As an adoptive mother of three, I have refined my personal practice of grappling with despair. Even 30 years later, after hearing Gloria Estefan’s “Get On Your Feet” in my elementary school gym class, the song has become a mantra for developing grit through infertility and the adoption process, and flourishing on even the most onerous days of parenting.
Estefan got it right when she sang, “Get on your feet, get up and take some action”—and the entirety of her song is so applicable to the experience of adopting a child.
“Adopting” is a verb, a doing word. If you think you may want to be an adoptive parent in the future, there are a myriad of steps you can take immediately to start your journey. You can contact agencies, local adoption lawyers and foster care to ask about fees, wait times and home studies. In some cases, we were emailed an application and able to begin the process on the spot.
Know that adopting from foster care is free, although there is a risk that birth parents’ rights may not be terminated. Lawyers are not as costly as agencies, but they may expect you to do some of the legwork of placing ads and screening birth parents. Agencies are expensive, yet much of the cost can be recuperated through tax credits and employer benefits. Don’t assume that you cannot afford to adopt until you have fully researched your opportunities and resources.
“I think it’s true that we’ve all been through some nasty weather.”
Expect your first few months after adoption to be knotty. If they aren’t, you will be euphoric, and if they are, you will be prepared. Know that the turbid temper tantrums, the balky defiance, and the jumbled fear are all rites of passage for a new adoptive parent. Our facilitator called them the “birth pangs.” The more you lace your child’s shoes, dress her boo-boos and bake her cookies, the more she will learn to trust you and the pandemonium will subside. The cuddles and calls for “mommy” on a stormy night will make the trouble you went through seem scanty.
“Let’s understand that we’re here to handle things together.”
So much of adoption is about showing your children that you are on their side. Saying things like “Cleaning your room will make you feel more pleasant when you go to sleep and wake up” or “If you work hard in school, you will be proud of yourself and have a better life when you graduate” can be much more effective than hollering, “Clean your room!” or “Do your homework!”
Many adopted children have been through an abundance of damage and they might resist demands at every turn. Instead, let them make the choice to do something that will benefit them in the future, even if it makes them temporarily uncomfortable. And praise, praise, praise any strides they take towards the behavior you want to see!
“Deep in your heart is the answer.”
Trust your instincts when it comes to your new son or daughter’s unorthodox behavior. Bizarre faces or peculiar voices may really just be a cry for attention. The more you exhibit affection, attend to meandering stories and applaud small accomplishments, the less your child will act out to access your eyes and ears. In the past, this may have been the only way your child could get an adult to converse with him or her. Always believe the best, as we become what others see in us.
“Don’t stop before it’s over.”
Keeping in touch with moms and dads who adopted years ago is uncommonly encouraging. Soccer stars, humanitarians and honor students investigating colleges were all once hungry and anxious little eyes staring up at their new parents. Capacious patience, superabundant love and a little time is necessary, but unimaginable rewards are possible. And like for so many parents, you will learn the delight of pouring your life out for another.