate, but I truly forget we don’t look alike.
- I have a bond with other adoptive parents that is instantaneous
Short and sweet; it’s true and you just do. All adoptions are different, but there is such a bond between the parents and the families it is almost tangible. When I meet another adoptive parent, I feel like we are friends and have an immediate bond.
- I start thinking of all price tags in adoption cost equivalents
Someone says, oh that will be about $2000, I think “that’s how much a home study costs”. Last week I wanted to do a project on the house and got an estimate of $25,000 and I told the guy, “No way, that is the cost of a full adoption!”
- Assumptions of Infertility are brought up in the most awkward ways
Adoption does not equal a past of infertility. It could, but that is not the equation that should ever be assumed. For Josh and me, it does not. We wanted to adopt first. And hey, if we wanted to have bio first, then adopt, that is okay too. That is just the order we chose to do things.
I have had many, awkward moments with people (doctors included) who assume infertility is the reason we adopted. Recently there was a women praying for me in a group Bible study who thanked the Lord in prayer that he turned my infertility into something beautiful (meaning Ereylah). You better believe my eyes popped open and didn’t close the rest of the prayer while my head was cocked in confusion. I do agree that Ereylah is the most beautiful baby I have ever seen, but please don’t talk about my ovaries and assume how they are functioning….okay?
Just two weeks ago a doctor did the same thing. Kind of scary if any medical professional assumes a condition which has never been charted or discussed nor has the patient shown symptoms. Yes, I am 22 weeks pregnant, and yes we adopted our first baby, but that DOES NOT EQUAL infertility. Actually, Josh and I have experienced the opposite. There was a 5 minute quick rendezvous on a Tuesday night in September which led to a Walgreens pregnancy test showing 2 lines a couple weeks later. TMI? Maybe, but so is making assumptions on my or anyone else’s ovaries. We adopted because we are commanded to care for orphans and widows in the bible. We adopted because there are SO many children who need loving parents, and we want to be those parents….not because we were infertile…not because it was our second choice. Stop making that assumption.
Bottom line, fertility or lack thereof is not something to assume, and certainly not something to just casually mention. Refer back to #5 (people say the dumbest things). If someone is assuming I am infertile when looking at my child, what is this saying to me? More importantly, what is this saying to my child? It is saying: if we were fertile we would not have adopted her. Let that sink in.
- If you are told that it will take anywhere over 8 months to have a baby in your arms when wanting to adopt…you need to seek better counsel.
Babies in the US, especially Florida, are being born and placed for adoption or in foster care EVERY DAY. Unfortunately, some agencies make a business and bureaucracy out of this and their timelines are 18 months plus. That is absurd and unneeded. Agency’s do some amazing work, and especially in the realm of birth mother counseling. But PLEASE know you do NOT need to wait for 18 plus months to adopt a child. When Josh and I decided to officially move forward with our domestic adoption, it was October 6th. That is the date when we told our social worker “okay we are ready.” On October 10th we got a call about a birth mom who wanted to place and had not been matched yet. On October 18th we were told she wanted us to be the parents. On November 14th, Ereylah was born and on November 16th she was in our home. That is a 6 week turnaround! During that time we were also approached with 3 other adoption options. For those who question that 18 plus month wait time, our story is not abnormal! 6 weeks might be quicker than usual, but 3-6 months is the longest you should need to wait to get matched. Question it! Know your options!
- There is nothing like it
I have been told there is something amazing about childbirth and I am sure there is. I am looking forward to experiencing it in June BUT, Adoption is magical! Seeing how the Lord orchestrates stories of people who don’t know each other, and the many variables that fall into place to make that adoption happen, is so humbling and God Glorifying. If one variable was off (timing, location, birth mom decision etc) the adoption would not happen. WHEN IT DOES, IT IS AMAZING! There is no denying the Lords hand in all of it! It is not something that one person can fully control because there are so many moving pieces that it is Amazing to see the Lord work. This is not to take anything away from child birth, rather, adoption is so incredibly special in its own way.