Before committing to adopting, I urge you take a good, long, deep look into what you can actually handle as a person and parent.
You never know what you will be getting yourself into until you are actually in it. It is impossible to prepare yourself for the unknown, but you must have a very deep sense of self and an incredible amount of patience and understanding when considering adopting a child who may have a history of trauma and neglect.
When you decide to adopt, you are filled with hope and love. When you meet your adoptive child, you really will know if they are the right fit and you will find yourself saying: “Yes, this is my child.” What you won’t know are the daily challenges you may have to face. Yes, every child is different and every adoption is different. The saying “if you’ve heard one adoption story, you’ve heard one adoption story”, is true. So please accept the following as my personal experience and opinion.
Adopting a child over the age of two who has been exposed to early childhood trauma and neglect is beyond hard and incredibly time consuming.
Let me use every single synonym I can think of to reiterate this; it is difficult, punishing, grueling, exhausting, wearisome and taxing. You will be pushed to your limits over and over and over again; you will question your ability to be a loving parent or even just a parent at all to this child. You will have to make tough calls, take drastic measures and find yourself struggling to keep your family a stable unit. It is an enormous, life altering decision and if you are going in thinking you are rescuing a child from a horrible situation or that the child will change and be happy and grateful to have you in their life (they probably are but it will be very tough for them to show it) then I suggest you stop your adoption process right now. Children are not looking to be “rescued”; they want to belong, be loved, accepted and made to feel secure, but they have been profoundly hurt. This hurt is deeply ingrained, so instead of feeling secure they test and they test you. You will regularly pass and fail these tests.
You must have an incredible capacity for empathy, compassion, strength in understanding yourself. You must be able to find time to take care of yourself while dealing with both small and large crises. You may find yourself hyper analyzing all of your child’s behaviors, questioning what may be age appropriate versus what is a product of their history. You must be willing to fight and stand up for your child. You must be willing to forgive yourself for being human, especially when you’re pushed to your limits and begin saying horrible, damaging things to a child you are trying so desperately not to expose to any more emotional pain. You must have strength of character and be prepared to share your entire life with a litany of professionals. Be set to pay for alternative therapies, be open minded about medication, listen to your child not only through their words, but more importantly, their actions, know what your child is capable of (both positive and negative), and how to meet your needs by having tons of support in place so you can do right by your child while maintaining your own sanity. You must be able to practice tolerance and forgiveness on a regular basis.
Here is what I believe you need to ask yourself:
Do I have an incredibly strong and secure relationship with my husband/wife/partner/self? Do I have a strong support system? Can I manage chaos, anger, and/or violence/? Handle things I could never imagine being thrown at me (sometimes literally)? Not panic in a crisis? Have a sense of humor? Not care what others think? Not care about damaged stuff? Have the willingness to be open to difficult and personal conversations with all types of professionals? Because it “takes a village”. Have the ability to never take anything personally? Choose your battles? Have the patience of a saint?
Sadly, if I am being totally honest with myself and hindsight being 20/20, I would never do it again. I hope this doesn’t shock you or not make sense to you as read on. I say it only because I feel the need to stress how difficult adoption can be although every child and situation is different. There is no changing our decision but the positive is also life altering in the very best way. Adopting our son taught us the definition of a rewarding life. He makes us laugh every day – even on days we wish we didn’t make this choice. He reminds us each day to be grateful for our lives and all it holds. He reminds us to think about every ones’ personal history before we judge. He has made us more accepting, objective, compassionate and kind. He has taught us great empathy, to embrace small moments, cherish all victories, let go of defeats and always move forward. He reminds us to remain eternally hopeful. He lets us know absolutely nothing in life is a straight line; two steps ahead should be celebrated and ten steps back just means you try to get twelve steps ahead again. He reminds us not to quit on him, our family, our marriage, ourselves. He gives all of us a deeper sense of self-worth and inner strength; he shows us through hard work and perseverance, anything is possible. Most importantly, he allows us all to love and be loved by him!
LOVE is what keeps us in this.
LOVE is what makes us believe we did not make a huge mistake by bringing him into our family. It is a love that is tested and takes tons of work. Our son taught us love is the only thing that defines our life and makes it worth living. We will never quit on this love – no matter the challenges, setbacks, tears, rage, destruction – we always move forward in hope and most importantly LOVE.