8 Things I Wished I Had Known Before I Adopted

Dawn Davenport



What advice do you wish you had listened to before you adopted? We asked our audience and support group members this question and distilled their answer into the top eight things that surprised them the most about adoption.

As the national adoption and infertility education and support organization, Creating a Family is all about educating and supporting–we do it 24/7/365 through our website, weekly radio show, videos, and support group. But as much as I love the idea of education, the reality is that sometimes all the education in the world just goes in one ear and comes out the other because most of us humans are an optimistic lot. We hear about what can happen, but we naturally assume that it won’t happen to us.

Advice I Wished I Had Listened to Before I Adopted

  1. A match with an expectant mother does not equal an adoption.

“Just because you have a match with an expectant woman and have a good relationship with her does not mean that the adoption will necessarily go through. My adoption lawyer told me this, but I didn’t really believe it would happen with our situation. I wished I had protected my heart more until after the revocation period.”

  1. Attachment can be hard, I mean really really hard.

“Attachment can take a really long time to create in a brain that has been affected by trauma and early life stress. My son (adopted at age 2.5) would joined us coming from a position of loss and not from our perspective of gain.”

  1. Parents can have a hard time attaching too.

“I had read all your resources on how my child (adopted at 15 months) might have trouble attaching, but blew off the part when you said that parents also have to bond with the child. I have felt such intense fear and anger at myself for not feeling totally and completely in love with this child. Wish I has spent more time understanding my own attachment process.”

“The problem with attaching might very well be my ability to attach to my child, not my child’s ability to attach to me. Yeah, I did listen to the Creating a Family shows on this and read your blog on attachment as a two way street, but I just never in a million years thought it would apply to me. “{link}

  1. Attachment doesn’t depend on age.

“I adopted two siblings aged 2 and 5. The 5 year old has settled beautifully and bonded with both my husband and me, but the 2 year old continues to not be attached almost 18 months later. So many things go into a child being able to attach (early life experience, drugs/alcohol during pregnancy, etc.), and age is only one factor. I wished I had been better prepared for this fact.”

  1. Personality conflicts are real.

“Children come with their very own set personality which may not fit easily with my personality. This child doesn’t seem to jive with my normal style and knows where my every button is located and pushes them often.”

  1. I would feel such pain for the birth mother.

“I was caught off guard by how much sadness I would feel for our child’s birth parents at their loss. It left me feeling almost guilty.”

  1. It’s hard to dig out of adoption debt.

“It is a bad idea to go into debt for an adoption because the stress this debt adds to your life as a new parent saps a lot of joy out of life and causes a lot of conflict between a couple.”

  1. Love is wonderful.

“I never imagined even with all the preparing that I would love this child so much, so quickly, and so intensely. It is so worth every bit of pain and questioning just to be her mom. I think I protected myself before we adopted so I wouldn’t be disappointed. I wasn’t anticipating this much love.”

What advice to you wish you had listened to before you adopted. Please share to help other.

23/02/2015 | by Dawn Davenport | Categories: Adoption, Adoption Blog, Blog, Other Adoption Resources | 24 Comments

24 Responses to 8 Things I Wished I Had Known Before I Adopted

  1. Avatar M G says:

    I wish I had known that many people are not going to be accepting of adoption. That you must choose carefully who you talk to. That some will say, “You knew what you were getting into”, even though you are not complaining and just telling them why they haven’t seen you around. That some will be so condescending and mean. That they have no compassion for these children or for those who take them in.

    I wish that I had taken up the two who did offer to help before they came home to fill the freezer with ready-made meals. I wish someone had thought to give us a child shower and help with very practical things we needed (like meals, toothbrushes, clothes, shoes, blankets, coats, hats, mittens, even toys). I wish there was a way to prepare for what you do need when those children come.

    I wish I had known that I might lose people I love, because they are not able to love the way I do.

    I wish to let people know that you do not want anyone who is not part of your immediate family (siblings, friends, etc.) to live with you until the bonds have been established. It sets the children up for more trauma and you give up control for your household.

    I wish to let others know that there are people who can help but to be particular in who you ask or tell.

    I wish to tell those who have not adopted, that we who have adopted, need compassion, parties, kindness and love just as much, if not more, than those who have had a baby of their own. We need meals, gifts of sitters after bonding, bubble bath, coffee gift certificates, toys for our children, clothes, clothes and clothes, and shoes. They don’t come with much and if they do, it usually does not fit. We need to be told that these things are not selfish. That our needs are just as important. We need friends who will listen even if they don’t understand, and not keep giving advice unless it is truly asked for. We need time to ourselves, even half an hour a day, to just do something we use to enjoy.

    I wish to tell others that we need what anyone else needs and sometimes it is more because adopting several children at once changes your life more than any preparations you could have made. That older children are just like toddlers and need help understanding the world around them. That being a parent to five already for 24 years is still not enough to do the job, but someone needs to do it and those that do, just may need help.

    I wish that the process of adoption did not make me so cynical, because these children are worth everything and deserve a good life and that we are blessed for loving them more than they are blessed because of us.

  2. Avatar Ronna says:

    I wished I had known the adoption agencies really do discriminate when chosing a forever family.

  3. Avatar Ronna says:

    I wished I had known the adoption would take me years because I’m single and do not make $100,000 like my competition in the adoption world.

  4. Avatar H says:

    I knew it would be hard (as in very, very hard!!) thanks to this wonderful podcast (thank you, Dawn!); a responsible agency; and reams of reading–I was well & duly warned and I’m glad I was. But I wish I’d known that the hard parts wouldn’t turn out to be the WHOLE story. I wish I’d known what it would feel like to hold my daughter’s hand. I wish I’d known how much joy and life she’d bring & how she would make us laugh. I wish I’d known how I’d feel weirdly grateful for even the annoying things like playdough clogging up the vacuum and legos everywhere & glitter all over the kitchen floor…because we’d waited so long for them. I wish I would have known the fist-pumping hallelujah-chorus joy I’d feel the first time she overcame her fear of water and dove into the pool at swim lessons…and then came up w/ goggles askew looking for me in the bleachers to see if I SAW IT…and her huge, proud smile. I wish I’d known what an honor it would be to walk with her through grief and how much her courage would teach and humble me. I wish I’d known how honoring her birth family and putting together her lifebook would draw us together instead of pushing us apart. I wish I’d known that becoming a mom through adoption is still becoming a mom and “No–WE are the ones who are blessed!” is not just a cliché and having a kid to love is still the luckiest, luckiest thing no matter how you come by the honor.

    • Dawn Davenport Dawn Davenport says:

      H, I literally got goose bumps reading your post. Wow! Thanks.
      P.S. You’re making the rest of us look bad–I banned glitter when my eldest was 2.

  5. Avatar Anon AP says:

    I’m going to add one more. As a white adoptive parent would have liked more awareness raising and training about the implications for the family and the adoptee with regards to transracial adoption. It’s complex and there’s lots of stuff to learn and think about.

    • Dawn Davenport Dawn Davenport says:

      Fantastic point Anon AP. It always amazes me when people adopt transracially without any advanced training.

      • Avatar Trenicia says:

        My open adoption was transracial, so the adoptive parents to my son asks a lot a questions. That makes us feel like we’re even more apart of his life

        • Dawn Davenport Dawn Davenport says:

          Trenicia, I’m glad that you are an important part of his life. What type of questions did they ask?

  6. Avatar Daphne says:

    Thank you for this post. I’ve recently applied to my local children’s aid society to adopt from foster care, and I’ve been avidly reading the blog and listening to the podcasts ever since I found them. There’s a wealth of information here alone that would take months to get through!

    Is there anything I need to do other than request membership to the Facebook group? I’ve applied twice now, but when I check back the request has simply vanished, with no explanation. I’d love to be able to join the discussions there.


  7. Avatar Anon AP says:

    It’s easy to get stuck on the idea of a type of adoption (domestic infant, international, fost-adopt, etc.) and to get tunnel vision, reading and listening only to people who have experience in *your* type of adoption. There are things specific to each in terms of process and some concerns, but questions, such as those related to attachment, identity, heritage, connection to birthfamily or lack thereof, openness, communication, etc., are common to all. Don’t lose sight of the incredible set of resources from all different parts of our community. You never know what your family will need or find useful to know until the time comes.

  8. Avatar Robyn C says:

    It can be very difficult to dig out of adoption debt. We’re still doing it. However, I would still go back and adopt my daughter, debt be damned.

    I wish I would have known that I didn’t ask all the right questions.

    I wish I would have known that being a “quad A” attorney doesn’t mean an attorney is ethical or even competent.

  9. Avatar Jane says:

    I wish I knew more about “post-placement Blues”….I thought I was crazy, I finally had everything I had hoped and dreamed and yet I cried everyday for a few months…perhaps it was just the overwhelming – boom…here are two beautiful children that are yours and my world changed so drastically- and quickly. I thought I was so prepared and ready! Now, I believe I would never have been really ready no matter how long or short the wait, the age, the needs…wouldn’t change a thing now, (or at the beginning) we are happy and settled now! But I do believe this is a topic worth discussion!

    • Dawn Davenport Dawn Davenport says:

      Jane, I am so glad you mentioned this as something you wished you had known before you adopted. You are not alone. I want every pre-adoptive family to know that post adoption depression is real and that help is available. You’re not crazy and you don’t need to suffer alone. Get yourself to a therapist. Also, join the Creating a Family Facebook Support Group (https://www.facebook.com/groups/40688106167/) You’ll find others there who have walked in your shoes and can give you some great advice. It’s a closed Facebook group so that only those in the group can see the posts.

  10. Avatar Sara says:

    I wish I had known there were anti-adoption groups and to stay away from them. Yes, I am glad I found groups that included all members of the triad so I could listen to, and learn from, adoptees and birthparents. And yes, I understand that adoption is not all sunshine and rainbows, but I wish I would have had a thicker skin before encountering the anti-adoption crowd.

    Also, your point 6. Yes. So much. When we left the hospital with our daughter, and she left without her daughter, and we all said good-bye. That pain I felt for her and that almost guilt followed me for the next week. Until my daughter’s bmom sent me a text that she knew she made the right decision for her daughter, no matter how much it hurt her. That she knew eventually she would be ok. I needed to hear that from her.

    • Avatar Anonymous IF says:

      “I wish I had known there were anti-adoption groups and to stay away from them. Yes, I am glad I found groups that included all members of the triad so I could listen to, and learn from, adoptees and birthparents. And yes, I understand that adoption is not all sunshine and rainbows, but I wish I would have had a thicker skin before encountering the anti-adoption crowd”.
      This. So this! Thank you Sara for articulating this point so beautifully. IMO some of the rhetoric and talking points of the anti-adoption crowd should be classified as hate speech, and I believe it is intended to be so, no matter what is said to the contrary by those who hold and promote those views. I wish I had known about those groups as well before I began my search for information about alternate family building options-they have unfairly coloured how I view adoption and those of us who would have no other options to become parents. I don’t think a “thicker skin” would help these types of views go down easier. Nor do I think they should go down easier. Hate speech is hate speech and it should not be tolerated. Yes, members of the triad are hurting, yes their views are important, but if the only way they can express themselves is through demonizing another part of the triad, then there can be no educational value gleaned from that from those of us who are just trying to learn about how to be good (adoptive) parents.

  11. Avatar The Gang's Momma says:

    “Attachment is not a straight line from moment of meeting the child to the magical moment you are well and healthily attached.”

    In our (fairly limited) experience, it actually resembles the tides. We have calm, low tide peaceful seasons where things are minor, almost insignificant and easily attended to. Love comes easily in its soft and snuggly, warm fuzzy types of feelings. Then we have seasons where EVERY!THING! is intense, painful, deep and wounds are open and raw. They take more work, more intentionality, more CHOICE to love and to dig in and get at the roots. High tide makes us VERY thankful for low tide seasons.

    We are still learning the cycles, the seasons, the triggers, all of it. And with two little ones of VASTLY differing personalities, different early life experiences, different wounds, it’s a learning curve that keeps me reading, researching, on my knees in prayer and connecting with other BTDT – going-thru-it mommas for support and encouragement to keep on keepin’ on!!!!

  12. Avatar Christy says:

    as someone who has been looking into adoption I find this really helpful! thank you for posting

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