Since November is National Adoption Month I’m writing a daily series on “30 Things I Know About Adoption.”
Today I’m privileged to let you hear from a fellow adoptive mom, Kelly Raudenbush.
Your friendships will change.
Unless you’re a man. In that case, every relationship is stable and predictable, and you’re good to go.
But, women? I’m not afraid to say that I think we’re generally a bit more emotionally complex. While I know every mom and her community are different, it’s safe to say adoption rocks whatever stability and predictability may have preexisted. When a family grows, their world is rocked. Add in that the addition is via adoption, and that rocking becomes a full-fledged 8.0 earthquake.
Domestic or international, infant or school aged, healthy or special needs, adoption is both emotionally and legally invasive and a juxtaposition of joy and grief by nature. And, when those tremors are felt, as they inevitably will be, the response of your community (or lack thereof) is magnified.
Some will rally around you, serving as they are able, asking questions to learn more about the process and supporting your strategies to build attachment. Praise God for those people. Amen?
Some may bring a meal or two initially but then wonder why you are still cocooning after 2 weeks. Those friends will try to hide the look of shock (some may not hide it at all) when you tell them you’re intentionally cocooning for a lot longer (“What? She looks perfectly happy and attached already!”).
If your heart is stirred, as it often is after you have adopted, to serve struggling expectant moms, advocate for waiting children, or bring Christmas to an orphanage across the world, some may think you’ve lost it and are in need of some intervention to bring you back to “real life.”
Remarkably, some may even offer a smile and congratulations but voice an opinion that says otherwise—they don’t agree with interracial adoptions, they think you’re adoption is too open, they think you should have adopted from somewhere else, or they don’t agree with adoption at all (some people really don’t).
Over three years ago, as I shared with a good friend the news that we had said yes to our daughter and were leaving for China soon, she looked me straight in the eye and said, “So, is it too late to talk you out of this?”
At a play date only weeks after we returned from China with our daughter, still fully in the trenches, while we helped our children climb playground ladders and caught them at the end of slides, the other mom told me she disagreed with international adoption entirely. It’s riddled with corruption, she told me, it should be illegal. I cried as I drove home that day.
Stable and predictable friendships. Umm, yeah, not so much.
At the same time, I found myself a member of a new community of women from all different backgrounds who have as varied opinions as the rest about how to do this thing called parenting. But, even still, there’s a camaraderie; they get it. They get the attachment struggle and the grief and how hard birthdays can be. And, it can be pretty comfortable there in our often social-media sisterhood.
Birds of a feather do flock together. It makes sense. And, those new relationships are a real blessing. I’d even say my best friendships have been built right there. And yet, while we share the adoptive mom sisterhood, we don’t share a zip code. Darn it.
I’ve learned that I simply can’t replace local friends—and as hard as I’ve tried, I haven’t convinced any of my adoptive mom friends from other places to move here and become local friends.
Local friends are the only ones who could come over late after all the kids were asleep and man the fort so my husband and I could go out for a late night conversation without worrying about a babysitter messing up our attachment bedtime strategies. They’re the only ones who I could drop the other kids off to so I could walk the mall wearing my newbie for a “break.”
They know all my kids and my husband, have watched us all grow up, and have the pleasure of sitting beside our constantly moving crew on Sunday mornings. As tempting as it may be to cling only to new friends who “get it,” I need my local peeps. And, they still need me, even if I can’t put the time and effort into the friendship that I used to be able to do.
Take it from an established friendship novice, ask God to give you discernment to know the few people who just aren’t safe people. Don’t be afraid to exercise that discernment and protect yourself and your family for a season until God leads otherwise. For everyone else, be merciful and help them help you along. Yes, your friendships will look a little different; but that’s okay. Everyone will eventually settle in and figure out what the new normal looks like—even if that takes 3 years and some hard conversations.
Have you found that your friendships have changed? For better or for worse? How do you deal with it?
Forever changed by her experience of being adopted and adopting, Kelly is a professional juggler, juggling her calling as wife and mother with her secondary callings (editing, writing, and serving adoptive families through The Sparrow Fund. You can learn more about their adoption story, how they’ve been changed, and what life looks like for them as an adoptive family who just left corporate America to serve their daughter’s homeland on Kelly’s personal blog My Overthinking.