It took about a year and three months from the time we began the adoption process with our chosen agency to meeting our 6-year-old son and 12-year-old daughter for the very first time.
What an incredible day that was! The journey to that day, however, included a few obstacles, but from what I’ve heard that’s pretty average. For example, some couples wait years for a referral, becoming so frustrated they want to give up. For other prospective parents, the process goes quickly, even happening within months.
My point is that some self-knowledge can help you when you face road bumps—or unexpected acceleration—in the process. Once you know your own mind, you will be fortified with more patience and perseverance. And time can be a factor in the types of adoptions available to you, depending on how long you’re willing to wait. (If right now you’re in the middle of the process, you can probably relate to what I’m saying!)
If you’re thinking about adopting, but not sure where to start, it’s best to do a lot of research and soul-searching. This will help you and your partner better understand the right fit for you, and for your soon-to-be child.
Adopting children may be different from birthing children biologically, but the end result is the same: You become a family.
When my husband and I decided we wanted to adopt, we weren’t exactly sure how to begin. We went to an informational meeting at a local adoption agency. The presenter discussed the importance of finding out where you are on the spectrum of adoption—meaning are you set on adopting an infant only, or would you consider older children? Is race a factor for you? Special needs? Are you willing to foster to adopt? Are you comfortable with open vs. closed adoptions? Do you want to adopt within the United States or outside?
There’s no one-size-fits-all answer. And while it’s useful to talk it out with loved ones, and seek different perspectives from other adoptive parents and families, your answers to these complex questions must come from your very own place: your heart.
My husband and I had to find out where our hearts were leading us. . . which we soon realized was Colombia. The agency we found specialized in finding forever families for sibling sets. My husband and I were in our late 30s and early 40s (I’m the older one) and felt time was of the essence.
We both agreed we’d want more than one child, so adopting siblings made sense. And so the process started: home visits, fingerprints, background checks, medical exams, blood tests, paperwork, delays, and paperwork—lots and lots of paperwork! When all was said and done, we learned to wait again.
Then one day we got the call. Our flights were booked and we arrived in Colombia within a week. We spent exactly six weeks and one day there, finalizing the adoption while getting to know our beautiful children, their personalities, likes and dislikes. We also met other brand-new parents with whom we connected and still keep in touch.
Since then, we were blessed with one more child: About five months after we arrived home from Bogota, I found out I was pregnant.
Our family is now complete with a daughter, two sons and a wide range in ages: 17, 11 and soon-to-be 4. I’d like to say it’s been an easy ride, but anyone with children—biological or adopted—would know I’m just blowing smoke.
Adopting children may be different from birthing children biologically, but the end result is the same: You become a family. There’s no getting around the pain and joy that comes with family. And although there’s the saying that children don’t come with an instruction manual, there are a lot of resources out there to help prepare you for when they do arrive.
In retrospect, I wish I had used the tools presented to us by our social worker at the time, which were mostly books. I thought, “Love will take care of any problems we face.” Well, yes, love provides a foundation, but so does education! And while I did crack open a book or two, I didn’t finish them. My husband, however, did, and shared the knowledge he acquired to the best of his ability.
My advice to you? Read! Not only should you find the books that best pertain to your situation—or could pertain to your situation—but make sure you’re emotionally ready for both the changes and the challenges.
After a bunch of research, if you’re still unsure, don’t rush. Delays have their purpose. Take your time, consider the options, ask questions. And for reference, check out this page dedicated specifically to helping people undecided about adoption. Other links on the page can also help.
One final thought about an encounter that seemed comical when it happened, but which I later realized reflected a profound truth. All three of our kids and I took a walk to our neighborhood pharmacy to buy a few things. Our youngest, blond and fair-skinned, was in his stroller. Our middle and oldest, both Hispanic with dark features, were standing next to me. The cashier said to me, “Were they all born blond?” I just looked at her, initially puzzled, and then I realized she was serious. I answered, “No, just him,” and smiled. She didn’t see that difference. Instead, she saw a family.