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The complicated emotions that come with adoption

For the first family, the adoptee and the adoptive parents.

The complicated emotions that come with adoption

I have endured the struggle of seven long years of infertility. I have lived through the fear of the unknown that is the beginning stages of the the adoption process. I have felt, so deeply, the heartbreak of two failed adoptions. I have experienced the incredible honor of raising my son. I have carried the worry over loss of culture and racial identity for my son. And I have managed the delicate balance of growing and maintaining a relationship with my son's first (birth) family.

And that's a simplified version of my side of adoption.

Too often the emphasis of the adoption world is focused on the adoptive parents—their journey, struggles, wait, pain and joy. Rarely is the voice of the adoptee or the first family heard, recognized or respected.

As a transracial adoptive mom with an open domestic adoption, I have a very specific view of the adoption triangle. The triangle consisting of the first family, adoptive family, and adoptee.

We need to shed light on how the lives of first families are impacted by such a huge, life-altering decision.

We must ask ourselves: What does it mean for expectant parents to have to make the irrevocable and heart wrenching decision to place their child for adoption? What are the circumstances that led them to a decision that no one would ever truly want to choose?

I have had the honor to know and love three different expectant mothers. One who became my family and two that did not. I witnessed the deep love, self sacrifice and daily struggles they faced as they wrestled with this choice they had to make— whether or not they would place their child for adoption. I saw the lack of support (and even pressure) from family and friends to place or not to place. Watching what they went through felt like torture, so I can only imagine what it truly felt like for them.

I am blessed to have an open adoption with my son's first family. Over the last four years I have often wondered what it means to them to watch their child be raised by other people. Are they able to find joy and peace in their heartache? Do they regret their decision? Am I failing in their idealized version of what life should be like for their child?

Which brings me to the most important side of the adoption triangle: the adoptee.

The innocent child who was forced to leave their first family. What does this life-altering decision mean for their lives? How does this trauma impact who they are and who they will become?

It's amazing to me that in the whole process of getting our home study completed and becoming qualified to adopt, nobody once mentioned the trauma that newborn babies experience when being placed for adoption.

My son was 4 days old when he was released from the hospital. During those first four days, his first mother was always by his side caring for him, breastfeeding him, worrying over his breathing and watching him while he spent three days in the NICU because of fluid in his lungs. My husband and I were there, too, trying not to get in the way—to be a support system for his first mom, while also trying to start the attachment process with our son.

But all too soon it was time for his first mom to be discharged and, just like that, she was torn from his life. The heartbeat that he heard for nine months, the voice that talked to him and the body that nurtured him. Gone.

I wish I had known about newborn adoption trauma and how I could've helped my newborn son. Now that he is 4 years old, we are witnessing some of the outcomes of that trauma. He struggles, we struggle, but we are also learning and growing and trying to help each other. However, in one form or another, this struggle will be lifelong for him.

When we started the adoption process we specifically chose an open adoption knowing it would be best for our future child and their first family. Being able to grow a relationship with our son's first family has been an incredible honor that we cherish and choose to nurture.

Over the last four years, social media has kept the lines of communication open for us—it has allowed us to share our lives and keep those ties intact. Planning our visits is something I always look forward to, and as my son gets older it becomes even more important that he gets whatever time he can with his first family, face-to-face, playing, laughing and loving with them.

These visits may become difficult as he gets older and begins to experience the many conflicting emotions that come with adoption, but we plan on always being there with him, helping him walk through those tough times. My husband and I feel it is our responsibility to keep the connection with our son's first family strong and healthy so that when he is old enough to take the lead, that relationship is already in place and he can continue to grow it on his own terms.

My biggest advice to anyone thinking about adopting, or people who have family members who have adopted is to take the time to listen to adult adoptees and hear the truth of their words. It will give you a greater understanding of the adoptee perspective and help you learn ways that you might support an adoptee throughout their lives.

Adoption has irrevocable consequences that will impact their lives. Good or bad (and mostly somewhere in between), adoption will change who they are. Adoption is complicated, confusing and never the same from person to person or family to family. Let's continue to educate ourselves as a society so that we can give better support to all involved in the adoption triangle and most importantly remember that it's about the adoptees and first families and what can be done to make their voices heard and respected.

10 must-have registry items that will change your life, mama

The baby gear heavy hitters that should be top of your list

Calling all mamas-to-be! It's a fundamental truth of (impending) motherhood that your prepping-for-baby To Do list can feel a mile long, but really the best way to feel organized is to sort out the most important item at the top of your list: your registry. Sure the items you choose to include will end up running the gamut from nice-to-haves to absolutely essential game-changers, but mamas in the know quickly learn one thing: Not all baby gear is created equal.

So while you can and should pepper your registry with adorable inclusions that aren't necessarily can't-live-withouts (go ahead, add 'em!), you should make sure you're ticking the boxes on those pieces of baby gear that can be absolute life savers once you're in full-blown mama mode. From car seats to bouncers and playmats, your play and travel gear will be some of the most obvious important items on your list, but so can unexpected things, like a super comfy baby carrier and a snooze-inducing white noise machine. So to help you sort through the must-have options, we turned to the holy grail of motherhood that is buybuy BABY and handpicked 10 of the very best essential pieces that will change your life, we promise.

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For many parents, attempting naps and bedtime can seem like a never-ending cycle of rocking, shushing and hoping for some kind of magic sleep solution.

How do I get my baby to sleep? This is one of the most commonly asked questions among new parents, and it makes sense, given that babies are born with their days and nights mixed up. For many parents, attempting naps and bedtime can seem like a never-ending cycle of rocking, shushing and hoping for some kind of magic sleep solution.

And while that might not exist (yet), we have found some of the best products out there that can help baby fall asleep faster and for longer durations. Because when baby is sleeping, so are you!

Dreamland Baby weighted sleep sack and swaddle

Designed by a mama, parents swear by this weighted sleep sack. It mimics your hug to give your baby security and comfort that helps them get to sleep faster and stay asleep longer. The detachable swaddle wing makes it easy to transition as they grow.

It's also super easy to get on and off, and includes a bottom-up zipper for late night changes, so you don't have to wake your baby in the process.

$79

Yogasleep Hushh portable sound machine

Yogasleep hushh sound machine

With three soothing options, this is a perfect solution to help your baby settle when naps are on the go and during travel! I love how compact this noise machine is and that it can run all night with one charge.

$30

Bebe au Lait muslin crib sheets

Burt's Bees Organic Crib Sheets

With a variety of print options to choose from, these breathable sheets are *so* soft and smooth, even through multiple washes. The luxury fabric keeps little ones warm without overheating—a formula that helps ensure more sleep for everyone.

$32

The Simple Folk perfect pajamas

The Simple Folk perfect pajamas

You know what's going to help baby have their best sleep ever? Some quality, super soft pajamas. The timeless (and aptly named!) Perfect Pajama from The Simple Folk are some of our favorites. They last forever and they're made from organic pima cotton that is safe on baby's precious skin. They come in a wide range of sizes so siblings can match and feature fold-over hand covers on sizes up to 12 months.

$37

The Snoo bassinet

Snoo

Designed by expert pediatrician and sleep guru Dr. Harvey Karp, the Snoo bassinet gently rocks your baby to sleep while snuggled up in the built-in swaddle. Not only does it come with sensors that adjust the white noise and movement based on your baby's needs, there is also an app that allows you to adjust the settings directly from your phone.

While this item is a bit on the expensive side, there is now an option to rent for $3.50 a day, which is a total game changer!

$1295

Hatch Baby Rest sound machine + nightlight

best baby sound machine

The Hatch Baby Rest is a dual sound machine and nightlight that will grow with your family. Many parents use this product with their infants as a white-noise machine and then as a "time to rise" solution for toddlers.

The thing I love most about this product is that the light it gives off isn't too bright, and you can even select different color preferences; giving your toddler choices at bedtime.

$59.99

Crane humidifier

Crane Humidifier

The only thing worse than a sick baby is a baby who is sick and not sleeping well. The Crane humidifier helps take care of this by relieving congestion and helping your baby breathe better while sleeping.

Personally, I think the adorable design options alone are enough of a reason to purchase this product, and your child will love watching steam come out of the elephant's trunk!

$46.99

Naturepedic organic crib mattress

Naturpedic Lightweight Organic Mattress

In the first few months of life, babies can spend up to 17 hours a day sleeping, so choosing a mattress that is safe (read: no chemicals!) and comfortable is incredibly important.

Naturepedic uses allergen-friendly and waterproof materials with babies and children in mind, making them easy to clean and giving you peace of mind.

$259.00

Happiest Baby sleepea 5-second swaddle

best baby swaddle

There are baby swaddles and then there is Sleepea. Similar to the brand's swaddle that is built into the Snoo, the Sleepea is magic for multiple reasons. First, it's got mesh panels ensuring baby never overheats. Second, the zipper zips from the top or the bottom, so you can change the baby's diaper in the middle of the night without ever waking them. Third, it's hip safe. Fourth, the patterns are SO cute. And fifth, the interior swaddle wrap that keeps baby's ams down has a "quiet" velcro that won't wake baby if you need to readjust while they're asleep.

$27.95

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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To the mama who had a baby during the pandemic

You deserve hugs, love, recognition and so much more. But I will settle for the next best thing, which is to write you a little love letter.

I am a midwife, and that means two things:

  1. I am a total birth nerd
  2. I want to hug every new mom I see

But we are in a pandemic, which means that the latter is impossible—and this makes me impossibly sad. You deserve hugs, love, recognition and so much more. So I will settle for the next best thing, which is to write you a little love letter.

Darling new mama. Here are seven things you need to know:

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