After years of struggling with infertility, my husband and I adopted our first child, a newborn baby girl, a little more than a year ago. The decision was not a “last resort” for us. Interestingly, the topic of adopting came up fleetingly during our premarital counseling five years ago, and we quickly agreed we were open to the idea, not thinking too much of it, because we all tend to assume we will start a family like most people do, right? We made the decision after our second miscarriage, not because we were out of embryos, or the doctor was out of hope, or our bank account was completely out of funds, but because we ran out of heart for it. We were ready to put our energy into something more positive, so we plunged into the process of adoption and never looked back.
Since then, it has been an incredible blessing and a growing experience that has taught me a thing or three:
1.) Love Makes a Family
It sounds so cliché. A message on a baby onesie. A hashtag circulating on social media. But it is such a true statement! I am certain I couldn’t love my daughter any more had I carried her myself for nine months. Our families have embraced her as their own blood. She fits in perfectly, despite the questions about where her hair and eyes come from, clear that it isn’t from my husband or me. We don’t mind; we love telling our story.
What I have found most spectacular in the case of an infant adoption such as ours is the love at both ends of the equation. It starts with a birth mom who chooses not just life for a child, but, selflessly, a better life than she feels she can provide. I was fortunate to have the experience of bonding with my baby as a newborn. I witnessed the tearful goodbye from birth mom as we prepared to leave the hospital. There is no question in my mind about the love and sacrifice of her decision.
We may not be able to entirely wrap our heads around such a decision, because we have not walked in the shoes of others, but adoption is a choice made out of love. In turn, it allows someone like me to experience a love that I could not otherwise experience. This is so amazing and powerful. It may not be conventional, but at its core, our family started with love just like everyone else’s.
2.) Community is Important
Infertility is a very lonely journey for many, with me being no exception. It doesn’t have to be, as there are forums and support groups out there, but it was a private and personal matter that I didn’t care to share with strangers. Those to whom I wanted to turn most — my close family and friends — often just didn’t get it, although I know they tried. It became difficult to meet new people and be around pregnant women, so I turned inward.
Adoption was a more positive route. There was more hope and certainty that we would succeed, and that a bundle of joy was waiting for us at the end. Although it might take time, our journey to family would no longer take needles and hormones and a toll on my body—not to mention our marriage—so I didn’t feel the need to seek out support, but I wish I had. I finally started connecting with other adoptive families about a year into our adoption.
What has it meant for me since? First of all, the release of a lot of emotions I was probably holding in, because, although it has been a wonderful experience that our family and friends can easily understand and graciously support, there are still many things they just don’t get. My adoption community is helping me grow in ways I needed to grow, expand my mind as it relates to adoption and clarify thoughts on what’s ahead for our family.
We have a big job as adoptive parents — a story to tell our child that is unlike others, a need to minimize the loss she will inevitably feel, a relationship to balance with a birth mom who also loves her. Hearing stories from my adoption community has deepened my empathy toward birth mom — an important feeling that has evolved since the heartbreaking goodbye in that hospital room, and probably still isn’t done evolving. I pray that continued clarity around these feelings will help us foster the right relationship that’s in the best interest of our daughter.
I am learning more every day about the beauty and the hardships of adoption and how to navigate them with grace thanks to being connected to a community of adoptive families. I am grateful to have these folks around for the rest of my journey, and encourage others on this path to build community no matter where you are in your process.
3.) The Journey Must Be Taken One Day at a Time
People often ask us how we plan to handle the telling of our daughter’s adoption story. They are curious whether she will know her birth mom and to what extent. Do I have all the answers to these questions today? I don’t. Do I expect them to be easy to address when the time comes? No. But I have learned, so far, that everything will be alright. Adoption is a dynamic situation that will evolve over time, and I just have to take things as they come. Feelings will change, views will change, outcomes will change, and we will make the best decision as parents and human beings that we can at the time. As a self-proclaimed impatient perfectionist who longs for all to be right all the time, this is not easy for me to accept. However, I’m getting there, and it is bringing me peace.
I write this as we prepare to meet with birth mom for the first time since the adoption. While we have communicated via our adoption agency a good deal over the course of the past year, an in-person meeting is a big step, a request I have anxiously anticipated would come at some point.
To say that I am nervous and out of my comfort zone would be an understatement, but these three lessons are helping me embrace the unknown and uncomfortable and move forward positively with confidence that it will all work out as it should — just as it has thus far.
Merrisa Milliner has a journalism degree and has been writing in a corporate setting for nearly 20 years. She is mom to a darling daughter and a beloved yellow lab. In this mythical thing called her spare time, she blogs about her experience adopting her baby girl and life as a new mom at muchadoaboutadoption.com. Find her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.