Parenting is an adventure with unexpected twists and turns all along the way. Whether your child or children are biological, adopted, or some of each, you'll be in good company with the billions of other people who have gone through the experience. But adoption does give you some experiences different from those who add children to their families without the help of lawyers or birth mothers or caseworkers. Here are just a few things about the process no one may tell you about.
1. Some part of the process likely will take longer than you expected
You probably have heard that it could take a while to adopt a child. And once you have decided that adoption is the path for you, you're already eager to have a new child in your family. But then you may end up waiting. And waiting.
There are a number of steps in the process of adoption that can take some time, with the basics being an application to an agency (if you're using one); the completion of a home study (including not just the visits but the work done by the caseworker afterward); the finding of a birth mother; the amount of time left in her pregnancy after you've "selected each other;" the time needed to stay in the state where the child is born (if the birth mother lives in a different state than you) before administrators from both the "sending" state and the "receiving" state, per guidelines of the Interstate Compact for the Placement of Children (ICPC), agree you can return home; then the completion of the necessary paperwork and any legal steps involving birth parents before the adoption is finalized. Some steps may go quickly and any one of them could drag out longer than you expected. The whole process may only take six months - or it could take a few years.
2. Choose your lawyer wisely
Whether you use an agency, matching service or personal contacts to find a birth mother, you will need a lawyer to take care of necessary paperwork and finalize the adoption. Some lawyers specialize in adoptions, while others may handle an adoption alongside their other specialties. No matter your situation or what may seem to be a "simple" case, be sure you feel comfortable with your choice of lawyer, that he or she has time for your case among his other cases, that he knows the law well and what needs to happen before your appearance before a judge to finalize, and that he can explain any and all steps you will have to take so you don't get blindsided.
3. Your child may have some challenges related to being adopted
You may have some ideas of the kinds of challenges or interesting skills your biological children may have because of your own family backgrounds. But with adoption, your information about your new child's biological inheritance may be limited and you'll have some surprises. Not only that, but the fact that your child is adopted may itself be an issue, small or large, for your child. He or she may feel like the odd person out if she's the only adopted child in your family, or just wonder why she was "given up" by the birth parents. These issues may arise early on or show up later.
4. Get ready for plenty of unsolicited advice and questions
Having a baby already seems like a way to talk to lots of strangers when you're out and about. Little old ladies are likely going to tell you your baby needs socks or another blanket, even if it's 90 degrees out. People will comment about your child's size or behavior. But adopting adds another layer. After a while, you may think your forehead has a sign saying "give me advice or ask me questions about my child." This may be particularly true if you adopt a child who's a different ethnicity than you. If you're white and your child is black or biracial, for example, people of her ethnicity will give you advice about doing her hair "correctly," which, of course, will vary widely. Be ready to nod and smile and say thank you. For ignorantly offensive commenters, prepare a brief but informative retort.
5. You'll be part of a new group
It may seem a little overwhelming to think about all that could happen when you adopt. But the good news is also something you may not have expected - you will now be part of a whole new social crowd, a network of parents who have also adopted and know what it's like to be in your shoes. You may have a local group that gets together regularly to talk about topics pertinent to your experiences as adoptive families, or you may join a nationwide network of parents who connect and support each other online. Either way, this group will be a source of ideas, answers and help; you may make great new friends.
Above all, you will end up a parent, and you will have the opportunity to love a whole new human being. And that will be worth anything you will experience in the process.