I don't have any regrets about how my wife, Tina, and I went through the adoption process. But there are three things that would have made a difference if I had known them beforehand.
Firstly, I wish I had known that so many people would give advice and yet have no real understanding of the issues. It seemed that everyone had his or her own ideas and thoughts on our situation. When Tina and I found out I was infertile, we experienced a great deal of emotional pain, and we didn't know who to share our burden with.
With fear and trepidation, we approached a couple we thought were wise and understanding. Their response shocked us. They advised us not to tell anyone we were infertile because "... people simply would not understand." They said people might assume I had a sexually transmitted disease (as some STDs can cause infertility) and conclude I contracted it due to marital unfaithfulness. Wow, this was not what we expected or needed. It was the worst advice we could have possibly have received, and I felt a sense of shame as a result.
I realize now that people (even the ones we think have the best intentions) have their own reactions to infertility and adoption. Fortunately, we learned that you have to work with what makes emotional sense to you and not try to live by other people's expectations.
Secondly, I wish I had known another man who could have explained to me his own emotional process of embracing open adoption. Before we adopted, we attended an open-adoption seminar. My first reaction was "No way man, not for us!" And we postponed the adoption process. We had not come to accept that an adoptive child has two sets of parents. I wish I knew back then that open adoption is a wonderful and powerful experience that benefits not just the child and the birth parents, but us as adoptive parents. I wish someone had shared with me their story, not of how they had come to adopt their child, but rather, the story of how they had emotionally jumped the hurdle and not only accepted open adoption, but embraced it.
Falling in Love
Thirdly, I wish I had known that falling in love with the child you adopt is not always instantaneous. When we adopted our first son, I remember the shock and overwhelming feelings I had at all the change that had taken place in our lives in less than 48 hours.
When we brought Michael home it was amazing, but it felt strange as well. It felt like we were babysitting. I felt like I didn't really know this child, and it was true. I expected to love our adopted child immediately. I now know that bonding is a process, and it takes time to develop.
Having such unrealistic expectations put a lot of unnecessary pressure upon me - pressure I didn't need. And yes, with time I fell "head-over-heels" in love with Michael, and then a second time with Jacob. The real surprise was just how powerfully I fell in love with them. I never realized how deeply a parent could love a child. It is truly amazing to me.
Russell Webb, MA, RPC, is an Instructor at Medicine Hat College and a Counselling Therapist at www.insightcounsellingservices.ca in Medicine Hat, Alberta.