adopting blog

Inspiration, Resources, Opinions & Advice From Our Adoption Community

3 Powerful Ways to Own Your Adoption Journey

The adoption journey

Have you ever heard the saying “Life is a journey”? The important thing about that statement is that it’s not just a beginning and an end – life is the journey. It’s all the stuff that happens in the messy middle. Well, the same thing is true of your adoption journey. You have made the choice (or you are thinking about making the choice) to go on this tremendous and life-changing excursion. It may in fact be one of the most challenging in your life and you’ll probably need to rely on every advantage and resource you can find. I should know. My daughter’s adoption was finalized over 3 years ago. But I am still very much traveling along on my adoption journey. I don’t know if it will ever be done. It certainly didn’t end when the judge banged the gavel and said that she was officially ours.

Adoption has changed our lives forever, and I am thankful for it every single day. And I'm thankful also that along the way I have come to discover a positive mindset and many techniques to deal with everything adoption has thrown at me. I’d love to share some of these ideas and tools with you so that you too can really begin to own and manage your adoption - the highs and lows and everything in between.

What does it mean to ‘own’ your adoption journey and why is it essential that you do? ‘Owning’ is rooted in a wonderful concept called personal responsibility. It’s the thought that life isn’t happening to you, it’s happening for you. There is so much going on in your adoption journey, and so many things may feel outside of your control. In this series of articles, we’ll begin to explore the one thing that you can always control: yourself. How you react, interpret, and feel in any given situation. By taking responsibility for this wonderful, beautiful, and terrifying journey that you are on, you can also begin to feel in control of the adoption process.

1. Give Yourself Permission to Feel
First off, we never expected infertility. I don’t think that anybody expects it, and I know that I didn’t cope well with it at the start of our journey. I am a woman. I am a Christian. And I was raised with the belief that one of my main purposes on this Earth was to be a wife and a mother. With that basic belief system, not being able to get pregnant made me question who I was and my purpose in the world. It was rough. I didn’t want to deal with it. And so I pretended that pain and the hurt wasn’t there. I didn’t own this part of myself and my journey for a very long time. So it HURT every time that I saw an expectant mother or a birth mother.

If this part of your journey looks anything like mine, I invite you to really figure out how to cope with infertility. Let yourself feel all the feelings and work through it early so that it doesn’t become a big problem and a stumbling block later, when you are caring for your child. If you need help, please get therapy, counseling, or whatever you are called to. But dealing with grief over infertility is a very real thing and no one is responsible for healing this but YOU. You have the time and the space NOW, before a child (or more children) come into your life. So please, take advantage of it.

Also, all sorts of emotions may come up along your journey, whatever it may look like. Don’t be afraid of them. Do not push them away. Please, let yourself feel all the feelings - good, bad, fun, or not. Once you have felt them, you can work through them and process them. This is a wonderful skill to learn now and you can use it throughout your whole life.

2. Practice Self-Care
The second big thing that you can do to own your adoption journey is to take care of your mental health. That’s right. Self-care. There is so much love and support in the adoption community. But the adoption journey itself can feel full of stress and anxiety. It certainly did for me.

I have had some of my highest highs and lowest lows while on this path. And it all would have been so much easier if I had done anything at all to take care of myself during the process. The home study, which I found nerve-wracking, lawyers, social workers, finances, the endless waiting. We even did some renovating of the house while waiting for the baby to arrive. All of it caused tremendous amounts of stress. I could have handled it so much better if I had been taking care of myself. But I didn’t. I’m not one of those people who can tell you how I did it right . The fact is, I did a lot of things wrong. And I am speaking to you using the amazing gift of hindsight.

It sounds trite but when you are feeling stressed out and overwhelmed, take a break and don’t forget to live your life. You are still a full person with hobbies, interests, and loved ones that need your focus. When the waiting is getting to you, take a few deep breaths or maybe even more than a few. Pursue personal wellness through things like prayer, meditation, exercise, or activities that will ground you. You know what works. So make the choice to try. Know and respect the fact that this is not an easy journey. But you are amazing for doing it. And yes, you can do this.

I did try to go on a mini vacation about three weeks before my daughter was due, so that we could rest, relax, and recuperate before she joined us. She had other ideas and came three weeks early! So please be flexible in your self-care. Things don’t always go as planned when adopting. But that is okay.

3. Feel Empowered by Your Choices
Another way to really own your adoption journey is to know that you made a choice. You CHOSE to go on this journey. When things get hard, when the waiting gets to you, when your heart breaks into a million little pieces after an adoption fails, let yourself feel it fully. Then, come back to knowing that this is the decision that you made. That also means you get to decide what to do next. You really are in control of your journey. You get to decide who you work with, how open your adoption will be, and what you are or aren’t willing to do on this journey. That knowledge gives you back your power.

So many parts of my adoption journey felt out of my control at the time. I was a victim of what everyone else was doing and what people were telling me. It was so hard. Your journey doesn’t need to be that way – take responsibility for it. Take responsibility for your life and the family that you are creating. Know that the only thing you can truly control in the process is YOU. But that is enough. You made the choice and you get to keep making choices until you finally get to hold your child in your arms and for the rest of the journey after that, too.