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Adoption – especially the first adoption is scary……..

The other day I received a phone call from a lady I did not know and she wanted to talk to me about my adoption experience. She wanted to adopt a baby girl, but she was afraid of many things. For many adoptive parents, fear is a familiar emotion.

Adoption, especially the first adoption and as a single lady can be scary. We think of many things that could go wrong. For me, my first fear was that my child would not bond with me because I had a full time job and was not able to take maternity leave to spend as much time as I desired with her. I spoke about this a number of times. My second fear was that I just signed the “Forever Single” dotted line on the page that is my life. See in Africa we are still very conservative about adoption. I have found men to be even more conservative about being with a woman who has an adopted child. I haven’t fully understood it, but I guess the fact that a woman CHOSE to be a single mom outweighs the fact that she felt the need to love a child and give him/her a home. Most would most unfortunately rather see single motherhood as an accident.

My other fear was about the parenting itself. The technical and emotional aspects. I had never taken care of a child, I did not even know how to bathe her, leave alone wean her, teach her how to walk and everything else that parents need to teach their children. All these were new things I needed to learn. I didn’t know how to raise an emotionally well-adjusted child, and I had no way of knowing how this child was going to turn out, and honestly I was really afraid that I would not be an all positive influence in her life. I have seen children damaged by their parents.
Finally, I was afraid of society. I was afraid that the stigma would be too much for the child, and I wouldn’t be able to protect her from it, or raise her strong enough to rise above it. I was afraid of the many questions people like to ask about adoption and adopted children. I was afraid of intrusive relatives.

I had many fears, just like the lady who called me. I still have some fears, especially regarding societal stigma, but I’d like to share what I shared with this lady about fears.

Almost all parents (biological and adoptive) experience fear. I am yet to meet a parent who is not afraid of many things. It can be about their sufficiency as a parent, the world they’re bringing their child into, or something else. Fear about the kind of parent you are supposed to be is natural, universal and frankly, healthy. Raising a child is a big deal, and it ought to strike some fear in you. Do not let this fear paralyze you into inaction, use it to be deliberate about the kind of parent you want to be. Because I was aware of my inadequacies as a parent, I decided to learn as much as I could about everything parenting. Did it make me a perfect parent? Nope, but it made me more confident to do this.

The fear that your dating life will die when you adopt as a single woman is real. Dating dies in many ways. First you have a child to take care of alone, and this alters your priorities significantly. I am an outdoorsy person, and before my baby came, I’d be out every other weekend hiking and running marathons with friends. I am still an outdoorsy person, but on most days, I would rather spend a precious Saturday with my little one than go hiking with friends. Time is so limited, I maximize it. Secondly, your tolerance for stress (and the upheavals that come with dating) decreases significantly, and this lowers your dating prospects significantly as well. For me that is not a bad thing!

I conquered my fear of societal stigma by realizing that people do not care about your life as much as you think they do. Society loves to talk, and they love to prescribe how you should live your life, no one spends sleepless nights thinking about how the choices they prescribe for you affect you. Realizing this made me decide that I was not going to spend sleepless nights thinking of society either, and I was going to raise a daughter who does not spend sleepless nights thinking about what society thinks of her.

If you are thinking of adoption and are afraid of the unknown, be consoled. You are in great company of millions of parents all over the world, so take courage. And just do it!


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