JOSH + SUSAN FOWLER
Adventure seekers  //  adoption advocates  //  13 years of marriage
5 kids  //  2 businesses  //  We like living life to the fullest

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Adoption, Personal

6 Hard Things About Adoption (That You Probably Haven’t Heard)

There are a lot of really beautiful and really tragic aspects of adoption, and people ask questions all the time.  I think most people realize that there is so much involved in adoption, that the questions are endless and they don’t even know where to start.  So here you go– 6 things about adoption that are really, really hard.

1. You have no idea who your child is.

Sure, we saw Zane’s face, read his profile and knew he was our son.  But there is so much more to him than those adorable brown eyes, chubby cheeks, and a medical diagnosis!  And the thing was, it would be impossible to really know him before the adoption was final, much less before beginning the process.  Then again, we don’t know our children before we give birth to them, either.  We do know their family history, but there are a lot of wild cards no matter how you have children.

2. You’re under a microscope.

If you tell people, you will be under a microscope.  Why are they adopting? Why did they adopt internationally when there are children here in the US that need love? Why did they choose that child? Do they have enough money for that?  If you fundraise or ask for donations, there is even more of a microscope. Why did they choose adoption if they don’t have the funds? Why does adoption cost so much? Why didn’t they go a cheaper route?  Some people ask because they’re genuinely curious.  Others ask in a snarky way.  The ones that are curious– try to answer their questions.  The snarky ones? They are always talking about someone or something– this is just the topic of the hour.

Of course, there’s also the home study, which is one big microscope.  When we received a 12 page paper outlining our entire lives (childhood included), our parenting strategy, discipline plans, and our finances… it was a little unnerving, even for us!  We are super open about most everything, but boy we really had to bare it all.  But as it should be– I’m being entrusted with a precious son for the rest of my life– this is a big deal!  I have to give up a lot of information to buy a house, too, and that was worth it.  A child? Far more valuable.

3. Other aspects of your life will suffer.

I wish I could say otherwise, but anytime you do something big, it’s going to take away from other parts of your life.  That doesn’t mean you are going to be a failure at other things, but something has to give.  We got less sleep, gained weight because we weren’t focusing as much on eating healthy, our daughter went to full day preschool instead of half days like she preferred because we needed to work as much as possible to save money during the adoption.  When we brought Zane home, we took 7 months off from volunteering at church.  Spending a month in Boston for Zane’s surgery?  Whew that will certainly make a bank account suffer!

I cried over this exactly one time.  It was about 6 months in to the adoption process and it hit me that Hazel’s life was never going to be the same.  She was 4.  She was our princess, and she was about to be outstaged because of all her brothers medical needs. I knew it would be hard for her.  But… I have 4 siblings.  I have always felt loved.  My sister had seizures and I never thought, “Poor me.”  It only helped me to have more compassion, and that is definitely what I want for my children.

On the flip side, certain aspects of our lives flourished.  I can’t even tell you how many new friends we met through this process.  We got to visit an orphanage, which was something I absolutely wanted to do in my life.  I wanted my eyes to be opened.  We took our whole family to Bulgaria for week and survived as a family unit.  That was incredible.  We got to take our family on a Duck Tour in Boston, and we met some incredible people in the hospital, as well as the families that hosted us.  I got to take pictures of some families who have been living in a hospital for months– even a year!  One of those children never left the hospital before leaving this world.  To know that I got to take pictures of her being the cute little baby that she was… I can’t even describe it.

Life has an ebb and flow.  Some things remain constant while others fade with time.  The important aspects of our lives remained constant, but others had to fade to make room for our next adventure, and that’s okay.

4. You question your heart and motives.

“You guys are such wonderful people!  You are saving an orphan!  You’re his hero!”  Honestly, words like this put a pit in my stomach.  Every time I hear them I have no idea how to respond.  I know it’s coming from a place of love.  They’re excited, and who ever really knows the right words to say anyway?  Everything has to be so PC and people try really hard to word things well, but adoption is messy and there’s just never really great wording for it.

When I hear things like that, though, I have to check myself.  I mean, it feels good that people think we’re nice people.  But is that why we’re doing it?  Are we doing it for glory?  The answer is no, of course.  But it’s good to recheck that and make sure that we have the right heart about things.

5. Unexpected negativity.

I expected some pushback from a few people.  I had some long conversations with dear ones where they asked a million questions.  It seemed negative, but honestly I think they were just worried about us and meant it in a good way.  There was also the random person at our yardsale that asked us why we wouldn’t just adopt an American baby.  It was such a loaded question, but I just smiled and said, “Because our son lives in Bulgaria, so that’s where we have to go.”

One thing… make sure you are sensitive to why someone might ask a question.  There are adults who were in foster care as a kid and were never adopted.  Remember that… you never know someone’s past, or what their hurts might be.

But… did you know that there are people who fervently hate adoption?  They will tell you how it’s the worst thing you can do for a child.  It’s mind boggling, but I definitely had to spend some time investigating it to understand them before writing them off.  This is oversimplifying it for sure, but in short, they’re jaded.  They’ve seen terrible things- many have experienced it.  They’ve seen families adopt and then abuse children.  Families treat the adopted child as less than birth children.  And they know that there are some very corrupt adoption happenings around the world.  Babies actually stolen to ‘sell’ in an adoption.  Or, paying a small sum to low income families in exchange for their baby, promising a life in the USA for the baby.  Uh, YES.  That is terrible!

6. You have no idea what the future holds.

When we adopted Zane, we actually didn’t really know the extent of his needs.  We had some paperwork, but nothing, nothing said anything about how long his esophagus was.  They didn’t know.  This is a very big deal, and affected everything.  There were multiple surgical options, but everything depended on what the inside of his body looked like.  We also didn’t know if his heart was healthy enough for surgery.  And when adopting a child from overseas, you can almost bet that there is at least one diagnosis that was overlooked.  That’s a lot of unknowns.  Also… would his surgery go well?  Would Zane be able to eat like the average kid, or would he have a lifetime of the feeding tube?  We had a lot of hopes and dreams, but we didn’t know what the future would hold.

But those are true of everything in life.

Take adoption out of the equation and put a pregnancy in instead– there are always going to be these difficult things!  It’s just life.  It’s a wild ride and I love (almost) every minute of it.  😉

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