I suspect that most adoptive parents, like myself, spent countless hours pouring over every adoption-themed book they could get their hands on while waiting to meet their children. Most adoption books are filled with what to expect as a new parent, helpful advice for the adjustment period, the do’s and don’ts, attachment info and even scary worst case scenarios. As helpful and necessary as these books are, I find only one truth really holds in parenting children through adoption–
Expect the unexpected.
We all expect it to be hard. Throw in issues like post-institutional trauma, histories of neglect and abuse, older age, special needs, medical needs and all the things that will forever remain unknown in your child’s past, and you have a recipe for something that seems mind-boggling in terms of difficulty. And it is.
Now as I am embarking on an entirely different path to parenthood (you know, the “old fashioned” way) I find the wait to be just as scary as before. There are all kinds of books that tell you what to expect for each stage of parenthood from prenatal to the teenage years. But this time around, instead of dealing with broken spirits, broken bodies and wounded hearts, I’m preparing to birth and care for a tiny, helpless infant….and it seems a little scary! And I’m sure that just as before, the expect the unexpected motto will still hold true.
So here I am, reminiscing on all the things I didn’t expect as a parent…
1. Difficult doesn’t even begin to explain how hard parenting a child will be. Throw in special needs, wounded hearts and attachment issues and it’s just plain tough.
2. You will, at some point, feel like a failure. It happens to us all. But you’re not–you’re just human.
3. You will mess up. Just own it and move on.
4. You will feel so much love and pride for your children–even the one who doesn’t yet know how to love you back–that you will often feel like your heart will burst.
5. You will always worry about your children and their safety. No matter how big they get, you will always have that mother’s worrying heart.
6. Watching your children experience pain will be the most painful experience of your own life.
7. What you thought would be important before your children arrived (rules, discipline, etc.) will most likely change after they arrive.
8. You will want to curl up in the fetal position and cry some days. It’s OK. We will all feel like that sometimes.
9. On some days, you will feel like the most accomplished human being on the planet even if your only achievements were keeping the kids fed, bathed and alive.
10. You really can’t do it alone. No matter how brave, smart, talented or great you are, it really does take a village. And you’ll need a village for yourself, too–a group of moms who understand and support you, even on those days when you feel like curling into the fetal position.
So what’s on your list?