[Ed. note--Today we welcome Meg McKivigan, who brings her experience as counselor, developmental specialist, adoption support group leader, and adoptive parent to our site. Her monthly column will focus on current trends in adoption, from ethics to post-adoption support. -Heather]
As I thought about and planned this column, I knew I wanted to focus a good deal on pre- and post-adoption support. Both before adopting our son and since his placement with us, we have been involved in a variety of adoption groups in our area. We have found them infinitely valuable, and treasure our time with other adoptive families. One question we are often asked by both other adoptive families and those outside of the adoption community, though, is why. Why does our family seek out adoption support when nothing is “wrong?” Some reasons that are typically cited:
Our son looks like us. No one immediately assumes he is adopted, so its not a daily part of our life.
Our son was adopted as an infant and has a strong attachment to us.
Our son is a healthy, happy, and well-adjusted toddler.
Our adoption, while it included grief and loss like all adoptions, was relatively “easy” or “drama-free” by most standards.
Yes, all these things are true of our adoption. On a daily basis, no one assumes our son is adopted, and even close friends sometimes forget and have asked me questions about pregnancy etc. We aren’t caught in the supermarket checkout line dodging questions about adoption like transracial families. Our son was with us from minutes old–doing skin-to-skin bonding and cuddling with us constantly. He is securely (sometimes too-securely!!) attached to both of us. He is well-adjusted. He has family who loves him, both adopted and biological. He is developmentally on-target. He is healthy and growing. I balk when people say we had an “easy” adoption, because I do not think any adoption is “easy.” However, I guess in the scope of adoption stories, ours does not involve as many speed bumps and road blocks as most.
So, why do we attend adoptions support? If it isn’t broken, why fix it?
Like a car that runs well, maintenance is needed. If you only wait until you’re broken down to get service, your car won’t last very long. Oil changes, new tires, and someone who is an expert on cars are needed to keep things running smoothly. The time to see a mechanic isn’t when you’re pulled over on the interstate with black smoke pouring out of your hood. The time to see him is on a regular basis throughout the life of your car.
And so it goes with adoption. We seek support now to build a community around us. A community of other adopted children that my son can grow up relating to. A community of other adoptive couples who understand the path we are on. The support of those who go ahead of us, parenting their adopted teenagers when the identity crisis strikes. Those who understand when our heart breaks for the birth parents, or frustrations that arise in the journey. We pour strength into our adoptive family by lovingly maintaining it.
A friend, whose adoption looks somewhat similar to ours, recently attended an adoption support group for the first time. They shared afterwards that they felt so connected, and for the first time felt like they belonged, and were not on this journey alone. They shared excitement at continuing to connect with this group. I am excited for them and the connections they made.
Adoptive parenting is just like everyone else who is parenting, in a million ways… I don’t wake up each morning thinking about the fact that my son is adopted. I just love him and raise him. At the same time, adoptive parenting is different from everyone else who is parenting in a thousand ways…and those are the times I am grateful for the support of our local adoptive family group.
If you are an adoptive parent new to this journey, I encourage you to find a group. If there isn’t one, start one! We did, with some friends and our local church. If you have been on the adoption path a while and are not connected with adoptive families in real life, I urge you to seek that out. I will discuss in this column different type of specific support, but the bottom line is we all need connection, somehow–before we are pulled over on the side of the road with smoke billowing out of our hood.
What are some ways you connect (or would like to connect) to other adoptive families?
About the author:
Meg and her husband began their adoption journey in 2010 and added their son to their family via domestic open adoption in 2011. Meg stays home with their son most days now, but has been working in the social services and special education field for eight years. Meg is involved in several post-adoption support programs in her area and loves connecting and supporting other adoptive families. Meg blogs at www.godwillfillthisnest.com