Hardest Thing I’ve Ever Done
Adoption is hard.
VERY hard. Some things I didn’t expect. Adoption is normal to us and we have many friends and family that have been there. Still, some things have thrown us for a loop.
Now, if you’re like me you may not listen to some of this but I hope you’ll take it all in. These are things I didn’t see coming. Some may be taboo or simply not talked about openly.
I made a facebook post yesterday that really just summed up my feelings about our limbo game.
Things EASIER than adoption paperwork and grant apps:
– College applications
– College scholarship applications
– MEPS (military entrance) paperwork
– Stubbing your toe repeatedly
– Car accident insurance paperwork
Truest thing I may have ever written. This stuff is HARD. It’s not just “paperwork is annoying” hard. It’s more than “not good at waiting” hard. Adoption is so much bigger than that.
There is a lot of junk involved that you didn’t really consider before saying “hey we’ll do this”. In your frame of mind at the beginning you are just adding to your family. It’s simply giving a kiddo a home and family. It’s normal. Right? It’s obvious and accepted and human.
No, not right. Wrong. Very wrong. People are often completely dumbfounded by the process. I can understand this considered my husband and I are the ones in it and WE are dumbfounded at times.
When you say yeah I’m going to commit myself to growing our family in this way there are so many things you don’t expect. Things that would leave you happily doing algebra for your taxes after a car accident on college midterm day. (Said from experience!) Unbelievable, heartbreaking things that make no sense.
Dogs and Cats.
This is a big blatant one. One I’m perplexed by on the regular. I reason my way out of obsessing over this comparison. If you’re adopting, maybe a child with extra needs or a child left starving in an orphanage. Maybe a relatively “healthy” child without parents. Maybe you’re fighting and struggling to fund the $20-40 thousand necessary to get that child OUT of that situation.
Along comes a dog or a cat. Here me out, I LOVE dogs and cats. We have some ourselves. We paid out of our pockets to save one of our dogs from parvo because I love dogs. But, there comes that story of the neglected dog or the cat needing emergency surgery. It’s sad and people rally to find a solution. I’ve seen $5000 surgeries funded overnight. Yes, for a dog! Communities near me worked to save a stray dog that ended up losing it’s leg. There was a cat with a severe injury recently and people raised $2000 for the urgent surgery to save it’s life.
But then I see the many families I know posting about the cancer and the rare syndromes and the urgent need for heart surgery . . . for the orphans in our own country and abroad. They share about their fundraising efforts and their timeline and the complete overhaul of their lives for these little humans. Overnight funding even on the level of $2000 doesn’t happen. Not often without selling something.
This is a hard reality to swallow. I can roll a lot of things off my back and this is not one of those.
The Saleslady I Never Knew I Was
Ok, ok so we can’t really expect people to dump their own money into a cause just because we say it’s important. They don’t get to check our finances, background, and home safety themselves so trusting us with what we say is a hurdle.
I mean, if they gave to every cause that popped up they’d be broke! Right? Everyone has something going on. People have kids and other responsibilities. Everyone can’t share every post and donate to every fundraiser. It’s a lot to ask. Right?
Tax-incentives and t-shirts.
Spaghetti dinners and etsy shops.
Crowdfunding and direct sales.
Yard sales, bake sales, and consignment.
Online auctions and silent auction suppers.
Crafting and creative marketing.
Walks, runs, and races.
Flowers, candy, and cards.
If you’ve done any of the above you may work for a large non-profit or you might be adoptive parents.
You MIGHT not have to go this route. Maybe you have savings or a job that lets you throw money solely at the fees. There’s the chance you have family and friends that have your back before you finish saying “adoption”. Maybe you know your process will be a very long one so you have time to pace yourself.
Bottomline: you might find yourself turning into quite the salesperson between making bargains on your local facebook page and opening up an etsy store or selling goods at the farmer’s market and holding that second job. Things you might not have done otherwise. YOU know it’s worth it so you’ll do anything safe and legal and that seems worthwhile.
I’m going to poke at the adopting community now.
This is a deep, connected, loving community but something yucky is happening.
There’s this expectation and idealism now in some of the adoptive community that if you haven’t fundraised in a certain way or a certain amount you haven’t DONE ENOUGH.
If you haven’t tried this direct sales opportunity or applied for this fundraising plan then you haven’t done enough. There’s an underlying presumption of laziness.
Well, see, I the unnamed adoptive mother got a second job, sold doodads on etsy, and organized our church held spaghetti dinner to fund our adoption and we managed to come up with those funds. You should try that. OR. I the unnamed adoptive father didn’t feel right about fundraising other than a yard sale, bake sale, and direct sales so we mortgaged our house. You should try that. OR. I, another adoptive mother twice over, well I saved for five years before even beginning our process. We sold some shirts and got 3 grants. You should try that. OR. I another adoptive father chose to work 80 hours a week, take out of our retirement, liquidate other assets, and sell our extra vehicle. You should try that.
Sometimes, they are just giving their story and perspective. Other times, it’s more than just a suggestion. I’m here to call this out and say STOP. The LAST LAST LAST thing someone willing to go through a homestudy and compile a dossier and travel to another country (maybe more than once!) to add a child to their family is: lazy. The LAST thing. STOP. WE of all people should know as much.
This happens. Be aware of it. Put on the thick skin now. This is NOT something I expected from other families that had been there, done that. It’s certainly not every person or every group but if you reach out for advice or tips or ideas this might be something you face.
Don’t forget, there is no one way to adopt. There is not a single ideal way for everything to happen. Your journey is yours and your child’s and limiting it to how well you sold things or marketed your event is a shame. Someone is always going to have a better outcome, turn-out, sales record, resource, or experience than someone else.
(And this is where I plug Adopt Without Debt by Julie Gumm)
Updates or No Updates
In the midst of everything, you know for certain there is a child waiting for a family.
This child may be in a perpetual daycare called an orphanage. They may be in foster homes. They may be spending much of their time in a crib because there are so many like them there. She may be relatively healthy or have a well known need like cleft lip or down syndrome. He may have a rare disease, disorder, or syndrome. This child may be born without a limb or without eyes or without ears.She may be physically healthy but mentally unhealthy. He may need a wheelchair or walker. They might just be a tiny baby or nearing adulthood or anywhere in between. They might be ethnically and physically like you or in contrast to you. She may have growth and development struggles or they may be on target. He may have a birthdate or he might not.
Once matched it’s no different than seeing that tiny fetus on the ultrasound. Love grows. What you can’t feel in your belly you can feel in your soul.
But consistency in updates is up in the air because it takes so much coordination. The caregivers with the child, the government rules, the literal communication devices, the team at your agency, and you. It’s not necessarily like getting a checkup at the doctor’s office once a month.
While everyone will be doing their best to keep you in the loop and have your questions answered sometimes it’s just not possible. Questions take weeks to get to whomever has the answer. Lines of communication are off. Governments close for holidays. Sometimes there are no answers for questions and never will be.
New photos are like precious gold. Whoever coined “a picture is worth a thousand words” might have been an adoptive parent with a new photo of their kiddo.
Remember, don’t let the unknown or inconsistency keep you from asking questions.
Backup a Little Bit
One thing I googled more than anything is HOW LONG it takes to do a homestudy. (Second only to what happens in the interviews!) This is such an annoying little thing but it’s also something I didn’t really have my head wrapped around.
We’re heading into our SEVENTH month of homestudy-ness. NOW, mind you, a ton of that time has been spent completing paperwork (about a month), doing numerous interviews/meetings (a few weeks), and simply waiting (background checks!). We all ready KNOW we are good-to-go and approved. We are DONE with it.
But I had deeply in my head that we’d be on a roll after we submitted our completed packet back in March. Life happened, things changed, and things needed rewriting or correcting.
Also, we changed our contract for a different placement agency which was a major twist.
Typically, the homestudy they may say is estimated to be 3-6 months but I’ve found many, many people who had much longer experiences for ALL sorts of reasons. 7-12 months is not typical but it’s not unheard of or uncommon. There are so many factors that go into it like how many forms you need or background checks done or extenuating circumstances. Not to mention every type of adoption (domestic, private, international, foster) is going to look totally different. Additionally, every country will have different expectations or requirements.
It’s neither as complicated OR as simple as you would think. There’s no way to hurry it up other than having 100% of the funds and documents ahead of time. While funds are certainly possible the documents are NOT. Many have to be specifically requested by your caseworker.
One tip – order multiple birth/marriage type certificates all at once. It’s much, much cheaper to order 2-4 at once than it is to go back later once you realize you need an extra.
Let’s jump back to the sales thing.
Failure. It might happen. I might see a great opportunity, share all over social media, and get excited about it. You may very well spend weeks or months planning, ordering, photographing, marketing, selling, and shipping.
Only to break even or worse.
Well, this is a major flaw with the previous issue of the “not doing enough” cycle. Sometimes your awesome shirt is not that awesome. One time all those baked goods fall on the ground and can’t be sold. Maybe you don’t keep enough demand to keep making the thing a few people seem to like so much.
You might really start to think through whether it’s worth it to put money into the crafts or the time into the direct sales parties if the return is so small. All the while, people telling you to try again or do more.
Of course, this is not special to adoptive families. It is just business. Welcome to the world of sales and competition. Every opportunity is just that – an opportunity. Opportunities don’t always pan out. You could hold the same type of event in the same community for almost the same cause and simply not get the same response as another person.
Remember, you can either beat yourself up looking for how you used the wrong wording and colors and timing. Or, you can move on, shut the window, and look for the next.
It’s OK to breathe and it’s OK to say “no that didn’t or won’t work for me”. It’s ok to say you’re going to try something else or that you know your limits. That’s not just ok it’s GOOD.
Back in College
Essays. Get some ready! Well, maybe not.
When (or if) you are filling out grant applications, crowdfunding pages, or blog posts you’ll realize how important writing is to some people. It could make the difference in getting help.
Every single grant is the equivalent of a college scholarship application or job application times at least five. Married couples will need the information for TWO people. They want your homestudy which is the deeply detailed, open paper-gut of your entire life. They’ll need your finances, work history, references, and possibly even a recommendation from your pastor. Get copies of your taxes and your blood type and a lock of your hair ready. (ok, I think I’m funny . . . taxes, yes . . . the other stuff, maybe).
Now, get all that and fill in their forms. Finally, add the cover letter or additional essay(s). Every single one is different.
Is it worth it? Probably! Is it crazy time consuming and detailed? Oh, yes.
Don’t Be Negative
Well, personally, if I’m not making tangible progress I get antsy. Especially if I get told I’m not doing enough (or well enough) I absorb it deeply. I may need to take this to heart myself first. It’s ok to be upset. Shine a light on the issues. Embrace the hard and keep moving forward. Sometimes, things suck. If you get bad news you can cry about it.
Through this, you’ll grow and change. I have to wonder who I’ll be this time next year. Honestly, I’m so far removed from whomever I was this time last year. It’s unbelievable, really. I see things so differently now.
But, don’t let people tell you how to feel. Phrases I can’t stand: “It’s meant to be” or “It wasn’t meant to be.”
In reality, this whole thing is what you make of it. Perspective is where you choose to stand. Through all the crazy, the changes, and the difficulty – choose where you want to stand. Be thankful for the journey and the opportunities. Shut the door on what didn’t work or didn’t pan out. But, don’t be dismissive of yourself and your feelings. Be honest with yourself. Process it and remember it’s all a part of your story. A story you probably couldn’t imagine for yourself. One you might not have chosen.
Finally, remember why you started this. Go back to that and hold onto it. You’re growing your family in a beautiful way. The adoptive community is bigger than the statistics would imply. You will find friends and family as you find your way to your newest family member.