Pretty regularly, a close friend of ours, who has turned out to be one of our top supporters, asks us for updates in our adoption process and wants to know how he can actively help. Our updates, since the official wait began, have been along the lines of….”Well, we haven’t heard anything yet, but we’ve put out cards at _______ and sent them to _________ and _________. Our agency said _______, but still, nothing yet.” He continually offers to help – and one of the best ways he helps is pretty simple: he listens. His offers to help are so action-driven that they actually compel us to action even more (so we’ll have more to report – it’s like homework!) More than anything, it’s just nice to have someone to talk to about where we are – and all of the thought processes and emotions that go with that. And since he’s new to the ways in which we are pursuing adoption (open and domestic), it helps to explain things as we’re experiencing them – it’s made us work through / give voice to some issues in our own minds. And we’ve eaten a heck of a lot of Mexican food in the process (a local Mexican restaurant is our favorite place to catch up – and our friend gets a chance to practice his pretty impressive Spanish)
For National Adoption Awareness Month, I have been digging into a variety of resources online, and I’ve made connections with an adoption blogging group in the U.K. You may have noticed their little button on the right-hand side of this page – the Weekly Adoption Shout-Out. It has been interesting to connect with some folks who are experiencing a very different process in building their families through adoption – the process is different, but the hopes and dreams are the same. Today, I found a post from earlier this year where another American guest blogger had generated a sort of “to-do” list for friends and family members of waiting and adoptive parents. It’s a decently long list, and I don’t think all of it applies to our process (just yet), but there are some great “helps” on that list – and some great things to think about, too, if you know someone (online or in real life) who is hoping to adopt or has adopted.
The list, republished on the blog link above, was written by blog and book author Jody Cantrell Dyer who, oddly enough, is probably only a couple hours’ drive from us in East Tennessee. She is an adoptive mother and author who asked the folks in her various online communities, “What specific things can a friend or family member do to help you as you wait for a child through adoption?” Many of these responses are more about learning positive adoption language (more on that in another post), and I’ve narrowed the responses (with a few contextual edits) she received down to the 20 best suggestions for mindfulness, if not active ways to help:
- Trust our judgment as we make decisions – from considering birth parents’ backgrounds, to foster vs. agency vs. private adoption, to setting up a nursery. We all handle building a family differently.
- Don’t say, “You know you will get pregnant once you adopt!” That implies that our efforts are in vain and that the adopted child is a substitute or hold-over for a biological child. Plus, many of us simply can not conceive, which is heartbreaking.
- Demonstrate faith that the waiting family will eventually welcome a child. Though the waiting parents may not be comfortable buying baby clothes and supplies, you may. By doing so, you show concrete belief and support.
- If an adoption opportunity fails or if the waiting process is a long one, reassure us that we will welcome a child and good things take time.
- Adoption can be physically exhausting (worry, anxiety, sleep deprivation). Help us now and then by doing housework, cooking a meal, or running errands.
- Keep a secret journal for the child, documenting his/her parents’ love as they wait for his/her arrival.
- Learn about adoption and [what] it involves and ask questions mindful of the “nosey” level of what you’re really asking – i.e.: must you really know the age of the baby’s birthmother?
- Call and ask before inviting us to baby showers and birthday parties for children. We may be too frustrated, financially strapped, or may even be privately grieving an adoption loss. Understand with compassion if we decline such an invitation.
- Think and speak positively of the social workers, the adoptive family, the birth family, and the child/children.
- Instead of saying the child is “so lucky to have you,” compliment the parent-child relationship or say “What a lucky family.”
- Simply introduce us as parents and child. There’s no need to interject that a child is adopted. Adoptive parents don’t always feel like giving explanations or testimonies.
- Avoid questions that could make the adoptive parent feel uncomfortable or make them feel obligated to give away the child’s private story.
- Demonstrate respect for the birth family (who is the child’s family, too), especially in front of the child. Remember that these children are loved by their biological families. Don’t ever say, “You know he/she’s better off with you.” That is insulting to the child.
- Never ask how much the adoption cost. Just know that it is expensive.
- Don’t discuss birth family history, especially in front of the child.
- Remember that all of our children (biological or adopted) are our “own children.” They belong to us, and we to them.
- When we welcome a new child, treat us as though we just gave birth. No, we did not endure labor, but adoption is emotionally draining.
- Instead of asking, “How long have you had him/her?” maybe say, “I would love to hear your family’s story.”
- Refer to the child’s birth parents appropriately. Don’t call them “mom” and “dad.” The adoptive parents are “mom” and “dad.” Learn the language of adoption: birth parent is a much kinder term than “real mom/real dad” and “placed for adoption” is more appropriate than “given up.”
- Regarding open adoption, be encouraging to adoptive parents as they navigate what can be a very awkward and emotional relationship. I (Jody Dyer) am often asked, “Do you still have to talk to her?” I love her. She gave me my son.
*A* and I know we are not in this process entirely alone – our family and friends, even to some extent those folks we only “know” online, play an important part in encouraging and supporting us each day. Thank you for being there for us – we’re happy to be sharing this time in our lives with people who care.
We hope the list above is a helpful look at the emotional roller-coaster and maybe even thought-adjustment that is the adoption process – of which we, waiting to adopt, are only at the beginning.
Image credit: Checkmark – Mark Morgan Trinidad B