Today’s blog post is written by Purl Advisor, Kelcie Grace, and will discuss navigating the new world of parenting as a mother via adoption.
I have been a mother now for 11 months. 11 months! I can hardly believe that I can say that. 11 months seems like such a long time and yet no time at all. My life has completely and totally changed since my husband and I began our adoption journey in December of 2020. Not only did we adopt the most amazing baby, but we also bought a new house, my younger sister moved in with us to be our daughter’s nanny, and I went from being a former Purl Family to working as a Purl Adoption Advisor. I look back at where I was a year and a half ago versus today and the difference is shocking. I have learned so much through this journey and know I have much more to learn.
I am a Type A person. I love research and reading. When we decided to adopt, in the Spring of 2020, I devoured any and every piece of adoption information I could get my hands on. I bought so many used books online about domestic infant adoption, open adoption, and raising adopted children. I read articles. I watched YouTube videos. I listened to podcasts. I started following adult adoptees and birth mothers on Instagram. I wanted to know everything I could. I was shocked by what I read. Adoption wasn’t this beautiful thing I had seen portrayed on TV. Adoption is messy and complicated. All of this learning led me to Purl. I was so grateful to have Katie as our Adoption Advisor throughout our journey. Her support was integral to our emotional stability as hopeful adoptive parents. Another aspect that kept us grounded through our process was a support group that my husband and I had joined. This group, made up of other prospective adoptive families, allowed us to talk about what we were learning about adoption. It was a place for us to share our unfiltered thoughts in a safe environment. (If you want to learn more about our journey read my post here.)
Since becoming a mother, my appetite for knowledge has only increased. I continue to attend the adoption support group. I still read books and articles, watch videos, listen to podcasts, and follow various social media content creators – only now it’s a mix of parenting, in general, alongside adoption-specific subject matter.
The other day I felt a tightness in my chest. I had an overwhelming sense of anxiety about my role as a mother. Parenting is hard. Today’s society expects so much from parents. Being a parent is truly emotionally and physically exhausting. We are constantly comparing ourselves to the “perfect” parents we see on social media – their babies are always fashionably dressed, have no food on their faces, are constantly smiling, and participate in enriching activities. As an adoptive parent, there is this extra layer of complexity. From the beginning of our adoption journey, adoptive parents are asked to prove our worthiness. It starts at the home study, with background checks, reference checks, medical exams, home safety assessments, parenting classes, etc., etc.. Even our pets have to prove they are safe! It doesn’t stop at the home study. For better or worse, adoptive parents are asked to consistently reflect on our parenting practices and how they impact the adoption triad (the adoptive parents, the birth parents, and the child). Once you have that baby in your arms, you start thinking about how you are going to tell your child their story with honesty but without vilifying or glorifying their birth parents, how to share their story without oversharing, how to honor their adoption experience – celebrating the family that was created without ignoring the loss it took to do so, how to embrace an open adoption with love and kindness while setting healthy boundaries, and so much more. I find myself questioning almost every parenting move we make from the adoption perspective. I wonder how a decision we make will impact her view of her adoption experience or what her birth mother might think of a particular choice. Whenever I feel tired or frustrated I scold myself because I shouldn’t complain, I wanted to be a parent and worked very hard to become one.
Being the “perfect” parent, let alone that “perfect” adoptive parent, is impossible. I know the moment I get one thing “right” I will do another thing “wrong”. What I do well today, I may totally mess up tomorrow. Today I sit and watch my daughter play (she is currently chewing off the corners of an adoption-themed children’s book … what can I say? She loves to consume literature!🤣) and am reminded to live in the moment. She is growing up so fast and I have only just begun to taste what being a parent is truly like. I know that in the blink of an eye she is going to be 5 then 15 and before I know it she will be headed off to college. Life is about balance, it is about recognizing that many things in life exist in the grayness not black and white. It is about learning and doing better when you know better. I write this blog post to remind other adoptive parents that you are not alone in the feelings of overwhelm. You don’t have to be a “perfect” parent to be a positive role model, a reliable provider, a fierce protector, a loving friend, and a knowledgable teacher. Acknowledging and embracing your vulnerability as a parent is a strength. You are enough.