Adoption offers so much hope and love, support and encouragement, questions and answers. We were filled with so much anticipation at the opportunity before us when our family began the adoption process. Our inexperience with how to begin and what to expect when planning for an adoption left us seeking support in every direction possible and quickly learning with each step along the way.

We found our adoption agency and social worker very helpful with most of our to-dos and preparations for the process of adoption. When combing through paperwork and planning for our home study, our family received advice and assistance that eased our experience as we dove into adoption. However, with all of the red tape we worked to get through and the help we received to get there, we still found ourselves gaining wisdom through our experiences from some of the things no one tells you before you start the adoption process. In our family, we are still in the waiting stage of adoption, but we have learned four big concepts that were not in our instruction manual.

1. You will need a village

When embarking on your adoption journey, you know you will need some support, but no one tells you just how much or how important these people will be to your family. We connected with other adoptive families who are a part of our village now, and they have imparted their experiences with the process of adoption and wisdom to us along the way.

When completing our applications and background checks, we needed friends who would be willing to write recommendation letters for us just to be considered for adoption. We have friends that not only gave monetarily to help fund our adoption, but they have also come alongside us and presented ideas, bought t-shirts, flipped burgers, recruited sponsors, donated items, and so much more in our fundraising efforts.

The thought of walking through adoption alone is so overwhelming that we quickly learned we need a village.

2. Keep your pediatrician in the loop

Once you have chosen a pediatrician for your child, don’t let your efforts stop there. We felt so inadequate when we began to receive situations from agencies about a potential birth mother and the child she was expecting.

Our backgrounds are not in medicine or health and wellness, so the information we were being given seemed foreign to us and sometimes scary. With every potential match, health reports are being reviewed. We have found that our pediatrician can be a huge asset in helping us understand these questions.

We first sat down with our pediatrician, explained our decision to pursue adoption, and wanted to keep him in the loop about our adoption process. Once we had that conversation, we were able to call his office and talk with him about a prospective birth mother or child’s medical information so that we could better understand their records. This has brought us a better peace of mind to have an expert’s knowledge on all things health-related.

3. There is adoptive parent guilt

We jumped into adoption with the idea that we would be presenting to countless situations, and they would all be healthy, uncomplicated cases. From the first situation we received, we realized that our presumptions were skewed. Then, when we received the first situation that we had to say no to, we experienced guilt.

There was a feeling that stunned us as we made decisions to reject some prospective situations for reasons we had to choose for our family. Even though we knew what our family could handle and that certain aspects of an adoptive situation would not be what was in our family’s best interest, we still felt a huge amount of guilt.

We wanted to be available to help a potential birth mother, to choose love through adoption, and to offer hope in what sometimes seems like a hopeless situation. We have seen through the many situations we have either presented to or chosen to wait another day on that each one is unique, just like every family is unique.

What our family can relate to is different from what another family would be best at. Our guilt being felt was misplaced desire but also a stunning revelation about the complexity and reality of adoption situations.

4. Your personal life will be an open book

Whether you are a private person or display your life’s happenings every day on social media, you will be surprised at how your family’s lives are combed through to prepare for an adoption.

From the five different background checks to the medical records needed, the home visit that inspects how your family lives to the intense and very personal questions your adoption social worker will ask during your interviews, your life will no longer have secrets.

We learned that even the questions we would get from outsiders concerning our adoption process would open up discussions about personal matters for our family.

Even if you have the most well-intentioned adoption social worker and the best connections to adoptive families, there will always be connections made or information processed that you weren’t prepared for or experienced differently than the family before you. What no one tells you about how to start the adoption process is that your experience will be influenced by many factors, but you will use what you learned to help the next family who comes after you.

Jill is a 32-year-old wife and mom. She has been married to her husband, Brannon, for eight years and has 5-year-old and 1-year-old daughters. Jill and her husband are currently in the adoption process to bring another baby into their home. Jill lives in a small community in Kentucky. She has her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Spanish and obtained her Master’s degree in Christian Ministries. Jill’s passions are her faith, her family, writing, playing sports, and eating good food.