Ask anyone who’s ever sought to become a parent through adoption, and they’ll tell you: hoping to adopt is hard.

At first, the hope comes easy. When you finally get to the point where your infertility doctor is willing to call it quits, you grieve the end of that possibility, of course. But if your longing to parent is a flame that still flickers strong, you start looking into other options.

“There’s always adoption,” well-intended friends or relatives or clinic staff will say.

Your head becomes filled with dreams of magical opportunities involving perfectly-healthy, beautiful babies who are just waiting to be found by an eager pair just like you. Friends blow up your inbox with emails about someone they know who adopted easily. You adapt your prayers, replacing “God, pleeeeease make us pregnant” with “Lord, help us find the child that’s meant to be ours.” (And the truly brave buy one baby onesie or blanket “just in case,” but stash it in a closet with the tags still on… just in case.)

Hope Springs Eternal

Gingerly, you start to tiptoe through a seemingly-endless maze of adoption options. You get referrals from anyone you know who ever knew anyone who adopted. You discover more adoption websites than you ever knew existed. Call countless places who either offer what seem like dire predictions of long waits or false assurances of quick placements. Read all you can about alternatives from foster-to-adopt to private agency domestic to international adoption to special needs to independent. And you marvel at how many side businesses (adoption coaching, adoption profiles, adoption travel agents, adoption advertisers, adoption facilitators, adoption doulas) have suddenly sprung up– all with no training nor licensing, but each charging ample fees from anyone desperate enough to pay them.

You discover that you have the option of adopting nearly anywhere you can afford to go– out of country, out of state, out of country. You get/have to express preferences about what sort of child will best fit your expectations (gender, race, age, etc.) And you’ll need to get fingerprinted and have a background checks and physicals and a homestudy done. (And more than once, you’ll secretly grumble that “nobody who has a baby the old-fashioned way has to go through all this to prove they deserve to be parents!”)

But no matter how daunting all the choices may seem, and no matter how matter adoption horror movies you watch on Lifetime, your determination to see the process through will be fueled by hope. By your dreams. And by that small, strong, inner certainty that you truly are meant to be somebody’s mom or dad… somehow. (Even in those times when hoping to adopt is hard and waiting is sometimes outright agony.) That’s how you know you shouldn’t give up.

Hoping to Adopt is Hard… but Why?

There are plenty of ways for adoption plans to go wrong, and plenty of folks to tell you why. Having hope that you can beat the odds can make folks seem either naive or vulnerable. And when you’ve already gotten burned by costly fertility treatments that didn’t pan out, it makes it extra hard to trust that adoption will work for you.

If you work with an ethical adoption provider like Abrazo, you’ll get taught all the basics about the adoption process, even the parts you don’t care to learn. You’ll be empowered to get a nursery ready, even as you get cautioned about the historically-low global birth rates and how it’s slowing down the adoption process dramatically. And you’ll be informed about the privileges of adoptive parenting, even as you’re taught all about the trauma of adoption loss.

Be forewarned: this can lead to a careful re-evaluation of your original adoption goal. It may trigger some soul-searching to realize your joy will only come at another family’s expense. Don’t ignore these painful truths, though. You should find that your desire to adopt– to just “get the baby of your dreams”— changes over time. It becomes more of a “hope to match with the parent/s who need us most,” even when that requires that you take on risks that you never thought you’d be willing to consider. There are growing pains as your heart stretches, and trust us: even if it hurts, that’s a good thing.

Because hoping to adopt starts out being about you and what you most desire, but adopting is about setting aside your own intentions to accommodate a child’s needs, to embrace his or her kinfolk as your adoption relatives, and making room in your lives for someone whose potential will never be defined solely by your genetics. The best of parents eventually find that the adoption process didn’t just grow their family, it transformed them, too. (But change is never easy. So ready yourself as best you can.)

Tips for Growth in a Season of Hope

While you’re hoping to adopt and waiting for a match and/or placement, here are some things you can be doing:

* Keep a journal about your parenting quest. Whether or not you ever choose to share it with the child you adopt in the future, it can be a therapeutic tool by which to chart your progress.

* Get your relatives the book Adoption Is a Family Affair (by Patricia Irwin Johnson) to educate them about the journey you’re on and help prepare them for your future adopted child’s needs, as well.

* Start including your future child and his/her birthfamily in your prayers.

* Join an adoptive parent support group or sign up for the Abrazo Forum.

* Sign up with I Am Adoption on Facebook. Listen to and learn all you can, to acquaint yourself with the other perspectives in the adoption triad. (Warning: some of these won’t be easy teachers to learn from, but the more you learn in advance, the better you’ll adoptive-parent in the future.

* Begin a weekly date night tradition with your spouse now, and make it an adoption-free zone! Keeping your relationship strong and truly enjoying your partner’s company is one of the most important things you can do for the future strength of your family bonds.

Hoping to adopt is hard. Maintaining that hope takes courage and conviction. Be gentle with yourselves, and trust that your heart instinctively knows where all that hope is ultimately leading.

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