This time each of us answered “What would you do differently if you had to do it again? What would you keep the same? What advice would you give to someone considering adoption?”

As you might imagine many of us have a similar answer post adoption… we wouldn’t change a thing.  Any small change of choice might have lead us to different children, and I know I can speak for all of us in saying that that is unthinkable.  If you had talked to us in the middle of all the frustrations, the ups and downs, and the waiting we may have had different answers.  In the end no matter what adventures we went on to become a family, they are a part of our stories, of our families’ stories.  Sure, we are a little more knowledgeable about the ins and outs of adoptions now, but everything we learned and did led us to our children.

If we were to adopt again, we would be more guarded. We learned a lot about human emotion through our adoption and had a hard time balancing our joy with the extreme loss our son’s birth mom was facing.

Ultimately though, I wouldn’t change anything. It all worked out even though it was emotionally challenging.

I would tell people considering adoption to consider the feelings of the birth mom. Never lose sight of the sacrifice she is making.

If I was the same woman that I was back then, sitting in that agency making choices again, I don’t think I would change a thing. I remember thinking, what can I handle vs. what will help improve our chances of selection, and it was a terrifying leap of faith. But I wanted a child so badly, my heart ached every time I thought of another month or year going by without a child. Deep down in my soul I knew I would not be given a situation that I couldn’t handle. Now I know just how much I can handle. We had one failed match and then the struggles we faced in court after bringing our son home. Each step was a challenge that tested our faith, but every choice I made lead me to my son. I can’t even picture my life without him in it. I get the question what would you do differently a lot, especially since we had such a rough time. But I don’t think I could say I would have done anything differently. I would go through it all again, tenfold, to be his mom.

If I were to adopt again from an agency, I would make sure that both birth parents are on board. This would probably drastically decrease the pool of birth moms my portfolio would have been shown to, but I just couldn’t face the risk of another contested adoption. I think I would limit the special needs that I would be able to take on and maybe limit the level of openness I was open to. I would try to relax more. I was very anxious and checked our agency’s web page excessively to see if we were being shown or not. I think I drove myself (and Mr. Train) a little bit crazy. I would also not try and guard my heart as much. I know that sounds the opposite of what most people recommend, but even when I tried to protect myself, I still felt all the pain of that year of uncertainty. What I didn’t enjoy fully was the joy of first time motherhood.  The guard I had up made me unable to relish those early times.  I think if I tried to just go with it and let myself feel what I felt instead of bottling it up, then I could have enjoyed the joyous occasions more. Sure the pain might have been worse but who am I kidding, my boy stole my heart the instant I saw him in that hospital window.

When I talk to people who are going through the process, I usually just tell them to do their research and follow their instincts. Your heart will tell you the right decisions to make and the paths to take. The moment we left the informational meeting at our agency, we knew it was the right match for us. I had no interest in looking anywhere else. It just felt right. I tell people to be ready for heart ache and joys that you could never imagine. The process is not easy. I recommend having a sturdy group of people to support you — not just a spouse, but a wide variety of people to lean on when you need it. Tell your family and your friends, tell who ever you trust, that you are adopting and that you might need them. You might need someone to run to Walgreens in the middle of the night because you got a call that your baby is waiting. You might need a friend who is willing to curl up on a couch and cry with you if a placement fails. You might need your spouse or parents to hold you up when you just can’t take any more. Then you will have your cheering squad to bless your baby when you bring them home. All those people that you rally at your side through the struggles of adopting will be there to share in your joy when your child comes home, and that is a true gift.

There is not a lot we’d do differently if we had it to do over again. We did a ton of research, interviewing, talking to folks who adopted, reading adoption boards so I was armed with a ton of information. However, in hindsight I’d allow myself to feel more empowered to act upon my knowledge.

I was too scared to actually say that we were waiting for a local situation, too scared to say that we were waiting for a short match. I was so afraid that the agency might get mad at us for something we said or did. Yet, you have to speak up for what’s best for your family. Ultimately, we were able to match in a situation that was everything we were looking for, but I would have been less timid about it!

Secondly, I was so guarded. I kept telling myself to hold a piece of my heart back. I wanted to wait until termination of parental rights before I really got attached. Then, there was this little piece of me that remained reserved until ICWA court. Still another little wall that finally fell down when we had our adoption day. The reality is that I would have been absolutely devastated if something happened anyway, and there was really no way to protect my heart from that. I should have just given it all over and not held anything in reserve. I would have been crushed either way and it would have been a lot less anxiety and tension on myself if I was all in and letting the chips fall where they may.

Another thing that might be useful for folks who are thinking about adopting is that the targets can be ever shifting. At one point I got a call about a baby that had a cardiac issue. I started thinking, ‘Hmm… I could probably handle that.’ If you’ve made decisions about what you will and won’t accept in a placement, it is useful to make sure you don’t change those on an emotional whim because there is a child out there. There was a reason that you set those parameters in the first place and the emotional immediacy of a placement can really mess those up! The same is true for your profile. You made it, combed through it a million times, and loved it. Resist the urge to change it because you are worried that it’s been shown a bunch and you haven’t been chosen. Your profile is the way it is because you are in search for the baby that will fit your family. Don’t let insecurities push you in to changing it. You have to trust yourselves and the process at some point, and I found this one to be a good place to draw the line.

I honestly don’t think I would do much differently. We did a lot of research up front, were very happy with our agencies and if we had done anything differently we wouldn’t have ended up with Little Pinata!

I think the one thing I would have done would have been to prepare more for bringing a baby home. I know my heart couldn’t have handled setting up a nursery ahead of time, but we were prepared for a really long wait so we didn’t read much about actual parenting! But, our wait time was so much shorter than we anticipated and I wish I had done a bit more parenting research instead of just adoption research. And probably had a stockpile of used baby items as well. That would have helped with the many random trips to Target to get things we didn’t have.

Overall, I feel very grateful for our journey and I’m glad we didn’t have any unanticipated bumps along the way, but I think that was just luck as opposed to anything we did ahead of time. There’s not much you can really do to prepare for unexpected bumps except to be ready to be flexible. Adoption doesn’t always go like you anticipate, so be prepared for anything!

I can’t really say I’d do anything differently (in terms of the process) for our first adoption, because had we done anything differently, we wouldn’t have our Lil’ Cowboy! But, I would like us to have taken more advantage of our pre-parenthood time and lifestyle during the wait to bring Lil’ CB home. Even though we were saving like crazy to pay for the adoption, looking back on things, I wish we would have gone out on dates or even little weekend getaways more while we could without having to worry about childcare. While the wait consumed our thoughts and our hearts, I do wish we could have set that aside as much as possible in order to really enjoy our time together as a couple before bringing home our son.

This time around, if I were to do it all over again, I’d have started the process earlier. Like, as soon as we were eligible. The wait has gotten ridiculously long, and had we known that, we would have pushed through our second application and paperwork like crazy in order to get it in months (or perhaps even a year!) earlier.