~~~ If you missed Part I of my interview with Judy Miller, be sure you read through it here first!~~~
Lindsay: You and your husband are more ‘seasoned’ parents than many of my readers who are just starting their families through adoption… where do you and your husband find support for your relationship with each other? What advice can you offer to the parents of young children whose relationship is trying to weather the storm of infertility or the challenges of adoption?
Judy: I still find my guy to be the most amazing man ever. We have grown up and experienced an awful lot together—infertility, loss of a child, deaths of siblings and parents, adoption, and raising children with special needs. He is my safe place, and I am his. This is our journey that we committed to, wholly and together.
We make ourselves a priority, and this grew out of our oldest son would accosting my husband after work when he was just a little guy. My husband was just starting his business, and was exhausted. Although thrilled to see our son he needed “15” (time to transition into the house environment) after a long workday. It dawned on me then that we also needed designated time for ourselves. I made sure we had a minimum of one “date” night, as well as time away from the kids—an overnight, a weekend away, and sometimes longer. Our kids think this is pretty cool, and they benefit by seeing our commitment to each other.
Advice for parents? Be truthful, and graceful with your words. Listen with your soul. Remind yourselves why you fell in love and married in the first place. Continue to date each other. Dates can simply be having a glass of wine together on the porch on a summer evening or taking a long walk in the outdoor beauty. Take time to connect and share.
Infertility does, in a way, prepare a person for the adoption process. People challenged with infertility are not in control; nor will they be during the adoption process. Their adopted child will have suffered great loss, as they have. Adults will arrive, hopefully, into parenting with empathy for loss.
Lindsay: Your family has grown so beautifully through adoption, but as I know all too well, adoption doesn’t ‘cure’ infertility. You and your husband experienced fertility challenges after your son was born … did your decision to grow your family through adoption ‘interrupt’ the inevitable grief one travels through with infertility? Do you think you ever finish the grieving process, even when you know your family is whole and complete?
Judy: There are still times when I become very sad. I sometimes experience this when working with parents who are adopting after experiencing infertility and/or the loss of a child. Sometimes, I think of my child during month she was due. Some years are tougher than others.
I view grieving and joy as two branches of the same tree. And yes, I know we speak of trees often within the adoption world. But, the branch of sadness intertwines with the branch of profound joy of being blessed with my kids and being their mom. What a sacred privilege!
I don’t think we ever “get over it.” The pain softens, the ache dulls, but it’s always there.
Are we whole? Are we complete? I don’t know… We always say we’re still listening.
a. What advice can you offer to the waiting adoptive mama as she prepares her heart and life for motherhood?
Judy: Prepare yourself to be open and to appreciate what adoption can mean for your child as he or she ages. Accept that parenting the adopted child IS different than parenting a biological child. Recognize that although you’ve been “vetted” you may need to speak to someone or seek support in the future, in order to support your child. Understand that your child’s story is theirs, and should not be shared with others
Take the time before your child arrives to streamline your life and prioritize what matters, and prepare any siblings, family members and close friends for the child’s arrivals. And keep your expectations low
b. What advice can you offer to the adoptive mama of a child approaching tween years who is anxious or feeling ill-equipped to handle the evolution of her child’s emotions and thoughts toward his/her adoption?
Prepare early. Changes in children are occurring in the brain long before the physical signs are present.
Make sure your child has the all the facts about his or her story prior to adolescence, even the tough truths. Understand that how your child views his or her adoption and what it means to them will evolve.
Know that your child may experience feelings from the inherent core issues; understand how they may manifest. Understand that what your child may come to feel and express isn’t about you; it’s wholly about him or her. Read my guide, What To Expect From Your Adopted Tween, or work with me so that you can be prepared for your child’s approaching tween and teen years.