Getting in on it.

For Christmas I gave both of our parents an e-book called “In On It” by Elisabeth O’Toole…it was written as a tool for families & friends of those who are adopting. In the book, Elisabeth provides a lot of helpful information & insight, plus advice on how to best support and speak for (and to!) the family during the time leading up to the adoption and for years beyond. It was a great read, quick & easy, and definitely something I would recommend to adopting families.

So with that said…more notes today. Lots of good reading happening…I want to remember all of the highlights!


In on it: What adoptive parents would like you to know about adoption by Elisabeth O’Toole

*In adoption, in order to gain – a child, a family, a parent – there must first be a loss. It is a fundamental part of any adoption, and it complicates and deepens the experience of becoming a family in a way that may differentiate adoptive families from other families.

*This aspect of adoption is particularly challenging for those who are used to being able to rely on their own abilities or hard work to make things happen as they wish. I’m one of those people. As my husband and I waited on our first child … I tapped into my tackler’s approach to obstacles and diligently sete about completing all of the steps necessary to adopt. But I  have to admit I found myself more than a little exasperated when a particular young and … irresponsible pop star got pregnant – twice! – while we parenting-manual-reading, thirty-something, rule-followers waited (and waited) for a child. I was doing everything right and still couldn’t control this aspect of my life. I thought I was annoyed with her, but I was really annoyed with myself and my limitations (and annoyed that I was annoyed.)

*Adoption is bittersweet. Though ideally adoption comes as a result of the birthmother making a loving choice for the child, adoptive parents often feel guilty about wanting a child at what can be perceived of as a cost to someone else. Many adoptive parents struggle intensely with the idea that they are benefiting from someone else’s loss. The often find themselves balancing their own excitement and anticipation with the concurrent awareness that someone else may be having one of the most challenging and difficult experiences of her life.

*There’s not always a clear and final endpoint to mourning a loss. This potential recurrence of grief is sometimes referred to as cyclical grieving or the grief loop, and might be experienced over time by anyone who’s had adoption related loss.

*What they do know is they’re waiting for their life to abruptly and completely change … at some point.

*Adoptive parents learn that to simply love their children who are of a race other than their own – and they will profoundly – does not fulfill their obligations to the child. Indeed they have an added responsibility to try to prepare their children for a world that will sometimes treat them in ways that are race-based, an experience that may be unfamiliar to the parents. This reality can be challenging for Caucasian parents, who have typically lived as part of a majority culture, to identify and understand on behalf of their children.

*Adoptive parents struggle with the public/private nature of adoption all the time. … The precarious task for adoptive parents is to be open enough about adoption that their children don’t see adoption as a secret or as something to be ashamed of, while at the same time taking care not to compromise the right to privacy of everyone involved. … Adoptive parents need to actively think through what information is “in-house,” and what information is for public consumption. … I suggest that new adoptive parents – including those still in the adoption process – develop for themselves what I call a Privacy Plan … and have a plan for responding to inappropriate questions.

*When adoptive parents are immersed in the newness and stress of the adoption process (to be followed by the general upheaval of life as a parent), they may find they’re just more willing to be annoyed than they are to perform the role of adoption educator – fair or not.

*I know I was far more sensitive to the words of others when I was still getting comfortable with adoption myself. And like anyone else, adoptive parents don’t always know quite where their boundaries lie around this new aspect of their lives – not until the first unfortunate person steps over them (at which point they become quite clear). So while adoptive parents may have some responsibility for explaining and guiding, they’re not always able to do so.

*Many, many adoptive parents with whom I’ve talked about adoption – especially those who first considered adoption following infertility – cited this first comment as the worst thing people said when they told others they were adopting. These parents advice that no matter how much personal or anecdotal evidence you have, no matter how well-intentioned you are or how much you think it’s what the parents want to hear, please don’t tell someone that as soon as they adopt, they will get pregnant.

{My emphasis added!}

*Remember: adoption is not a strategy for attaining a biological child. When someone announces that they’re adopting, they’re announcing the coming arrival of their child; their adoptive child. For adoptive parents, a biological child is not the focus for them by this point. … Others may mean it as a positive thing, but please understand that to promote a pregnancy now is dismissive, if not downright disrespectful, of the coming adoptive child, as well as of the great effort and consideration that went into the adoption decision.

*Adoptive children may be confused and even offended by being told that they are “lucky” that they were adopted. … It dismisses their own essential contributions to the family. … “They’re so lucky” can end up sounding to a child’s ears like “you should be grateful.” We don’t want to put that burden on kids.

*In general, to refer to someone’s adoption or adoptive status is almost always unnecessary. … Thus, it is respectful to refer to your loved one’s child…without using “adoptive” as a qualifier.

*When you’re called upon to discuss a child and his adoption, it’s important to think of the child as your real audience. After all, you are really speaking on the child’s behalf. … Consider your answers with two goals in mind: To protect the child’s privacy and integrity, and his right to a sense of normalcy. To reinforce the child’s adoption and background as positive and permanent things for the child and family.

*Just because someone asks you a question does not mean you have to answer it.

*Yes, adoption is critical to them. It’s a wonderful, important, fundamental part of them; but the adoptive part is secondary to family. … They are just another family. both ordinary and extraordinary.


I have a few ideas of my own to add…perhaps tomorrow. 🙂

Blessed am I.


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