The very idea of Love Child came from my own sweet love child, Bowie. I was newly pregnant and inspired to create something that was relatable to other mamas like me. It got me thinking that not only should we change the very idea of a Love Child (and the negative connotation that has followed the term for years) but that there should be a site dedicated and inclusive to all families, regardless of how their family was made. As Lilly says, “families grow from love, not genes.” We are all love child (ren), amiright?

Which brings us to today’s topic of adoption. You may remember our contributing author Lilly Neubauer from our Modern Family Photos in which her photos by Two Pair Photography stopped me in my tracks when I saw them. So beautiful and raw. Today, Lilly is back to talk openly about the lessons she learned about motherhood through the adoption process.

Interested in the adoption process? Lilly shared some helpful resources, including her own adoption story at the end of the post.

“I would love to adopt one day,” is, thankfully, a sentiment I hear often enough. The choice to reproduce is already one we struggle to make. Will things go as planned? Is it the right time? If now isn’t the right time, will the right time come too late? Add in a few more factors such as costs, being open to genetics and races different than yours and navigating a relationship with birth parents you may not have met, and it’s understandable that adoption can be something you might love to do “one day” that doesn’t actually come around the corner. My husband and I are preferential adopters, meaning our “one day” came and happened by original intent, not after hearing tragic news that we might not be able to conceive.

Growing up, I always felt that I would adopt children. It came up on a first date with my now-husband who shared that he felt the same way. Our “one day” felt like it would really happen. As we got older and began talking about children, our curiosity and daydreams about adoption trumped thoughts about pregnancy and birth stories. We decided to toe-in to the adoption process, with an agreement that we would start learning more about it and go from there. Not only were we fortunate to get a great education on the adoption process and life as an adoptive family from our Austin based agency, Adoption Advocates, we learned so much about ourselves and our family through adopting.

Should you be on the adoption journey, your notebook may be filled with new things to learn about home study requirements (I remember us running to Home Depot to make sure we had the “right” sized fire extinguisher!), baby registry items and best practices for getting to know your birth parents. There’s a few lessons I gained from our adoption I wouldn’t have expected, but lean on more and more as a parent post-placement.

Follow the Timeline of the Heart

While we did want to adopt, our “one day” was at first similar to most people we knew interested in adoption, meaning that it would come after having, or at least trying for, biological children. It is what “makes sense” biologically, since we learn we’re baby-making time bombs after about freshman year of college. If my ovaries were ticking, though, my heart was ringing an alarm. Adopting first was the right thing to do for us, and therefore the details were irrelevant.

Since my daughter’s arrival, I’ve learned that timelines and following a plan that society tends to follow only works if it works for you. From deciding to have a second child to working and then deciding to leave my job, I’ve looked at the amazing experience of becoming a Mom through adoption and learned it’s best to do what the heart wants, for the details seem to follow.

Step Out in Faith

Name a scary thought associated with adoption (Lifetime Movie birth parent situation, a child who doesn’t attach to you, and crack cocaine seem to be popular) and I stayed up at night about it early in our path. Thankfully, these are not actual adoption things, or at the very least, not common. The real tests of faith are paperwork, lost paperwork, more paperwork and the hardship of failed adoptions, even with the knowing your baby is still on the way to you. Motherhood is change, impermanence and learning more will always be asked of you, so it’s best to go with the flow. Dealing with the adoption process taught me if you let the details get your heart rate up, you only stand to lose joy.

My biggest faith journey was trusting that we would meet birth parents we could work with to show our daughter what a loved and special child she is. This was especially hard for me to give myself to, already feeling nervous to be a first time Mom and curious how I would get along and share love with my child. For my feelings towards my birth parents and also towards myself as a mother, I just tried. The more I prepared for our baby and my impending motherhood, the more I understood the love, pain and sacrifice of our birth mother. I met my fears with small steps of faith and was soon excited to meet myself as a Mom as well as get to know and love our birth mother.

Community is Key

I’ll make a blanket statement and say the number one way you don’t want to learn about what adoption is like is through a friend of a friend, by way of stories told by your friend. They’re the absolute worst and idyllic best, neither of which give a full idea of what adoption will be like for you. You need a well with water. We were very fortunate to start our adoption process at Adoption Advocate’s free weekend seminar, where so many of our questions were answered and we learned the reality and beauty of modern adoption.

It was in the room with 15 other families hoping to adopt where I learned one of my most valuable Mom truths: we may have completely different stories, but all we want is to raise and love our children, so it’s best to be excessively kind to each other. The more I saw the grief of women who had tried for years to conceive and faced loss, I learned quickly how some of my thoughts and comments on our process could be seen as insensitive or painful. While I stay true to myself as a parent, I try not to judge or butt into how other Moms are getting things done. When you have something about your family you would like others to speak carefully about, you naturally begin to speak to others more carefully yourself.

Families Grow from Love, Not Genes

Our adoption made us open to what constitutes “family” to us. With our amazing siblings living out of town, many wonderful friends and cousins of ours step in locally to take on the loving aunt and uncle roles, riding bikes with us and even attending dance recitals. Family is made of those who love and take care of you.

With a new baby on the way in our extended family, my daughter and I recently had a talk about tummy mommies and mommies. With the new baby, my daughter wanted to know who the tummy mommy of the baby would be. I explained some people, like the little one on the way, have the same tummy mommy and real mommy.  I took a chance, “Your tummy mommy grows you in her belly, loves you and gives birth to you. Your mommy feeds you, dresses you for school, dances with you and cuddles you at night. Who is that for you?” My heart swelled and I knew, again, there was nothing but an abundance of love around our little girl when she enthusiastically pointed to me and said, “You!”

Not only was adopting the right way for our family to welcome our first child, it’s also taught me things about being a Mom and woman I’ll take with me into the next chapters of my life. If you feel the call to adopt, consider how your heart is talking to you about your “one day” and know the hard times are often small parts of the beginning of the long road of love your family will experience.

Resources:

Adoption Advocates: http://www.adoptionadvocates.net/

Adoption Without Fear: https://www.amazon.com/Adoption-Without-Fear-James-Gritter/dp/0931722713/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1497891940&sr=8-1&keywords=adoption+without+fear

Our Adoption Story: http://www.pancakesandbeetjuice.com/2013/12/adoption-story-Dallas.html

You can keep up with Lilly on her personal blog, Pancakes and Beet Juice, or on Instagram at @LillyNeu.