I wrote this post for my friend Danae, but I hope it might have some value to other new adoptive mamas.
My dear friend,
Happy First Mother’s day! I am so happy that I get to celebrate it with you. I love walking this adoption journey with you and I’m excited to watch you experience parenthood for the first time. It’s both the hardest and the most fruitful thing that I have ever done.
I wanted to share some wisdom and encouragement with you, but my experience is limited, so I asked my adoptive mom friends to share theirs…
“Let go of any fantasy and embrace your reality. It is yours and no one else’s and is as much a part of your child becoming family as labor pains are during childbirth. Painful, but necessary.” –Jennifer Doloski
“It’s probably going to be really, really hard. Stay the course and seek support where you can find it, in good friends with whom you can be 100% real and honest, in other moms who’ve been there, and in God (of course). If it’s harder than you ever thought it would be, you will have to have His strength and His grace to get through it, but He WILL get you through it.” -Heidi
“Be prepared for a whole new child. ♥ The child we brought home is not the one we met at the orphanage. Prepare for the worst, but hope for the best, and lay your ground rules out to friends and family regarding attachment stuff before you bring your child home to avoid uncomfortable situations/conversations.” –Amy
“Expect the unexpected, rejoice in the little things, and stock up on chocolate! Your life will never be the same, but it will be so worth it!” –Catherine
“1. Regardless of how weird some of the moments are and how unexpected some of the emotions and experiences are, someone, somewhere has experienced the same and is feeling the same. Whatever it is, it is likely normal and you’ll get through it. 2. Accept the child for where he/ she is physically, emotionally and developmentally. Don’t worry about where he/she should be. That’s irrelevent. Start and work with where they are.”- Laura
“Just because bonding MIGHT take a while, does not mean you made a mistake.” –Jessica
“I would tell her not to get discouraged if things get tough. If your child is grieving in the ways you didn’t expect. If your bio kids are adjusting longer than you thought they would be. If you feel like your heart is not there a hundred percent. Know that you are not the only one with those feelings and doubts and that things do get better over time.” –Anya
“No matter what emotions you are or are not feeling right now, others have felt that way and its totally normal! Yes, it does get better and yes, love does grow.” –Erin
“Expect the child to act several years younger. Depending on the task, she was anywhere from a 2 year old to a 6 year old at nearly 8 years of age. She didn’t understand cooking food, so when she was hungry she wanted food right then and there. Everything was very loud for her too. She walked around with her hands over her ears.” -Julia
“Worry about what your kids need, not what other people think!” –Katie
“Cut yourself some slack if you don’t instantly love your new child, it’s not always love at first sight – it’s a lot of patience and hard work and ASK FOR HELP!” -Jennifer B.
“Fight for your child. If you don’t, who will?” –Lu
“Someone will always have a different opinion on how to parent your child. Go with your instinct and parent in a way that makes you proud at the end of each day.” -Sarah
“Don’t compare your life to anyone else’s- not the good or the bad. You’ll have your own amazing times and your own challenges, but each child and family and adoption experience is unique. You may share some struggles and share some triumphs but don’t expect anyone else’s life to look quite like yours. God chose you for this life- and He will give you the strength to sustain you, the hope to encourage you, the peace to calm you and the love to heal you.
Each day is a new blessing and a fresh start. Don’t let yesterday’s worries taint today’s joys. Every day is going to have enough stress- make it your family motto to not go to bed angry- at someone else or yourself. Wake up with joy and keep your mind focused on positive things for as long as you can. Celebrate each and every small victory- whether it’s so trivial the rest of the world would roll their eyes or so major that you want to announce it from a billboard!
Surround yourself with equally yoked “family”- friends and relatives who are supportive and will wrap you in prayer, hold you when you cry, listen without judging to your venting, and who can sympathize when you face the problems typical of adopting a post-institutionalized child. Seek out those who will help you find the rainbow and not just see the tornadoes. Focus on the solutions, and see the problems as just symptoms of what your child has survived- not as rejection or failure of you as a mom.
And remember, when the going gets bad, turn to your Bible, drop to your knees and cry out for help. Praise Him when things go well too!
Before things get bad, when you first meet your kiddo, journal like crazy. Record the story of how God called you to this child- how you KNEW this was “it”. Photograph all the funny faces he/she makes, write down the funny stories and the sweet memories that you’re positive you won’t forget. Because you will forget them. After the honeymoon starts ending, you might find yourself caught in frustration. Take some time to go back and reread the funny and sweet stories and to look at the pics of the faces you fell in love with. Let your heart fall in love all over again.
Most importantly, take care of yourself first. Just like on the airplane, you have to put on your own oxygen so you have the strength and ability to care for your dependent child. Nurture yourself- spiritually, physically, emotionally. Exercise, eat well (including a healthy dose of chocolate!), go on spiritual outings with church friends, and enjoy life. Restore yourself so you can care for your child :)” –Renee
And, my own: You aren’t going to be a perfect mama(sorry! no one is!). You will make mistakes–some small ones, and once in awhile you’ll totally blow it. But, don’t let the guilt wear you down. Get back up, and try to do better next time. Know that there is grace and you are always doing better than you realize.