When my wife and I started our adoption process, I felt like an oddball – an adoption misfit.
You see, I didn’t fit into any of the preconceived groups of people who, I assumed, adopted.
I had categorized the adoption community into three groups:
- Couples dealing with infertility
- The devoutly religious
- Families on the front lines of foster care or adoption
I remember being nervous during our first pre-adoption class – as if I’d be thrown out if I divulged the fact that we were 0-for-3 if judged by the categories above.
Almost nine years later, I joyfully acknowledge how wrong I was.
I’ve found that the adoption process has only two prerequisites: a caring heart and a strong will. More will be required eventually, but these two qualities are the essential building blocks.
By virtue of these two qualities, I now know that adoption is not a privilege reserved for a few, but rather, a gift open to everyone.
Looking back, instead of feeling like an adoption oddball, I was really just scared and unsure. Only after I found peace with my fear could I dive head-first into the uncertain process by looking to create meaningful bonds with other adoptive families.
In taking the plunge, I found that building a network of support is important – at all stages in the adoption process. When we began to build ours, I discovered that the adoption community is as diverse as it is cohesive.
The cohesion is comforting – adoptive families seem to understand each other well. The safe zone provided by openly sharing with others who have “been there” was invaluable to a nervous-Nellie like me.
Adoption’s diversity, though, can be intimidating if, like me, you focus on the differences that brought you to an adoption process rather than the family you’ll create when you leave it.
The process requires openness. As such, I needed to shed my thoughts of being an oddball and change my focus.
I was able to do so in three ways:
(1) I honestly assessed my comfort level with differences I had relative to other adoptive families.
To embrace the differences that exist in the adoption community, I had to first make an honest assessment of my level of comfort with sensitive, adoption-related topics.
I became self-assured about my support for same-sex or single parent adoptions.
I was fine with someone talking to me about their deep faith calling them to adopt – even if I didn’t share the same experience.
I became comfortable asking questions (not shying away from) people in the community that seemed to know more than me.
I also quickly realized that I was not initially comfortable addressing other’s bouts with infertility – I needed to learn more.
(2) I learned how to share my entire family with the adoption community.
Being prideful yet humble is required for authentic sharing – the key to building a supportive network in adoption.
I am proud of my bio-kids but felt awkward in integrating them into our adoption community. I used to feel badly about toting my bio-kids with me to various adoption related events. I shied away from bringing up my wife’s past pregnancies to my “adoption friends” for fear of offending those that would likely never have that experience.
I had to brush that chip off my shoulder. My entire family needed to become part of the larger adoption community.
Adoption is not only part of my son’s story – adoption created my family. I shouldn’t have hidden from that.
(3) Focusing on my son.
I constantly remind myself of who I’m building the support network for.
Our entire family benefits from our relationships with other adoptive families, but my son garners the most enrichment from such kinship. I need to make the effort to connect with others for him.
When I realigned my focus toward my son, my oddball hesitations disappeared.
Through it all, I have realized that there are no adoption misfits – only loving families.
Adoptive families might enter the process for different reasons but we all aim for the same ultimate goal: to create our own version of greatness by unconditionally loving our children and always supporting each other.
There are no oddballs – we are all united by that lofty goal.
About the Author: Tobin Walsh is an adoptive father who sincerely and humorously blogs about parenting and adoption. You can read this original post on his blog, The Good-Bad Dad.