Deciding to adopt was a big choice, especially since we already have three young children, and my husband and I came to it in our own time. Initially, we tried to adopt through the foster care system in the United States. We were approved and waited a year, but we never even received a foster placement, let alone a potential child to adopt. So feeling frustrated, we started discussing adopting internationally. We settled on adopting from Haiti because the recently revamped program requirements made our family eligible, and we knew that it was the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere so many families were in need.
We began the initial paperwork two years ago, and we've been waiting to be matched with a child by the Haitian government for 367 days and counting. Here's what I wish I would have known before beginning this grueling process:
1. Researching is key.
There was so much about the country of Haiti that I didn't understand when we began this process. It has been eye-opening to read what the government situation is like, and I can understand why things move slowly through their offices. But besides that, our child will be from Haiti, and it's important for us to know his cultural background—not just so we can quote a few facts, but so we can really begin to grasp what his life has been like.
2. Join a Facebook group.
It never crossed my mind to search for a Facebook group when we were considering adopting from Haiti. When I stumbled across my first group, I felt like I struck gold. Here were people who get it. They understand the daily struggle of the wait and the roller coaster of emotions. They celebrate with you and empathize with you. And, they're an amazing source of knowledge. Many people in these groups have already completed the adoption process, so they can answer questions and help guide me to the right resources when I need help.
3. No two timelines are the same.
The one drawback from the Facebook group is realizing that my timeline doesn't match other parents'. When someone reaches a new step in the process, I instantly start calculating how many days, months—or in the case with Haiti, years—it took for them to reach that step. I used to have new expectations and assume that I would only have to wait the 9 months it took them. This is a dangerous road to travel down, and one that caused me to feel more frustrated than before. I wish I had understood that when someone else is moving "fast" through the process, it should encourage me but not change my expectations.
4. Prepare to feel powerless.
Initially, there was so much for us to do—home study to complete, meetings to attend, and papers to fill out and file. We were really busy, but it felt like we were making progress. But then the day came when our side of the work was done, and all that was left to do was turn in the papers and wait. I wasn't prepared for how powerless I would feel. When the papers are mailed to another country, it's not like I can just pop into the office to see how things are progressing. There really is almost no contact with the offices in Haiti, and we have to rely on messages being passed along. If I've learned one thing about myself so far, it's that I don't deal well with feeling powerless.
5. Adoption is not for everyone.
Some people don't say anything at all to us about the process; they don't even acknowledge what we are going through. And there are those who "politely question" us out of their concern for our sanity. Others go so far as to tell us that we are being irresponsible and neglecting the children we already have. I've come to grips with the reality that adoption is not for everyone. Not everyone will be excited, or even understand, and that is okay. They're not the ones adopting, we are.
6. I'll consider quitting.
It's hard for me to acknowledge this one publicly, but it's crossed my mind many times. This process, and specifically the wait that is associated with adopting from Haiti, is simply hard. It just may be one of the hardest things I will do in my lifetime. The frustration I feel with government offices in both the U.S. and Haiti is a very real thing. Some days I just want to throw my hands up and say, "Fine! If you want it to be so impossible to adopt, then I quit." But we can't quit. We just can't. Instead, we have to remember that this adoption is not about ourselves. It is about the child who deserves to live in a home instead of an institution.
7. This adoption will make me want to continue to adopt.
Based off my previous statement, this one sounds a little crazy. But the truth is, I am already thinking about where to adopt after this one is complete. Do we try to adopt domestically through foster care again? Do we adopt from another country? There are so many options for us to consider. This process has taught me that the need for adoptive parents is huge in the U.S. and even bigger in other countries. The more I learn about the number of children waiting for families and the conditions they live in now, the more I want to help.
8. This experience will make me stronger.
It's a slow process, but all of the things that we're going through on this journey are only making me stronger as a person. I can see clearly that I can do hard things when required, and it's a lesson that I am thankful to learn.
I know our wait isn't over, but going forward, these eight things will give me the strength I need. I will be able to draw on what I've learned the past two years to help me get through the low points. Most of all, it will give me the hope that one day it will be our turn to bring home our new son or daughter.