November is National Adoption Awareness Month. Why do we need to be aware? Because there are approximately 130,000 children in foster care in America right now, waiting to be adopted. These children do not have a "forever family." At least, not yet.
Is adoption part of your personal story? Was your family formed or expanded through adoption? If not, here is a secret I want to share with you, about adoptive families: We’re not that special.
We might be a little unusual, and our individual stories might make us interesting in some circles, but we are mostly just like you.
Equal parts happy, crazy, challenged and blissful.
The truth is, most days I don’t even think about adoption. My day-to-day existence is more than consumed by the usual complexities of family life: Getting the boys to school on time; pushing another load of laundry through the washer and dryer; paying some bills.
When I look at my children, I do not see strangers looking back at me. I rarely note the differences in skin tone or eye color. I forget that we haven’t always been together.
What I see are my children. And what I feel is a deep, tugging sensation coming from the vicinity of my womb. Regardless of the circumstances of their birth, we are connected.
The truth is, other people often make a bigger deal of this adoption thing than we do.
Sometimes they are positive and supportive. They might be considering adoption themselves and we are happy to share our story.
Other times, they are intrusive and misinformed. There are still plenty of people who view families formed through adoption as somehow less valid, less permanent or less “real” than those formed biologically.
And perhaps most unfortunately, they pass these hurtful beliefs on to their children. Like the little boy in third grade, who was determined to make sure my son understood that I was not his real mom.
The truth is, adoption is not 100% wonderful. Few things in life are.
Children who are adopted experience heart-breaking loss before gaining their forever family.
It’s like they need to be born twice.
Anyone who has lost a parent – or a sibling, or a beloved grandparent – at an early age understands this. No matter how wonderful your life becomes, there is always someone missing. There is always a hole in your heart that can’t quite be filled.
And as with most traumas in life, the loss needs to be processed, over and over and over again, as you pass through each developmental stage of life.
The truth is, adoption is part of who we are, as individuals and as a family. It is part of our identity, but it doesn’t define us. We have nine years (and counting) of shared history, that makes us who we are today. Nine years of laughter, tears, struggle and growth.
And what I know is that I could not possibly love a being more than I love these two children that came to me through adoption. All that is in me loves them completely.
The truth is, adoption is a blessing in our family. We would not be here without it.
For more on adoption, please see “Autumn, Adoption and Ladybug Hugs” or “Roots and Wings: How to Make Your Children Feel at Home in the Universe.”
To learn more about my family’s personal adoption experience, check out “What is Your Parenting Style?”
Are you considering adoption? Would you like to learn how to support National Adoption Awareness Month? Here are some of my favorite resources: Adoptive Families Magazine; The Dave Thomas Foundation; and Adopt US Kids.