Nobody Told Us
Have you heard this from a birth parent?
- No one told me it would hurt this much for this long.
- No one told me how much I would see myself in my child.
- No one told me how my feelings would fluctuate over time.
- They told me about open adoption, but no one told me how hard it would be to navigate these relationships and feelings.
Or this from an adoptive parent?
- Wasn’t it supposed to be easy if we adopted at birth? No one told us there could still be issues of loss and grief.
- No one told me how much I would want my child to have his/her whole story.
- No one told me parenting by adoption would be different from parenting by biology. In fact, we were told the opposite, that it was exactly the same.
- No one told me I would be open to so many people loving this child.
And, perhaps most poignantly, have you heard these sentiments from the person that adoption is supposed to serve most, the adoptee?
- No one predicted I would feel grief and otherness so deeply.
- No one told me I could love more than one mom, more than one dad.
- No one told me what a difference it would make to have my information.
- No one understood that being part of two families would be so complicated for me.
A Better Adoption Brochure (metaphorically speaking)
We need a better brochure, one that DOES acknowledge the complexities of adoption, both the light and the dark and all the grays in between. The Family to Family Support Network depicts not only joys that adoption can bring, but also the challenges and the lifelong effects people may encounter when they embark on an adoption journey.
The Family to Family Support Network is a hospital-based community program that empowers expectant mothers, trains medical staff, and better prepares adopting parents, all while employing and pioneering best practices on all fronts.
The Interviewer is Interviewed
Take a listen to this podcast by Rebecca Vahle of the Family to Family Support network. You may already know about her hospital-based adoption network because I’ve written about it before. Usually, Rebecca is the radio show host, but this time she is the interviewee, addressing pointed questions like:
- HOW the Family to Family program assures that the expectant mother remains in the driver’s seat for the plan she chooses, whether that choice is to parent or to place. And HOW she’s can plug into vetted, ethical resources according to her choice.
- WHY it’s much better when a woman in an unplanned pregnancy reaches the Family to Family Support Network rather than an adoption site that ranks high in an Internet search.
- WHAT safeguards are in place to prevent coercion.
- WHY this program is based in hospitals, even though adopting parents may or may not be included in the hospital time.
- WHAT is done to help all parties acknowledge the grief that comes from adoption, and ways to process ambiguous loss.
You’ll also hear confessions from nurses who have regrets about “winging it” in adoption situations in the absence of training on neutral, compassionate care. You’ll be shocked to hear about handing off babies in hospital parking lots. In addition, you’ll hear about Rebecca’s upcoming trip to meet with influencers in Washington, DC to show how dollars spent upstream can save a hundredfold downstream.
(Alternatively, click here here to listen.)
Support the Family to Family Support Network
A major part of meaningful adoption reform is to offer a better brochure. Family to Family Support Network is doing just that (metaphorically), and I ask that you get to know the program and support its efforts.
Support can come in many forms. Raise awareness by sharing this podcast. Reach out to healthcare workers and adoption professionals by tagging them on Facebook with a link to this podcast. Consider making a financial donation to Family to Family Support Network.
(Rebecca won’t tell you this but I will. She left her salary+benefits position over a year ago to get this grassroots program off the ground. She has unshakeable faith in its mission, as do I, but that doesn’t mean funding is falling from the skies.)
Please help end the cry that too many of the realities of adoption are #notinthebrochure.
* Disclosure: In past years I have volunteered on the board of directors of the Family to Family Support Network and trained its curriculum in hospitals. I believe this pro-education unbiased program needs to be accessible in every community in the country.
Lori Holden, mom of a teen son and a young adult daughter, writes from Denver. Her book, The Open-Hearted Way to Open Adoption: Helping Your Child Grow Up Whole, is available through your favorite online bookseller and makes a thoughtful anytime gift for the adoptive families in your life. Catch episodes of Adoption: The Long View wherever you get your podcasts.
Lori was honored as an Angel in Adoption® in 2018 by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute.