I was thinking the other day about things I wish I'd known in regards to the adoption process. Things that I ended up learning online through friends I met or posts I'd read. I thought I'd do a brain dump here. Maybe it will help someone as they embark on this journey...
1. Make a notary your dear friend. Luckily, I have multiple friends who are notaries. It's one of the pluses of working outside the home in a business. I did have to impose on one friend to go with me to the doctor's office to notarize something. Also, try to ensure your notaries are all in the same county. This is pretty important especially if you are adopting from China because you have to have the notary certified and if you have notaries from 3 different counties (ahem, yes, that was me) then you have to go to each county to have it certified.
2. For special needs, speak to a doctor specializing in international adoption or a very trusted pediatrician when deciding what special needs you can handle. Our pediatrician was unavailable when we were filling out this form. We chose instead, to meet with a retired, well respected pediatrician acquaintance from church. Unfortunately, while he was well respected, we did not have a relationship with him. I think it would have been to our benefit had we actually waited and spoken with our pediatrician or the international adoption clinic. In the end, we ended up modifying our list of needs because of information we learned later.
3. In reference to #2, do research on each need regardless of whether you are open to it or not. We originally put we would be open to a repaired cleft palate and unrepaired cleft lip baby. We did that because we felt like the lip repair would be easier and less trouble. As we would find out later (through our own research), in most cases (at least in China), they repair the lip there and not the palate. Had we not modified our special needs list, we might STILL be waiting. No one mentioned this to us so research! Also, there were a few minor heart issues we did NOT say we were open to because the pediatrician we met with scared us slightly saying so many times there are other more severe heart issues that aren't detected. This is likely true. That CAN happen. But I think we would have been more open to a few of those needs had we had a pediatrician who was more in tune with the adoption world.
4. Ignore any timelines you might get from your agency or any other well-meaning adoptive family. I saw another blogger mention something along these lines and thought it was well worth repeating. No matter what others say, your situation will likely be different. Sometimes it is faster, but more times than not, it is slower. That's the name of the game with adoption. Whenever you hear a family say it took them XX to get through the process, file that away with information that is good to know but that doesn't apply. In other words, get rid of any expectations you have. You'll save your sanity that way
5. Have at least ONE very close adoptive friend you can confide in, preferably also adopting from or having adopted from the same country. I was fortunate to have multiple adoptive families a phone call or mouse click away as well as a best friend going through the process at the same time (different country). I also was beyond blessed to have a work friend who knew nothing about the process until I started. She was right there with me every step of the way and by the end, knew was LOA, PA and TA was. And speaking of abbreviations...
6. Get online (two great websites here and here for China adoptions) and learn the abbreviations and steps of the process. The more you know, the better you will feel. Now, some will disagree and say ignorance is bliss and sometimes that is true, but one of the couple will need to know this information. Another great resource are Yahoo groups, Facebook groups and blogs.
7. Prepare yourself for questions. You'll get some genuinely curious questions and some downright nosey and rude ones, so be prepared with your answers. You will educate yourself and the person asking if you are prepared for questions like, "How much is this costing?", "Why are you adopting from XXXX (insert your country of choice)?", "Why AREN'T you adopting from here when there so many children who need homes?"
Those are just a few right off the top of my head. I'm sure there are others...but the more you know, the better. Ask questions. No question is stupid. Veterans of this adoption world are happy to help answer questions for newbies. Just remember, the answer may or may not apply to you (because sometimes you'll get everything from best to worst case scenario) but never, NEVER think "Oh, that won't be the way with us," because as sure as you think that...it WILL be you. :)