Adoption is a complex thing. While exciting and the beginning of something brand new, it is also the end of something past. NO adoption happens without loss. When we brought our first 2 children home, we had no idea or concept of the depth of loss that takes place in adoption. We desperately wanted to be parents and when we got that phone call, the world stopped. It was finally happening, after several miscarriages and years of trying, we were finally going to be parents. So needless to say we shouted it from the roof tops and bought out the stores preparing for our little ones. They were 2 & 3 years old at the time.
We had two showers that were totally over the top. My husband’s job had thrown a company- wide shower and the employees showered us with so many gifts and gift cards, stuffed animals and clothes, it was amazing. The other shower was thrown by our closest friends from our church. About 100+ people showed up and it was awesome in our eyes until it was time for our little ones to arrive with their foster parents. Not realizing it, we had not had “the talk” with the little ones on their level as far as what was going to transpire. Their foster parents were the only parents they ever knew so this party that was supposed to be for them was completely odd. Was it a birthday party, Christmas or what? We began to see their stress level rise significantly when everyone wanted to tour the house and see the gorgeous rooms we had decorated for our new little ones and their decked out playroom. They had no idea why they had a room at my house.
I realized after that day, we went about this thing all wrong. It was okay to be excited, but we skipped a few steps in between. We never had the necessary conversations. We did not give them a chance to get to know their new environment and us before parading them before the world. If I could do it all over again, I would!
We have since adopted 4 more children. A sibling of the first two kids and another sibling set of three in 2013. We now have six blessings. This time we did things differently. We took it slow. We paid close attention to their emotional cues and followed their lead. We did not throw a shindig of epic proportion this time. Instead we made it intimate, family centered and waited a bit after placement to give everyone time to mesh as a family of eight.
Am I saying that I am against the fanfare for newly adopted children? NO, not at all. I am saying that following the child’s lead is important and being totally upfront about what is happening in their life is key. It may not affect an infant as much. However, when you have an older child that is being separated indefinitely from their first family it is bittersweet. While we are blowing up balloons and throwing epic parties, an older child may still be grieving and may not know how to respond to your happiness during a time that they do not know how to feel. You are asking them to be excited at the same time they are hurting because they may never see their family again.
Get excited! Celebrate the occasion, but always remember their little hearts and what they may be going through during that time. Give them time to process the changes in their lives and the transition will be much smoother.