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From an adoptive mama to an almost-adoptive mama, let me tell you you’re in for the best ride of your life.
I remember the longing. I remember praying like I had never prayed before. My heart broke often during the wait to become a mom. I was uncertain because I had no clue what to expect (much like a biological mom). And I was so extremely impatient (again, like a biological mom).
To those in the waiting phase, I want to give you some ideas today on how to prepare for adoption! Everything is going to happen so quickly for you once your child is with you. For that reason, now is THE TIME!
Now is the time to do all of those things you’ll be too tired to do later. Your brain is functioning better now than it will in a bit, I promise you! Maybe my list will help you brainstorm about how to purposefully fill your (quieter) present moments.
Learn! Grow! Become an amazing mama bear as you wait. The Connected Child, In On It, and Toddler Adoption were important books to me while I waited. Gain helpful knowledge regarding all aspects of the adoption triad. You won’t soon forget it if you’re reading it during your wait; your heart is bound to remember right now!
Imagine the Future
You’re not getting to bond physically just yet, but you can prepare for future bonding right now. Envisioning your future with your child is a crucial part of the bonding process. I recommending taking the risk by allowing your heart to go there. Even holding or kissing a picture of a little one means a great deal to an almost-parent (and therefore her child) as she prepares her heart to bond.
Of course, set up your child’s room and get them stuff! I recall waiting to buy things for my first child, because I didn’t want to jinx it somehow. It still felt so far away. In retrospect, buying a couple of things (when we finally did it) was very meaningful for us as almost-parents.
If you’re adopting after infertility, give yourself time, space, and grace to grieve a biological child. Your child through adoption deserves that emotional work on your part. It is also entirely your responsibility. Eventually, your infertility story can encourage the lives of other families. It can also become a point of connection with your child as they get older. They don’t have biological parents, and you don’t have a biological child. What a beautiful, meaningful similarity.
Talk to Your Kids
If you’re adopting after biological children, talk to your kids. Teach them what you’ve learned in ways that they can understand. Let them know that their new siblings’ needs may be different and that time will tell. Reassure them of your permanent love with actual words. Prepare them for feelings of jealousy, just as you would with any addition to the family, adoption or otherwise.
One easy way to do this is through bibliotherapy. Read fiction with them about families adopting or kids getting new siblings and being unsure about it. It is normalizing for them if they have some hidden (or not so hidden) struggles. What a relief!
Connect with Your Village
Talk with those closest to you (like a spouse) about expectations as you prepare for adoption. Make plans for various situations. For example, it is common for an older child joining a family through adoption to show partiality to one parent as an attempt at some control during a time that feels very scary. How will you handle that situation? How can you encourage bonding for all while still respecting the child’s wishes? Do you want others outside of your little family to pick up your child, feed them, or change their diapers? If so, make those desires known to your people before the adoption happens; your loved ones’ feelings and your bonding time are both at stake. Boundaries are healthy. (The book mentioned above, In On It, is a great little book for grandparents, aunts, uncles, or other extended family/friends to check out – after you check it out first!)
Make a List
Brainstorm ways you can build a bond and connect with your child. Consider how you will bring comfort to a child who has had to grieve so much. It depends on a child’s age, but consider making a physical list. Here are some ideas for a variety of ages: playing peek-a-boo, allowing him or her to pick the dinner spot, having family game night, co-sleeping, rocking while looking into his or her eyes, singing, helping the child enjoy bath time, giving a little massage, wrestling, and snuggling. (This made me remember another educational resource I enjoyed, I Love You Rituals by Dr. Becky Bailey.)
As you prepare for adoption, think about how you are about to teach a child about what a family is. You’re going to be his source of love and protection. You are going to be her MOM. What an honor and a profound miracle that you will soon find one another! My prayer is that your adventure will blow you away in its beauty just as ours has. Hold on tight, because the best is yet to come.