Eight Things I Should Have Known Before I Adopted


Throughout my life while with orphans and being an adoption professional for 13 years, I knew that my family would include adopted children. I waited patiently (ok not always!) as God continued with his plan for my family. Almost two years ago we welcomed our sons into our family. If you have read any of my articles about child trafficking, adoption trends, changes in adoption law or international adoption conventions and laws – this blog is different. This is just me reflecting as a parent, no laws, no legal advice, no legal risk analysis, no trend spotting – just me waking up in the middle of night to a crying baby, me changing diapers, and me forgetting bottles or sippy cups when we leave the house. But hopefully, this information can also be useful.

As I reflect, truly my adoption experience was the type that mothers dream about – wonderful, miraculous and amazing. Maybe I have forgotten the difficulties of waiting, delays, unknowns and expenses. However, as I look back to my adoption and my life now with my boys, the following are the eight things I wished I would have known before I adopted:

  1. Adopting two non-biological children of the same age will create more questions of strangers. Are they twins? Are they brothers? (of course they are) Are they related? (again yes!) Well, I know what they really want to know: were they born from the same mother? When a friend asks, it doesn’t seem so bad but four questions from four different strangers all before I get into the grocery store can seem overwhelming. I worry that it will be even more overwhelming for my children when they begin to comprehend the questions. I remember hearing about this exact concept in my MLJ Adoptions education classes and I thought to myself “Oh, it won’t bother me, people are just curious and I will love to tell them my story." I didn’t realize the intense repetitiveness and my worry for my children having to deal with it, even though I was told in adoption education class by adoptees and adoptive parents.
  2. Strangers with the same ethnicity as your children (I am Caucasian and my boys are African- American) will stop you and give you advice on how to care for your children. At times, I find it helpful and at other times I find it rude. While the intent may always be from a loving place, the timing in my life may not be appropriate for me. I may be in a hurry; I may have just grabbed them from their nap to go to the store to get much needed diapers and didn’t do their hair before we left. Maybe it was a bad hair day or I forgot the lotion after we went into the pool and we just stopped to grab a drink at the restaurant. So while I want all the help I can get because clearly I do not know about African skin or hair from my own experience – this is something I wished I would have known. I did attend a class presented by my adoption agency, MLJ Adoptions, prior to adopting my children but there is always more to learn. By the way, I have about eight hair conditioners, ten different types of lotions and another ten products for detangling and moisturizing all because I am trying really hard. These boys have more hair and skin products then everyone else in our family combined (and there are six others)!
  3. You may still have a desire to have biological children and you shouldn’t feel guilty about it. There are millions of children in our world that need loving parents and adoption is an amazing process for all involved. However, it is possible that you may still have a desire to have biological children and that may stay or that may pass.
  4. Whether you are adopting from Africa or adopting from Latin America, adoption is a uniting force with others. This can be used for the good of your children. Attend events for adoptive families. MLJ Adoptions provides numerous opportunities to attend events: Africa Party, Fiesta, Luau, Picnic etc. Your children appreciate knowing that they are not too different.
  5. Whether you are adopting from Eastern Europe or adopting from Asia, you may not know much about your child’s history and you will always have unknowns even after the process. Does my child have a medical problem? Will my child be tall? Will my child be a musician? These question happen with biological children but with adoptive children the unknowns in the process are just the beginning. You always feel that you have no idea what their future holds and you continually think about what it or what they will look like in the future.
  6. Lack of sleep happens even when your child is not a newborn. Ok, I did kinda know this before I adopted, just did not know how tired I would be at work. Yes, my children still wake me up at times in the middle of night and this has not stopped over the past two years. Even though this has improved greatly with time – the odds are against me – there are two of them!
  7. You won’t have all the answers. Granted I also knew this before I adopted, but becoming a parent is a great way to emphasize your lack of knowledge. My husband would tell you that I rarely admit this fact. I hope he doesn’t read this blog because I am going to admit that there are many times I don’t know it all – especially when it comes to the children. I was a much better parent before I had children.
  8. People will thank you, bless you and tell you how lucky your children are to have you. Wow! If they really knew the adoption “secret” it would be that the parents are the lucky ones. My children deserved to have a family. They deserved to have a mother that loves them in an overwhelming crazy way. They were created in God’s image and they are wonderfully made. They are MY blessings and I am so fortunate to have them.

This list could have been longer and everyone’s list is different. I wished I would have known many of these things so I could have been more attentive in adoption education classes, so I could have prepared and so I would have the perfect responses to all the questions I am asked. Maybe next time?

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MLJ Adoptions is a Non-Profit, Hague-Accredited adoption service provider located in Indianapolis, Indiana, working in Africa, Eastern Europe, Latin America and the Pacific Isles. We are passionate about serving children in need.