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What It's Really Like to Adopt a Baby

Bob and Karen tried for years to have a child. After six emotional miscarriages, they finally agreed to adopt. "I brought up adopting several times, and we could never agree on whether that was our next step," Karen explains. "Then one night he came home and said he thought we should adopt from China. When he pictured himself as a parent, he imagined holding a little Asian girl." So began their journey—their 21-month labor, as she refers to it—to finally become parents.

In lieu of sonograms and maternity jeans, Bob and Karen were overwhelmed with paperwork, research and red tape. They knew they wanted a little girl, so early in the process, they picked out a name: Kailee Nicole. They shopped for clothing and decorated her nursery. All very typical of parents-to-be, but with one major distinction: they had no due date.

Almost 18 months later, they received the call. Soon after a single picture was sent of a little girl wearing a striped shirt with the words "happy bear" embroidered on it. They taped the photo to the inside of Kailee's crib and spent the next five weeks packing, making care packages, even celebrating with a baby shower. They flew to Nanchang with suitcases of formula and diapers.

Parents who adopt from China refer to the day their child is given to them as Gotcha Day. To Bob and Karen, it was Kailee Day, which coincidentally fell on Karen's birthday. In a room filled with women from the orphanage, each holding a baby wearing a green outfit, their names were called, and a crying 14-month-old girl named Gan Xin Tian—Kailee—was placed in Karen's arms. They were finally parents.

Bringing a baby home is transformative under any circumstance, but adopted babies like Kailee, who are sometimes past the newborn stage when they come home, can present specific challenges. In honor of November's being National Adoption Awareness Month, we share excerpts from Karen's journal entries during her first few weeks with Kailee, along with expert advice from developmental behavioral pediatrician Lisa Albers Prock, M.D., director of the adoption program at Children's Hospital Boston, and the current chair of adoption and foster care at the American Academy of Pediatrics, to help adoptive parents navigate their baby's most anticipated homecoming.