This guest post is by Madeleine Melcher, an adoptee, adoptive mother and author.
The most important part of your adoption journey, right now and forevermore, is probably not what you think it is.
Though I have a huge appreciation for the hours you’ve spent choosing the colors of your printed adoption profile and each picture that goes inside, though it plays a part in what is most important, is not it, directly.
Believe me, I literally wrote the book on printed profiles but your profile alone is not it.
I know you are thinking it is the love. Why wouldn’t it be, right? That is the point of bringing a child into your family, how could it not be that?
But the love is the easy part. Though you will actually amaze yourself in exactly how big your heart can in fact grow and how much you can love this person before you ever even meet, love is not it, because love is the easy part.
I can just hear some of you saying, “Open adoption! It is our commitment to having an open adoption!”
But open adoption alone is not it.
There are a million shades of what is considered an open adoption; whether you just know one another’s names or share holiday meals or anything in-between, all of those things are considered some level of an open adoption.
But no matter the level, that alone is not the most important part.
Is it your home? Your savings? Your family? No. No. No.
The most important thing — the piece that should connect all other pieces from the beginning of your journey until forever is honesty.
Honesty with yourself that you are ready to begin adoption if you have struggled with infertility or if one member of a couple feels they are for whatever reason, not ready.
It is important to work through the issue of infertility and “feel all the feelings” before starting the adoption process.
It is not fair to you or the child you hope to welcome if you have some baggage you are dragging around while also going through this process, which is trying enough already.
Honesty regarding ethics when it comes to choosing an agency or attorney. There are so many choices. Choose wisely.
Do they offer birth parent counseling for life? Are their fees wildly outrageous? Do they use coercive tactics? Most agencies I have ever worked with have been ethical but it is your responsibility to be sure that YOURS is.
Honesty with yourself and your agency about what you are prepared for in terms of openness, exposures, etc. Sometimes being honest with yourself can be the hardest part.
Don’t judge yourself, but you must be honest with yourself–it is important to you , any future birth parents and any child you may be placed with.
Honesty with yourself about your family and area that you live in as you consider transracial adoption. These are important things. If you have not considered elements like this, check out Rachel Garlinghouses’ book Come Rain or Come Shine: A White Parents Guide to Adopting and Parenting Black Children.
Honesty in your adoption profile about yourself and the life you hope to share.
You have to be you–you and the expectant parents who are reading your profile deserve that. It is not a competition of houses and vacations- your profile should give real glimpses into who you are and the family you hope to be.
Honesty with expectant parents and birthparents about your visions of the future. Often matches fall apart or openness agreements disintegrate because people were never truly on the same page to begin with.
Soul search on this one. Your thoughts may also change as you meet specific expectant parents.
Honesty with the child you will one day be placed with; telling him or her their story from the start in honest and age appropriate ways.
I cannot tell you how much it upsets me when I see posts in adoption groups that say things like, “My child is 6 and was asking questions. When should I tell he/she that they are adopted?” The answer: DAY ONE.
Honesty when telling others that you cannot share your entire adoption story with them because so much of that story belongs to your child.
That you have the great responsibility of being the keeper of that story so that one day he or she can decide who they would like to share the details with.
It is not to be seen as a shrouded secret but one can share in the joy without you telling them the bits that should be saved for your child.
There are a million more examples of where honesty is so important in adoption, even more so than other aspects of life.
The truth is, we answer to ourselves, to our children’s birth families and to our children when it comes to being honest and forthright.
If you handle yourself and your choices ethically and honestly then you can do it with your head held high. As an adoptee myself, I can tell you this IS important.
There is a peace in knowing that you know your story and always have and that if you have any questions that you can comfortably ask and will be answered honestly.
There is peace in knowing that your parents acted not in their own best interests, but yours. You will want to give your child that peace.
I know you want to do what is best and right. Honesty is free but the truth is worth its weight in gold. So be yourself, be honest and be a happier person and parent for it.
Madeleine Melcher is an adoptee, mommy, speaker, blogger, co-author of the newly released Encouragement for the Adoption & Parenting Journey: 52 Devotions and a Journal and author of How to Create a Successful Adoption Portfolio. Melcher’s writing can be found most regularly on her own site Our Journey To You Adoption, as well as the Huffington Post.
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