Editors Note: The following is an interview with Cheryl, a mother who adopted her son, Garrett, with American Adoptions more than 10 years ago. Cheryl reflects back on her own adoption journey, as well as what it’s really like to raise an adopted child.
Q. Many families fear they will be unable to love an adopted child as they would a biological one. Have you ever felt this way?
A. Wow, I am trying to remember all my thoughts and fears back in 1995-1996 while waiting for our son. The one thing I still remember while waiting for Garrett was, what if the baby they give me is ugly? Will I still be able to love them? Boy, that seems so silly now but it sure had me worried then. But from the moment I laid eyes on my son, he was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen! Loving him was instantaneous! And it was so REAL! And you know what else? I didn’t care one bit what he looked like! I saw him through love and that made him MY beautiful son. As time has gone by, I can’t even imagine not having Garrett in my life and I know that, without a doubt, God had him planned for me to parent long before I yearned to be a mother. Having faith that God will work His plan and place YOUR child in your arms when the time is right, then you should have no fears or worries that you will love him because he will be YOURS.
Q. How and when did you tell your son about his adoption?
A. There are tons of material and resources out there on how to tell your child he is adopted. We never hid this from Garrett and spoke very openly about it. Adoption is just another way to have a family. Since Garrett resembled my husband since they both wore crew cuts, many people would tell me how much they looked alike. I would smile most of the time but there were times when I would proudly say Garrett was adopted and that “God knew what He was doing didn’t He? I usually said things like that with Garrett being close enough to hear. We also had many age appropriate books to read, talking about adoption. It wasn’t until a couple of years ago, I guess he was 8, when he began to ask basic questions which were more like statements like, “I came from somebody else’s belly which makes me adopted, right?” And with each inquiry, I tell Garrett that he may have come from another mommy’s tummy, but he was always supposed to be Garrett, my son! This is the constant theme I continue to say as I truly believe it. Self esteem is a big issue for kids and I don’t want Garrett to ever think of the “what if” part of adoption because there is no “what ifs” in God’s plan.
The best advice I can give is, don’t sweat too much about it. They will lead the discussion when they are ready, then answer the questions and only the questions and if you are open and honest, they will trust you and continue to come back as they process what it means to be adopted.
Q. How did friends, family, etc. react when you told them you were planning to adopt?
A. The best part about being open about adoption and telling others is you become so amazed at how many other people have adopted, have gone down the very path you are on and how much adoption has touched them. Many more will have a story to tell about how adoption in some way has touched their lives. I can’t even tell you how many of my friends have adopted, and how many kids in Garrett’s class are also adopted! We are a huge segment of the American population, families who are created by adoption! It is such a wonderful thing, I can’t imagine not sharing it with friends, family and loved ones! I think that what many of us experience in the beginning is “embarrassment” for lack of a better word, that we could not conceive a child of our own. Having to in a way admit defeat in that area was a struggle for me. But once I made up my mind that adoption would be the way to motherhood, I discovered a whole new world of other “mommy’s in waiting” and we all celebrated the arrivals of our little ones! In fact, I had one co-worker that found her twins through her openness for wanting to adopt.
Q. Looking back on your own adoption journey, what advice can you give to families who are currently waiting?
A. I think the wait is the hardest thing, and you have to continue living your life while you do so. Don’t get caught up with the waiting game. I waited a long time to be a mom but my husband and I traveled, went out with friends, took classes, I even trained and ran my very first 5K, which I ran on the day my son was born! And just remember, your child is planned and will arrive “right on time.” You will have not doubts about that year’s later when you look back! Keep your faith and trust that God will deliver to you what you prayed for … a child of your own … in His time.