Four years ago, when we finally made the leap to join an adoption agency, we did a decent amount of research and landed with the IAC. We, as many others do, went into adoption with very little knowledge. When we learned about the IAC’s philosophy of open adoption as well as continued support available to the birth families for life, we loved that immediately. What I didn’t really think about, but now value more than ever, is the continued support to OUR family long after the finalization of adoption.
Mikayla’s adoption was, we are blessed to say, incredibly easy. There was very little drama, we have a wonderful connection to her birth family, and we sailed through the finalization. The bumps that did occur were swiftly and wonderfully addressed by the IAC, and the support we received through the process was nothing short of amazing. Well, as all of you parents are aware, then comes the hard part – parenting! I realized that during the stress of the research, the home study, writing the letters, finding the pictures, the amazing first contact with Mikayla’s birthmother, more paperwork, the birth, the flights, the lawyers – I had lost track of the fact that all of this was temporary. All of these crazy last minute calls, the paperwork faxed back and forth, the fingerprinting – this was not the goal. Parenting was the goal. And once the judge signs off, our lives as parents switched to being, well, mundane. Beautiful, miraculous, but none the less, quite normal. And this was great! We became immediate members of the parenting tribe. It was a tribe we ached to join for so many years, and then it happened. Moms nod to you at the grocery store and chat about diapers at the park. You get the sympathetic look when your child melts down in the worst place possible – and you know immediately they are a member of your tribe.
This is a wonderful feeling. It makes the whole crazy world of parenting feel less alone. But, there are still parts of it for adoptive parents that make us feel a little separate. Maybe you are a transracial family, as we are. Maybe your child looks exactly like you. Maybe you are a same sex family, as we are. Maybe your family and friends are wonderfully supportive of your family, and open adoption (as ours are), or maybe you have some people where you just avoid the topic all together, so you don’t have to go into it again about how it is a GOOD thing you saw your daughter’s birthmother. But all of these little aspects of our families make us a bit different from the Norman Rockwell families out there. That is great and wonderful, but it can be difficult too.
I never thought I would need to stay connected with IAC families. It didn’t even occur to me that I would, after Mikayla was born. But I found myself on the forums and on Facebook, connecting with them over and over again. Now three years out, I still check the IAC facebook page at least daily, and I post every once in awhile – about mundane parenting usually; sometimes to help support someone else. I realized, that with IAC parents, I can relax. They get it. They get all of it. I can talk about how I worry if I’m responding correctly to peoples questions about whether or not I’m Mikayla’s “real mom.” I can complain about a tantrum, without someone saying something ridiculous like, “Do you think its because she’s adopted?” We can take Mikayla to IAC gatherings and she fits right in with all the kids, and no one bends down to tell her “You are really lucky, you know.” It is an amazing thing to belong to a tribe.
We talk about how important an agency is during the adoption process and of course, that IS their job. You want an advocate during the harrowing, crazy process that is adoption. But what I forgot, is so much of our energy goes into the process of adoption, without remembering the fact that it will end and parenting will begin. And that part? That will NEVER end. Having such support for the long haul of parenting is a comforting thought.