Just Keep Swimming
Late last night as I was flipping through Facebook, unable to sleep, I came across a post from one of my favorite authors, Jen Hatmaker. She is the mom of two children who were adopted and has penned some amazing, insightful and heartfelt stories about what it all means to her and her family. I was reading one of her posts which described the time after the adoption frenzy and excitement wears off and reality sets in. This line in particular caught my eye:
“You cannot just be into adoption to adopt; you have to be into parenting.”
I knew that before deciding to adopt. I truly did. I mean, as much as I could know and understand that without having never gone through the adoption process.
Looking back now on the time prior to adoption and our life now with a 7 year old, I realize it’s a lot like swimming if you’ve never done it before. You read about, you see other people do it, and you figure you could give it a try. You get as prepared as you possibly can, maybe take some swim classes, and then you put on your swimsuit and dive into the ocean. That’s what adoption is. You dive in. Head first. You are fully committed, whether you were ready or not. Immediately there is a sense of stillness, calmness and peacefulness. It’s quiet and it’s beautiful, if you allow yourself to open your eyes. The water feels amazing and you wish you could stay in that moment forever. Like those moments cuddling your new baby while surrounded by loving and supportive friends who have been with you through the whole process.
Then like an electric shock, panic hits you. You are underwater and you forget what to do. You know you need to get to the surface but you don’t know how. Those moments of panic when there’s a glitch with the legal paperwork. Or a birth parent contacts you unexpectedly. Or you are running out of your two weeks of paid time off “adoption leave” and you haven’t found child care yet. Or you are just overwhelmed with all of it, adjusting to becoming a family literally overnight. Finally, your brain processes what is happening, you kick your way upwards and taken in a huge and wonderful breath of air.
You look around and see nothing but blue water for miles and decide to start swimming. You try some different strokes until you find one that works best for you. Like parenting, trial and error until you hit a groove. The more you swim, the better you feel. You start to feel more confident and enjoy yourself more. Sure, there are times when you get a side cramp or get tired. But you adjust, maybe even floating for a minute to rest, and continue on your journey.
Like swimming, we have to be into adoption and parenting. And by being in it, I mean a full commitment. 100%. Clear blue skies or category four hurricanes, we committed. When times get tough (and they will) find someone or something to hold on to and keep you afloat when things get rocky: a supportive spouse, caring friends, other families who have adopted. Someone who will cheer you on from the shore. Then just keep swimming as you learn to navigate and enjoy the journey that is adoption.
Ed. Note: Stay tuned for an Adoption Q&A with Megan!
Megan Branham lives in Columbia, South Carolina and has spent more than 12 years advocating in the non-profit sector to improve the lives of children across the Palmetto State. Since completing her Masters in Social Work at the University of South Carolina, Megan has advanced legislation and policies improving child well-being during her time at Children’s Trust of South Carolina and the Palmetto Association for Children and Families, implemented programs to improve maternal and child health with the South Carolina March of Dimes and has facilitated community efforts to prevent teen pregnancy while at Palmetto Health. She is also adjunct faculty at Columbia College and is a volunteer Guardian at Litem. Megan is a graduate of The Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Leadership Institute for State-based Advocates with an emphasis on results-based leadership. Megan is a member of the Sisters of Charity Foundation of South Carolina’s Kinship Council and serves on the Children’s Justice Act Taskforce. When she’s not at the State House or working from one of her favorite local coffee shops, Megan can be found spending time with her husband and daughter traveling, cheering for the Gamecocks or running a race at Disney World!