I remember the day I left on my trip to Hanoi, on a mission to bring our son, Mark home. It seems like yesterday, although it was 22 years ago! We had recently been told that in order to finalize our adoption, one parent had to travel to Vietnam. Neither of us had a passport or has ever been outside the country. Yet, two weeks later, I was on a flight bound for Hanoi, traveling with 2 other moms eager to see their children. I was more than a little scared! as Americans, how would we be received? How would the weather be? What about the language barrier?
I arrived 36 hours later..jet lagged and suffering from culture shock. After a bumpy ride from the airport, we arrived at the orphanage. The building was much smaller than I imagined, but teeming with children. As the van pulled ot a stop, they asked, "do you want to see your babies?" In unison, we answered, 'YES!" Exhausted but elated, we were handed our miracle children. In the space of a moment, my world changed. I was handed my son Mark.
"Adopting one child won't change the world, but for that one child, the world will change"
Anticipation of joy
The day you pick up your child is indescribably joyful. Nothing really prepares you for the love you will feel. Your dream is coming true..everything you have always wanted! The waiting has been unbearable and it is hard to believe that today that wait will come to an end! It is almost incomprehensible!
All new moms feel anxiety and fear, but I remember feeling those emotions intensely. Will I measure up? Will I be a good mom? How will I handle this experience? It can truly feel overwhelming. Fortunately, my travel partner made the journey so much easier. Laurie was my support and comic relief. I was so grateful to have a friend..a fellow adoptive parent-traveling with me. We shared so much-tears, joy, anxiety and ultimately-memories for a lifetime. Twenty-three years later, wee are still in touch, trading stories of our now grown children.
I'm ok; are you ok?
Gotcha day, as many adoptive parents call it, is also marks the beginning of tremendous change and responsibility that can feel a but overwhelming. I know I asked myself..am I up for this task? It is not uncommon to feel a bit of regret. What if I made a mistake? These feelings ok and felt by many adoptive parents. In fact, many new parents-no matter how they created their family-have feelings of nostalgia for their "single" lives before kids. It is all in how you manage them.Here are a few tips from a seasoned veteran to the new kids on the adoption journey:
1. It's ok to feel that way
The biggest gift I gave myself on this journey was permission to experience my emotions-whatever they were-without judgement. Excitement, fear, joy, panic-whatever I felt, it was ok! Just as a mother goes through labor pains before delivery, your brain is preparing you for the emotions of parenthood. This self care will always be important to maintain. Reach out to friends who have adopted, family, support groups or a therapist to be sure you feel heard and understood. I call this " Securing your own oxygen mask first, before you help someone else". It is vitally important.
Secure your own oxygen mask first so that you can help others. This applies to adoptive parenting!— Megan Swope
3. Take your full maternity/paternity leave
This may seem like a no brainer but I have met people who thought they should go back early or didn't realize they could use this benefit. As an adoptive parent, both apply and you need this bonding time. Not to mention, you will probably be sleep deprived and need to nap when they nap! You are entitled to these benefits and need the time to bond with your new child.
2. Just say YES to meals and help
You are a new parent and as such, say YES to offers of help. You are NOT superheroes. Let people share these acts of kindness and receive them without guilt. You will someday pay it forward. It is what we are supposed to do as humans. Circle in and support each other. Let friends bless you!
A. One way people may offer support is to bring meals. This is a huge blessing! say YES! Here are some options that can make it simple and easy:
- Meal Delivery to Home: Amazon.com
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- Meal Train | Meal Calendar for New Parents, Surgery, Illness, and More
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4. Give it time
It may be rough the first few days or weeks. Sleepless nights and, depending on the age of your child, temper tantrums and night terrors are not unheard of during this time. Your pediatrician can offer tips and reassurance.
Also...remember, they are adjusting too. Keep your routine quiet and limit visitors to just close family. Everything is new for them-smells, voices, and possibly, the language. Let them adjust to the core circle. Don't forget to give yourself time. You are adjusting too. Get rest where you can and be kind to yourself!
5. Be sure to savor the moments
These first moments are precious and you will want to look back at how far you have come. No matter what age your new addition is, create a welcome home book and fill it will journal entries, photos, videos and cards sent by friends and family. There are baby books designed specifically for adoptions. Check them out!
Take a moment. Take a deep breath and step back. Take a break when needed. Children learn patience, grace and all coping skills by watching us succeed and struggle. When you feel overwhelmed, lean on faith and take a deep breath. In a more relaxed state, you will think more clearly.
It will not be easy, but it will be worth it.
Easy is not promised, and it will not be your journey. There will be ups and downs, twists and turns. This is parenthood, after all! You have been preparing for this moment your entire life. You have what it takes and you CAN handle anything that comes your way. I know you can.
Our family today!
© 2018 Megan Swope