{Honestly} Adoption is circular

Have you ever written a blog post fairly quickly, after a sudden burst of inspiration, hit publish, and then get the biggest response you’ve ever received?

Yes, that.

After writing my Honestly? post last week, I got several thoughtful comments, but even more e-mails, Facebook messages and even a blog post by another adoptive mom, who said my post gave her the courage to speak out.

Funny what happens when you commit to being honest, publicly: Readers want to return the favor. And in turn, I’ve been inspired like never before by your comments, questions and stories. I have a list a mile long of adoption topics I want to explore. I think we’re onto something, and I’d love for  you to come along for the ride.

I’m going to set up this series of honesty-themed adoption posts by telling you that things won’t progress like an adoption checklist. Because that’s not how adoption works, either.

photo credit: spiral by browndresswithwhitedots.tumblr.com on pinterest

Adoption is circular

A friend and fellow adoptive mama once wrote these words:

“In the beginning, many families think adoption is a linear process, from Beginning Point A to Step 1 to Step 2 to End Point and Completion. But the adoption process is rarely linear. Once home, the journey of attachment has no finite end …it is the never-ending story, always unfolding. Rarely linear, more circular or spiral.”

Julie Jones and Vanessa Johnson, Collaboration in Overseas Programs, USAID

That is exactly where I began, looking at adoption as a step-wise process. The agency and dossier process included a checklist and everything, and I am a girl who loves a checklist. Give me instructions and a stack of paperwork to fill out, and I will show you a happy and occupied woman.

The myth persists throughout an adoption’s paper chase, waiting period and time in country, because you are completing a linear, finite-on-paper process that starts at our hearts saying yes and ends with our child in our arms.

But any adoptive parent will tell you that the journey only begins there. and it’s nothing like an organized, predictable progression once your child is home.

You work through phases of attachment and make progress, and then things regress and you have to address a new insecurity. Your child grows and changes, gaining weight making up for delays, but then you notice he’s behind his peers in speech and you wonder if it’s related to his later exposure to English. When he’s in school and struggles with group learning or math or reading, you wonder if it’s personality/heredity or if you’re seeing echoes of institutional care. She may make friends quickly and instantly draw a crowd in a room, but while others think it’s charming, you wonder about latent attachment disorder.

A new behavior manifests, like hitting or biting, and you know the conventional discipline you used with your biological children, but you second-guess this advice when it comes to your new child, wondering if attaching and connection is what he needs. She grows up and struggles to find her way, and you wonder whether the common questions about identity have a deeper layer in her — you wonder if she carries a fundamental belief of rejection from her birth parents.

You realize that your mind will always go back there, to the adoption question.

For the rest of my life and my son’s, I’ll keep in mind themes of attachment and identity. I’ll see fingerprints of the loss he endured in the first months of his life and watch for how they might shape his future. The enduring effects of his multiple primary caregiver losses, the days and weeks following gotcha day, our time in country, or our other kids’ adjustments to his needs, are themes we’ll return to again and again and again.

I’m not planning for the fact that our son was adopted to play a dominant role in his life and identity, because we love him just as we love all our children. He is equal, but that doesn’t mean he’s the same. The fact of his adoption remains, even if all else is equal.

{Honestly} themes

Adoption isn’t linear. So the themes of the “Honestly” series won’t be, either. We’re going to explore some deeply personal issues that not many people speak about publicly, such as the unique challenges of non-infant adoption, the grief of a referral loss, the shock of a country or program closing after you’ve waited so long, post-adoption depression, dealing with extended family misunderstandings, gotcha day expectations versus reality, and more.

They won’t be in any specific order, but all of them — my posts and the ones I’m lining up with some pretty fabulous guest posters — will be honest. We’re not going to pull any punches when we explore the realities of those experiences or the fallout afterward.

Adopting our son was one of the most amazing experiences of my life, but it was also the most terrifying. And though we’re done with the checklist, it’s not over.

I hope you’ll join us on a journey to an honest, authentic exploration of adoption and everything it means: the broken and the beautiful.

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2 comments on “{Honestly} Adoption is circular

  1. Jules says:

    Oh, your voice is so strong and gorgeous, I love reading and re-reading you, Kim. Thank you for your presence and this series.