For all its power to transform lives, adoption isn’t easy.

Maybe it seemed easier years ago, because it wasn’t done in the open. For a long time, adoption was not discussed in “polite society” at all. Adoption was something done in secret, whether one was “giving up a baby for adoption” or adopting a child.

Kids who got adopted were thought to be better off if they never even knew they’d been born into a different family originally. Mothers who placed were “girls that went away” then came back different somehow, but consigned to silence. Couples who adopted got encouraged to raise their child/ren “just as if” the child had been born to them.

But just think of the stress and shame that came with all that secrecy? In time, it became apparent that adoption really is harder than it looks. For its significance to be truly appreciated, society needs to know this. And those who go through it need to be heard, too.

Cracks Let the Light In

Here’s the truth: infertility sucks. Crisis pregnancies are devastating. Feeling abandoned or rejected can crush the soul. Adoption always comes with an inevitable side helping of grief (yes, even open adoptions). There’s no benefit to keeping this reality under wraps. Eventually, the burden of keeping the truth in can outweigh the supposed advantages of staying quiet.

Ignorance is not bliss. Adoption cannot cure infertility. Placing isn’t something that’s ever forgotten. Birthparents can carry a lifetime of regret, even those who married after placement and/or went on to have other children. Many grateful adoptive parents still grapple with guilt that their joy came at the expense of their children and their birthfamilies. Adoptees may wish they could’ve experienced not being adopted– yes, even the “happy ones.”

There’s Power in Sharing

Even adoptees never told the truth of their origins often went through life with a feeling they were somehow “different” or didn’t fit in. And even adopters who sometimes bragged that they “forgot” their children had ever been adopted can feel compelled to tell the truth much later in life. This has created a whole generation of what became known as LDAs (late discovery adoptees), poster kids for the “adoption isn’t easy” movement.

Over time, the greater adoption community has realized that truly, the truth can set people free in all the best ways. Healing the wounds that come with infertility, unplanned pregnancy, reproductive trauma and adoption loss starts with opening up. That’s when people started being honest about the fact that adoption is hard… adoption isn’t easy, and it’s okay to admit it. (Even if the adoption industry still wants to whitewash the truth or package it prettier, for marketing purposes.)

Why Adoption isn’t Easy is an Understatement

The process, whether you’re an adoptee, a birthparent or adoptive parent, is arduous. The emotional rollercoaster can be grueling. The paperwork alone is overwhelming. The costs, whether personal or monetary, are considerable. Nobody adopts, places or gets adopted for fun. You have to really love or be loved to put yourself through it. And because it’s filled with emotion and is never really “over,” it’s one long learning curve that continues to transform across the lifespan.

Here’s the thing: some folks are better suited to adopting, placing or being adopted than others, yet only two thirds of the participants usually have any real say in the matter. (And none of them really know what to expect along the way.)

This is why the same adoption can be considered “the best thing ever” by some participants and “the worst thing ever” by others involved in the very same placement. And that’s okay; like a prism, how you view it is directly impacted by your own unique perspectives and qualifications.

You are hereby invited to feel what you feel and to apologize to nobody for that. You do not have to be defined by your adoption experience, even if you cannot help but be impacted by it.

The Key is Self-Care

There’s no magical formula that can make every adoption easy, so beware of anyone who promises you this. Much as people sometimes hope the process will go smoothly or the outcome be happy, adoption isn’t easy and here’s the thing: it shouldn’t be, either. Anything as important as a child’s future needs to be painstakingly planned and built with the utmost of care.

Yet “care” is the the keyword here. And wherever you may fit in the adoption triad, self-care should always (always!) be a priority. Couples waiting to adopt, like parents contemplating placement and adoptees in open adoption relationships all need to be able to love and nurture themselves throughout the process (and afterwards, too.)

So make self-care your goal. Whether you do this through positive affirmation or healthy diet and exercise or healing therapy or just ample doses of fresh air, take time for you. Keep a journal. Treat yourself to that which brings you true joy. Cut yourself some slack when needed. Seek out support from others with shared experiences. And remember to carve out opportunities for peace and rest as needed, too.

Adoption isn’t easy, but neither is anything else in life that truly matters, so treasure what’s good about it, and do whatever you can to repair what isn’t.

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