1.) Have expectations.
Often, in international adoption, the timing is the biggest misconception adoptive parents are led to believe. I think most countries have good intention for matching a child with prospective parents, and maybe they even have good intentions on making an adoption happen in a relatively timely fashion. However, if you are looking into international adoption and you are wanting to grow your family within months or even a year, stop now, turn around and look the other way. International adoption may not be right for you at this time. I’m not saying you should turn your back on the possibility completely, just make sure you rethink your expectations before pursuing it.
When I write these tips, I almost feel a little hypocritical, because I actually went into every adoption, domestic and international, doing these exact things that I am encouraging you NOT to do. It’s because I did these things and learned from them, that gives me the courage and maybe even qualifications to share with you how I went about it the wrong way.
So, if you want to go about it my way, then by all means, have expectations. Dream about the child you will one day have in your home. Like really imagine what they will look like, how they will act, how you will raise them, and they will do and be exactly what you imagined. How they will be a dancer, or athlete…or whatever it is you dream you children will be. However, if you are looking for a realistic journey, then go into it without any expectations. If you are told the process takes approximately 8-12 months, add on at least a year maybe two.
If you are expecting it to be easy, then oh man you are in the wrong arena. If you’re praying for a girl, maybe consider that you will actually be blessed with a boy. This goes for any type of adoption, not just international. If you believe that your “in-country” time frame that you are told, is a realistic one, then let me be the first one you call and cry to when you have missed your son’s school performance and your daughter’s clogging show. Let me be the first one to have a tear-soaked shirt from your heartache when the trip you planned with your daughter after school got out, comes and goes. You missed it because the legal system is un-organized enough that the paperwork is delayed another week, yet again. Please don’t misunderstand me. There are really great people behind the scenes working their tails off to keep the process moving forward, but the system of adoption is broken and sometimes there is nothing they can do to change it.
What are you going to walk away with from this ‘what not to do’ piece of advice?
If your intentions are to provide a loving home for a child in need, your heart is in the right place. If your desire and drive is to welcome whatever God has in store for you then you had better hurry and get in touch with an adoption consult, yesterday. Get the ball rolling! If you are willing to get kicked numerous times while you are already down, then welcome to the party. If you know in the end you will have allowed yourself and your family to grow and be stretched physically, spiritually, emotionally and intellectually, then this definitely is part of your journey.
2.) Sit back and let the process happen, trust in the system.
I really don’t want to be the one to tell you that the foster system and adoption system is broken. I don’t like being a pessimist, it’s not my nature to be that person. However, it is in my nature to be honest and tell it like it is. The world we live in is broken, in so many ways. Just saying that makes me cringe because I am a God-fearing woman, a Christian and I know there are amazing people across the globe where their whole purpose is to try to fix what is broken. I also know that this world was created by an unconditionally loving Father in Heaven and Savior that gave us this world and all we have is for our benefit.
For our family, I know with every fiber of my being, without a shadow of doubt that we were supposed to adopt. I know that God could have easily given me the ability to bare children biologically, the same way He gave me the inability to do so. I know that it is His plan for us to have adopted our three beautiful and amazing children. Because of this knowledge, I was more than willing to put my trust in Him and not the system. By this I mean, if something isn’t getting done, don’t sit back and wait for others to do it for you.
I’m sure our agency and all parties involved with our international adoption have a few not so nice things to say about me. I am pushy, I am impatient, I am a nag…you get the idea. But if I had sat back and not constantly checked in on the process, it would have taken three maybe more years to bring our daughter home. Adoption consultants, agencies, attorneys and facilitators all have a job to do. They are in the position they are (you hope) to help you along the way. But they are busy and have their own lives to live, their own challenges to face, not to mention the thousands of adoptive parents waiting in the wings for their journey to embark. Adoption professionals do their best to facilitate the process, but nobody is going to care as much about your story as you do. With respect to their position and efforts, don’t always expect things to get done without a little nudge from you. It’s your job to see your journey through.
3.) If there is a language barrier, no need to learn their language.
This one is a tough one. Maybe not for all adoption circumstances, but it could definitely be a stumbling block.
When the opportunity to adopt internationally arose, I was excited about learning Spanish. But, was there really a need for me to learn? I had already been taught the basics of the Romance languages. I could wing it, right? I decided to purchase Duolingo, mostly for my children to learn to speak with their new sibling. I was arrogant enough to think I didn’t need to learn. Then I decided to go ahead and purchase another language app, just for fun. I did want to learn, but I don’t think I took it that seriously. Do you see the pattern forming, “I should learn, I don’t need to, I should learn, I don’t need to…? I should learn”.
Three weeks into our in country stay to finalize our adoption, I was getting frustrated. Here we were welcoming a new child to our home, and not just any child, a 12-year-old girl. I imagine it would be hard enough to bring in a toddler, or children with medical challenges, mental or physical delays. But a coming-of-age girl? That was a whole different ball game. She didn’t only come with her own history and challenges, but she was also coming with nearly being a teen.
I was getting frustrated because I was listening to my soon-to-be daughter, chat it up with everyone around me. It didn’t take long for me to learn that she was a talker. She had stories to tell, and experiences to share. And I was only understanding bits and pieces, not enough to really embrace her stories, or the details about them. I wanted so badly to know what was going on in her mind.
It was then and there that I decided I was going to learn Spanish. Not just a little, the whole kit and caboodle. I was going to be fluent and actually be considered bilingual. Even though it was so important for her to learn English, the language of her new home, family and life, I was going to be able to really hear her stories and honest to goodness know who this girl was.
So, if you go into an international adoption thinking your primary goal is to teach your child your language, maybe you should consider the importance of learning theirs. It may sound silly if your child is just learning to speak all together and their first language actually might be yours. However, I have a firm belief that learning their language will do wonders for your relationship. It’s a sign of respect for their heritage, it’s a sign of love for the ones who chose to give them life. It’s a gesture of reverence for your child’s culture and ethnicity. Not only for communication purposes, adoptive parents should learn to speak the literal language and love language of all of their children, domestic and international.
4.) Give up when it gets difficult.
I mentioned earlier about being willing to get kicked, over and over again, while you are already down. This is going to happen in adoption, especially international adoption. Guys, this process is not easy, for all parties involved. It’s brutal. But, in the end when you can look into the eyes of God’s beautiful children and know that He is trusting you with his most precious, it really is all so worth it. I used to hate to hear this: “It will all be worth it in the end”. Well no kidding, I would begrudgingly whisper under my breath. Everybody tells you that. And you know what, they are right! If your support system or tribe haven’t been through adoption, it’s hard for them to really understand what you are going through.
Speaking of your tribe…go get one if you don’t already have one. Find those who are honest and sincere about supporting you. Grab onto those who have been through the journey already. Grab on and don’t let go. Bring into your circle people that won’t take away from your energy and light. When you feel as though you are stuck down the rabbit hole, make sure your tribe members are those who will thrust their arm down the hole just to let you hold their hand. This doesn’t have to only be others that have walked the adoption path.
It’s going to get tough; you are going to ask yourself, “What am I doing?” There will be many times that you will want to catapult the thousands of pieces of paper you painstakingly cry over. You are going to want to just walk away. The thought of another psychological evaluation, or question about what kind of child you are willing to accept will make you want to run away. The invasive interrogation you will endure about your personal lives and how you parent or plan to parent. The countless documents you will sign, notarize and apostille and then maybe have to do all over again because there is the possibility that it gets lost or signed wrong, or finds itself outdated because of the long wait. It’s going to happen; this you can expect. You will be stretched to the max and when that happens, please oh please, find yourself on your knees praying for the strength to continue. There is a reason you started in the first place. Remember why you are doing it. If you are still here and you know your reason, hang on, don’t give up just yet. Find your reason, find your purpose.
5.) You’ve got this! You can totally do this alone.
If I had a penny every time I told myself, “Girl, you’ve got this. You are strong and determined and nobody is going to get the job done like you!”
WOW! Am I ever wrong. DO NOT DO THIS ALONE! I can’t stress this enough because I have tried 100+ too many times and I can tell you, it’s not easy. I don’t just mean embrace your tribe, find your support system, or hold your therapist’s hand. Find God, or whatever source of power you gravitate towards. For me and my family, it’s God. The most loving Father in Heaven that literally has carried me through the process. Sadly, there have been many times when I find myself buried under the covers, only to find my pillow soaked in tears, hours later.
While in the middle of our eighth adoption attempt, I was so broken that I was physically sick. My defeated body crawled into bed with a silly head cold. My head was pounding, my throat and chest felt as though they were closing in on themselves and I was beginning to welcome the pain. The shattered soul inside me was ready to give in to the pain and just succumb to my bed forever. I didn’t want to leave. It was easier to lay there and wallow, binge watching 90’s tv shows on Netflix. Seriously, I was done fighting. Who really wants to be kicked while they are already beaten? Until the thought entered my mind. The thought that changed everything. Regretfully, that thought was being fought back with ungodly thoughts. “Stay in bed, eat more, ignore your family and the two other children you have been blessed with, they don’t need you”. The thought that wouldn’t go away was barely a whisper and I could scarcely hear it. The thought that would not resign, and thank goodness it didn’t was…
“Get up, go to your knees.”
After a long internal scuffle, I found myself literally slithering out of bed, not even allowing my head to leave the pillow. The blanket that I used as my “comforter” followed me to the floor. Wrapped in the covers and head lazily resting on my pillow, I began to pray. It was a weak prayer; I barely was able to form the words and it was unorganized. There was no repetition in what I said, like other times when I would pray for the usual stuff. Bless my family. I’m grateful for my health, I couldn’t say that. Nothing like this. Single. Words. Only. I couldn’t even create full sentences. Slowly, my heart began to soften, very slowly. I found myself filled with a desire to speak with God. Not just pray, but really have a personal conversation with Him. I pleaded for health this time. I begged for an answer. I petitioned for His attention. All the while, I am sure He was already offering all these things but was just waiting for me to humble myself enough to ask.
You cannot do this alone. Adoption, I believe, was composed through divine intervention to help create a solution. God (or your greater being) knew this world would be what it is today. He knew there would be thousands of thousands of children suffering or lost. Lost without family, suffering from circumstances beyond their innocent control. What better way to even begin to resolve this fortuity than to allow the opportunity for parents who cannot biologically create life, or parents who choose to open their heart and home to these children. So, if what I believe is true, and I do wholeheartedly, then He, the creator, will help you through your journey. Do not for a minute brush aside His willing gesture.
“Know ye not that ye are in the hands of God? Know ye not that he hath all power.” ~Mormon 5:23
To learn more about Paula and her family’s journey, follow her on Instagram @PaulaKanani.