Lisa Senafe, owner of Bentley’s Pet Stuff, wife, and mother of two boys, shares the story of her family’s adoption journey and offers advice to families contemplating adoption.
Adoption can be a long and sometimes challenging process. My husband, Giovanni, and I found this out firsthand. We began our adoption journey in 2012 and within a few months of being approved, we went through two failed adoption experiences. It was difficult for us in many ways.
Thankfully I met someone who gave me the best words of encouragement: the only way that adoption fails is when you give up. It was exactly what I needed to hear at that moment because it’s true. We took a deep breath, really thought about what our ultimate goals were and we decided that we wouldn’t give up.
We knew we needed to continue trusting the process. We believed we were going to get our chance someday. And then just a few months later, we heard from the adoption agency – it was the best phone call of our lives. You just never know how it’s going to happen, but if you don’t give up, it will.
Tips for Parents Who Are Thinking About Adopting
Parents who are considering adoption are always asking about the process and where to start. The truth is, there isn’t one typical process that works for everybody. There are many different ways to start your adoption journey. I believe the best tip I could offer parents is to find the adoption agency that makes you feel most comfortable. Meet with a few local and national agencies to get a feel for their process. Ask as many questions as you may have. Our family felt most comfortable with a smaller local agency. They only took in six couples a month and we felt a great connection with their organization and the information they provided us with.
When exploring our options, we considered fostering a child as well. For some, this is a great route towards building your family. For others, it can be too emotionally challenging. When fostering a child, there’s a chance the baby may not be yours at the end. You have to really understand that and still be able to pour all your love into this child that may ultimately grow up without you. Foster parents play such a crucial role in many children’s lives, that’s what makes them special, but you really need to know what you’re getting into.
What to Expect During the Adoption Process
Every adoption story is unique. My husband and I were selected through an agency twice, only to fail both times. The last time, we actually went to the hospital for the birth, prepared to take our new baby home. Shortly after the baby was born, the birth mother ended up changing her mind. Needless to say we were devastated but also understanding.
Throughout the process, you start building this network of people who are really championing your cause and trying to help you build your family. We got to know more people at the hospital and within the adoption agency. Our story was told to another birth mother and she decided right away that she wanted us to raise her babies. The adoption agency reached out and a few months later, we brought our son, Sebastian, home. We were so fortunate to have a similar experience a few years later, when we adopted our son, Miles. Both times were a little different but equally amazing. It just shows you never know how your story will be written.
What to Expect After Adopting a Child
After adoption, parents have to be prepared for the emotional rollercoaster ahead. As much as you may try to prepare for it, there may be a day when that child’s birth mother reaches out and makes contact for the first time. Your heart will sink and your mind will start racing, it’s totally natural. It may be hard to understand, but that birth mother just wants to make sure her child is loved and well cared for. And she should be allowed to have that peace of mind. You’re going to feel so many different emotions, maybe even things you don’t fully understand.
Let yourself feel those emotions, but know that your child will be dealing with some heavy feelings as well. Be there for your child. Work through your emotions together.
Challenges to Expect After Adopting
Each family will face its own set of challenges. For our family, our boys are African American, so we wanted to make sure they were surrounded by people that looked like them, too. We understood that they needed to feel connected to their culture and history and know as much about it as possible. This applies to all families adopting different races and ethnicities. Educate yourself as much as possible and provide those same resources to your child. Ask the adoption agency for resources that can help stimulate the conversation.
Early on when we first started the adoption paperwork, I remember wondering when and how we would have the adoption conversation with our child. How do we do it? I learned it was best to start practicing as soon as you can. Practice when the baby is in your arms, tell them their story. That way, by the time they can actually understand the words, you’re comfortable telling it. It’s never an awkward moment, by then it’s just a natural thing to talk about. That was really good advice for me personally. Putting my babies to bed at night and rocking them to sleep, I would tell them the story of how we became a family.
Families come in all shapes, sizes and forms. If you choose adoption, you may need to prepare yourself for a long path with many challenges along the way. But if you stick with it and remain steadfast in your determination to raise a loving child, there is nothing better.