Are You Ready to Adopt?
"I'm a mom...I'm a mom!"
While my 10-year-old son crunched popcorn and sipped coke next to me in the theater, I plucked tissues from my pocket to capture the mascara that trickled down my cheeks. How had a silly cartoon with ridiculous minions and bubblegum-blowing villains pricked tears?
This line from Despicable Me 3's plucky and lovable Lucy Wilde had done me in.
I'm a mom...I'm a mom!
It had been nearly 15 years since a nurse handed me the round-faced baby with the strawberry-blonde waves. Holding my eight-pound daughter had the effect of a physician's prescription, instantly alleviating the ache of empty arms. At that moment, Lucy's three words were stamped onto my heart: I'm a mom.
Disparate DNA, an extra set of parents, an unpredictable future. None of these mattered at the time. Here's what did: I had been entrusted with the task of mothering.
If you've experienced infertility for any length of time, chances are that adoption has crossed your mind. Maybe, like me, you've fought the idea. Or perhaps you're like many couples who've entertained the idea of adopting a child, but hoped to do so after birthing a biological family.
Either way, the question I'm often asked is, "How do we know if we're ready?"
In most ways, being ready to adopt is like being ready to give birth. Is anyone truly ready for the degree of selflessness which parenting requires? Is anyone truly prepared for her own heart to dance and careen about outside of her body? Not really.
However, there are a few questions you can ask yourself to determine you're readiness to become a parent through adoption.
Am I ready to adopt?
1. What are your motives?
Can you relinquish the dream that little Johnny will be the spitting image of your husband or share your musical gifts? Children through adoption come with different DNA, making them unique from the get go. Of course, there's no guarantee that a biological child will follow the path you envision for him, either. If you're willing to trade your hopes of raising a mini me for the opportunity to nurture a child, you might be ready to adopt.
2. Are you willing to share?
By definition, children through adoption come with another set of family. Whether you adopt a child domestically or internationally, as an infant, toddler, tween, or teen, you will be the curator of her story. There's no question that she needs to hear her story often and in multiple ways, depending on her developmental level. You will need to make tough decisions about what to share and when, as well as what type of agreement (open, semi-open, closed) you will have with your kiddo's biological family. If you see honest communication with your child as a welcome challenge, you might be ready to adopt.
3. Can you deal with shame and abandonment issues?
No matter children's age at the time of their adoption, they will one day grapple with being rejected by their first family. Regardless of how it rips your heart out to see your child struggle, you must be willing to muddle through with him. You are the adult. You cannot be jealous of your child's birth family; they are an indelible part of him, just as you are. If you roll up your sleeves and face these difficult emotions with your child, you'll develop an unbreakable bond and he will always recognize you as his mama.
4. Can you discipline with love?
Like every child, kids through adoption need loving limits. Because of your child's background, It may be tempting to shy away from establishing rules and following through with consequences. Don't. Rules and consequences communicate caring and commitment. On the flip side, discipline must be doled out with empathy, not contempt, communicating love and unconditional acceptance.
5. Can you err on the side of grace?
Children through adoption need to feel connected to their birth parents. You may have strong feelings about bio parents' past choices or current lifestyle, but passing along your own judgment or criticism can only hurt your child. Adoptive parents must dig deep to paint biological families in the best possible light. Kids will ultimately benefit from focusing on the positive traits present in their biological families, as well as themselves.
6. Are you prepared to become an ambassador?
Being an adoptive parent means sometimes fielding unwanted or hurtful questions from others, along with managing erroneous language (Does your son know his real mom?). Though responding in anger is a natural reaction, flying off the handle will do no good. Like an ambassador to a foreign country, an adoptive parent's job becomes educating others about appropriate adoption values and terminology. Your careful handling of such tricky interactions can make the world more adoption friendly for all of us.
Gru and Lucy get married and Margo, Edith, and Agnes gain a mom.
If you can honestly answer "yes" to the above questions, you might be ready for the parenting adventure of a lifetime. And whether your "I'm a mom" moment comes when you first snuggle your infant or when you comfort your tween after a tough day at school, you'll surely discover what Lucy Wilde did. You become a mom when you hold out your heart to a child and she entrusts you with hers in return.
On a side note, if you haven't checked out the Despicable Me movies, do! There are many belly-laugh moments, as well as some poignant vignettes of Gru and Lucy's special love for their wild and wonderful girls. A movie that shines a redeeming light on adoption? I'll take it!