Always with the hard questions! I must have answered the second part of your question three times before I settled on what I’m posting, and I’m still not happy with the answer.
What surprised me most about adopting… That’s a really tough one. I think I was prepared for it to take significantly longer than it did to develop a relationship and feel entirely comfortable with Dictator’s birthparents, so it was surprising to find that within a few weeks, they felt like old friends and that within a few months, they felt like family. I am still surprised by how many people have negative opinions about adoption (or about our adoption and related choices), but then again, there are jerks everywhere, so I shouldn’t let people surprise me…
The one thing I’d tell people who are on the fence about open adoption? Don’t do it. If you’ve done the research and talked to people involved in all sides of open adoption and you’re still on the fence, do. not. do. it.
Does that sound harsh?
What I mean is, if you’re anything less than wholly accepting of the idea that an open adoption means contact between your family and your child’s birthparents, then open adoption is not for you. Scratch that – it’s more than acceptance; it’s about actually desiring ongoing contact with your child’s birthparents. If the “open” part of an open adoption is just something you’ll just “deal” with in order to have a baby, think long and hard before entering that arrangement.
Of course, this is the same thing I would say someone who was on the fence about having a baby at all – don’t do it until you’re sure. Someone on Tumblr once shared this analogy: Having a baby is like having a giant face tattoo; you’d better be 100% sure that you’re ready to live with it for the rest of your life. Same goes for open adoption; not only are you inviting a child into your home, but also his birthmother (at least) or birth families (if you’re lucky). You’d better be sure you’re willing to live with those extra people and the ramifications of having them in your life before you invite them into it.
BUT – if you’re on the fence and you’ve yet to do research or talk to people involved in open adoptions, make sure you take those steps first, because ultimately, open adoption? So worth it.