As I’m writing this post, my son, who we recently adopted, is almost eight weeks old — which is to say, I’m definitely not an expert on this subject. It all happened pretty quickly for us, which is pretty rare in adoption. I haven’t read many books (yet), but I’ve been thrown into one of the most emotional, exciting experiences of my life.

So far, I’ve already learned some important life lessons, both about adoption itself (open, in our case), and one of the most important parenting lessons of my life as a mama, one that applies to both my children (even my biological one).

Here’s what adoption has taught me.

Out with the old: new adoption terminology

Photo by TheOnlyAnla

The phrase that most commonly rolls off the tongue is “giving up for adoption,” but a year ago, when our adoption journey began, we learned that term has long gone the way of “groovy” and “psych” in the adoption community.

And while the new alternative, “making an adoption plan” might sound like merely a euphemism, in reality it is a much better representation of the situation. In most cases, much counseling, deliberation and planning goes into the adoption choice.

The new, positive, terminology is more fair to all parties involved– not in the least, to the child. As I raise my son, I want to use a vocabulary that shows how much I value his birthparents and their role in giving him life and his unique genetic traits.

Here are a few examples:

  • old: real or natural mom/dad/parents; new: birth– or biological mom/dad/parents
  • old: He’s adopted; new: We adopted him (adoption as an action, not a description)
  • old: to give up the baby; new: to place the baby
  • old: to keep the baby; new: to parent the baby

Myth busted: the truth about birthparents

When we started our adoption journey, the biggest misconceptions my husband and I had were related to birthparents. Unconscious, stereotypical ideas went through our minds of uncaring, unloving baby-makers. When we were finally introduced to real-life situations and relationships (both through reading and through our agency’s orientation), we began to see some of the truths.

Often, the birthmother actually wants to be a parent but simply feels unable to at the time she finds herself pregnant. This was something I hadn’t thought of before. She has a deep love for the child, a love which allows her to give life to her child, and to choose a family to raise and nurture him or her.

Our birthmother has given us space to connect and bond as a family, although I know she desires to remain in contact with us and our son over the years. This is not the heart and attitude most stereotypes attribute to a birthparent.

The relationship is unusual, even awkward, as it is unlike any other relationship we’ve ever had. But thanks to this squishy, sweet bundle of joy, we now have an intimate connection with two people we barely know. Over the years, I’m sure even more truths will surface for us.

The biggest parenting lesson I’ve learned (thanks to adoption)

Photo by Weird Beard

As the mother of children both through adoption and through my own pregnancy, not every lesson I learn in parenting (and in life) will apply to my children the same. But going through the process of adoption — the waiting, the unknowns, the roller-coaster of extreme emotions, the lack of control — has taught me one big and general lesson.

It’s simple, really.

I have to hold my children loosely in my hand.

In California, where I live, the threat of an earthquake is always looming. For this reason, bridges and freeway overpasses are built with expansion joints — little gaps in the concrete — that will serve as space cushions in the event of movement.

As I raise my children, I can’t hold onto them with a rigid, possessive grasp. My grip is tender and protective, yet flexible enough to allow for freedom and movement.

Because, the truth is, I’m ultimately not in control. Whether I gave birth to them, or made the choice to adopt them, I must see each of them as “a treasure on loan from above,” as a friend of mine says.

Instead of frantically grasping them tighter, I daily remind myself to commit them into the strong, capable hands of the One who created them.

What’s the biggest parenting lesson you’ve learned so far in your journey? If you’ve adopted, what’s the biggest myth you’ve had busted?